'My supervisor is great - but I can't get up in the morning'

March 19, 2004

Six months in and some of our postgrads are finding the going tough. As experts gather for today's conference on 'Postgraduate Education', The Times Higher catches up with the students it is tracking over three years to see how they're coping

Helen Taylor declares that her research into Cypriot refugees living in Britain is "going OK".

Her proposal has been accepted and registered with the University of East London's Cultural and Innovation Studies School, but the focus has shifted slightly. She will still look at the commitment of London Cypriots to their lost home and the concept of return, but she has decided to investigate what "home" means for Cypriot refugees living in a metropolis.

"The concept of exile is important in the culturally diverse context of London. It will have mediated people's memories and may have affected the reality of return. Some of the refugees may have made journeys home since the border (between the Turkish-controlled north and the Greek southern part of the island) opened in April and return may not seem as likely as before."

When the border opened, Taylor saw much excitement about reunification. "I went back recently and found it a bit dispiriting. In the south, people were a bit more reserved. The excitement had worn off." Taylor attributes the change to the realisation that Greek Cyprus, which will join the European Union in May, is a lot more prosperous than northern Cyprus.

Taylor, 36, will spend the next six months arranging interviews with Cypriot refugees in London. As she wants to find a range of people with diverse backgrounds and political views, she will place adverts in Cypriot papers available in the UK. She has taken a course in recording oral histories to aid her research. "I will try to get people to develop their own narratives without prescriptive questions," she says.

Taylor is more than happy with the supervision she is receiving and says fortnightly meetings with other PhD students in the Cultural and Innovation Studies School are a great source of support. But money is tight on her Pounds 9,600 annual bursary. Taylor is keen to gain experience tutoring students on the refugee studies MA course but will not get paid for teaching. She is supplementing her grant by doing paid research for refugee studies as well as some freelance journalism. "I still have the mortgage to pay," she says.

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