PhD Life is…

phd022509s“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham

By Claire Grant

In this article we will look briefly at some of the challenges and joys of PhD life on campus.

PhD life is:

1. Independent.
A solo act in itself, you can make your PhD as sociable a journey as you want, but the end result is achieved only by you. The new innovation or research that you so passionately want to show in your thesis is driven only by you. For this reason, a level of independence is most definitely a required characteristic of the PhD student.

2. On Campus/off Campus.
Depending on your background, life on campus can be less active for the PhD student. The buzz of campus activities have become less appealing for the PhD-er who has already journeyed through the Undergrad and Masters years. Others arrive in the PhD room from other countries, wanting to conduct their research while enjoying the breath of fresh air and new experiences that being overseas can provide.

3. Lifestyle.
Many are balancing their study life with the natural development of life: a family, partner, job, maybe a car loan. These natural stages mean that the Phd Room (the small workstation allocated by Monash specifically for post-graduate students) is therefore as lively or as quiet as the people who accommodate it.

4. Status.
A more thoughtful and serious status is fiercely defended by PhD students. Having survived the Undergrad years, many believe they have ‘earned’ a more significant position, albeit a more sombre one. This may be one of the reasons why the library is a kind of unofficial ‘uncool’ place to work in, with a ‘we have surpassed that’ type of attitude. Some are more effective at pulling off this aura of ‘grown-up ness’ than others.

5. Added Burden.
Teaching is a part of PhD life for some, often considered a burden and a distraction to student’s own scholarly work. This varies from department to department and expectations are not consistent between Schools. Regrettably, the benefit of taking tutorials on a course module is underrated. Those who enjoy this additional task can view it as a necessary, essential training for those who wish to advance into scholarly occupations in the future. The fact that teaching has been de-relegated to an encumbrance for students on Scholarship is disappointing.

6. Supervision.
Some PhD-ers enjoy the hands-off type of guidance that comes with the independence of overseeing your own project. No assignments, no exams, no lectures or classes, only a Confirmation, a Mid Candidature Review and a Final Review, then Submission, not to mention the expectation of attending Conferences and being published. All this is demanding and requires a strong support staff, involved faculty and integrated supervision. Substantial preparation and a show of results are the deliverables expected under the direction of a PhD supervisor.

7. Bureaucracy.
As for the bureaucratic challenges, it does pay to stay calm and remain unperturbed by officialdom and what seems like pointless systems of organization. (“There’s more bureaucracy in academia than there is in government”). The best line of defence is to do it and have the right box ticked at the right time in the right place. This won’t help it to be less stressful but it will culture the right attitude.

About the Writer:
Claire is a British citizen currently studying for a PhD in Arts and Social Sciences at Monash University Malaysia. She is a mature student who has been living and working in Malaysia for nearly 4 years. Claire is a Teacher by profession and has published several projects in her native UK. 

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