Why did you choose the University of Birmingham?

I applied for several reasons. First, I was impressed by the high rate of employment for postgraduates, including PhD students. Second, my prospective tutor at Birmingham seemed more enthusiastic about my thesis proposal than his counterparts at other universities. Third, while touring the campus I learned that Birmingham has an exceptionally wide range of societies and sports. Since getting involved in extra-curricular groups offers some major advantages (such as better mental and physical health, a chance to make new friends, and appreciably bolstering your CV) I was very glad to learn that Birmingham could deliver on this element.

What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?

I had a passion for history, and I felt the best way to exercise this passion was to become a field archaeologist. But this job requires a number of theoretical skills which can only be learned in a postgraduate course. These skills include organizing conferences, writing essays of academic quality, and learning the languages used in my discipline (Modern Greek, Ancient Greek, and German). Moreover, I knew that as a university student I would have an easier time acquiring the practical skills necessary for an archaeologist. What I mean is, university students get priority access to excavation and survey internships. They also get the opportunity to form connections within their discipline, which is a vital asset in any career.

What has been the highlight of your time at Birmingham?

It would have to be the weekly seminars of the Hellenistic Department. I often come away from them with new ideas on how to improve my own presentations and form. In the same vein, the scholarly concepts and insights that the presenters mention tend to be welcome additions to my thesis. But more importantly, the seminars are an excellent source of mental energy and ambition. They consistently leave me wanting to push back the limits of my knowledge, to contribute novel ideas to the Byzantine archaeo-historical discipline, to work as hard as I can, and to surpass my peers.

Have you joined any clubs or societies, gone on any research trips or done any volunteering?

I have the joined the hockey team and the chess club. In both cases the team members were welcoming and unpretentious. I considered joining the campus’ Labour Party in September, but decided it against it, as I have too much work to do at the moment.

In addition, I have gone on a research trip to northern Greece in July-August 2014. I am already planning another trip for next year, building on the lessons that I learned this summer. For example, I could probably have secured funding for this year’s trip, except that I did not apply in time and my objectives were vague. Needless to say, I will be much better organized next time.

What, for you, are the best things about the course?

Several things. First, I can meet my supervisor virtually anytime I need to. I do not think I could have done this in a French university. On a related note, I have found my supervisor to be consistently truthful and understanding. Next, the course registration process is very flexible. You can actually sign up for a module at the last minute, or join a module half-way through the year. Furthermore, the library facilities are modern, extensive, and have convenient opening hours. For example, during the exam period the Library is open 24/7. Finally, the PhD workload, while challenging, is reasonable. I have enough time left over to be involved in two societies and lead a fairly active social life.