It’s 11pm on a Thursday, and tomorrow is my last day working at the observatory. I’ve spent the evening trying to fit everything I own into my suitcase, and I’m struggling to believe that the summer is already over. I’m going to miss Bamberg a huge amount – the beautiful city, the incredible old observatory where I’m staying, the whole atmosphere of the workplace… I might miss the neutron star that refuses to behave and the code that refuses to run slightly less.
Although, on that note, I’ve actually made a lot of progress over the last week. Last Friday I was really annoyed that I wouldn’t get to finish everything I’ve been working on and that I was going to have a set of results with no errors. Lack of errors means we have no idea really how significant our data is, or what it mean, or where it’s going, and I’d really struggle to write it up 0 but on Monday my supervisor came back from his holiday and everything suddenly started to fall into place. I still won’t finish – but I’ve now managed to do enough that I can present a set of interesting results (with errors! yes!), and that somewhere towards the bottom of my supervisor’s to-do list is a note to carry this on. The main thing that involves is running a load of code that will probably take weeks to run, and so was impractical within the 10 week placement I came to do – but I’ve given him a very good starting point for that process.
This is a difficult post, because I don’t want to get overly sentimental – but it’s still only just beginning to sink in that what has possibly been the best summer of my life is very nearly over. I’ve done my last fit of data, found my last few error bars, set my last lot of code running overnight; tomorrow I’ll tidy up a couple of plots, label a couple more axes, collect together everything I’ve done, log off the computer for the last time…
Bamberg is an incredible city, and Germany is an incredible country. If someone could arrange for the observatory to be maybe a half hour cheap train ride from my friends in Cambridge and my family in London, I would most definitely be applying to come back for my PhD. The concept of leaving home for the full 3 or 4 years that it would take scares me – but I do really love it here, and I’m definitely thinking of coming back for further study. I know for a fact that I’ll come back here on holiday – I can’t imagine not ever returning.
Next week I’ll be on holiday in Heidelberg, and the week after that will be back home and then back to the normal university routine. And in a year I get to start my own PhD (assuming someone accepts me – pretty please?).
This summer, I wanted further confirmation that research definitely is the career I want, I wanted to confirm whether Astrophysics really is the field I’m most interested in, and I wanted to improve my German and live in the country where my mum was born.
I’ve loved the PhD lifestyle, so that’s tick number one. I’ve really enjoyed all the background reading and learning more about the science that goes on here at various talks, so that’s tick number two. And yesterday I went to a talk on science in German which I understood, and one of my colleagues said I sounded much more confident and much more comfortable with the language – tick number three. And for a bonus fourth tick, I’ve met some incredible people and made some great friends. This has been a pretty great summer all round.
At which point it seems appropriate to say a huge thankyou to everyone at DAAD involved in organising these placements for everything they do to look after us both before and while we’re out here. I’m sure many other summer students would join me in saying that.