It’s been over 5 months now, so not only am I almost halfway into the second semester, but I’m also almost halfway through my year-long master’s program here at the University of Manchester.
I haven’t done the best job documenting my time here, preferring to tweet inane comments about the weather, about football, about drinking cheap Pinot Grigio by the bottle. It’s hard for me to believe that by this time in Brighton, I was preparing to leave in a month, whereas in Manchester I still have so much to do.
The biggest change, I suppose, has been my idea for my dissertation. As the National Football Museum will not be opening until early summer (by all accounts), I had to change my focus. I’m still interested in collective memory and in grounding my dissertation in something local, something English. Then I was perusing a list of museums one day and came across a list of witch exhibits in Lancashire — and thus my idea to study the Pendle witches was born! I don’t have it all hammered out yet, but I’ll be looking at the ways the local community has inculcated, memorialised, and commemorated the famous ‘witches’ of the well-documented 1612 trial in Lancashire. It allows me to basically go gallivanting around the countryside and study something close to me — being a Halloween baby and all — and my supervisor, as it turns out, is from that area as well. Keeping in mind that I’m an anthropology student, not a history student, the focus will not be so much on the witches but rather the folklore and the community. The key to a successful dissertation, I believe, is the ethnography — speaking to the people, examining community literature — and showing how this case study, as it were, applies to broader themes of heritage revival and community identity in England.
I received some encouragement in the form of provisional marks from my first semester essays. My average is sitting just around a 70% at the moment, just on the cusp of a first. Pleasant surprise at that. As someone who has traditionally obsessed over grades, I naturally calculate how well I will need to do on this semester’s classes and my dissertation to earn the distinction. I don’t feel as confident with my courses now as most of them involve group work of some sort (which I hate) and the classes themselves are somewhat out of my comfort zone. It’s a lot of work, not to mention having to split my focus between my classes and doing research for my dissertation. But the upside is that I am getting to explore Manchester more and see what the city has to offer for a young academic and burgeoning (probably never professional) anthropologist.
While I try to keep upbeat for the sake of classes, I’ve never been the optimistic sort, and I am already starting to feel very anxious about the future — the idea that I will most likely have to leave England again is depressing in and of itself plus the dread of embarking on the job hunt yet again. It took me 5 months after finishing my BA and of course, we all know how well it all turned out. I’m older and more mature now, and I seem to know what I don’t want, but I can’t say I know positively what I do want. I’d love to put it off and act like I have all the time in the world, but it’s late February (God knows how that happened) and in all honesty, I’m behind. Employers are already looking, and I’m going against the tide trying to find a job in the UK under new visa prohibitions. But I’d like to think I’ve had enough bad luck to last me for quite some time and that if I try hard enough, something will come my way.