The “Secrets” for surviving PhD…or life in general

I recently attended our 3rd PhD Support Group meeting where this colleague of ours shared her experience and survival tips for completing her PhD. She is in her final year (6th year) and in the midst of writing up her thesis. She started her PhD journey by choosing the “split-site” part-time option because we are full-time academics who are not allowed to study full-time for too long a period. Basically the university just couldn’t pay our salary and at the same time we are not fulfilling our teaching load. So she took almost 6 years to complete her PhD and she did it with strong determination and dedication. She travels to meet her supervisor in UK every year for a 6-week period during our short semester and at the same time she is required to fulfil a full-time staff teaching workload for the one academic year.

When she shared her years of experience about the commitment to do well in her teaching job and the determination to complete her PhD, I was truly inspired. I know if I’m going to start my PhD journey, I will choose a path similar to hers. We might not have the same experience or struggle but I’m very sure I can learn so much from her experience and hopefully I can overcome any obstacle that comes my way.

What really surprised many of us was when she talked about her depression halfway through her journey. No one ever thought that she had depression all these past years while working with her. This made me realized that depression during Phd journey is very real and we must not take this lightly. Good news is she has recovered from depression after learning the following ‘Secrets’ which I copied from her sharing session and share them here.

1. Believing is seeing
2. There is no real problem
3. Change the thought that you dislike
4. We attract what we fear, so…
5. make a positive thought
6. Divert your thought to solution, instead of problem
7. Focus on the task, not the fear of the task
8. Let go and let god
9. Sleep well
10. Don’t forget to smell the rose – Enjoy what you do

I strongly believe support is very important from family and friends regardless in whatever journey we are embarking on. Since we are in academia, supports from colleagues and bosses are essential too. I’m truly blessed to have everyone’s support, including everyone who I interact here on my blog and on Twitter.

Thank you all for your support!

(I actually drafted this post early this month and works caught up so I forgot about this. Now that semester is coming to an end and I’m at my last class of public course, so here it is.)


Jenn’s PhD Journey – A new beginning

I don’t think many can relate to my back story as I came from the industry before joining the academia. My life and working experience has started differently from many scholars who started and finished their PhDs with pure academic working experience. For the past 2 years plus in academia, I have met many very young doctorates who have joined us as academic staff. Truth to be told, I envy them. So young, so much potential and they have already gained their Dr. title. Of course, I’m not saying that their journeys will be easier after that. What I truly envy is they have already passed the biggest obstacle in their academic lives, unlike myself who is still struggling to even start with a PhD programme. I sincerely hope I’m not too late or too old to start a PhD.

Nevertheless, I’m not complaining here. For 2016, I’m actually more resolved than ever to kick start my PhD journey. To start off my new resolution, I have created a new category called “Jenn’s PhD Journey”. Under this category, I plan to write more about the process how I want to start my journey to get my doctorate. Hopefully, this journey has a good ending or at least it will end somehow the way I want. Haha! But before this journey can reach its destination, I’m actually struggling to make a start. Thankfully, I get a lot of support from my faculty and a small group of academics, who have interest in starting this journey, have started a trend of having a PhD Support Group meeting at least once a month to discuss various issues (i.e. how to start, how to survive, etc.). I have attended 3 such meetings now and I truly found new inspiration which I hope to share more soon.

I also hope my blog readers will give me virtual support and if you are just starting your PhD, I hope we can share and exchange more useful tips and survival skills.


Hopefully I’m not turning purple by the end…

My 5-year plan towards PhD

This is my very rough 5-year plan that I did after talking to the Head of Division and Head of School during my job interviews. This ultimate goal of this plan is to graduate with a PhD. That’s one of the important issues we discussed during the interviews. I guess a PhD is inevitable if I want to build an academic career and I’m already preparing myself for this possibility. However, before I can make this happened, a plan is essential, especially when I’m new to academia. I also do not plan to go into PhD unprepared, so I’m trying to plan ahead and learn as much as possible even before starting.

Year 1

1. Course work, program structure and teaching

  • I guess I would spend a lot of time getting myself to familiarize with the course work and program structure plus preparing for teaching time. These are the things that I need to invest time and effort to catch up on teaching experience (to balance up my industry experience).

2. Explore research topics in preparation of research proposal

  • Meanwhile, I should get my research started by exploring potential research topics that I can turn into a research proposal. I expect myself to restart my literature review process and I believe it will be a continuous long process.

Year 2 – 3

1. Enroll to PhD program

  • If things go well with my teaching career for the first year, I would expect to get a job confirmation status that allows financial support to enroll to PhD program.

2. Research methodology

  • Research methodology is very important as a road map for successful research project. Once the research topic is finalized, a research methodology should be in place too, though it will not be an easy task to finalize a research methodology.

3. Data collection and analysis

  • If everything goes as planned, data collection can be started and followed up by analysis.

Year 4 – 5

1. More data collection and analysis

  • I guess it’s safe to plan sufficient time for data collection and analysis. It is a PhD! The quantity and quality of data is very important.

2. Recommendation/Implementation/Conclusion

  • Implementation usually takes quite a lot of time to execute to be followed by good recommendations. Writing conclusion should be good indication for near completion but I guess things are not as simple as that. We will see…

3. Publication and Graduation

  • Most PhD programs required the candidates to have at least 2 or more publications. That would be totally another challenge in academia. Graduation is normally just a ceremony, however, to be able to graduate with a PhD should be a great accomplishment in life.

As I said, this 5-year plan is really at a very early initial stage. I expect this plan to evolve accordingly (hopefully positively too) once I officially start my job in August. Anyway, I feel more confident and motivated with a plan for now. I hope this is a good start, at least.

What do you think of my plan? Any good tips from your experience you want to share?