One finished thesis and a hundred twists of fate

Published in Observant, Maastricht, 19 March 2014

Last Thursday, in a file named ‘PhD thesis version 724,911’ – that’s how it feels anyway – I typed the word ‘Conclusion’. By mid-Friday, with a final flourish of my pen – well, mouse really – it was done.

It’s a wonder that it’s done, especially as it’s a wonder it even got started. It’s five years since I wrote my application to Cambridge, from my little flat in Maastricht. The first professor I wrote to decided the topic wasn’t for him. He could have put it in a drawer and forgotten about it. Instead he forwarded it to the head of the department. It wasn’t really her topic either. But I study the Netherlands, and she happens to be Dutch. She took me on out of curiosity.

Four years before that, I was on exchange in Germany. I went backpacking with a friend, and we flew into England for the first time ever on 7 July 2005: the day of the London bombings. Like thousands of others that day, we were stranded. The first bus we could claw our way onto took us to Cambridge. I remember, clear as day, sitting on the stone wall outside King’s College, watching the students wander about like it was no big thing.

I was on exchange in Germany as a German Studies major. But even that was a fluke. Back home in Sydney I’d initially picked French, but three days later I changed my mind. And it was from Germany that I took that particular flight to England on that particular, fateful day. And because the only bus running that day went to Cambridge, there I found myself, outside King’s, resolving one day to be inside it.

And so it was, thanks to some good luck and a lot of goodwill, that last week, mid-Friday, I wrote the last word of my conclusion and put down my pen. Or I would have, had I been holding one. Instead I hit save. Then hit it three more times for good measure.

So what, after all these twists of fate and turns of good fortune, was that profound conclusion?

Further research is needed. Naturally.





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