I still get confused when people ask me which department I am in – my response being “Methodology.” Outlining the different avenues of possible study within the Methodology Department is not the topic of this blog, albeit an enthralling topic amongst my peers and other social research fiends. That being said, the topic of this post deals with perhaps an even more riveting phenomenon: tea time in the Methodology Department. Aside from being a rite of passage into British society, this severely English activity has been a fantastic way to get to know fellow program members, professors, and department staff.
Every other Wednesday members of our MSc in Social Research Methods program flock to the Methodology Department for some hot tea, biscuits, and other surprise treats. Beyond getting my biweekly fill of Digestive biscuits, which despite the label have only negative effects on digestion (or perhaps after three or four of them the point of diminishing returns sets in?), tea time offers us a space to get to know each other in a different light. There is talk of recently attended concerts, happenings in the sports world, developments in politics, among many other topics. Naturally, a popular theme is debating the order of operations for when to add the water, sugar, milk, and pull the tea bag.
But tea time is also a great opportunity to pick the brains of our peers and professors, or to get updates regarding upcoming lectures or job fairs. Sharing a witty back-and-forth over tea with your professor builds a degree of confidence to ask the daring questions that may have gone unsaid if you only ever saw them at the front of a lecture hall. Having time to collectively destress and let our hair down, at least metaphorically, bubbles over into the academic realm encouraging collaborative work on assignments or debate over seminar readings.
At the end of the day, tea time serves as a departmental agora to come together, mingle, and methodologically speaking, have a statistically significant probability of learning a few things — even if only that the water proceeds the sugar, which is then followed by the milk.