From troubled youth to blogging university professor

Throughout my life, I have gone through many ups and downs, like most people. However, my underlying philosophy has always been not to limit myself and to be able to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day (with a big smile!).

The main lesson that I learned so far, is that we can do anything if we are willing to work for it. As long as I want it and am happy to dedicate time, sweat, and tears to it, I’ll get there. The trick is figuring out what it is that I want 🙂

Besides writing this blog, I work as an Assistant Professor at a top research university – hence the name. I am passionate about teaching about my research and academic skills.

During one of my first-year classes, a student asked me what she could do to improve her writing. My simple answer was to “write more”. And then it dawned on me. How does a student deal with such a self-important academic answer?

That same evening, at home, I sat down and created a workshop for the students on How to start a successful Blog.

I wanted their efforts to be rewarded so that they didn’t lose focus. Over the years, the workshop has proven very popular. Some of my former students went on to write some successful and lucrative blogs on all kinds of subjects.

A tremendous amount of research went into my workshop, but still, I had students ask me “How come you don’t blog?”. I explained that I publish in academic journals and newspapers on a regular basis. But then, I thought to myself “why not?”

And from there, Blogging Academic was born.

You are now reading my bio and getting the most out of my academic approach to blogging. If you follow the tips on this blog, you’ll find the right niche and blog about demanded topics. You’ll learn to write in an appealing style and to monetize your blog’s traffic.

I am by no means saying that I am the absolute blogging guru. But teaching others about it, over the years, has made me pretty good at it. And as it is with most academics, I am always increasing my knowledge and incorporate it into my blog’s content.

So, If you are about to start blogging and want to learn from experience, you have come to the right place.

I will take you through the initial steps of setting up a blog and finding your niche and voice. Along the way, I’ll teach you plenty of ways to make money from your work.

But how did I get to this point?

1975 – Time to come into the world

On a sunny afternoon, in a small town in the north of Germany, I saw the light of this world for the first time. My birth, yet, was anything but sunny.

As with so many things later in life, I took my time to get it right. Not wanting to face the world, doctors had to induce my birth.

Once I was born, the doctors didn’t think that I’d make it.  They rushed me to a specialist hospital where it turned out that I was a fighter after all.

This defying and fighting spirit has been with me ever since, often to the annoyance of people around me.

A few years after me, my sister Anna was born.

We gelled from the very beginning and have had a strong bond all our life:

  • I used to mess with her dolls and place her Barbies in the toilet (horrible brother, I know)
  • When we moved country as kids she had her revenge. During the first weeks, she told everyone entirely made-up stories of our life in Germany about me.

She has two wonderful children, Tony and Malia, and is very successful at her high-powered executive job. I am very proud of all her personal and professional achievements.

1981 – My formative years

When it was time to go to school and get smart, there was trouble on the horizon. Growing up without a father made me a little, let’s say rebellious, of authority.

In primary school, I would argue with my teachers and backtalk. During a Christmas play, I answered the rhetorical questions “Would anyone else like to say a poem?” with a big yes. After my little skit, I truly establish myself as the class clown.

When I was 10 years old, my mother, my sister, and I moved from rural northern Germany to the bright lights of Brussels.

It took a while for me to come out of my shell in this strange new environment, but when I did, I embraced big city life.

As I grew older and gained more freedom, things took a turn for the worse. I would spend my days in the bar across the school, named “Le College”. I’d play video games, drink too much, hang out with the wrong crowd, and get into the occasional trouble.

As a result, I started cutting classes (a lot) and my school decided enough was enough and expelled me. My mother and stepfather decided to send me to live with my religious uncle upstate New York. My mother asked him to “straighten me out”.

It was at this point that I discovered Black Sabbath, Salam Rushdie, Nietzsche, and many other amazing authors. Needless to say, my parents’ plan didn’t work. It will take another decade for me to straighten my life out.

After a year, my old school allowed me to be in and I graduated with an International Baccalaureate.

1997 – University (take 1) – Mathematics

After finishing school, I enrolled at Stirling University for Pure Mathematics and Philosophy. Although I loved both subjects a lot, I was not mentally ready for university. Instead of focussing on my studies, I spent too much time playing video games and bowling. Thanks, Cohen Brothers!

I spent my time playing in an unsuccessful band with my mates. Looking back, it was all an excuse to meet girls and to party. I still remember some cringeworthy riffs that we used to play for our friends in local bars.

After six semesters of linear algebra, calculus, number theory, and making bad music, I decided to go and get a job.

1999 – The big scary real world

It is scary out there in the working world. Writing cover letters, putting on smart clothes, and trying to answer every question with a smile is hard. At this point, I had moved to Madrid, Spain, to find work.

After many interviews that highlighted my lack of Spanish, I landed my first big job. A brokerage firm that operated on the Madrid Stock Exchange took a chance on me.

I worked as a senior software developer, given my extensive programming experience. I programmed a lot during the early 90s. When I got headhunted by a company in Belgium, I decided it was time to pack my bags and go ‘home’.

Earning money was great, but I felt like something was missing in my life. I had never graduated in Mathematics and Philosophy. One day, while I was living and working in Berlin, I decided it was time to go back to study again.

Receiving my Admission letter (again) from university, was one of the happiest in my life.

2002 – University (take 2) – Environmental Science

The second time around, I was finally able to do well at university. I meet fantastic people who were on the same wavelength as me.

To make enrollment easier, I decided to go back to my Alma Mater, Stirling University in Scotland. This time around, I wanted to study something that allowed me to do good.

I wanted to learn about the world in a new lightEnvironmental Science.

From the first lecture by one of my favorite lecturers, Iain Moffat, I knew that this was the path that I wanted to take. Learning about how nature works still fascinates me to this day.

To supplement the financial support that my amazing mother provided me, I worked a lot of odd jobs. Most of the time, I worked as a chef during the day and night-club security at night. I squeezed in my studies between shifts.

Having to work, and being a bit older than the rest of my classmates, gave me the perfect focus needed to do well.

I ended up graduating top of my class. Not only was this a tremendous achievement for me after not knowing what to do with my life for many years. It also opened many doors for me! I knew that I wanted to stay in a research environment.

So, I decided to continue with postgraduate studies.

Since I did so well at my undergraduate degree, I had several scholarship offers for Ph.D. programs. Offers from universities such as Oxford, Southampton, Leeds, and the Macauley Research Institute.

2007 – Becoming an Academic

In the end, I took the excellent decision to start my Ph.D. at the University of Southampton, UK. I had read many papers by the research team there and decided to join the PalaeoLab at Southampton. This decision has shaped my life ever since and one that I am very proud of.

It was at Southampton that I got my first real taste of teaching and I loved it from the first second.

A senior professor asked me to cover a lecture for her. It took a moment to overcome the initial terror of standing in front of 300 first-year students. But, I fell in love with inspiring and passing knowledge to others immediately.

From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to be an academic, teaching people. This is the reason why I started this blog, to share the lessons that I have learned over the past 13 years.

My time at Southampton University allowed me to sharpen my research skills. This is something that I use in my approach to successful blogging. During this time, I also spent a lot of time in the Canadian sub-arctic studying plants.

After Southampton, I take up a lectureship at Sheffield University. There I project-managed two multi-million Euro EU-funded grants on Entrepreneurship and spent a long time studying dead amoeba in Svalbard.

About a year ago, my wonderful finacé Giulia and I decided that it was time for a change. We decided to move to the Netherlands and I took up a post as Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen. Here, I research the use of social media in environmental activism and teach about Academic Skills, Environmental Science, and supervise research students.

2020 – Blogging Academic

And this brings me to Blogging Academic. Ever the academic, I put extra care into researching all my articles to bring you the best advice possible.

The focus of Blogging Academic is to teach you and to help you get started in the wonderful world of blogging. It can be a bumpy road, but together we’ll make it a fun ride.

Yes, you will see an affiliate link, here and there. But this is part of running a successful blog. It is also a valuable skill to have and one that you will learn on this blog: how to make money blogging.

What you will not see, are pages stuffed with advertisements. This is not only ugly to the eye but also makes your experience on this site unenjoyable.

And in the essence, that’s what it is all about. Having fun and supporting each other.

Now go, read my articles, and start your own blog. Along the way, I would love to hear from you. I’d love to hear your success stories but also about your troubles. If you have a specific question, use the contact form and send me a message. I’ll try to answer them all.

Enjoy your blog!

Gunnar (Blogging Academic)