There was a time when I had the ambition to be an academic. I love reading and learning stuff, and the thought of travelling all over the world to present at conferences seemed so romantic to me. But that didn’t happen – for many reasons that I won’t get into now. Let me tell you about my short-lived academic life before it all came crumbling down.
As an honours and master’s student, I was lucky to get the opportunity to go to three conferences. They were fun. There was the bonus that they were paid for, and I got to get out of this boring town for a while.
I was also lucky to attend them with cool people, so that was also a bonus. There were people from all over the world. It’s always great when you get to know someone from another country, and it’s so interesting to hear how they experience your country and you can ask them more about theirs and how they live.
I never travelled light and still don’t, so it was always embarrassing for me to carry around my enormous bag, although we were only going away for a few days. I think this has something to do with my control-freak personality. If I don’t know what to take, I just take everything.
The living arrangements
Although the conferences were fun and informative, the accommodation was questionable at times.
Once we went to Johannesburg and our ‘guesthouse’ (for the lack of a better term) was quite disappointing. It was a ONE-star guesthouse, and they proudly displayed this rating on the front door.
I shared a room with two other classmates, which was fine for the most part, except that one snored and I secretly plotted her death most nights. But other than that, it was fine.
I guess it wasn’t that bad, also considering that it was all paid for. However, the bathroom was much too small, and we had to share it with a bunch of people. I’m so thankful that I didn’t pick up any weird disease there.
The conferences themselves were always enjoyable. We listened to lectures and debated – it was fun. Also, I got to see some of the authors of my textbooks in real life. I could finally see who I was giving so much money to every year.
There was one lecture that I will not easily forget. A master’s student did her presentation on the discourse in the advertisements of traditional healers here in South Africa.
Those are usually very dodgy advertisements. They promise to bring back lost lovers, make you rich in minutes, and of course improve your sexual performance. I have never in my life seen a person use the words ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ with so much confidence.
There was a group in the audience who giggled whenever she said these words, and I was like, “How old are you? Seriously?”
I also loved seeing the different campuses. The campus that I work on seems so minute and boring in comparison.
Did you ever have the ambition to become an academic? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.