For HDR students, the beginning of September reminds us that it is time to start preparing for our annual review. As I look back on the milestones I have completed so far, I recall what my first year as a Ph.D. student was like. It was definitely one of the best years. Here are some of the things that helped me create a good start.
So much happening in Adelaide in August!
Am I too old to change?
I don’t know who needs to hear this but, YOU CAN DO IT. I think sometimes, we HDR students are too hard on ourselves – and I know it’s all with good intentions. We all took a little break during the weekend and let a friend’s school-age child pick a movie for the whole bunch of us to watch. We realized that Kung Fu Panda has a lot of relatable quotable quotes. Here were our favourites.
It’s okay to feel sad. I blame the weather. This past week has really brought on the winter feels. Usually I’m excited about winter – there’s the annual Southern Right Whale migration, fire pit evenings, and the chance to retreat into our homes and bit and slow things down. However, this year it feels different. There’s a hurried and nervous vibration in the air and it’s all because I am nearing the end of my candidature. So very near indeed, but it feels so far away still – there is so much to do.
The first thing I would say is, “Why not?”. It sounds scary, but it is something that’s possible and many individuals have accomplished this feat. Both of my Ph.D. supervisors were parents when they were completing their doctoral degrees. Having said that, I think the reasons for wanting to study again as an HDR student are crucial to success.
Okay, so for the past eight weeks now, I’ve relentlessly worked on my doctoral thesis. For the most part, I have kept my commitment to myself to write every day – some weekends, I’ve taken a day off. There are days that the writing feels good, not easy, but I feel driven and purposeful. Then there are days that are just completely hard. Putting a couple of sentences feels brutal and almost torturous. And to think this is self-inflicted – I applied to be a Ph.D. student.
Now that winter is here I’ve noticed that I’ve been spending the great majority of all the days of the weeks this month, sitting down. It’s getting cold and instead of sitting down at a park with my laptop to work on my thesis, I’ve just been working at my desk, in the warm comfort of the indoors.
I was really looking forward to this night out with friends and so of course, of all weekends to catch a cold and be sick, it had to be this weekend. I felt devastated and I honestly felt like the universe was cruel for letting this happen to me on this weekend. I felt so mad – after working relentlessly for months, in near solitary confinement conditions, it had to be this weekend that I’m sick. I felt bad, I felt angry, I felt entitled.
As an HDR student, sometimes it’s hard to put boundaries around your time. Typically, you won’t have to attend any regular classes or seminars and for the most part, you are in control of how you spend your time during the day. Most times you can work from anywhere, or if your research is tied to a laboratory, usually you would have access 24/7. It’s not unusual to let research work and writing spill over to the weekend. This leads us to a high risk of burning out.