All 90 entries tagged Inner Life
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May 24, 2013
If you closed your eyes, it was like Elton John truly was in the room, belting out his classics. Open your eyes, though, and yep, you were definitely in the Terrace Bar, where Elton ain’t been seen in years, listening to an otherwise-diminutive PhD student from Economics belting out ‘Bennie and the Jets’. After he lifted his fingers from the final chord, there was a second before the applause, a second of silence as everyone looked at everyone else, and mouthed one word: Wow.
There’s nothing to bring postgraduate students together quite like one of their own getting up and doing what they non-academically do best. Watching someone who by day builds robots shooting off down the wing on a football pitch, or eating the freshly-baked cookies of people who spend their days elbow-deep in algae: these are pleasures which I and countless others have enjoyed. REx Fest was no different. For a few hours that night, it didn’t matter which department you were from, what you were researching, or whether you had a list of publications longer than the piano: what mattered was whether you could make the audience sing along. And sing along they did, a sea of arms all swaying in time to the closing euphorics of ‘Hey Jude’.
Step away from the front-line of the audience, where the tone has now changed from an indie cover of ‘Call Me Maybe’ to some strain of Portuguese folk-rock, and you would find postgraduates dotted all around the Terrace Bar, and indeed, a swarm on the balcony, sharing lighters and stories of days, weeks, years, spent in the archives or the lab. People who lived together in their first year got a chance to catch up after five years and two degrees apart: one guy whom I knew when he was eighteen had to leave early to see the girl he was dating back then, and whom he is now marrying.
Back inside, stood around a table now littered with empty pint glasses, is a postgraduate football team, discussing their latest nail-biting match, occasionally forgetting themselves and repeating the kicks and jumps which sealed the last-minute winner. In another corner, people are exchanging stories of their first years of teaching, lamenting poor excuses and late-night marking, laughing over spilt chemicals and seminar faux-pas. Meanwhile, at the bar, there is a tussle to buy new companions drinks, often culminating in a bizarre comedy of errors, with everyone insisting that it’s their round. I spent many an hour in a Terrace Bar as an undergraduate at Warwick, and never did I know it as lively, as fun, as pleasant as at REx Fest.
Back in the union building, meanwhile, I spotted several heated games of table football, with people compulsively depleting small piles of fifty pence pieces in the pursuit of victory. The same went for the pool tables, where the atmosphere was a little quieter but no less heated. Much like an excellent musical performance, there is nothing to bring postgraduates together quite like a shared ineptitude at a game. I learnt that night that doing a PhD in Physics is not necessarily an advantage when it comes to playing pool. I guess you might need a calculator.
Needless to say, the whole event worked a treat, and I must admit that despite my own initial scepticism at the whole thing, it was quite the night. I couldn’t believe that amongst the small circles of postgraduates there exists quite so much musical talent. At the end, I found myself giving a guy whom I had only met in the last three minutes a lift back to Kenilworth. In the car he talked candidly about his recent break-up. It really was that kind of evening.
One of the issues with the postgraduate lifestyle, certainly an issue which often gets mentioned on this blog, is how easy it is to find yourself isolated, cut off from the real world. It is essential for your sanity (and for your research) that you get the opportunity to put your studies to one side, even if just for an evening, and enjoy some music, some sport, some chatter. Sure, talk may well eventually turn back to your work, but that’s part and parcel of the whole shebang. If you imagine the world of research as a quiet one, full of plain green fields and the occasional hill, then REx Fest is like a dinosaur of fun and sociality, a tyrannosaurus REx, if you will.
Sorry. Sorry I wrote a whole blog post just to make one awful pun. You’ll thank me one day.
May 15, 2013
"In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death; but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there". So begins Dante's Inferno, and so begins the tale of where I have been for the past seven months, since I last wrote a blog entry.
My story left off at a difficult point in my PhD life: I had begun a postdoctoral fellowship without finishing the doctoral thesis. I was hugely disappointed by this, as I had always considered that three years would be ample time in which to complete a PhD. But I had reckoned without the vagaries of my ongoing cardiac symptoms, which had made me take some time off in the late Spring of last year. In October, I wrote that I was stressed. I could almost laugh now, given what has happened since...
A couple of weeks after my last blog, my dad suffered a catastrophic brain haemorrhage. He had surgery, but never recovered and was in a coma for twenty days. Twenty days of driving to Sheffield. Twenty days of sitting, watching, waiting for signs I knew would never come. At the end of twenty days, he died. I was with him, which was a strange and beautiful thing - just him and me in a room, and the most peaceful thing he had ever done.
On December 1st, I returned to the fellowship research. My brain was full to exploding, but I felt my manager had given me too much time off in November to take any time to think about what had happened. In December of course, everyone in the world was ill. Except me. My children had the flu, my husband had the flu, then my children had the vomiting bug. Then it was Christmas, which of course was difficult.
Then in January, I was ill. My turn at last! But I had a report to write for my boss, and I carried on. The relief I felt when that report was done was immense. I remember saying to a friend of mine that I could now take a few days to sit and think about my dad and begin the grieving process. As if it would ever be possible to grieve neatly, in a compartment marked 'time to think'.
The very next day, I discovered a mass low in my abdomen. I thought it would be nothing, although my midwife hands were slightly surprised at the size of it - my GP and I laughed at the idea that it felt like a 20-week pregnancy. But the scan I had that same day agreed: a mass of some kind, 10cm big. 10cm? How had I not noticed that earlier?! There followed urgent appointments in gynaecology oncology (the NHS moves fast when it feels the need...), an MRI scan, and lots of serious faces, my friends (midwives) included.
So I had a hysterectomy at the end of February, and because of the uncertainty of the tumour's malignancy or non-malignancy, I also had my ovaries removed. Instant menopause! Then a long time sitting still - the longest I've ever spent sitting still, by some considerable margin. And now, a damaged ligament and more sitting still.
Meanwhile, my fellowship contract ended, and I now find myself technically unemployed, although still registered as a student - that was an easy extension to get permission for, thankfully! I'll be extending again next month, which will take me through to September. And then, I say determinedly, the thesis will be submitted.
So a dreadful time. The worst time of my life. But as ever, there are bright moments to be found: my husband, beside me and caring for me; my children, who seem to be enjoying the whole sitting down thing; and my friends, who have brought me such joy over the years, and who have shouldered such a lot of my burden over the past few months.
What a strange post this is. It's taken me a very long time to write. I hope to begin blogging normally again from now, as I return to the process of writing up the thesis. Because for all of these seven months, the PhD has been sitting in a tiny corner of my over-crowded mind, and now, finally, it's getting some attention.
April 29, 2013
Everywhere I turn, I find talent. Singers, athletes, intellectuals: all reside at this university, and can, with time and a nose for excellence, be sniffed out. Lo and behold, some people even have more than one talent: meet the lucky sods who are blessed with easy charm, a forehand which cannot be returned by Roger Federer himself, and a world-class brain working on problems for the betterment of all humanity. Good for them.
Of course, when you are at a place like Warwick, each year brings another crop of new geniuses, and you inevitably start to wonder where the university finds them (although I guess it is more the case that they find the university). All this brilliance floating around you: it can provoke some strong feelings. Some appreciate the challenge, and strive to make their work even better. Others react with calm indifference, reasoning that they are doing as well as they can, and that you can hardly bemoan people for their abilities. There are a number, however, who cannot help but feel the pangs of that green-eyed monster, that deadly sin, jealousy, whenever they encounter those who are blessed across the board. All I can say is that I envy the people in the first two groups.
This is a pretty sweet example of a green-eyed monster
This was brought home for me a few weeks back, when I attended REXfest, an evening of music and chatter for postgraduates at the Terrace Bar, which was, I am compelled to add, wonderful. But standing in a bar, watching people who not only played the piano and sang with the soulful metre of Elton John, but whom were also casually doing a PhD in Economics on the side (if you were there, you will know exactly whom I mean), well, you cannot help but feel the creeping prickly heat and low-altitude sinking feeling so characteristic of jealousy.
Usually when I see someone performing music, or sport, or just living with serious aplomb, at levels of which I, a confused and disoriented young person, can only dream, I console myself with the knowledge that I am a PhD student, and that no matter how often I burn the pasta or fall over blades of grass, I am at least a postgraduate member of a fine seat of learning. But when I encounter people who not only have the ability to understand particle physics, but also know all the chords to ‘Call Me Maybe’, well, that changes things.
The same goes, of course, for sport. Last year, I flirted with the idea of playing football again. I spent many an hour manically running after a ball in my youth, and recapturing that heady enthusiasm was, I reasoned, a good idea. After dashing around for ten minutes, and subsequently coughing up that cigar I smoked when I was eighteen, I soon encountered a pretty serious problem: I was absolutely and undeniably awful, well below the standards of the others. I would make some glib comment about how I would have been more useful if I had just stood there and acted as a goal-post, but that would be unfair to goal-posts; at least they hit the ball back.
The final straw came when someone very kindly passed me the ball in front of an open goal, and I obliged by standing square on top of it, sending me, rather than the ball, into the top corner. In the process I somehow sprained my ankle, and when I was once again fit, it didn’t take me too long to decide that the next time I strode onto a football pitch, it would be to give some stranger with size nine feet my boots. Of course, I would normally take refuge in the fact that football is not my thing, that would be academia, but all those people who can run for more than ten minutes without losing a lung and who can kick a ball exactly where they are meant to are also revolutionising the fields of healthcare, engineering, and literature.
Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that some people are very good at what they choose to do in life, and have to take comfort in that, whilst others are exceptional at what they choose to do, and pretty darn brilliant at a few things on the side as well. Frustratingly, they are often also very pleasant, humble people: all the multi-talented geniuses I know are also bloody good company, absolute delights who make the whole PhD experience that bit livelier. Thankfully, these people will probably end up teaching the next generation of bright minds and leading the world of future, while I will be standing on street corners, where I am a threat to no-one, mouthing off about pigeons, who are a threat to everyone.
I guess if there is a lesson in all this, and I am reluctant to be so candid, it is that we must be grateful for what we do have, be it in our heads or in our hands. When push comes to shove, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I must admit that even if the PhD does implode in an explosion of missed opportunities, I will always be a deft hand at washing up tea-spoons…and no-one can take that away from me.
Oh, except dishwashers.
I would generally say that postgraduate students are an honest and open bunch of people, willing to share expertise and experiences. There are, however, some aspects of PG life which are perhaps not discussed with enough candidness, and one of those is the ease with which one can feel jealous of your colleagues. I wonder whether it is easy enough at this stage to sit down with friends, family, and supervisors, and say, “This whole postgraduate thing…well, I seem to find it that little bit more taxing than everyone else.”
Maybe if we were that bit more open about the emotional difficulties of research, we might find that we are not alone, or that our colleagues admire us for qualities to which we have become blind. It is a curiosity of postgraduate life that, while it is at times a deeply solitary and egotistical pursuit, it can also be fundamentally collective, with inspiration and encouragement coming from many quarters. Maybe the final step would be a little more honest admiration, the ability to say to someone, hey, I think you’re a great teacher, or, did you know, you’re an exceptional editor.
So, in this summer term, that’s what I’ll be doing: turning my envy into uplift, converting the doubt inside my head into smiles and handshakes. As a PhD student, I am surrounded by deeply multi-talented people, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling a little envious of me for it.
January 21, 2013
The British welfare state, one of the key topics in my PhD research, has come in for a bit of a bashing recently. Indeed, it is now a distinct possibility that it may become, like gladiators, pyramids and decent Adam Sandler films, a thing of the past. This is big news, and I am, for a change, able to produce some insightful comments.
But I am not gonna talk about that.
Instead, I am going to discuss the peculiarities of finding romance as a PhD student. Now, as an historian rather than an ornithologist or an apiarist, I am no great expert on the birds and the bees, but I can tell you with some certainty that the whole meet-nice-person-and-do-stuff thing has been going on, in various sexy and not-so-sexy ways, since our ancestors first looked at each other and realised there was nothing good on television. However, for various reasons, the road to heartfelt nothings is a little rockier if you are completing a PhD, as I was reminded recently when advising a dear friend on such affairs. Why is this?
There are many doctorates-in-waiting who find a significant other outside the world of academia, and this can work very well. You put up with them telling you how their boss is, just, like, a total idiot, and they put up with you telling them how your complex mixed-methods approach has been found epistemologically unsound. Although others have told me otherwise, I have never found that my PhD status is a particular winner with prospective partners. Only the other night, I was flirting over the onions in a popular supermarket, when they asked me what I did for a living. Now, leaving aside that I am definitely not doing my research for 'a living', I confessed that I was a PhD student at the fine institution of Warwick. She gave me a long look, and then blurted out, "But...but you're just a kid!", and then wandered off to buy some rocket, which I can only presume is what non-PhD-doing adults eat. However, leaving my slightly scarring experience in the produce section aside, it does indeed happen that people undertaking postgraduate research manage to keep the whole shebang quiet enough to make people fall head-over-heels for their intellectual jawlines (if that is even a thing).
Dating within the PhD pool, meanwhile, is a different beast (a shark, if we are labouring the metaphor). Although one might imagine that there would be stolen glances and brushes of the hand aplenty amongst these academic saplings, it just does not seem to happen. Now, I can only really speak with any authority about History (maybe there is some beautiful Liebe in the German Department, or some serious chemistry in...well, Chemistry), but I think it's true that PhD students are not finding the apple of their eye over the coffee in the staffroom. I have been quietly conducting my own research on why this might be (don't tell my supervisor!), and some themes have started to emerge. One is that the whole system just involves too much abstract competition for romance to blossom; another is that a PhD is too darn egocentric to allow taking on someone else's research highs and lows as well. I also suspect that the intimacy of being part of a research community is, paradoxically, anathema to paramours and skipped heartbeats. If you and the object of your desires smooch it up at a conference, word will get around soon enough, and then come accusations of plagiarism and favouritism in what can only be described as a deeply puzzling version of Jeremy Kyle ("You stole my lab partner!" "What! Leave it out! Mind your own beakers!" and cue much throwing of monographs)...
Having said this, I can think of many academics who have hitched up with fellow scholars, although rarely from the same department, so clearly it is not impossible. Maybe it is just a rarity that fellow researchers fall for each other. Of course, if two people meant for each other do indeed encounter one another, the fact that they are both engaged to PhDs shouldn't stop them exploring the possibility of romance. I do sense that that most famous of interweb rules, number 34, comes into play here (and if not, then I have just discovered a new career path...).
So, if you find yourself swooning for a doctoral heart-throb, I say go for it. There may be some unusual issues, but if you get beyond those you will discover that even PhD students need a bit of affection. As the Beatles once sang, All you need is love...and a publication before you graduate. But mostly love.
November 05, 2012
Picture the scene: it is a drizzly Sunday afternoon, and I am walking back to my home village, along roads which I have trodden in sorrow and joy, the trees amongst which I played as a child now giving up the last of their leaves. My mother accompanies me; we are both taking in some dampened air whilst waiting for the roast to finish and the potatoes to turn crisp. Slowing her pace, my mother turns to me, and asks how the PhD is going. I give her some non-committal answer, something about working hard and going through the motions. Taking my arm, she says, ‘No Tom, it’s okay. You can tell me how it’s really going.” I thrust my hands deeper into the pockets of my winter coat, which is out for the first time this year, and begin.
“Hard to say, really, what with teaching and seminars and training and all that. I think I’m onto something, something important, I really think that it’s a project that’s worth doing. No, the project isn’t the problem…it’s me that’s the problem. I am throwing myself into the research, whole-heartedly, ten hour days spent in the archives, another two hours in the office planning and emailing and reading. That’s fine, though. The real problem is that I can’t switch off. Wherever I go, it’s with me. I’m burning my toast more often than I care to admit, simply because I’m thinking about words, all those words, thousands of words of notes and ideas and material. Is this what I’ll be like for the rest of my life? Can’t I just do something where I get to clock off for a while, watch some bad TV? I went to go and see Sam the other week, and he’s perfectly happy, living with his girlfriend, saving up for a house, and, y’know, beginning a career. I can barely save up for a bag of penny sweets, let alone a nice house in London! Am I even doing any good at this whole PhD thing? Am I anywhere nearer completion? Time’s ticking away, y’know, and I feel like I have to start taking it more seriously, but I’m already exhausted. If I had some indication that I was a good student, if I could score some postgraduate points or something, then I would be fine…but no, it’s just the same routine, read and think and write, read and think and write. Am I wasting my life away? Am I going to find myself in ten years’ time, no friends, no partner, but a nice doctorate, the chance to tick a fancy new box on application forms? Is that going to be me, the boring historian at the party, sipping squash and ranting on about the archives? Shouldn’t I be helping people? I mean, I’m teaching, of course, and that feels great, sometimes, but it also feels, sometimes, like I’m just wasting their time with my failure to understand, to understand them and what they need. Occasionally, just, like, once a month or something, I wake up in the middle of the night, and I am hit by the overwhelming realisation that I am forsaking a wonderful girl that I love, and good friends, friends for life, and you and Dad as well, of course, just so that I can wake up and spend my entire day, my entire year, working on something which I enjoy but at which I am hopelessly, irrevocably, laughably…well…useless…”
We were almost home, and my mother seemed deep in thought. I felt like I had plucked out every anxiety from the pit of my stomach and laid it bare for this woman who knows me better than anyone. She pushed open the gate, placed her hand on the door, but then paused, and turned, and looked me in the eyes. She opened her mouth to speak, then gave a tiny shake of her head, and then opened her mouth again, slowly, deliberately. My glasses were steaming up, and I was hungry, not just for food, but for reassurance, for a raft in these turbulent postgraduate waters.
“Well….,” she began, “well that’s, y'know, that’s nice, Tom. Keep it up. Sounds like you know what you’re doing.” And with that she walked inside, kicked off her wellies, and turned on the Antiques Roadshow. I was left outside in the rain, my glasses now opaque with moisture. “I can’t see my own front door.” I thought to myself. “There’s a metaphor here somewhere. Better yet, there’s a blog entry.” And so it was.
In other news, the potatoes were perfectly done. That, at least, counts as a win.
October 15, 2012
You know this picture, right? Well, that's the inside of my head at the moment. Last week, I wrote a blog for our sister site at the PG Hub, in which I spoke at length about time management. Even as I was writing, I was laughing away to myself at the absolute genius of its timing, because just at the moment I feel like I'm juggling about 15 grenades, and dropping any one of them would be fairly fatal!
Oh, listen to me, I sound so self-important. But you know what it's like - you commit to things, and then you just have to do them, even if you'd rather run down the street in the opposite direction with your fingers in your ears, singing 'I-can't-hear-you!!!' at the top of your voice.
This is a fairly rare occurrence, but today I've managed to give myself an actual headache just by thinking about all the things I've got to get done within the next month. And none of those things include writing a doctoral thesis, which is more than a little worrying.
I MISS MY PHD LIFE!!!!! Suddenly, I have the postdoctoral fellowship to get on with - and I've come in at the point where reports have to be written, so I'm having to do background reading, data analysis, and writing up all at the same time! I also have a job interview on Wednesday - for a job I'm not even sure I want, and which will add further complications if I'm successful. Then on Thursday, I've somehow got burdened with presenting to a roomful of ward managers on the subject of an all-graduate nursing profession. I have literally no idea how that happened, and it's been quite time consuming putting something together, as nursing really isn't my area!
Meanwhile, two of the children have birthdays withing four days of each other, so there has been present buying, cake making, party organising, the biggest sleepover in the universe...
Oh yes - and the 50 new students I'll be teaching. Of course, they all have queries and questions, and I think I may possibly have made myself a bit too accessible... My new phrase, which will be unleashed before long if they carry on like this: "Talk to the handbook!!!"
So can you tell, I'm feeling a little stressed. My poor thesis is sitting, waiting, aching for a tiny bit of attention. Luckily for me, it's not throwing a tantrum yet. But I feel it's only a matter of time before one of us does.
I'm off to Northumberland on Friday, for a week with my family and some lovely friends. I remember when we planned it, some months ago and before the health woes took over, I remarked that the thesis would by this point have been submitted and I would be a free woman... Oh, the dreams. Instead, I've got to endure the baleful glances from my husband and children as once again, a holiday week becomes a week of trying to find a bit of guilt-free time to catch up on the stuff that's hiding away at the back of my brain.
October 02, 2012
Over the weekend, there was apparently a small miracle occurring: I was changing from PhD student to research fellow. Naturally, as ever, I gave insufficient thought to this process, and just spent the weekend trying really, really hard not to think about the thesis, which is ever-present and taking up considerable space in my brain. I found pink wine and the company of friends hugely helpful, and came to Warwick yesterday determined to enjoy my new identity for as long as it lasts.
How long it will last is highly debatable, but that's a different story and not one to be told today. So yesterday, I met with my new boss (not new at all - my first academic supervisor for the PhD) and the research fellow whose position I'm covering while she has a baby. The field of research I'm looking at is quite different (elderly care), but it's still NHS, and there are actually a lot of parallels with midwifery (risk and governance), so it's not so strange as it might have been.
Yesterday, I discovered there was an induction session for new WBS employees - I hadn't actually been invited, but I gatecrashed it anyway. On arriving at the WBS building, I discovered that my student ID card no longer let me in. But I don't have an employee ID card yet. I had a proper head-scratching moment, and then went to ask the lovely people in IT support what I should do. I turns out, I don't appear on any systems just now, so I'm in a sort of non-identitied place.
I'm not sure I like this: according to the Graduate School, I'm still a PhD student because I'm writing up. And the WBS doctoral office obviously agree, given that they haven't turfed me out of my office. But according to WBS, I'm now an employee. I have a new ID number and everything! Only they haven't quite managed to get all the necessary paperwork sorted in time for the October 1st start.
It's a strange place, this land of in-between-ness, but quite a familar one. After all, I've just spend three years being in between midwifery and academia, so I expect that's why I feel quite chilled about the whole thing.
So the lovely IT people have made my student card work again, and I'm just off now to pick up my staff card. Who shall I be today? I think I'll stick with student for now. I feel more comfortable there. And besides, I'm not brave enough to actually go into the staff lounge in the WBS building. It's full of grown ups.
October 01, 2012
"A Warwick student since 2006, a postgraduate since 2010, I am completing a PhD in the Department of History on post-war English welfare and social work. Originally from Cambridge, I like cycling, squash, and playing with cats." - Thomas Bray
So, you’ve made it. Congratulations. You are now a postgraduate student. Whether you have come from Aberystwyth or Antarctica, you have found your way to campus, signed on the dotted line, and officially taken your first step into the world of Warwick.
Your first two weeks will go in a blur. Somehow it will feel simultaneously like two seconds and two years. There is so much to do…and so little time to do it in. Meet your supervisor, meet your head of department, meet your future colleagues, confidents and conference-buddies. Fill in a hundred forms detailing who you are, where you’re from, and how you like your tea. Explore the library, explore campus, explore your office, explore the bus-stop. It will be two weeks which will set up years of (hopefully) ground-breaking research and procrastination.
A number of your activities in your first two weeks will be predetermined by your department, all in the name of helping you to fit in. So will follow a series of introductions and meetings, all designed to make sure that you are given the best possible start. After a while, this endless tirade of workshops and whatnot can get a bit tiresome, but persevere, most of them will end up being very useful. Miss them, and you may find yourself in six months wondering how IT Services works or why a fire-alarm shatters the silence every Monday morning at half past nine. If nothing else, all of these first-fortnight activities will be an excellent opportunity to meet others in the same boat, as well as those who are seasoned veterans at the whole postgraduate game. There is no-one better for advice than those who have just gone through the process on which you are about to embark. Use their wisdom, their experience, and their tea-spoons.
You will also, of course, have a fair bit of free-time in that first fortnight. Some of this will be filled-up with personal obligations: meeting your supervisor (more on that in a future blog entry), opening accounts with banks and online book retailers, and making your house/flat/room feel like home. It is worth exploring your surroundings at this point, both on-campus and off. Over your postgraduate career, there will inevitably come a point when you just need to get away from your research, and it helps no end if you have already found a place of sanctuary. It might be a coffee shop, it might be a park bench, it might be underwater in a local canal; it all depends on you.
By the end of the fortnight, you may even get a chance to knuckle down and embark on the project which brought you to Warwick, but it is worth taking your time finding your feet. Depending on your programme, postgraduate study can be a long, lonely and often frustrating process, and it is not advisable to just jump in without caution. After that first fortnight, you will become more independent as your attention turns to your own work. Nevertheless, it is crucial that you are aware how and where to get support, if and when you should need it. It may come from other students in the department, or from academic staff; you may find that someone in no way involved with academia will end up giving you the advice which turns your research-hell into a land of plenty. In any case, it is worth taking a little time to ensure that the foundations of your support network are established in this early period. You never know when you may need it.
Above all, however, try and enjoy your first fortnight. It may seem like a heady rush which has no end, but never forget that you are just getting started on a very exciting experience. In years to come you will look back on these fourteen days and realise that almost every great idea, wonderful collaboration and survival strategy had its roots here. Make ‘em count.
September 21, 2012
Well, it's Friday evening, and I'm sitting in my office having a bit of a moment. You know, one of those moments when your brain feels like it might actually BURST! It's silly really, but it's just hit home that I only have 10 days of my PhD life left, and then I have to go and be an actual grown up again. Not a grown up like when I was a midwife, but a grown up researcher. Off I go, into another new room, which is lit up by those stupid energy saving lightbulbs that take about 10 minutes to get going. I've walked in, switched the light on, and now I have to stand around waiting to see what's actually in there as the lights get brighter. At least, I hope that's what will happen, now that I have a letter confirming the post, and I've filled in a billion forms, and met with the research fellow I'm taking over from.
So I'm going to be a research fellow for six months. That sounds like a proper job, doesn't it? I have a contract and everything. But essentially, I feel as clueless as ever - I'm going to be covering maternity leave, so I really am just a stand-in. An understudy. A temp. And although the research is in the NHS, it concerns elderly care, so something quite different from my usual line of work. But I have to be really good at the job, and I have to still try and finish my thesis at the same time. Not to mention commitments to conference presentations and some lovely teaching.
And at the end of six months, who knows what will happen? Apparently there are things in the pipeline for me, but I'm left with a sense of just not knowing which door I'll be opening next. Or whether the next room will have good old-fashioned lightbulbs that work straight away, which would be nice.
I'm allowing myself a moment of utter fear (hello, my old friend), in the hope that when I wake up tomorrow morning I'll have worried all the worry out of my system and I can take everything in my stride. And then I can write like a demon for the next week, and feel slightly less disappointed that my thesis will have to take a bit of a back seat for the few weeks after that as I settle into the fellowship role. Maybe the break will do me good, as I still feel like I'm fermenting the eureka moment I had last week. I hope so. And I also hope my family is prepared for me to be working all week and writing all weekend for the next however long until the thesis is finished.
I think the next few months are going to be quite different from the past three years. And I may need some hand holding. Just thought I'd put that out there...
September 17, 2012
Writing about web page http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/researchexchange
" I am currently a research student with background in biomedical, electrical &electronics engineering. My research focuses on impact on landing during gait analysis and modelling of musculoskeletal system." - Ceren
Here is a quick summary of various great posts in PhD Life Blog:
- Surviving a PhD: 10 top tips that shows how to survive your PhD easily
- Academics need you
- It's your PhD - take ownership
- Write up as you are going
- Love to hate your thesis
- Finished is better than perfect
- The written thesis is just part of the PhD
- Enjoy the viva
- Have a plan for life post PhD
- It is worth doing it
- To do one
- How different PhD's work:Differences and similarities between departments about PhD process
- The PhD upgrade process of Chemistry department vs. Arts
- Countdown Begins: Countdown starts for submission of the thesis
- Countdown and panic starts in your submission year of PhD
- PhD Life is Wonderful:Doing PhD at Warwick University is a wonderful experience
- Helpful anf fair people around the university
- Too Many Emails In Your Inbox: Use Outlook folders to manage your emails
- Emails are better organised and easily searchable
- Introduction to REX Facility: Videos for introducing Wolfson Research Exchange and its facilities
- Check it out REX facilities
- Power of Supervisors: Control,inner happiness and optimisim
- Supervision relationships between the students and supervisors
- Unorthodox Tools of a Researcher: Reflection and examples of unorthodox tools that helps you within PhD period
- Food flask
- Meditation and reflection
- Homesickness and Culture Clashes: Homesickness of international students and cultural differences
- Homesickness feeling and culture clash stories
- Choosing Your PhD Examiners: Tips for choosing the relevant examiners for PhD Viva
- Internal and external examiners
- Effective Research Tools: Examples of useful research tools
- PhD,Risks and Murphy's Law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong" according to Murphy's Law
- What can go wrong in your PhD study?
To find more and more blog posts,just look at older entries and enjoy sharing your PhD Life with other colleagues...