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The University of Southampton

Mike Witcombe PhD Modern Languages

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Hi, I'm Mike Witcombe and I studied PhD Modern Languages within Humanities at the University of Southampton.

If you want to work in a small but diverse faculty alongside people conducting innovative research, there are few places that can rival Southampton.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

Glasgow, Scotland.

What was your first degree in? Where did you study it?

I studied English at the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Virginia.

What made you decide to study modern languages at postgraduate level?

I like the process of doing research, and eventually I would like to teach at university level.

Why did you choose to study at Southampton?

Southampton has a great reputation in the area I work in. I’ve found the resources here to be outstanding – in my field, the expertise of the Parkes Institute gives the University a unique strength in Jewish Studies.

Tell us more about the areas of modern languages that you are now specialising in

I am writing on the contemporary Jewish-American author Philip Roth, looking at how he has discussed sex in his work. I have supervisors from English and Modern Languages and Linguistics, which has given me a much broader perspective than I would otherwise have. Modern languages and linguistics is a broad discipline in the first place, so research students are studying an eclectic range of topics – and it’s always great to hear about what other people are researching!

Are you enjoying your studies? What do you like most about your degree programme?

My PhD brought me to Southampton for the first time, and I have been impressed with the quality of research Modern Languages and Linguistics is involved in. There are a lot of groups and initiatives organised by research students which help develop a sense of academic community. In the last year I’ve organised a conference, invigilated exams, taught international students and presented my work to my peers. There’s a lot going on!

Do you get on well with the academic staff?

The academic staff are very approachable, and make themselves much more available to students than those at other universities I’ve studied at.

What’s the best thing about living and studying in Southampton?

Having our own campus means that you meet a lot of your fellow research students working in diverse areas. Southampton itself is a vibrant city, with some of the best live music venues, art galleries and pubs in the south. The Crown Inn in Highfield is a particular PGR favourite.

What has been your favourite moment so far?

Presenting my work at an international conference – utterly terrifying, but it’s so useful to hear what people think of your work. My supervisor gave a lot of help developing my paper, and I’m pleased with how everything turned out.

What are you planning to do after graduating?

Take a long holiday. Then try to find teaching work!

Do you have any advice for people considering studying modern languages at postgraduate level at Southampton?

If you want to work in a small but diverse faculty alongside people conducting innovative research, there are few places that can rival Southampton. It’s a great place to study.

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