As a maturing third year PhD student, sorry, PhD candidate…(clearly I am getting quite cozy in this title-driven academic society 😉 ) I wanted to share some reflections from around this time a couple of years ago when I was a first year. Hard to imagine that time flies so fast. I hope this post will inspire future PhD students or encourage current peeps trying to get through first year. I’ll preface this by saying that our program is in theory four years long…
10. The welcome speech
It was a beautiful sunny September afternoon, and the department gathered to welcome us fresh first year PhD students. It felt like wow! Look at what we have achieved…I am doing my PhD! I literally felt like a rockstar and I know my mum told everyone she knows ad nauseum that her daughter was starting her PhD. Of course no welcome event is complete without a welcome speech. And here came the first bomb. I can’t remember whether it was the program coordinator OR the program director…their first (of many eventually successful) attempt (s) to burst our bubble came in the form of a statistic – ‘Although our program is four years, the National average for doing a PhD in Canada is 7 years’. Really. Thanks for not having displayed that in bold colours on the application page. Little did we know that this was just the beginning… Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago, I was in my valley phase. Feeling down, unmotivated. Just couldn’t seem to get inspired to write, or do, or think about anything really. Those dry spells are usually hard to get over – you’re there trying to visualize a better future but you just can’t seem to get over the now.
And then these three short phrases popped in my head: Work hard. Believe in yourself. Never give up.
So I wrote them down, and for the rest of the day they kept on reverberating at the back of my mind. It got me thinking about the journey of success, the process and how we get to there. Grad school can be so dry sometimes, and you find yourself either having a mental block or just in a state of unmotivation. The difference with undergrad or a course based-masters is that you often will have a mid-term or a paper to jar you out of your catatonic state of inactivity. But on the long road to the PhD, some days just go by. Unproductive. unaccounted for. The main thing I have to look forward to with dread is my annual review that goes to the faculty. Its like a performance review only for a job you are not really being paid to do. Now that is a post for another day.
Back to my three phrases: work hard. believe in yourself. never give up.
As I mulled over the words, I went further into what each phrase signified. Continue reading
1. It opens up your mind
Around my third year in undergrad, I was done. I felt like the coursework became an annoying song on repeat that I couldn’t change and I felt like I wasn’t learning anything new. On the contrary, when I was doing my masters I felt like we were learning practical, tangible and analytical skills. I finally felt like this is WHAT I always wanted my education to be like – something relevant to what I am interested in and at the same time practical for the job market. That was public health. At the masters level, you tend to learn analytical skills, critical thinking and if you are able to get some research methods in there as well those can prove to be very helpful in the increasingly conceptual job market that we have today. Continue reading