Professors do not eat guava

I have concluded that I am either part of a sociological experiment or I am doing my job really really wrong. 

Our story starts in Vietnam: in the 20+ centigrade [*] heat of Hanoi where foreigners could be easily distinguished as the only ones not wearing 16 coats and beanie hats in the country's northern winter. I was giving a talk at the university to advertise the research in my group and... coincidentally... mention a scholarship program for foreign students. 

Basically, the plan was to poach promising students and make them work for me for ever and ever and EVER. There was nothing not to like. 

Also, I was great. Seriously, my talk was amazing and the crowds went wild. I got one whole question and a comment afterwards (direct quote): "We've ... never had a lecturer like you before." Totally a complement.

(And that my friends, is how you deal with impostor syndrome)

Two more days of screaming fans later and I had found the perfect student: she had recently graduated from her bachelors course, had high grades and more enthusiasm for astrophysics than me... uh, I mean, strongly complemented my interests. I was pleased, she was pleased, the university was pleased. All we had to do was complete the scholarship forms when the Japanese Government released them. 

  • That was the middle of last week.
  • With a deadline of noon today (Tuesday).
  • I was at a conference over 4,000 miles away until yesterday, with seminars running from 8:30 am - 9 pm at night.
  • Since this was a scholarship for international students, the forms for the student were written bilingually in Japanese and English. The forms for the potential supervisor... were not. 
  • Monday was a national holiday and all administration offices were closed.
Not my office (credit:  Paullus23  on Deviant Art)

Not my office
(credit: Paullus23 on Deviant Art)

This is where I became confused about my job. Was it really expected that I could drop everything and complete these forms when they appeared? Are there professors who just loll around at their desks eating guava until someone sympathetically hands them something to do?


What followed next was punctuated by a lot of bad language that fortunately could not be heard back in Japan. With the help of our (frankly, saintly) international support office, the documents I had to complete were translated into English. I flooded their email with questions while keeping an eye on the conference plenary talk to find out if the universe was still flat. By the time I was half-way through my list of questions, pretty much all involved were hoping the next talk would be announcing Armageddon sometime before next Tuesday. 

In truth, part of this was an example of Japan's work-in-progress for internationalisation. They are supporting a number of great opportunities to diversify their academic community, but are not yet geared up for both the professor and student to not be Japanese.  

... the other part of this was just a set of appallingly thought-out deadlines. 

The deadline was at 12. I submitted (pretty much) everything at 11:11 am. It was a triumph against humanity and likely promoted me onto the next level of whatever terrible experiment I am secretly enrolled in. 

[*] That's 70s to you Americans