This weekend I had the unmitigated pleasure of meeting one of my foremost academic idols: Professor Jorgen Carling. I have followed his work on migration aspirations and his work informed much of the theoretical frame for my dissertation.
His research is thoughtful, pedagogic, built on extensive research in Cape Verde, and communicated in simple and straightforward prose in the top migration journals. But also, and this, of course, impresses me, on social media (@jorgencarling) as well as on his amazing blog, see this very useful post about academic publishing for instance.
While we have been connected over the internet, we have never met. He lives in Norway (and in Netherlands for a bit) and I am in Ghana, of course. Over the years, I have tried to get into workshops he has led, conference panels he has organized, but without luck. I have continued to keep him posted on my progress via email and sent him my dissertation once it was completed and passed the examination.
Then a few weeks ago I get an email with the subject: “Jorgen to Ghana”. I shriek with joy and can’t believe my luck when my academic idol of the last five years is coming to visit Tema. Finally on Saturday evening he lands. On Sunday, I pick him up from his hotel just minutes away from my house, show him around the center of the world (Tema), and invite him to eat a hearty Sunday lunch of boiled plantain and kontomire stew in my garden with my family.
Here is a photo from the happy occasion.
How was it meeting my idol in real life? He was cool.
Just as I had imagined he was calm and kind in a very Norwegian way. His comments on my work – I was very excited to realize he had actually read it – and careful advise on publishing helped me over some mind-hurdles. I was, however, a little nervous, kind of extatic and…wordy. So now, I have resolved to work on going from a far-away-fan to a useful and levelheaded colleague.
When did you meet an idol and what happened?