I am in my first summer on the Laidlaw programme, and so far it has been great! However, when the pandemic hit and I faced the idea of conducting research 180 miles away from my university and mentor, I have to say I was a little daunted. I am very lucky in the sense that my research is an online blog content analysis, so I have not had to restructure my project due to the pandemic, but being so far away from the university, my mentor, and other scholars has been difficult.
My research has been going well so far and all of the software has been working smoothly so I am really positive and optimistic about this aspect of the programme. I am lucky to have a study space set up away form my bedroom so I can separate "work" and rest, and that my study space is comfortable with everything I need. I have been able to contact my mentor via email whenever I have needed to, and we have at least weekly zoom calls. I am so grateful that my mentor has worked with me so proactively to ensure the research runs smoothly. I am also really enjoying my research and am now feeling very at home in my project, which initially I was nervous about. I had never conducted a research project of my own prior to this, and as a first year undergraduate, I don't have all the experience and knowledge that a postgraduate would have upon entering into research. I will admit, in the first few days I felt extremely nervous and unsure about whether I could do this, but having really got "stuck in" to the work I am finding it rewarding and am learning so much.
Although I am settling into the research work and really embracing this, I have found being separated form other scholars and academics challenging. When I applied for the scholarship I was imagining working on campus, maybe in the library or department, and therefore being surrounded by other like minded people who were in a similar position. I envisaged meeting up with other scholars and really getting to know about them and their research. Obviously, this is not how things have panned out due to COVID-19. The scholars are spread across the world, and although we can "meet" virtually, I don't feel it is the same as being on campus and meeting in person. The Laidlaw network have been great, facilitating a welcome session and a global introduction session, and I have really appreciated the tips and ideas on how to network with others provided by the foundation. We are now as scholars trying to work out how we can connect more frequently and in a non-formal manner, but with everyone being so spread out and having such different circumstances it will be a challenge.
So, as I near the end of the second week of my research project, I am looking forward to continuing to delve deeper into my work, but also to connecting more with the other scholars and becoming more of a network together.