Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. Everything has been figured out, except how to live. One always dies too soon or too late. And yet, life is there, finished. The line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life. There is only one day left, always starting over. It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are, that is the fact. When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too.Suddenly you see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can't make head or tail. You'd make a terrible witness. It is true that people who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Luckily, I only have a few...

Dr Shaw is a lecturer in Further Education at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. She also offers philosophy courses at the School of Continuing Education, Lifelong learning, at the University of Liverpool. In 2015, she has completed her Doctorate in philosophy with a focus on existentialism, the equilibrium doctrine and narrative. She has worked as a teacher of English and Comparative literature and Philosophy at The American University in Cairo, Egypt where she also obtained her BA (Hons). Dr Shaw has an MA in Philosophy and Literature from the University of East Anglia where she also taught on a number of humanities subjects. Whilst working in North Wales in Further education, she gained a PGCE aimed at teaching in FE and HE sectors. Dr Shaw moved to Liverpool in 2010 where she now resides.

Interests: Existentialism, Narrative, Comparative Literature, Feminist Thought, Public Speaking, Arab Existentialism, Philosophy of Education, Art, Music, Film and Theatre, Greek Mythology, Existential counsellor and psychotherapist.


Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Frustration of 2011

Sitting on the sofa wondering about my life...the past, the present, my future. I wonder sometimes if the road I chose was the right one. I wonder if I should have listened to others' advice. I guess only the future would tell...

Doing a PHD is probably the most frustrating stage in anyone's life. For me, it represents being in limbo, a state of waiting patiently, bearing and trying to keep smiling at whatever is thrown at me. Funny enough, the university boosts about helping and supporting students, but when the help is needed really, no one is there. One is left puzzled, alone, wondering about the situation with no answers. The most bizzare reality is that staff at the end of the day work at the university and finish their shifts 9-5pm for instance, go home and totally forget about work once they step in their homes. The problem in my situation however, the studies become one's life. I am totally absorbed and caught in a spider's web unable to set myself free. But then again, I wonder how much did I want this...I waited two years to make enough money to decide finally that the time has come to start my studies again once and for all. Why do I now feel like quitting? I am never a quitter but it gets difficult when the feedback shows hurdle after hurdle...It gets difficult when I knock on a professor's door and the look on their face terrifies me. A look that questions my very being to exist- as Sartre would say. It is bizzare indeed how I feel that I am the only one in the world who actually relates to everything that Sartre wrote about interms of negative almost cold human relations.

But again I wonder if it is a problem on a larger scale...Is the issue really being in a University that is in Europe opposed to one in the Middle East?

After going through the traditional schooling system in Egypt from the age of 2 till the age of 17 I finished school with good enough grades to get me to university. The danger there was not getting the grades for a university and ending up in a technical university that was considered to be less prestigious in Egyptian society. Luckily, because my mum worked for many years in the American University in Cairo, Egypt, as a memeber of staff she was entitled to a university place for her children- which was me, the eldest, and later on my sister. The requirement for admissions is to get about 70% in the tradiational thanaweya amma (equivelant to GCSE) to be offered a place. I am fortunate enough to have fullfilled the requirements and accepted an offer to attend the American University in Cairo, Egypt by 2001. Upon admissions, students are not encouraged to specialise right away like in UK or Europe, but rather fulfill some core requirements first that can  be taken in the first two year or spread out along one's specialised courses. It is worth then to add that the normal university degree lasts in Egypt about 4-5 years, and not 3 years of specialised study like I found out in UK.

For the first year and semester, I have been meeting an academic advisor whose role is to advice me on the courses and guide my decisisons. These meetings where probably one of the best services by the university that I would encourage in any educational insitution. Some students, unlike myself, had no clue what they wanted to study. And later on, my own sister after finishing school and following my footsteps found this service excellent as well as she knew what she did NOT want to do, but had no idea what she would like to do interms of career or courses. Thanks to the university's liberal education system, I managed to discover my love for various subjects that I did not think of before, such as film, interior design, and philosophy (which I declared in my later years as a second major)

Anyway, I started a BA in English and Comparative Literature and enjoyed every module I took. The professors were so welcoming, easy going and engaged in social activities to break the ice. It was nice to get to know the professors and realise how fun they are and really admire how knowledgable they are. This encouraged us to read, learn and happily do the assignments. In fact, I loved exams so much because it gave me a chance to show my own creation and answer to every questions. It was a chance to make the professor smile when he read my paper and be happy how much I learned from him/her. Unfortunately this has not been the same experience I had since coming to the UK and going to East Anglia university in Norwich for my MA and later on, the University of Liverpool for my current ongoing Phd.

My mum always says keep your chin up, smile, you can do it, but I seem to have the same feeling and butterflies in my belly everytime I have a meeting with my supervisor or any staff at the later universities. There is something cold, unwelcoming, unfriendly and certainly unapproacable about people in those later universities. I just can't put my fingure on it YET!

Lately I have been looking at the job market just incase I actually end up leaving my Phd before finishing it for whatever reason the future may hold. What I found out was not exactly what I expected yet it doesn't look as bad as I imagined. Thankfully I obtained my Post graduate certificate in Education whilst working the past two years as part of staff development in the college I worked for in Wales, so that is one requirement by many jobs in the educational sector- one box ticked. Experience wise, teaching BTEC National Diploma, having 60 students in total and building the courses from scratch, actively marking and internally verifying work has been a bonus so that I guess will be another box ticked. The issue now is where are the jobs?!

One website I came across after looking in Liverpool agencies adevertised jobs in vain, is Middle east jobs which advertise jobs that seem to me to be mainly in Sauidi Arabia. I guess this is where the money is. I filled an application there but still wondered whilst doing so if I really would like to go there... It is always a big gamble making big moves like moving to a totally different country- one I guess that I do not calculate much (evident in my presence in the UK still since 2006...)

Well, enough with this now, I guess I just need to chill now, take a deep breath and take whatever comes...whether that be Dr Shereen in the future, or not, I guess I could still say I was NOT just sitting on the sofa doing nothing at all...


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