Aaaaaand that’s the final wrap folks! I have now handed my Ultimate Final Thesis to the University, which officially marks the end of the PhD! It still doesn’t feel like it though… Normally this is the stage where you get the thesis bound, with your name in golden letters on the cover (you know the one). However, under the current Covid circumstances, I just had to submit it online. Underwhelming.

I don’t know what will happen to this blog. Afterall, I’m not a PhD student anymore. There are still many things I would like to talk about, but most of them are still too raw, and I’m going to need some time. Until then, maybe you could help me! What would you like to know? What would you like to read?

I didn’t really know what to write about for this last post of my PhD journey, but as always Maggi the Great came to the rescue with the loveliest and easiest idea: the acknowledgments section. For the whole PhD I joked about what I would list in the thesis acknowledgements. It’s the only place in the thesis where you can be yourself and write whatever you like, so of course I would write something wild and quirky, possibly, ending with an ode to food and drinks. But then write-up happened and there was much less joy and silliness in my mind, so the funny acknowledgements were quickly eradicated. Maggi the Wise kept on telling me “Keep the acknowledgements for the lowest point in the write-up. Thinking about all these people who supported you will help you get back on track”. My personal problem with this strategy is that even at the lowest of the lows, my go-to thought is “mmmh I’m sure it can get worse”, which means I found myself a few days away from the submission without acknowledgements. Still, Maggi was right. Indeed I was fed up with everyone and everything when I started to write them, indeed I welled up halfway through, and indeed afterwards I felt a last shot of motivation to finish the thesis.

At any point of the PhD, when all is miserable and you don’t know why on Earth you’re still doing this, get started on the acknowledgements. Make a list of all these people who have believed in you, all these people who have helped you, all these people who genuinely think that what you do is cool. And just like that, they are helping you again, without knowing, just by being a name on a page. It might not always work, but sometimes that’s what you will need.

My acknowledgements don’t read as deep and personal as I feel them, which I guess is okay, it is just who I am. Most of the people I mention probably don’t know that they made such a massive difference, and never will. Still, I needed to thank them all loud and clear, so here we are.

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Firstly, I would like to thank my supervisors, Prof Sue Fletcher-Watson, Dr Andrew Stanfield, and Prof Antonella Sorace. Prof Fletcher-Watson has supported and encouraged me from the very first Skype meeting we had in November 2015 to discuss my research ideas, 10 months before the start of my PhD. Since then she never stopped to inspire me, and I know I would not be the researcher and the person I am today without her. I refused a funded position to come and work with her without funding, and this may have been the best decision in my life so far. Dr Stanfield has also supported me through the imaging study, in spite of the numerous and diverse setbacks. In the times of greatest difficulties, I was always able to count on his help, and I would not have been able to complete this project without him. Finally, Prof Sorace introduced me to the fascinating world of bilingualism research, and I never left a meeting with her without feeling inspired to pursue my work.

Secondly, I would like to thank the organisations that hosted my research, as well as their staff: the Patrick Wild Centre who funded my work, the University of Edinburgh who offered me an astonishingly supportive academic environment as well as teaching opportunities, the Edinburgh Imaging Facility that helped me conduct the imaging study, and particularly Dr Cyril Pernet for his invaluable support, and the Autism Research Centre of the University of Cambridge who welcomed me for 3 weeks in the Autumn 2018 and helped me with data collection. In addition, I thank all the people who took part in my research, for sharing their experience with me. Without them, there would be no project at all. I also thank Katherine Woods, who volunteered to help me with testing and data coding, as well as Kathryn Nolte, who discovered fascinating results in my messy data. I would like to thank all the students I tutored and supervised over the last 3 years for their enthusiasm, they made this part-time job extremely enjoyable. I also thank all the readers of my PhD blog “PhD & Stuff” for their encouragement, they truly helped me become a better writer.

I would also like to thank my friends, in Scotland, in France, and all around the world, who supported me throughout this whole journey. In particular, I thank Maureen de Seyssel and Mariane Gallet, who accompanied me from the very first day I arrived in Scotland, and who saw it all, practice talks and R scripts alike. I also thank (soon to be Drs) Jessica (Jess) Powell and Eva-Maria Schnelten, my flatmates who covered me with wonderful food for the last 3 years (with a special mention for Eva-Maria who has literally been feeding me during the write-up). I also thank Jess (again), Noah Latchem, Dr Rachael Davis , Dr Brendan Sargent, and Dr Adam Harvey, for helping me with this thesis by hunting down grammar and spelling mistakes, as well as Dr Margaret (Maggi) Laurie for helping me with R (I would not have made it through the first script without you). I would also like to thank my colleagues at the Kennedy Tower who have accompanied me through the years, in particular Maggi (again), (soon to be Drs) Shereen Sharaan and Lorna Ginnell, who started this journey with me back in September 2016, as well as Rachael (again) for providing cat-sitting opportunities, and more recently Dr Eamon Walls and Dr Rebecca Iversen who were ideal office-mates for the most stressful times.

I also thank my family, in particular my cousin Dr Margot Enguehard for inspiring me to pursue a PhD, my brother Corentin who made me stronger, and my cat Elliot who always brightens up my days. I also want to send all my love to my grand-mother Denise, whom I miss dearly. Finally, I thank from the bottom of my heart my parents. With their unwavering support they believed in me since day one, and allowed me to embark into this wonderful and challenging adventure, knowing fully well it meant they would have to make sacrifices to financially support me as a self-funded student. I would simply not be here without them. Maman, Papa, merci pour tout, du fond du cœur.

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Bisous,

Bérengère