An often cited quote attributed to Marcel Proust, French novelist born in the late 19th century, is the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. I love to travel and to explore new landscapes, and have done so whenever possible. The last few months has been an exciting time for me as I embarked on a new adventure relocating from Brisbane, taking the beautiful drive down the Newell Highway to Melbourne, onto the boat to Tasmania to take up the role of Head of School of Health Sciences.
But the essence of this Proust quote for me lies in the idea that wherever we are in our life geographically, real discovery comes from a willingness to learn more about ourselves in our everyday surrounds. As a researcher, I also value this quotation in that it reminds me to consider what I already ‘know’ and see how much more I can learn by looking at data or a theoretical concept through a different lens. Essentially, to turn something upside down and see what else falls out!
As an academic I am constantly reminded of how fortunate I am to be working in tertiary education. I believe it is through the nexus between research and teaching that a real voyage of discovery is possible.
I realized early in my academic career that I could become a better researcher when I was also teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students. The questions they raise and the different views they propose often makes me stop to think, and to reflect on what they are asking, and how and why they are interpreting things differently. The iterative processes involved in teaching others can lead to greater insight and a broader appreciation of the topics being explored.
Recently I came to learn that the quotation above attributed to Proust is not quite accurate. The statement translated from its original French text is: The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is. It could be argued that this (correct) version holds even more relevance for those of us fortunate to work in higher education.
It encourages us to benefit from tapping into the enthusiasm of students we teach, and to learn more about our areas of ‘expertise’ by seeing it through their eyes.
I have enjoyed my new landscape living in Tasmania now for four weeks. And in the sentiments expressed by Proust, I look forward to learning more about both my academic pursuits and myself through the many opportunities available to me at the University of Tasmania. But while I subscribe to the notion that the real voyage of discovery doesn’t require that we constantly change location, I still plan to explore the fabulous locations in this great State as often as I can.