Guest blogger, Ana Dinescu, writing from Berlin, Germany.
For a long time now, I have chosen to stay away from academia. It is neither a confession nor an excuse. It went simply like this: even though I continue to have a strong interest in everything related to intellectual activities of any kind, I decided a long time ago, that becoming a full part of the academic establishment was never the first, second, or even third or fourth option for my professional career. And this was and is a decision I will most likely continue observing.
One of the first things I became aware of when my capacity of social understanding was surfacing and expanding was my wish for a job where my joy of reading and spending hours in theoretical discussions of any kind, would happily meet with my sense of reality and aspiration for change. My idea of change – mentalities, ideas, people – was still vague, but I was very much aware of the need to go beyond the strict theoretical ruminations. In this case, what else could be more advisable than an academic career? Before taking into consideration this alternative, I knew that I wanted to become a journalist above all else. It was probably a sense of adventure, another kind of daily challenge and, at the time, a huge potential for change in a country such as Romania. I continued to follow my academic interests, with university and after a period, MA studies, while continuing to write about Romanian politics. School was offering me the analytical tools for better understanding and addressing the reality around me. Not always successfully, I must confess. Meanwhile, I remained attached to the academy, starting PhD studies, while making various career shifts in the middle of shifts in Romanian politics. At every decision point in my professional career, academia, again, was left far behind from the list of potential future plans.
As the daughter of a teacher, I am familiar with the pedagogical process, the tremendous work you have ahead of you every day and, not less important, the terrible bureaucratic and administrative challenges. From my friends and acquaintances active in academia, as well as from my direct professional contacts, I was aware of the hours spent dealing with time-consuming procedures, financial pressures and, in some cases, political mismanagement.
Far from being a garden of pleasures of the knowledge and thinking, academia is nowadays, in my perception, less about freedom and more about survival. Not a liberal career, but a professional plan restricted and limited by the demands of the market, as with any other job, independent of the level of one’s education. I am able to understand the mechanisms, but the more I am aware of them, the more I prefer to use my understanding and my energies for independent writing, thinking on my own and discovering the world through written words. Most probably, being a part of the academic establishment will not be part of my plans in the next professional decade.
Ana is a PhD candidate in history at the Faculty of History, University of Bucharest, with a background in Political Science. She has been a journalist for ten years for Romanian daily newspapers and is currently a communications consultant, living in Berlin.