Doing a PhD is often said to be one of the toughest things you can do. I don’t think it’s that tough compared to some really tough jobs like teaching at an inner city public school, but it is lonely. It’s a mental battle all the way through, and some people don’t make it through in one piece.
For a hot minute, I thought I was through with it. I guess I can’t fully recover from the whole PhD until I’m done with everything. Later this year, when I’m truly done, then I’ll find relief. Although that feels like a long time from now, I’m glad for this space away from it so that I can reconfigure my life and actually start moving on.
The dust has settled on the submission of my PhD thesis, and now I can think back on this whole process. I left to travel 5 days after handing in my PhD, to give myself physical and mental distance from it all.
As I’m writing this in a hipster cafe in Phnom Penh, it feels a little surreal. Did I really do that?
Although American universities are some of the best in the world, there are plenty of good ones around the world too. I’ve had the benefit of doing my PhD jointly at 2 top universities on 2 different continents: National University of Singapore (NUS, ranked 24th) in Asia, and Imperial College London (ranked 8th) in Europe. I’ll go over some of the benefits of doing a PhD abroad in Europe or Asia based on my experiences.
I spent most of my first 2 years in Singapore, and the last 2 in London. It’s a long enough time in each place to get past the honeymoon period. You’ll be forced to adjust and learn about the culture in each place. It’s not a vacation, and it’s definitely not a semester abroad kind of experience. You become an “expat” of sorts, and have to figure out a lot on your own.
No question, travel is awesome. Even though I’ve been a poor grad student with lots of deadlines, I’ve managed to travel during PhD things and wouldn’t want it any other way!
These are the last few months of my PhD before I have to hand in, and travel is helping me get there. How? Let me explain.
Any excuse to travel
While I’ve been lucky to have a major move between Singapore and London built into my PhD program, I’ve also taken opportunities to go to regional conferences while based in both places. When I didn’t have a PhD related reason to travel, I would try to go home to New York. Having a young nephew and niece, this was important for me so I wouldn’t feel like I was missing everything. Continue Reading
That’s it, I’m done with London! Although my student visa for the UK goes until May 2017, I’m leaving London in 2 months. Not that there is anything wrong with London. It’s just not working out for me at the moment given life and circumstances.
How I got here
I’m in a joint PhD program that allowed me to spend half the time in Singapore and half in London. I lived in Singapore for most of 2013 and 2014. In January 2015, I moved to London with the intention of staying through until I finished my PhD. I kept my mind open to the idea of staying in London, but wasn’t sure either way. Now a few short months from finishing, I had to decide how I would deal with my living and financial situation. Continue Reading
Copenhagen is a popular touristy harbour city, with quite a price tag on it despite some cheap flights from other parts of Europe. After my short trip to Warsaw, I couldn’t wait to plan my next 3 day trip and I picked this Nordic city to spend another few days struggling with my thesis. This is a Copenhagen short trip!
On this trip in May, I went on 2 walking tours and spent the rest of my time working in the hostel or in cafes. These walking tours were run by Copenhagen free walking tours, which works on a donation basis. Continue Reading
This month marks the start of the half year of my PhD that I have left before my submission deadline. Since it’s pretty much a hard deadline, I have to take this time seriously. This is where I scream and pull my hair out.
Actually, no! I’m not going to do that.
Instead I’m going to tell you about what I’ve been thinking about lately about the whole PhD thing and how I’m going to tackle the last bit of it! I don’t know if all will go according to plan, but it never does anyway! The important thing here is that I’ve kinda figured out how to deal with it and I haven’t been freaking out about it.
I haven’t traveled as much this year as I was hoping to, unless you count the short trip home to New York to meet my niece. One of my biggest regrets after finishing this PhD would be not traveling more around Europe while I had the chance. To remedy this, I’ve been planning short, 2 night trips. Last month, I went to Warsaw, Poland, with my laptop and some writing targets!
The Nazis destroyed about 80% of Warsaw in World War II. There are only a few areas that were left relatively untouched (~30% destroyed), some of which I saw on a walking tour of Praga:
I took a short break from writing to go on a walking tour of the #Praga district of #Warsaw. This is a bazaar that was established 400 years ago. Only about 20% of this neighborhood was destroyed in World War II, as opposed to about 80% of the main part of Warsaw across the river. Many of the old tenements remain in disrepair, but some people will live in them. In the 70s, you could buy anything here. Nowadays, only some stalls are open, and few people can be found strolling around.
This year was an eye opener for me regarding my research and the PhD process. I feel like I’ve overcome a few hurdles, and that’s prepared me to really punch it in during this final year of my PhD. Here’s some PhD advice and lessons learned for those interested.
I wrote yesterday about what went well this year, and what didn’t go so well. That was the first part of this Annual Review process to review 2015 and start thinking about how I want 2016 to go. This post is about the specific and measurable Annual Review goals that I’ve set for 2016.
Last year, I started this process but I didn’t follow through with setting all my goals and specifying the actions needed for each goal. I also didn’t go back to my goals each month or quarter to check my progress or update what actions needed to be taken to work towards the goals. This year, I’ve filled out the spreadsheet template so that I can keep updating it each month and use it to stay on track for meeting my goals. I think it’s a good idea to come back to goals periodically, or else the only thing you’ve actually done was set the goals and not take any action towards them. The chances of actually achieving them will be quite low without reassessment and action.