graduate school

On doing what you came to do (~1 month post PhD hand-in)

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?

At the top of Lion Rock Fortress in Sigiriya

Climbing hills: this one is the Lion Rock Fortress in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka (2.5 weeks post hand-in)

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People throwing up graduation hats in sunset

Advantages and disadvantages to doing a PhD abroad (Outside the USA)

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.
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Laptop on table on roof garden with blue skies

How travel is helping me finish my PhD

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

Scattered leaves on grass

Leaving London, life and moving on

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

3 days in Copenhagen: walking tours

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

PhD: the final six months

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.
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3 days in Warsaw: My first shot at a self imposed writing retreat

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!

About Warsaw

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:

2015 #AnnualReview Part 2: The Goals

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.
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2015 #AnnualReview Part 1

Seeing as this next year will be the last of my PhD, it is as good a time as ever to do my first thorough #AnnualReview a la Chris Guillebeau and get prepared for a big year in 2016. This is my first annual review blog post!

Major decisions will be coming up, like where I’m going to apply for jobs and what I’m going to do in 2017. It’s been a good process for me to think through what’s happened these last 12 months and think about how I want the next 12 to go.

The first part of the Annual Review process is to list things that went well and things that didn’t go well. Things that can go on these lists are things that I have control over. Continue Reading