GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

Why I am still away from academia

In Guest Blogger on 2010/06/23 at 09:00

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 Dinescu

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.

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  1. Thank you for a beautiful and exact explanation of why I (and many others) feel so disconnected from Higher ed. I wish others could show the bravery, foresight and “survival” skills that you do, thriving outside of the university. We need to change how we (and I include myself in this) view of success for those of us who are intellectuals.

    On the more pessimistic side, I throw out this question: What does it say about university when many of the best and brightest are option out, either by choice or by force? I’ve started a twitter hashtag #higheredapocalypse because I really think that highered is fundamentally flawed, if not broken right now and your essay here is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with highered.

    But it also illustrates everything that is so right about you. Thank you again for sharing.

  2. […] Ana Dinescu (Berlin, Germany): It is not a right balance (yet) between my life and my work. My home is my office and I have a dangerously amount of time I can dedicate to my work, while enjoying the presence of my family. Although, for them, I am rather an absence. Currently, I am learning how to better use and limit my working time – at maximum 9 hours per day – for spending quality time with my family. And it is not always very easy. […]

  3. […] Ana Dinescu (Berlin, Germany): I fight normal writers’ block in two different ways: either I start reading something completely different (varying from a cooking book to a travel review) or I continue a detailed documentation of the issue I am about to address. If the weather allows, I take a long walk and/or go out for a coffee and a piece of cake, during which I put on hold my usual thoughts. […]

  4. […] Ana Dinescu (Berlin, Germany): My inspiration for the most outrageous experience is the bureaucratic system of higher education: when you die from waiting months to have a paper signed and the office of the faculty kindly announces you that you never submitted any paper. The only chance of survival seems to be to dream about a carefree life of a Robin Hood. […]

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