Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Start of the PhD Diaries.

"Hey! What a great course this is.

I am a prospective PhD Student, about to start in late September 2015, and I feel very fortunate and excited about this new chapter in my life. My PhD is fully funded; it was recommended to me by my undergraduate third year project supervisor and my PhD supervisor is an academic I am already acquainted with.

In my situation, I have jumped from finishing my bachelors in electronic engineering to starting my PhD related to Ultra-thin circuits in E-Textiles. Is there anyone else in this situation i.e. jumping from Bachelors to PhD?

Arguably young to start a PhD, I believe that I have maturity in surplus. However, it seems that maturity is only a tiny fragment of what is needed to complete a PhD. I think it also requires courage, diligence, and self-care. Such acts are more important than ever during a PhD. I believe that attaining a PhD comes with a responsibility to change the world for the better with your contribution, but more humbly, it comes with immense happiness completing the PhD journey just because of the fun not necessarily international accolade that may come with it. To learn some tips on how to complete the PhD journey with a sense of self, care, intellectual excitement, and skill is what gravitated me towards this course. I shall treat my PhD Studentship as a job, but also an opportunity to really define myself as an intellectual, an arena to give back to the world through engineering, and a new circumstance to be myself.

Good luck fellow PhD students. Good luck to me too!

Olivia"

I wrote this message on a MOOC education course that I am completing on 'How to Survive your PhD'. Is it s a very helpful course, and I mentioned some of its life-changing benefits in my last blogpost - which was a LONG time ago. Relatively speaking. Comparable to the length of time between my blogposts.

Above, is me writing before I started my PhD. Today, I write this towards the end of my first week being a PhD Student. Reflecting back on my state of mind, I was incredibly intrigued and excited by this new chapter of my life. What I am living through now, is that excitement but with a growing sense of the reality of what a PhD involves and the growing amount of responsibility you have on yourself.

From my early experiences of PhD life, your days are free for you to shape. Gone are the undergraduate years when your life was dictated by the amount of contact hours you had through lectures. As a PhD researcher, you are your own boss, you have to hold yourself accountable to showing up to work and completing your weekly goals. Although you have your supervisory meetings, every day you have to report back to yourself, be honest with your progress, and figure out if you are still on track or need to re-focus. One ability that I am learning this week is to pace myself. Take one research stage at a time, do not delve into a particular area of research before understanding the fundamentals and background knowledge of what I am working on. One thing is for sure, I am surrounded my generous, amiable people, who are willing to make time to greet me, offer me advice, and just to check how my day is going. Moments like these make it easier and more joyous for me to retaliate similar gestures. So, I am learning that your productivity as a PhD student is determined only by the researcher and that having a productive, calm, and warm environment is very important for well-being.

When I wrote this message, one thing that I missed out, is the change in perspective I would gain. Returning to University for the first time after realising that I would be a PhD student was so... odd. It just felt bewildering, and walking through the University and seeing other students I felt a bit disjointed and detached from the life I had as an undergraduate. It was if I was in limbo, not really having a sense of where I belonged anymore. I was entering into a new stage of my life where a new identity was part of the bundle. Importantly, this was a feeling that I have never experienced in my life before. The feeling was different from when one moves to a new school and sees new faces, for example. It was like meeting a friend you used to know years ago for the first time and they had completely changed in demeanor and personality. Although they look the same, something about them is so unrecognisable that you feel obliged to treat them differently. You feel like you are getting to know this person all over again. This analogy matches my feeling at that time the most. Even as I walk around campus now, settling into my PhD life, I am getting more aware that my day-to-day experiences and happenings will be drastically different compared to majority of students on campus. It truly is a new way of life to be a PhD student; especially if you are a continuing student at the same university, experiencing a situation like this causes you to re-evaluate life, yourself, who you consider friends, how you want to present yourself to the world, and to take pride in your work and time. I think a way that I can get out of this 'where do I fit in?' funk is by befriending new PhD students who are experiencing similar feelings to me right now.

I am heading on my first PhD trip next week! My supervisor and our research group are meeting the other University that we are collaborating with. It should be a great experience, and gets me away from my PhD researching desk - which is a pleasant change! I shall have to make more time to edit and upload my photos from Uppsala and Stockholm in Sweden - the trip was incredibly insightful. I got invited to an engineering and tech academic conference to present my poster related to my undergraduate individual engineering project. I was on social media, updating my Instagram and Twitter on sights that I saw and thoughts about conference speakers, respectively. I also recorded video footage, and started getting used to vlogging again. Additionally, I was getting accustomed to talking in front of the camera about engineering and technology related topics! When I upload the vlogs, time will tell, but photos should be completed by the end of this week - I shall have to make time after my 09:00-17:00 routine of researching to continue with my hobbies. Me-time is important, no way am I giving that up. I love myself too much to do that haha

Yes, the next three years of my life at University and any business trips and events abroad will be part of my 'PhD diaries'. I plan to document my PhD life through blogging, pictures, and video. Still I say to all other PhD students and to myself: "Good luck fellow PhD students. Good luck to me too!"


Take Courage,

Olivia

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