Research Stories #3 - What are you doing at Cambridge?

At the mid-point of the academic year Fox Fellow Thomas Meyer reflects on life at Sidney Sussex.

Thomas writes,

"Goodness gracious! I cannot believe it has already been four months since my Fox Fellowship year at Sidney Sussex began. It feels like just yesterday I hopped on a train from New Haven and, 24 hours of traveling later, stepped off the train in Cambridge! In that time, I have come to appreciate not only Cambridge and the UK, but especially the Fox Fellowship program.

People tend to look a little dumbfounded when I answer the classic, what-are-you-doing-at-Cambridge question. No matter how I describe it, they all seem to come to the same understanding--'So, Yale and Sidney Sussex give you a whole year to work on exactly the research you want with access to all of their resources with no one asking you to write papers or take tests you don't want to write or take?' Yep.

While that much academic freedom comes with its own set of challenges (for instance, managing time!), it is an amazing opportunity to design my own learning. I have been lucky to have the support of Ms Suzannah Horner and Dr Iain Black in getting set up here and learning my way around Cambridge departments, and the guidance of Sidney Sussex Fellow Dr Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni in making progress on my research. Having access to Cambridge libraries, classes, and time with professors has made a huge difference in my research. I also have been fortunate to spend some time with the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps. The CUOTC commanding officer has even helped me organize a round of interviews with junior officers returning from deployments. Cambridge really has been an excellent place to research and write.

However, Sidney has not just provided a rewarding academic experience. Between all of the MCR events, formal halls, and boat club practices, there is never a dull moment. A few of the many things life at Sidney has taught me: tying a bow tie is much easier than it looks; haggis is actually pretty tasty; it is, in fact, possible to get knocked out of a boat by your own oar; and most people are as confused as I am about what Sainsbury's Nectar Points actually do. Over the winter break, I was also able to take advantage of our proximity to the continent and visit mainland Europe for the first time with a few Sidney grads. We went skiing with the Varsity Trip in France, saw every ruin left behind by the Romans in Western Turkey, and road tripped around Greece. But, nothing was quite as special as coming back to home sweet home, Sidney Sussex.

As the students in structured courses here settle into 'work mode', the pace of progress on my research picks up as well. In the next month or so, I'll be traveling up to Northampton to conduct more interviews for my project on statebuilding in counterinsurgency, I have drafts of my journal article manuscript to edit and submit, and my weapons trade network analysis is in full swing. These are exciting times in Cambridge!"

The Fox International Fellowship Program was endowed by Joseph Carrère Fox (Yale 1938) and his wife Alison Barbour Fox. After graduating from Yale Joseph Fox studied at Cambridge and in 2001 he was made a Fellow Commoner of the University. Sidney Sussex is proud to be associated with the Fellowship Program.

This is an archived news story, first posted in 2012.

For further information please contact the Fellow Communications Officer, Dr Tom Lambert (FellowCommunicationsOfficer@sid.cam.ac.uk)

News item posted Sunday, 3rd May 2015

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