PhD – Probable Head Damage or Pleasingly Hedonistic Days?

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So it’s official! I’m enrolled, registered, inducted, and various other adjectives to indicate that my Ph.D is underway. While it’s good to have this fact established, it’s also a little terrifying…

Do you remember the last time you started a course? Whether it was a GCSE, an A-level, a degree, an evening class… you will have undoubtedly been in a situation with new people, new surroundings, and new expectations of yourself and the environment. It can be daunting, but you have the guidance of your new teacher or tutor at the front to guide you through the ups and downs of the course.

A PhD, however, is a different beast. You have the same factors as above, but with one big exception: no-ones going to lead you through this one like they would a taught course. You are the leader of the work you do, and you are the one who has to (what it sometimes feels like, at least) make something from nothing.

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Here’s that blank page you ordered… worse than any horror film…

As I got talking to people around me in my inductions, several things struck me:

  • We’re all here because we really, really want to be here. As I’ve stated in previous PhD-esque posts, this isn’t something you do because you “haven’t got anything else better to do”
  • Our goal is, in short, to make new knowledge. This is studying at a level that not only challenges your own thoughts, but has the potential to influence the thoughts of countless others… how’s about that for daunting?!
  • We might not see each other in a group such as this for a long time. Or ever. This can be a lonely stretch of time, and as our research is so vast, wide-ranging and creates demands on our time, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to get together in a manner such as this again to discuss things
  • We’ve got to get out there and get stuff done, whether it be first-hand research or standing up in front of strangers and defending your work. Things aren’t going to come to us, no matter how long we sit in the library staring at pages of books and journal articles…

With guidance from staff and current doctoral students at the university, we had the opportunity to understand just what doctoral research entails. Despite the realisations above, I’m extremely happy to be part of an institution that values and supports students at this level so thoroughly. My team (a.k.a the accomplished lecturers who have fallen into my trap of crazy research ideas (muah ha ha)) are determined to help me and to push me in the direction I wish to go in the future. Of course, it’s early days, but there’s no time like the present to get out there and start changing the world.

I think this short post sums up the title, weirdly, in negating both possibilities. I doubt that, in spite of the challenges and successes ahead, it’ll result in my head caving in or a hedonistic streak around the University campus. It’s going to stretch me to either end of this spectrum, and I’m sure I’ll come out the other end a changed linguist =]

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