You know that feeling when you watch something with admiration, wishing your life had, perhaps, turned out differently even though there was actually nothing wrong with the life you now have nor the decisions you had taken to get there? That. I sound ungrateful I know.
For years I wished I could return to study. I’ve always enjoyed academia – not so much as an escape from the ‘real world’ as I so often hear, but as a discipline in itself. I love the act of learning. In fact, as soon as I completed my masters I had my mind set on returning to do a PhD, but I got offered a job (poor me), right before the economic downturn in the UK. Every student knows the chronic cycle of being unable to get a job because of lack of experience, but being unable to get experience because of lack of a job, and the global financial crisis looming wasn’t exactly a deterrent to the idea of employment. Jobs seemed as hard to find as hen’s teeth, and this was a good one in an advertising agency, so I couldn’t very well turn it down. I didn’t, and quite frankly it was just as well because that path led me to where I am now, even if it veered left and right a little along the way.
All that was 10 years ago. Fast forward and I have moved hemispheres, and changed careers a few times. Nothing seems the same, yet everything is familiar. Having spent 8 years now working specifically in digital, agency and now client side – 4 of those at an INGO, I’m actually content with the path I’ve followed, to date at least. I’m now officially an Australian to boot, and this perhaps opened up the largest of doors. With international student fees being prohibitive to my circumstances, but recent exposure to international development stirring the half-buried yearning to return to academia, citizenship enabled me to revisit the pipe dream in a way which I might be able to manage financially with part time study.
Always looking for the next challenge albeit with research parked as a long term goal suspecting I’d need another postgraduate qualification to baseline some knowledge, I explored the international, community and humanitarian development post graduate options around Melbourne. I even looked at remote overseas equivalents back in the UK to see if they would be a more cost effective avenue, particularly as my masters was in an unrelated topic, so I knew I’d have some catching up to do, and a mortgage wasn’t exactly freeing so I’d have to be really committed to making this work. Cutting a long story short, I had Deakin University in Melbourne at the top of my shortlisted options, and reached out to the faculty for some guidance. After a number of very helpful interactions with various staff, I was surprised to learn I was, in fact, eligible for a PhD at the institution or I could as per my original plan choose to do a second masters as a stepping stone. It’s worth noting here there’s a 10 year rule cap between graduation of your masters and commencement of your research which I hadn’t been aware of. Luckily I was a few months shy of the 10 year mark so could literally squeeze in there.
With nothing to lose and a head filled to the brim with topics and research questions based on 4 years of a growing interest via my day job, I crafted a research application and told myself I’d probably not get accepted but that I could worry about it when I heard one way or the other. Not only was the application accepted, but had been done so faster than I anticipated. Now was the time to panic about HOW I was going to do this now that I COULD do it.
It’s a good job I love a challenge!
It’s at this point I decided to document my own journey and the experiences I have throughout this PhD pathway. The trials, tribulations, procrastination (I’m aiming for the bare minimum of these – and will 100% not be using this blog as a procrastination tool, you heard me say it!) and, hopefully, successes along the way. I reckon if I can do this so can you, but also that we might meet similar challenges along the way which may be helpful (or at least cathartic) to share.
I’ve only had one freak out so far and that was at the seemingly insurmountable task ahead of me. The vast chasms of literature to cover and the daunting prospect of what I suspect will be a rather challenging ethics committee application… I’ve been somewhat calmed by an attempt to break this into smaller chunks and try not to panic over everything as a whole. Surprisingly, I’m less daunted at the prospect of field work to a conflict affected state and its borders than I am at the prospect of the thesis as a whole, or the first milestone of the colloquium – odd I know.
My only real wish was that I could study full time, something that I’ve always loved and had the privilege of doing to date, but sadly this is just not possible. I’m worried about carving up sufficient time for both a full time job for which, at this stage, I’m not planning on reducing my hours, and a part time research project of this size. However, I’m just going to have to get critical of my own project management skills along the way.
If you’re interested in the journey, follow along. Posts will not be as long or self indulgent as this one, but I did think this useful to set the scene somewhat.
I’m certain I could do with helpful hints and tips along the way, so please feel free to share and engage.