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Un voyage de recherche

February 2021, France

If I want to pass this semester, I need to complete a research project. Fairly straight forward. A 5000-word paper on any historical area of my choice. But the possibilities are endless, and I am overwhelmed by the illusion of choice. So, long story short, I decide I am going to leave the essay topic up to ‘fate’. As in, I am going to allow the departments’ algorithms to enrol me on whatever obscure History module they need filling, because, yet again, I have failed to reply to my emails on time.

Now. Unless you just so happen to possess specialist knowledge on the 13th century Crusader Chronicles, I do not recommend this approach. Here I am in week 6 of the aforementioned Medieval History course and am meeting my appropriate edge. After introducing myself to my (two) other peers I realised just how much of an imposter I actually am . Because every single detail confirms they are Certified medievalists alright: from the dead glaze behind the eyes; the conspicuous bardcore playing in the background; to the historically accurate armour hanging on the wall behind. They break the ice with a 4-minute-long silence followed by a casual Dungeons & Dragons joke. It soon transpires that one of them is the tutor. And just like that the metaphorical broken ice re-coagulates itself back together. God, I’m out of my depth, I shudder. But hey! Just cos I’m cool and hot doesn’t mean I can’t find common ground with these fucking nerds!!!! AM I Right??

Ulrick. That is the name of my competitor peer. The one other student on this course. We begrudgingly agree to call each other weekly to discuss our individual projects. He titles our first session on Microsoft Teams as ‘First Crusade Meeting:’ The good news is that ‘the first crusade meeting’ is an actual discussion of our historical research and not some insidious alt-right planning committee. The bad news is that Ulrick is definitely giving off some heavy school-shooter vibes. And is extremely evasive when I ask him for his prospective reading list. Fine by me, I can be awkward too, I think, as I subtly switch my webcam background scenery to a nondescript medieval Languedoc hamlet. But when my powerplay gets no reaction, I’m left frantically searching ‘Ulrick’ on google to double-check he’s not a published authority on the 13th century France (OR worse yet: An actual SCHOOL SHOOTER).

Within a matter of weeks, it becomes pretty clear that Ulrick and I cannot collaborate effectively. Our tutor suggests counselling- but I for one frankly don’t have the time. I just want to crack on with the research. And make sure my essay on the 13th Century Persecuted Religious Sects in the Albigensian Crusade is the hottest piece of investigative writing to come out this side of the 2nd millennium.

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