Home. What a word that has been this year. A multifaceted word which seems simple, yet 2020 has made us reflect on what home means more than ever. ‘Home’ could be our hometown where we grew up as children, ‘home’ could be where we are right now, ‘home’ could be the university campus, a flat that was rented for only 2 months or something that could be lost. ‘Home’ may not even be a place – rather a feeling of sharing the same space as people who we connect and relate to. Somewhere where we belong.
In Japan there is word that summarise this feeling – Furusato 古里 – which tends to mean hometown yet is often used to explain a sense of feeling ‘at home’. As geographers, we are sensitive to how the use of space and place influences the construction of ‘home’, and while at times this can also conjure negative connotations, we at RGS-PGF saw home in the same way furusato does. A connection that goes beyond physical distance, to bring people together as a community and provide a space for those who feel distanced from their usual scholarly life of attending conferences, seminars and engaging in conversations with other geographers:
“Seeing as we’ve all been stuck at home for the most part this year, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with geographers from different universities with different disciplinary backgrounds and at different stages in the PhD journey. It’s been nice to feel part of a community whilst also helping to organise things that get people from the broader PGR community active and engaging with us and each other, despite the pandemic.”
(Rob – Website Officer)
We became the PGF committee during the height of the first UK lockdown and as a team we have yet to meet face-to-face. Nevertheless, we meet every month (zoom zoom!) to discuss what we can do to provide a welcoming space for postgraduates. We hope you have enjoyed what we have done so far and thank you to everyone who has engaged with us on social media, contributed to the blog or were a part of our events in 2020.
Our outreach and events for 2020/21 comes under the banner of ‘PGF@home’- postgraduates could come to our Twitter, Instagram and blog and hopefully find some answers to questions they had or feel less alone. The PhD is a test of resilience as much as it is about knowledge. In 2020, for many of us this resilience has been tested – fieldwork has been disrupted, supervisor meetings have been moved online, methods had to change, and we have been unable to merely ‘be’ on campus or in our offices. Our PhDs needed to get used to the ‘new normal’ and that was difficult, and you should all feel proud of the achievements made this year.
For the rest of the post, we’d like to take a quick look back on what has happened since April 2020 in case you have missed anything!
One of our biggest achievements was the Twitter conference in August. Over 3 days and 6 sessions, we hosted 21 presenters from over 15 universities across the UK and far away as New Zealand and Australia. Presenters had 15 minutes to present 5 tweets plus 15 minutes to answer live-tweeted questions from our conference attendees. A full summary can be found here. The Twitter conference proved to be a huge success and it was lovely to see geographers discuss their research through the medium of tweets! As a team, it was certainly a learning curve and we hope that Twitter conferences can continue into the future as a supplement to the more formal mid-term and annual conferences. The Twitter conference also included a fantastic keynote speech from Dr Jenny Pickerill, if you missed it you can click through to watch the video below:
While the Twitter conference was our biggest undertaking – staying true to our intention of providing a space to connect – we have also conducted a few casual themed Twitter events including: Creative Research Week, Local Geography Week and Geography Awareness Week.
In Creative Research Week, we encouraged postgrads to show their research in a more creative form. Academic work can often become a burden and sometimes we just need to connect with it differently. Those who joined us rose to the challenge and it was great to see so many photographs, sketches and graphical works. Natasha’s tweet, embedded below, is a great example of this.
In Local Geography Week, we wanted fellow postgrads to think and reflect on their immediate locales. In 2020, it can be all too easy to wish we were somewhere else – both in time and spatially – by doing so sometimes we can forget the beauty of where we are right now. This was our aim for local geography week, to step away from the thesis and show us your locality, like Emily did below.
In Geography Awareness Week, RGS-IBG teamed up with the American Association of Geographers (AAG) to highlight the diversity of geography as a discipline and why people become geographers. Sidra, our Social Media Officer reflected on Geography Awareness week:
“Participating in Geography Awareness Week, which was launched by National Geographic in 1989, was a highlight because it was amazing to see a global geography community come together to share their stories and work. Our PGF community is predominantly for postgraduates who have come far enough in their Geography journey to specialise in a specific field. Creating content for our #choosegeography angle was a fun reminder to look back at earlier stages of that journey whether it was geographies of nature, urban space and cinema, urban spectacle from undergraduate days or volcanoes and glaciers from those GCSE and A Level Geography lessons.”
(Sidra – Social Media Officer)
In addition to our social media work there have been many interesting reads published on our blog. If you have missed some, why not grab yourself a drink and dive in? There are top tips for working from home and tips for new PhDs. A thought-provoking piece on the need for reciprocity and rest during a PhD and advice on how to turn personal experiences into research. These are only the ones published during the latest committee tenure; however, it is well worth diving into the archive to find more useful PhD advice and opinion pieces:
“Hello! I’m Helen the blog co-ordinator. I’m not sure if I can do a quote when I am technically writing the post! However, I am normally writing in third person as the voice of the committee. I’m so impressed how as a team we have been able to bring people together when we have never been more physically distant and the responses, we’ve had to some of the blogposts have been amazing. Thank you to everyone who contributed writings so far, we really appreciate it as it is so important to gather a variety of geographical voices and the experiences people have gone through.“
(Helen – Blog Coordinator)
The final summary of 2020 comes from this week – the ‘Home for the Holidays’ event! During this week we wanted you to get involved with fun daily little challenges as the year starts its final countdown. On Monday, we were searching for favourite geography or motivational quotes.
On Tuesday, we wanted all your #shelfies! Book piles also accepted!
Wednesday came and we were on the hunt for other geographers to follow and the community certainly came through. The amount of shared love on Twitter that day was fantastic!
Leading to Thursday with the prompt to dig in your photo folders and share a picture from your uni or fieldtrip.
Finally, the week was finished off on Friday with ‘home for the holidays’ – a picture or other medium, showing what our community is looking forward to over the coming holiday period.
To conclude this post, Aimee our Chair has reflected upon what we have done so far and what we have planned in the new year.
“I’m really proud of the contributions everyone on the PGF committee has made to ensuring we’ve had a variety of online events which have catered for postgraduates across the discipline in what has been a very different year to that which many of us expected. It has been great to work with the team to develop new event ideas, such as our first Twitter Conference, and see them so well-received by the postgraduate community. To all of you who have taken part in one of our events and offered feedback or suggestions, thank you. Your involvement has allowed us to reflect on the events we organise to ensure we can continue to provide interesting and relevant opportunities to as many geography postgraduates as possible. It has been wonderful to learn more about your work and continue to create connections with peers from around the world. Looking forward to 2021, there are a number of events which I’m really looking forward to planning and taking part in – keep an eye out for more details and do join us if you can!“
(Aimee – Chair)
And we really mean that – we hope that you can join us and be as enthusiastic as you have been so far. Take some time off over the holiday period, don’t worry, your thesis won’t wander off if you book a few days off!
From our home, to your home, wherever it may be.