Home sweet home

Well, this post marks the official end of my edventure. It’s bittersweet—I’m so glad to be home, and I had such a fantastic time on the trip and met so many amazing people,but I am sad that it’s come to an end and that I won’t be seeing my Aurora fam every day anymore!

I’m looking forward to getting started on my outreach work with Aurora, though. I’m hoping to spend some time at my old high school, encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to pursue a university education.

In the meantime, I have a busy first week at my new job this week! And some major thinking to do about my PhD plans and life in general post-tour.

Saturday 24th November

I arrived home around noon on Saturday, after something like 36 hours in transit. I was met at the airport by the friend who had been looking after my car, and he’d picked up my dog ahead of time so she was waiting for me in the back seat! (She was very grumpy with me for about the first half-hour, but has barely let me out of her sight since. I think I am forgiven for leaving her for five weeks).

The weather in Perth was surprisingly mild, rather than the awful summer heat that I had been expecting. The sky was that glass-clear blue that I’m learning you only really see in Aus, the sun was warm but not scalding, and there was a nice fresh breeze that smelled like home.

Mum and her partner brought over some Chinese food for dinner, and I spent a significant amount of time rambling on and on about how good it was to be eating good food again.

I loved being on the trip, but I am very glad to be home.

Sunday 25th November

Sunday was busy! I had hoped to spend the day resting, but I ended up running around allover the place catching up with people. In the morning my aunty and I went to our local Dome for breakfast, then dropped in to see my cousin before heading back home. I really needed a nap, but my body was not cooperating, so around lunchtime I drove to my dad’s house and spent a couple of hours chilling on his couch and cuddling both of our dogs.

In the evening Mum and I met up with Trudi and Rosa who I met in London, and I took them to one of my favourite burger joints for dinner and then over to Crow Books, my absolute favourite bookshop (even after all the stunning places I visited in the US and UK). I filled them in on my time in Oxford and my plans for the future, and gave them a couple of sight-seeing ideas for their last couple of days in Perth.

Monday 26th November

On Monday I started my new science communications job (No rest for the wicked, hey?). I spent the day helping run a workshop—most of which was actually just sitting around and listening to planetary scientists talk about their awesome research.Not bad at all!

Two friends brought dinner around in the evening and we chatted and chilled and it was lovely. I drank a lot of tea. Michael’s quiche was delicious.

Tuesday 27th November

Today is another busy one. I’m at the second day of the workshop (tomorrow is the last day),then this evening I’m going to drop in to the launch party for CoRE (the Centre of Resources Excellence). It’s a new high school science program developed by the fabulous Suzy Urbaniak, which I will fill you all in on very soon. If I have time after that I will drive to Murdoch for an event run by The Conversation:The State of our Planet. It should be interesting and make for good science fiction research!

Jet lag is catching up with me though, and I am looking forward to resting on the weekend.

It’s good to be home with my car and my dog.

Second-last day

The fatigue was manageable today, so I felt pretty good! I woke up in time for breakfast,had a shower, then caught a taxi to my meeting with Dr Elleke Boehmer in the English department at Oxford. We had a good chat about possibilities for study,and I also got to speak with another Australian writer—Sophie—who was absolutely lovely. We’re going to grab a coffee tomorrow morning before I get on my plane!

I stopped back in at the accommodation briefly to pick up some things (pressies for the mentors) and then hopped in another taxi to go to our high tea—our final activity together as a group. The food was tasty (and sufficiently cute), the tea was good, the company was fantastic. We were all given copies of the info brochures we’ve been handing out all trip, and we all swapped and wrote notes in each other’s books. It was lovely. We gave the mentors their presents and they all seemed chuffed!

I walked back towards the accommodation afterwards with one of the other Scholars (Jacinta), and we stopped in at a couple of shops before I had to call it quits to go home and rest. After about an hour of rest I’d had enough of that, and met up with some of the others for dinner at Thaikhun. Jacinta gave me a book as thanks for editing her thesis, and I proceeded to get very soppy and went on and on about how much I love her and everybody else, and how much I will miss everyone once we all go our separate ways. It was great.

I’m tired and looking forward to going home, but I’m also sad that this grand edventure is coming to an end. It’s been the most rewarding experience, the most fun I’ve had in ages, the best group of people to travel with… it’s been amazing. I am so so lucky to have been given this opportunity, and I can’t wait to see where all of the members of my new Aurora family end up!

My next post probably won’t be until I’m home on Saturday afternoon, and that’ll mark the end of this edventure series (though I might revive the tag if/when I go to study overseas). Thanks for coming along for the ride! It’s been fab.

The rickshaw inside Thaikhun. I will miss this restaurant, and all the memories I made here.

Cambridge and surrounds

Today was another big day. I had breakfast at Fitzbillies again with my roomie, then we parted ways—she headed off to a meeting and I wandered about doing some shopping.

At noon I met with Dr Anna Alexandrova from the Cambridge History and Philosophy of Science program. She invited me to attend a seminar on ethical use and disclosure regarding algorithms that may be discriminatory (a very similar vibe to the Algorithms of Oppression talk at Harvard but much more philosophically technical). It was great to sit in and listen but I think I’d be exaggerating if I said I understood even half of it!

Then it was back to my room for a little rest before our big London reception this evening. And while I was resting… I received my thesis results! Not too shabby for someone who didn’t do creative writing undergrad, I’ve gotta say. And the feedback I got on the fiction component was absolutely lovely. It was a very surreal feeling, sitting in a room in St Catharine’s College Cambridge, reading my Honours results. A very “what even is my life” moment.

So of course now I’m completely reconsidering everything about this tour and my future study direction. Now that The Academy has confirmed that I can indeed write fiction, there are some mighty fine MFA courses that are calling to me…

Late this afternoon we took the train to London. We stopped in at a sushi train on our way to our event, and spent ten minutes stuffing our faces before continuing on. We had a fancy pants reception at Australia House (Gringots Bank from the first Harry Potter film for those Harry Potter nerds following along at home). It was a stunning building, but unfortunately for security reasons we weren’t allowed to take any photos.

After the reception we had dinner at a nice burger joint and then hopped on the train back home. Overall, a full and satisfying day.

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St Catharine’s is gorgeous.

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!

Our Systems and Theirs

Today we attended a symposium entitled Our Systems and Theirs: Indigenous Knowledge, Racial Identity, and Higher Education hosted at Harvard. We were joined by some Native American and Canadian students to discuss our identities and how we can exist as indigenous peoples in traditionally Western/European higher education institutions.

It was a wonderful day, honestly. I loved hearing everybody’s stories and making some new friends. One particularly bookish member of the Canadian party has promised to visit Perth one day, and I think I will have to return the favour! Perhaps in the meantime we can send each other book recommendations every now and then.

After the symposium a couple of the other Scholars and I found the cutest little basement café, where we had some delicious tea and soup and killed some time before the group dinner in the evening. We also took a wander through the Harvard Book Store and I fell in love with the place. It’s massive, and has an amazing selection of both new and used books. Pictured below is one that I picked up which I have heard many good things about—and which won both Hugo and Nebula awards. I’m excited to read it!

Dinner was fab. We ate at the Harvard Faculty Club, and the food was so good. There were vegetables! Vegetables!!

Everyone had a great time chatting and getting to know each other better. The camaraderie continued back at the hotel, with some Scholars playing a game or two of pool, and others of us just sitting around and continuing our dinner conversations.

Tomorrow we have a group lunch, but I’m going to head into Harvard early with my roomie for some breakfast and a wander around campus since I will miss the tour on Thursday (I’m visiting MIT!). There are two other bookshops I’ve been told are worth checking out, one of which is called Raven Books (my fave bookshop back home is Crow Books, so obviously I have to drop in).

But now, heat pack and bed. Goodnight!

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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor has won both Hugo and Nebula awards, and it’s only 90 pages long!

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.

Halloween and such

Today was a good, if exhausting, day. I met with Professor Kimon Keramidas at NYU and had a good chat about science fiction and the Masters in Experimental Humanities program, then I got to sit in on his class discussing urban spaces in science fiction. It was so good. All the students were so insightful and intelligent and I felt like the littlest fish in the biggest pond. It was great.

We had a group dinner at Mel’s Burgers just down the road in Harlem, then all hopped on the subway to wander around the city for Halloween. There was a parade on somewhere, but we couldn’t find it, so we just walked around looking at all the different costumes and chatting. It was a good evening.

I’m feeling very conflicted about this city. I’m swinging between not liking it at all, and thinking that maybe I could make it work if I found the right place to stay and a good support network. I found a bunch of dance schools today that do rhythm tap classes, which would be absolutely amazing. I might try to drop in to one of the studios tomorrow and try a class—hopefully they will let me borrow some shoes!

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Starbucks memes are real – just call me JR from now on

Perhaps it’s not so bad?

New York is growing on me, surprisingly. I’m still not a huge fan, and I still don’t think I could live here, but I will begrudgingly admit that it’s not awful.

My favourite part of this city is the subway. I love the feeling of being down beneath the surface surrounded by warm-white tiles and still air. The place we’re staying is right next to an elevated line, so I can hear the trains going by at all hours, which I find very comforting. I love the noises of the city, the windows rattling as buses idle in the street outside.

There still aren’t enough trees, though.

Today I met with a current (Australian!) student in the writing program at Columbia, and had a good chat about the program and what it’s like living and studying in New York. The course sounds amazing, honestly. So I’m going to go have a mosey around Brooklyn tomorrow to see if there’s anywhere in this vast place that could feel remotely like a home for a little while. I’m not holding my breath.

The one thing I absolutely have to do before we move on to Boston is to go to Central Park. All the other touristy things can wait until my next visit (…yes, there will probably be a next visit) but I have to see Central Park. I’m hoping Thursday will be as sunny and nice as it was today, because I have the whole day free to wander around and soak in the vibes of the urban oasis.

I also need to get to the post office some time this week and send some stuff home (I may have accidentally bought a few too many books).

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Look! some trees!