The past month has been consumed with the various odds and ends of getting settled into a new place. ‘Place’ here is quite a pregnant word. This new ‘place’ is in a different country, with a strong dialect, obscure though charming cultural distinctions, and vastly downsized from the megapolis we formerly called home. We’ve begun life from scratch. The normal duties of life are much harder when you must establish routine again.
Apart from setting up mobile (cell phone) service, internet, gas and electric and bank accounts, there is one task which I have yet to finish. I have not found a suitable study space.
This is a terrible plight.
The most pressing requirement for any phd student is a study space that meets very specific requirements:
1. reading is a joy
2. writing comes naturally
3. book storage(!) and accessibility
4. coffee and tea nearby
5. proper ratio of comfort, noise, and light
6. toilet (bathroom) nearby
7. the inspiration factor
Of all the above, the last is the most important. All the other requirements might be in place, but without inspiration, the work suffers.
Here is a quick summary of the places I am considering making ‘home’ during my first year of the phd here at Durham. I list pros, cons, and IF, or ‘inspiration factor,’ described in metaphorical terms:
A. St. John’s Library – Pro: quiet, small and warm, good internet and a nice collection of theological works at hand. needs a special key for access only available to members of St. John’s college (of which I am proudly a member). Con: may get crowded, too quite at times, and a bit sleepy. IF: like having wings but not yet flying.
B. Cathedral Library – Pro: great theological resources, ancient study space, private cubbyholes where monks used to pray now outfitted with single desk and two chairs, close to department of theology. no internet, which is a huge plus to help one stay focused on READING. Con: gets cold, though this helps one stay awake. IF: i’m floating in the air. this place bleeds inspiration. magnificent. i’m studying in a 1,000 year old cathedral. come on, now.
C. Bill Bryson Library – Pro: tons of theological resources immediately at hand to read and borrow. helpful staff. Con: too big, too busy, too bright. IF: blah. like being stuck in the mud. a place to come, grab books, and head elsewhere to read them.
D. Faculty of Arts Postgraduate Study Room – Pro: locked door, no pesky undergrads, good lighting and quiet talking is allowed. lots of room to spread out. Con: may get crowded at times, not very private. a bit further away from the department of theology and from most of my seminars. IF: like walking quickly up a mountain. room to breathe. other postgrads with various books open and typing away is motivating.
That’s the end of the survey for now. I’ll give my thoughts on some other spaces once I spend some time there.