From the University of Dundee to the Ivy League grandeur of Yale may not seem like the most obvious move, but that is exactly path I have taken. I am two years into a three-year PhD at Dundee, but for the next six months I will be a visiting researcher at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. This is an opportunity that was made possible by the generous support of the University of Dundee and the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, and is one for which I am extremely grateful.
My time in New Haven so far has been extremely varied – great weather and fantastic pizza, balanced against terrible cups of tea and very long games of ‘football’! The university, as you would expect, is one with world-class facilities, beautiful buildings, and with a list of famous names lining up to speak here (John Kerry and Leonardo DiCaprio headlined a recent conference on climate change, whilst Al Gore and Hillary Clinton have visited over the last few days). The Beinecke Library is a dream for the historian, and the Sterling Library is a beautiful building (think Hogwarts banqueting hall), with wonderful work spaces.
Andy with Handsome Dan’, aka Walter, Yale’s mascot
The lectures and workshops have been illuminating, and what has been particularly eye-opening has been the opportunity to undertake a class which looks at the craft of teaching History. These classes have examined themes such as diversity and gender in the class rooms, as well as covering practical lessons on preparing and effective lecture and writing a syllabus. It has been really helpful to attend classes with other postgrads, as well as more established teaching staff, to discuss the practice of teaching, and to share best practices with each other. This has been enormously beneficial to my own personal development.
The student body here at Yale is diverse, but in all honesty, I think it is less so than that of Dundee. I have met some great people here, none more so than my flatmates, Saúl and Vinod. Saúl is a molecular biologist from Mexico (I learned this as he made me drink tequila when I first arrived after 18 hours of travelling), and Vinod is an Indian exchange student from Japan, and used to work in Aberdeen! I think my accent was a challenge for them, so for the first few days I put on my well-spoken Scottish voice, that mask has long since slipped.
I have passed my time at Yale by attending workshops and classes linked to my area of research, as well as taking the opportunity to go to any that just happened to take my fancy! These have included economic and theological issues, as well as lectures on race and class.
As part of settling in, getting to know and feel part of the university, I have even met ‘Handsome Dan’, aka Walter, Yale’s mascot. Walter is a bulldog and the 18th Handsome Dan. To get into the spirit of living in the USA, I attended my first American football game, a very stop-start affair, I don’t think it is for me; the hot-dogs were, however, very good!
To keep up-to-date on Andy’s academic adventures at Yale, he will be providing further ‘diary style’ blogs over the next few months. These are some of the exciting opportunities available to postgrads when studying Global History at the University of Dundee.
Andrew McDiarmid is a PhD candidate at the University of Dundee. His research is interested in the role played by members of the global Scottish community in financial matters during the seventeenth- and eighteenth-centuries. He completed his MA (First class honours) and MLitt (distinction) at Dundee, and is currently a visiting researcher at Yale University, New Haven, CT.