Cambridge, Massachusetts / Cambridge, England

We have arrived in the UK! In the space of about 12 hours we left one Cambridge and arrived in another. It is just as beautiful here as it was in Massachusetts, and I’ve already found a good local coffee shop.

I’m staying in St Catharine’s College with one of the other Scholars, as it’s closer to the campus and easier to manage with my fatigue. The others are not too far away, though, so even though we’re split across accommodation again it should still be fairly easy to meet up and do things together.

I don’t have anything particularly exciting to report about my travels across the ocean, but I do have an exciting discovery to share!

Anglia Ruskin University, which is also located in Cambridge, offers an MA in Science Fiction and Fantasy! And on the list of academics is none other than John Clute, co-founder of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and one of the big names in sf studies. AND they offer creative practice PhDs in Creative Writing! AND AND they have an open day on the 14th, my last day in Cambridge before heading across to Oxford, which also happens to be completely free of appointments! To say I am ridiculously excited is an understatement.

I’ll leave it there for tonight. I’m going to finish my cup of tea and make a few more notes on these amazing programs and then hit the hay. Hoping to go exploring tomorrow.

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The view from the coffee shop this afternoon. Note the pretty sundial on the wall.

Last night in the US

Today has been a big and beautiful day.

I had breakfast at the hotel at a table by the window where I could soak up the morning sunlight. I had avocado and poached eggs on toast with a black coffee. It was good.

Towards the end of breakfast I was joined by one of the mentors, and we had a good chat about life and study and the future. I feel like everyone on this trip has become part of my family (yes… I know it’s a cliché), and I am going to miss everybody so much when we inevitably have to say goodbye and fly back to our respective corners of Australia.

After breakfast I caught an Uber with the other mentor and one of the other Scholars to Harvard, and killed a bit of time in Urban Outfitters until it was time for my appointment (that shop will be the death of me I swear, so much good fashion).

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a seminar by Dr Safiya Umoja Noble about her book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. It was a fascinating talk, and the members of the audience had some very interesting questions which yielded very interesting answers.

In the afternoon I ducked across to MIT for a meeting with an academic administrator there, and found out a bit more about their HASTS program (History / Anthropology / Science, Technology and Society). Unfortunately she couldn’t answer all of my questions (like if I could squish science fiction in there somewhere under the anthropology or society banners), so I will have to email some of the professors from the department to find out.

By 4pm I was back at Harvard for a panel discussion that followed on from the seminar earlier in the day, entitled ‘Before Algorithms: A History of Bias and Oppression in Computing’. Again, fascinating, interesting.

Then it was back to the Science Center (where I spent most of my day yesterday) to attend a meeting of the Anthropology of Science working group which I had been invited to. One of the PhD students presented his research and received feedback from his peers (from other disciplines), a practice which is fairly common at Harvard, apparently. And if there’s no working group to suit your specific needs, you can just make one!

And then I finally caught up with the other Scholars for dinner. We went to the most delicious Mexican restaurant. It was the first time on the trip that I ate all of my food. It was fab (Border Café, if you ever end up in Cambridge, Massachusetts).

I finished up the day by packing my suitcase ready to fly out tomorrow, and am now lying in this super comfy hotel bed trying not to fall asleep while I type!

Harvard is working its way into my heart, I think. I really like the History of Science course, and think I could tailor it to my research interests fairly easily. I like Cambridge—there are so many trees and parks and the river is gorgeous and the sky is bright and clear. AND. AND. I FOUND GOOD COFFEE.

And the academics here are amazing, and so lovely and welcoming. I have really enjoyed my time here and am sad to be moving on.

I think, after a year or two, I may just have to apply to study here.

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The view from the fourth floor of the Wexner building at the Kennedy School, Harvard

Today was a good day

I had a bunch of meetings at Harvard today, and all of them were fantastic. I didn’t really expect Harvard to be a good fit for me, but I am being very pleasantly surprised.

I began the day with breakfast at Tatte café with my current roomie (hi Faith!), then went to a meeting at the English department. The lady I spoke with was so lovely, and we had a good chat about the program and life in general. Like all of the people I met today, I hope we can stay in touch once this tour is over.

I spent the afternoon at the Science Centre, meeting with academics and program coordinators and current students. All of them were wonderful, and all of our conversations were stimulating, energizing, and inspiring. Professor Sophia Roosth even gave me a copy of her book! Our research interests are quite similar so I’m looking forward to reading it when I get home after these hectic few weeks.

The cold is still going strong but I’m continuing regardless. Harvard and surrounds are feeling like they could be home for a while, maybe. Stanford now has serious competition for top spot on my list!

I’m getting regular E30 and puppy dog updates from my friends at home, and I’m missing both car and doggo (…and friends) terribly. I’m still absolutely loving my edventure, but I’m looking forward to coming home and seeing all my family and friends and companion animals and inanimate objects.

In the meantime, I keep acquiring books (whoops!) which will need to be posted home so that my suitcase isn’t over-weight. Ahh the trials of being a bookworm.

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How gorgeous is this tree! It lives in a sunken garden bed which is hidden from view until you go right up to the fence. What a treat to see this in the middle of the lawn!

Hello Massachusetts!

We have arrived in Boston (well, Cambridge, technically).

We left our New York accommodation at 8.30 this morning to avoid the complication of trying to navigate through the New York Marathon, and then had three hours to kill at the airport. Some of the Scholars found little nooks to nap in, while others amused themselves with comparing terrible coffees with worse ones.

I found a bunch of magazines with AI features and accidentally bought them. And also one on Mars (as research for the short story I’m writing).

We had dinner at a little Japanese restaurant—which was delicious—and then came back to our hotel for a debrief and a chat about the week to come.

Boston (Cambridge) is so pretty. It’s nice to be under the open sky again and surrounded by trees. And I’m looking forward to my Harvard meetings; I’ve also been invited to a seminar discussing how search engines reinforce racism. It should be interesting!

On Thursday I’m going to sneaky sneak over to MIT for a meeting about a super cool PhD program which mashes together History / Anthropology / Science, Technology and Society. Excitement!

Oh, and the fatigue is starting to subside. Hooray!

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Trees!! I am happy.

Berkeley Day 2

Today was supposed to be another busy one, but the fatigue hit hard. We had a tour of the campus this morning followed by a lunch hosted by the American Indian Graduate Program. Two presenters discussed their research into Native American culture and history—there were many parallels between their struggles and those of Indigenous Australians.

In the early afternoon I met with a graduate advisor from Berkeley’s English department, and had a nice chat about the program and campus life. Unfortunately I don’t think this one is a good fit for me, which is a shame as I absolutely love the campus. The focus of the course is a bit too narrow for my liking; I’d really love to explore the intersection of science and writing in my PhD, and I don’t want to be limited to only literature.

But there are plenty more universities to visit on this trip! And plenty more opportunities to learn about amazing courses.

I had a nap in the afternoon and woke up in time to go to a lecture by Professor Stuart Russell, who is a computer scientist who specialises in AI, and whose work I cited in my thesis. His talk was fantastic and I’m so glad I got to go. Like most AI researchers I’ve heard of, though, his view of the development of AI leans a little on the utopian side of things. I left the lecture with so many new sf and sci-comms ideas.

We had a group dinner at a restaurant 15 minutes’ walk from The Faculty Club, then grabbed an ice cream from down the road before hopping in an uber back to the Club for an early night.

Oh, and I just sent an email to MIT asking for a meeting while we’re in Boston… eep!

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Professor Stuart Russell’s AI jokes were solid

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This little guy delivers food around the campus!

Stanford Day 2

It was another long day today. I caught the bus to campus at 8.05 for a 9am group breakfast and info session. We learnt all about applying for graduate programs at Stanford and what we would need to include in our applications.

Following breakfast I met with a student services officer for the PhD program in Modern Thought and Literature. She had a dog in her office who was the sweetest little dude! We talked about my research interests and she suggested some other academics who might be a good fit for supervision, and she told me that MTL is where all the weirdos end up—sounds like my kind of place!

Then it was off to lunch at the Native American Cultural Centre, which was such a warm and welcoming space. We met more current students and learnt that Stanford offers courses in four Native American languages! MTL has a language requirement that you learn two other languages during your course, so if I were to come here I’d definitely consider one of the Native languages.

I got terribly lost on my way to my next meeting and arrived fifteen minutes late, but thankfully the academic I was meeting didn’t seem to mind all that much. She spoke with me about the Stegner Fellowship, which is Stanford’s non-degree writing program. It sounds absolutely amazing but I’m not sure if I’m in the right place with my writing yet to tackle something like that. I will definitely keep it in mind though.

I wrapped up the day with a meeting with another current MTL student, and we got along like a house on fire. I think I’ve made a friend! Maybe one day she’ll visit Perth and I can show her all my favourite cheap eats.

Tomorrow we’re bussing it across to Berkeley, but it’s pretty much a free day. I’m planning to do boring things like wash my clothes and track my expenses (woopsie! I haven’t done it yet…), and maybe find a nice spot outside to do some reading in the afternoon. I also have a bunch of emails to reply to and an article to write…

It’s just go, go, go over here at the moment!

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The view from my lunch spot on Sunday. There are so many cool cars here!

Stanford Day 1

So today we went to Stanford!

First impressions: the campus is beautiful, the book shop is well stocked, there is A LOT of merch, and the PhD in Modern Thought and Literature sounds amazing.

We started the day with a bus ride in to campus and killed time in the book shop for an hour until the start of our tour. Our guide showed us landmarks such as the library and the church and the edible blackberries. We also learnt about fountain hopping, a favourite pastime in the warmer months.

We had lunch with some current Aussie students, then split up for academic meetings. I spoke with a student studying in that amazing PhD program I mentioned and left feeling energized and excited. PhDs are between five and seven years here though, so I’m not super keen on the length.

We had another get-together in the afternoon at the Bechtel International Center and chatted with more students, and ate more food. Then it was back on the bus and home briefly before heading off to an NBA game. I was surprised by the atmosphere—it’s exactly like it is in the movies, larger than life and somewhat surreal. It was a good experience but I think once is enough for me!

Tomorrow is another early one, with a day full of information sessions and meetings. I’m learning about the Stegner Fellowship (a creative writing program) in the afternoon which should be super cool!

Also, I picked up a (signed) copy of Markus Zusak’s new book today, and had a nice chat with the guy in the bookshop about Australian authors. And maybe ranted about sf to a few people, as per usual…

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Golden State Warriors vs Phoenix Suns