1. A very political week…

Hello, my name is Greg Thomas and I am a third year human geography PhD student at Aberystwyth University. I am also the current Chairperson of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Postgraduate Forum. This blog section was my idea and I hope that over the coming months it will give inspiration, support, and an insight into what we all get up to as we are completing our PhD journeys. Hopefully it will give the feeling that we are not alone and that we are all going through similar experiences, feel free to comment on any of the posts, and if you would like to contribute, please get in touch. Now for my first post!

This last week has been far from an ordinary week, and quite possibly has provided some of the highlights of my PhD research so far… It has been an unproductive week in terms of actual PhD progress, but an incredible week for me personally. One of the key components of my research is the political role of the Royal Welsh Show. I was lucky enough to spend two days in Westminster to interview Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Under Secretary of State for Wales, and Under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change), and Chris Davies MP (Brecon and Radnorshire). These two were incredibly open about their views on the event and its role within the politics of Wales, allowing me to get some great data for my PhD.

12144821_10207843055217232_7582659827416407727_nLord Bourne of Aberystwyth (right) and myself at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Chris Davies invited me to spend the day with him in Parliament, where I got a full behind the scenes tour, got to sit in on Prime Minsters Questions (PMQs) and a DEFRA Select Committee meeting. It was an incredible day, and nothing like I have ever experienced before, PMQs was absolutely amazing and a true experience, it was definitely something to tick off the bucket list, and something that I wouldn’t have got to do if it wasn’t for my PhD. Being in London was also a good chance to catch up with some friends who are now in the ‘real world’ of work.

12140694_10207848717038774_7255217028442286683_nMyself in the garden of the Houses of Parliament.

Then came the long journey back to Aberystwyth, which gave me a great chance to prepare my teaching for the next day. Thursday was spent teaching three Level Two Qualitative Research in Human Geography workshops. In these sessions I delivered a mini lecture on the use of the Qualtrics online survey software, before setting the students tasks relating to online questionnaires. Despite teaching on the module for the previous three years, I actually felt particularly nervous teaching this new addition to the module, but then again I guess that nerves are often a good thing when it comes to public speaking.

Friday morning saw the first meeting of the new Postgraduate Forum Committee, in which we reviewed our sessions at the 2015 RGS (with IBG) Annual International Conference, looked forward to next years Annual Conference and discussed the latest plans for the Midterm Conference (for which call for papers is out now)!

That afternoon was followed by another foray into the world of politics, when I observed the Plaid Cymru Conference, which was being held in Aberystwyth. I attended the conference with friend and Masters student Will Hingley and we were cheeky enough to get a photo taken with Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood.

12039306_10207858466642508_3824700112670444070_nMyself, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Will Hingley.

After the excitement of last week, it’s back to the office now to continue with the transcribing of the interviews that I have conducted so far…