I started my PhD in Sports Business Innovation in July 2016 at the Loughborough London campus. It was a slow start as most of the staff were on holiday and I was the only summer starter (due to my own eagerness to get going early) and it was a strange experience coming into a quiet campus. However, those few months before the new term began and the October starters arrived, gave me the added advantage of familiarising myself with the campus, the local amenities and reading….lots and lots of reading.
My supervisor greeted me on my arrival and declared that three years today I would be a Doctor, not something that I was overly concerned about; the title wasn’t the reason for my decision to pursue a PhD. I wanted to further my learning in my subject area and become an expert I the field of innovating sports organisations. Based in the Institute of Sports Business at the London Campus, situated on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, the location was perfect and having previously worked on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games it felt like I had come full circle and was actively part of the post-games legacy.
The only shock to the system was that in the time I had left London to pursue an MBA (only to return on half the budget to pursue a PhD) life had become, well…very expensive! London certainly isn’t the cheapest place to live, most of my money will go towards living costs, but it’s a challenge accepted amongst our research cohort and we live most frugally. Living in London is possible on a shoestring; you just need to be economically creative. When I first started I was worried about my finances and the struggle to keep afloat. Concerned that it would impact on my social life, I signed up for lots of free events in the first few weeks to ensure I met new people and started as I intended to go on – with a social life.
In the first month I downloaded a free events app. and signed up for different things. I attended museum lectures, and conference talks. I joined an evening of live Poetry at St Paul’s Cathedral, a free walking tour around Hackney with Economy of Hours, an Innovation launch at Here East where I tried out the latest augmented technology, and caught the bug for attending free events. It’s a running joke (and arguably true) that PhD students will attend anything with a free buffet, but these events have enriched my research by cultivating different ideas and developing abstract concepts that I can implement into my own work.
In the summer months I walked along Hampstead Heath with a handful of journals and a packed lunch, visited Keats House for a drop of inspiration and walked the streets of Hampstead reading the blue plaques of who used to live there. I would take the bus with friends around the city and not get off, just to take in the views at night. I’d walk for miles along the river taking photos and joining in walking tours. I attended free seminars and lectures on space medicine, leadership and psychology at other universities in the city. I signed up to different societies, attending their lecture programmes and panel discussions, walked around the free museums and found different places to study in quiet areas. I have visited the British Library and Kew Archives to read a bunch of journals and take a walk around the gardens; the free parks in London offer the best places for reflection and time away from the books.
I am now six months in and am learning, living and networking. There are opportunities out there to collaborate and to get involved; being economically creative and finding the best student deals becomes a competition in its own right. London may be an expensive place to live but it is filled with amazing opportunities, beautiful locations and is full to the brim with inspiration.