By Eirini Apanomeritaki.
“Why would you apply for a frontrunner position? This is for undergraduates, not postgraduate students!”
In my defence, Bilbo is not that young when he begins his adventure in The Hobbit. So, being in my second year of a PhD in Literature, I applied for a frontrunner placement at the Centre of Myth Studies, which is based within the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies. Needless to say that in all these years I have spent at the University of Essex I had never taken an internship. You see, I wanted to focus on studying only, plus I wasn’t familiar with the idea of a work placement before I came to the UK as my university in Athens did not offer them.
I did not encounter any dragons but I attended (paid) training workshops on social media and branding, I learned how to manage my time effectively (time management was NOT my strongest skill – it can take me ages to write a chapter!) and I carried out research on all potential aspects of myth studies, from oral storytelling to literature, religion studies and psychoanalytic studies. I realised that it takes a high level of commitment to organise the Centre’s weekly Myth Reading Group: from creating posters and advertising the Centre’s activities on social media and keeping up with the latest news and publications on the field of myth to reaching out to students, academics and people who may have an interest in myths.
It was not a lonely experience though; I had weekly meetings with my supervisor and Director of the Centre, to discuss my progress with various tasks, and I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful team of academics, the Centre’s committee, and get a first hand experience of what academics might do besides teaching and research. A lot of attention was also paid on what I could learn from this placement and what skills I could develop.
The experience also made me think that nowadays universities are not meant to only engage lecturers and students; they should function as open spaces where communities meet and discuss ideas (some of the Centre’s members are neither students nor academics) and places where new stories and interpretations are born.
I have to admit that the weekly preparation for and participation in the open seminars benefited me. I got to read so many texts I had no idea existed – and believe me some of them were well known! My comparative reading skills were improved as I learned to discuss, among others, common themes or influences in Sumerian literature, Latin epic and contemporary English poetry. As I am writing this, I am preparing to attend the next Myth Reading Group seminar on Alex Garland’s movie Ex Machina (2015) thinking about links between A.I. and Galatea!
So if you are thinking about taking a Frontrunner placement, do go ahead and apply, for the journey – hopefully without monsters – may be greater than you think!