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Academic Boredom
January 18, 2011 - 9:15pm

I am a person who is easily bored. It is in my character. I get tired of things easily. Not just of things, but also of people, of places, of food, of music etc. Once I achieve something, for me the taste is gone. I then jump on the next idea to get a new natural high out of what I do. This does not mean that I am a restless soul in every way. Luckily I harbor a stable core as well which lets me keep life-long friendships, favourite cafes that date from my university years or keepsakes from years ago. But this does not change the fact that I need novelty to feel alive every so often. The need for novelty often presents itself in the form of a new topical interest and new minds to connect with.

In that sense, an academic career seemed like the right path for me. That would be where I would be able to encounter new ideas, improve myself, sail towards new horizons, engage in interdisciplinary research, interact with like-minded people with diverse interests, push my own limits, push the limits of my students. It would be fun. An academic career sounded promising for my easily bored self as it offered enough flexibility to let me explore the limits of my own mind. My own field, international relations was a right choice in that sense because in international relations, there is always some new development somewhere in the world which is relevant to what one is doing. I never thought I could be bored in academia.

Unfortunately I am now, after precisely 10 years of teaching...

There are quite a few reasons why I am bored. Here are only a few of them:

  • I am bored of meeting the minds that are focused on their own topic and nothing else. I knew that there were people who are the experts of one thing and were ignorant on so many other related things walking in the halls of academia. Yet I thought they were rather the exceptions than the rule. To my surprise I found out that their number is not negligible. To my surprise I found out that some had a habit of looking down on the studies in other disciplines, not to mention those who are so specialists in their own narrow research area that they do not know much about the rest of their own discipline.
  • I am bored and mostly disappointed to see academics who have lost their curiosity as a result of the day-to-day academic activities they are expected to carry out. I wish I saw more curious minds in academia. I thought every academic was blessed with an exceptional hunger for knowledge. I was disappointed to find out that most were not. Some were mere mortals in search of immortal findings, others were just mortals.
  • The students we encounter are also often not very curious to learn new things. And then when the academics lose the curiosity, there is no way that they can instill curiosity in their students. When the students are also not curious, when they are disinterested, almost indifferent to the subject matter they study, the torture of boredom is multiplied for the academic souls.
  • I am also bored because of the lack of time for research. Academic work is often divided into teaching and research and most institutions would emphasize how much they value research, yet there is no doubt that it is the teaching part that is traditionally seen as most defining of the profession.

One of my remedies against academic boredom is to prefer reading books of other disciplines in my private sphere. I do this at the expense of my own development in my field because it limits my reading hours in my area of expertise. Yet I do this in order to stay sane and feed the curious side of my brain. I actually have been lucky enough to be teaching one new course every semester for the last 4 years so that also nurtures me. When the new course is on a topic I do research on, all the better. Another remedy is that I also do not hesitate to jump into a new area of study which would be at the crossroads of my discipline and that of others.

Do you feel academically bored? If yes, what are your remedies against academic boredom?

Istanbul, Turkey

Itir is a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.






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