Looking back on my Ph.D. experience

person wearing a mask, cupping a seedling in hand that has several small green leaves

What are some of the things that you now realise were good things to do while you were a Ph.D. candidate? Or what seemed to be an obstacle to finishing that now looking back you realise was a good thing?

Here are some Ph.D. tips I've gathered from those who've gone through the degree before us. 

  • "I surrounded myself with supportive people. Doctorate degrees are difficult. It is a great test of perseverance and although deep in my bones I know I could do this, there were many moments of self-doubt and I needed those people that I trusted to remind me of my strengths and remind me of the dream I had for myself."
  • "I created a LinkedIn account. This helped me keep an eye on my network, see how I wanted it to grow and find out who the key people in my area of expertise that I needed to connect with."
  • "In the last year of my thesis-writing, one of my siblings died and then I had to care for my 90-year old mom, which meant a delay in my writing and of course ultimately a delay in my graduation. Looking back, it was an important period in my development because I became a better person through all of it. You learn what really matters and who stands by you in times of great trial."
  • "I adopted a dog and started attending a regular dance class. This was really helpful self-care practice for me as a doctoral researcher."
  • "I trained for a marathon. Honestly, it gave me structure, stress relief and a goal to look towards that wasn’t related to my thesis."
  • "I practiced selfish joy by being intentional about a hobby that took me away from stressing over my research."
  • "I actively sought opportunities for networking and being purposeful with the CaRST credits that I signed up for."
  • "Dinner club – Eating alone at times is great, but as an international student, it can sometimes get lonely, so a few of us would eat dinner together a few times each week. It was also a great time to discuss our Ph.D. projects and gain new perspectives."
  • "Finding other Ph.D. mothers who were trying to finish their thesis while caring for their children. I needed to see that I was not alone in my experience and that my goals can be achieved."
  • "Joining a volunteer group that was related to my research topic. This helped me gain new insights but also served as a reminder of the importance of my work."
  • "I had a baby. My thesis baby was the best motivation to finish."
  • "I wrote every single day, despite what I was feeling. That meant that I always had content to edit and improve on. This ensured daily progress."

You are not alone. Reach out. What are your thoughts after reading this? 

Tagged in What messes with your head, phd, Student life, parent-student, international student