Home > Research, University life > Fulbright interview, munros and lots of driving…

Fulbright interview, munros and lots of driving…


Last week’s radio silence was down to a number of factors. The first was that I was annual leave and had headed up to Scotland for a bit of hillwalking with my Dad and brother (clocking up nearly 800 hundred miles in the process…). The second was that I had an interview for a Fulbright scholarship last Tuesday in Edinburgh. Thankfully, the two events coincided with one another which meant I could kill two birds with one stone, saving on fuel, accommodation and general expenditure, and as a ‘tight Scot’, you can imagine that this was greeted with some enthusiasm.

I’ll leave the prosaic matter of hillclimbing (wherein I bagged my first two munros) for a later post, and keep this one focused on my interview and some general linguistic observations I made while in Edinburgh.

Way back in March or April, I spotted an interesting post on Facebook by one of my colleagues advertising a Fulbright Scholarship on Scottish Studies and after some quite intense deliberation on my part, I decided to apply for it. My proposal was to carry out further research on my PhD data and write it up as a book, plus do some teaching on Scottish sociolinguistics (I’m editing an EUP volume on this topic, so it fits quite nicely). The project would take place at the University of Pittsburgh alongside Scott Kiesling, a major figure in the field of language and masculinity. The proposal offered quite a lot and I was really pleased with the final product, even though the application process was pretty arduous and took a lot of time to do, something made more difficult by the fact that the deadline was in the middle of the marking period. Nevertheless, I managed to put something quite respectable together, helped along the way by my friend Mel and my girlfriend Rebecca (thanks!).

I was lucky enough to get short-listed (huzzah!) and I had my interview last week in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, however, my interview didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped, mainly because I think I over-prepared and over-thought the questions. For example, the first question was ‘How would you describe your research to a lay person?’. “Ok” I thought, “I’ve got this”. And out popped this rambling, far-too-technical ‘answer’ which started off with the immortal line “My research is an ethnographically informed account of  sociolinguistic variation among urban adolescent males”… Mmmm, not as ‘non-technical’ as I might have wanted. I also managed to add something like “I’m interested in the vowel sounds of words like cat“. Now, how exciting does that sound?? What I should have said would have been something along the lines of “I’m interested in the relationship between language and violence among adolescent males in Glasgow”, but no, my brain went on academic auto-pilot. Bah.

Occasionally, I hit upon some good answers, but generally I felt too waffly, woolly and not really hitting the target, and I wasn’t convinced that my plans for the future lit up the interviewing panel’s expectations too much. Of course, I could probably be being far too negative about this, but I suppose when you know you could have done better, you know your future is in your own hands, and then you feel like you’ve messed that opportunity up, negative thoughts are kind of par for the course.

I don’t find out for sure until next week whether I’m successful or not, but from my own perspective, I’m not counting on it. For a later blog entry, I’ll post up some hints and tips which might help future applicants through the process.

After my interview, I did some wandering around Edinburgh, grabbed a bit of lunch and tried to put the interview down to experience. While on my wanderings, I couldn’t help but notice some interesting signs….

The first one was a sign at the train station highlighting the role that the SPT is playing in promoting effective sexual health…

In case you can’t see the middle bit, here’s a closer view:

Now, quite what an STDS manager (or should that be STDs?) does is anyone’s guess, but I found it quite amusing nonetheless…

The second sign I noticed had me (more or less) frothing at the mouth in abject rage, primarily because of the number of people this error would have had to have gotten past…

This mistake makes me go 'arrrrghghghghghhghgh!!!!!'

No prizes for noticing the glaringly obvious error (possessive your instead of contracted verbal form you are), but it is almost unforgivable that this should have made it past the first stage of the signwriting process. I’m not sure what kind of quality assurance checks these things go through, but presumably a spell-checker (or someone with an ounce of intelligence about them) would have spotted this. It’s also not as though the intention was to have something ‘Your getting here has made us all happier’, where the possessive is marking an event of some sort, since there is no subordinate clause after the main clause. Something has gone drastically wrong here, and the fact that I see these kinds of errors all over the place makes me worry about the standards of written English in the public domain. Or maybe it was just cause I was so annoyed about my interview that I was looking for something I could vent at…

– The Social Linguist

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  1. August 30, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    I suspect STDS is an unfortunate abbreviation of Standards!

  2. August 31, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Ah yes, that would make perfect sense! An Operational Standards Manager would fit in well with the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the national rail netwo- Har, who am I kidding? 😉

    I still think Operational STDs Manager is better though.

  1. July 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

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