PhD and Masters students new and old will know that the PG Forum is at the heart of postgraduate life here in MLAC. Research seminars, reading groups, feedback sessions and a good amount of coffee have all played their part in getting postgraduates from disparate disciplines together for the past couple of years. Now the PG Forum is back in a new and exciting incarnation for 2016, and with a new postgraduate researcher at its helm. But just who is leading the MLAC Forum this year? We spoke to Nassiba Benferdi, the new Forum Co-Ordinator, to find out about the person behind the fortnightly meetings…
Hi Nassiba, tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! I am Nassiba Benferdi and I am doing my PhD research in Durham University, in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. My field of interest is the relationship between language and society and my research is very much based on that. I come originally from Algeria and I have completed both my Bachelor’s and my Master’s degrees there with first class honours. At the end of my Master’s degree, I was offered a scholarship from the Algerian government to carry on my PhD in the UK. I applied to Durham, I was accepted and I started in January 2016. Recently, I became a part-time teacher in the school, and I am coordinating the MLAC postgraduate research forum this year.
How long have you been in Durham? What brought you to the city?
As I said, I only arrived in January 1st and at that time, I was in Heathrow! I spent one night in London and I came to Durham by train so I’ve been here for about ten months. It took me quite sometime to go through the process of applying for a PhD in a British university. I went through a big search and I ended up applying to a couple of universities and Durham was one of them. After I got my offers, I chose Durham because at every level it was the perfect place for me! The supervisor here was the most interested in my research, the university is constantly on top for the quality of research and student satisfaction, living costs were far much better than the University I applied to in London, the city is gorgeous… the list goes on!
What do you enjoy most about Durham?
What I really enjoy is the fact that what the university offers is beyond what I need. I get to have all I want and more! The facilities are just perfect and I can get advice and help anytime. I can just build a shelter for me in the library and live there! Also, my supervisor is of great help to me and my research is going just fine as well as my teaching.
Durham is a very beautiful, peaceful city. It is very convenient for a student life. I enjoy going out either by myself or with friends to one of the nice cafés or restaurants, or simply have picnics on the green square in front of the castle and the cathedral. We take a walk by the river, we enjoy feeding the ducks and taking boat trips. People greet you and smile at you in the street, and you can go back home alone in the middle of the night with no problem at all (not that I encourage this behaviour…! but I noticed that it is amazingly safe and secure). Even when I go to Newcastle, I impatiently long for Durham as if I belong here. It is home to me.
What are your plans for this year’s PG Forum?
The director of PG Education Dr Marc Schachter and I had a couple of meetings to discuss how the forum will be running this year. We brainstormed ideas and we put out a plan for the first term. We left the second term undecided in case our fellow researchers want to add their own suggestions and plans. This term, we’ll see what everyone is expecting and build a plan for the second term together. We hope that this forum will be what constitutes a sense of community and belonging to this wonderful diverse school
If you weren’t doing a PhD, what would you be doing?
If I did not have the chance to do my PhD, I think I would be doing full-time teaching. However, being a teacher for the rest of my life is not something I am very keen on so I guess I would probably switch to another field of interest such as business or experimental science. This latter is not completely strange to me, after all – it was what I majored in before I attend university, so I would be happy to pick up from where I left.
If you could give one piece of advice to new postgraduates just starting their research, what would it be?
Use your time wisely – it’ll make or break your PhD experience!
Thanks for your time, Nassiba! And don’t forget, everyone, the first PG forum is this Thursday (20th October), in ER153 at 5pm. Hope to see you there!
Interviewed by Catherine Ellis