Robert Crowder

International student

PhD student from America
Study area
Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

My favourite thing about the University is the community - it's been great getting to know people across all disciplines.

What were you doing before you started your PhD?

I've been working on school full-time, so prior to starting my PhD I was working on a Master's in Counseling Psychology in Northern California.

What influenced your decision to apply to (or stay on at) Loughborough?

I didn't know about Loughborough before applying. I saw it ranked well internationally for psychology, so I looked into the programme at the University. The rapport I developed with the staff who would ultimately be my supervisors, and seeing what the Loughborough area was like when I visited, were what ultimately led me to choose Loughborough University over my other offers.

What did you find helpful when you were researching studying for a PhD at Loughborough?

I did my research about the University entirely online since I did my application from overseas. I only had the opportunity to visit the area after I had received multiple offers, so my girlfriend and I flew over to see what the areas were like for where we might live.

Ultimately, the visit is what sold us. But I was more confident about attending Loughborough after finding information actually showing what areas in the world and what jobs alumni of my programme were doing on the careers website.

Please describe your PhD project to someone with no prior knowledge of the discipline.

I'm essentially looking into what the 'average' school fruit and vegetable garden is in the UK, and whether those school fruit and vegetable gardens are linked to what children like to eat, what they do actually eat, and how they feel.

Why did you choose your area of research?

I chose it because from a public health standpoint, if we can learn how to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables they will be more likely to eat fruits and vegetables later on in life, which can help reduce adverse health outcomes. I enjoy this research because I've found that people use gardening for a wide variety of reasons. This includes dietary and mental wellbeing, but also a large amount use it for ecological reasons.

Please describe a typical day for you.

Currently, my days essentially start with checking emails. Then depending what's on my to do list, I may either dive into reading some journal articles, analysing data, or writing. Some days are a bit different if I have teaching responsibilities or data collection.

How do you balance studying with day-to-day activities?

I probably let my studies bleed into my outside time more than others. As a self-funded student I feel I have more of an incentive to ensure that I wrap up my work as timely as possible. However, I live in one of the villages outside Loughborough with my girlfriend and dog, so I feel like I'm able to disconnect from work more so than if I lived with other students in Loughborough.

How is a PhD different from any previous studying you have done?

I feel like I have more freedom in what direction to take my work and with how I work, which is both a good and could be a bad thing for some. If I wasn't self-disciplined, that freedom could allow me to get far behind in my work. However, I like the freedom because it feels like you're treated somewhat more like a colleague than a student. While a PhD is difficult, I must admit that I find it easier than my master's programme. However, my master's programme had classes full-time, a thesis, required a practicum component where I had to provide therapy to individuals in the community, and I completed it in two years rather than the recommended three years.

How are you funding your studies?

I receive an annual £2,000 international studentship from the SSEHS [School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences]. I self-fund the rest, which is common to do for psychology doctorates and many other doctorates in the States - despite what is put out there online. Despite self-funding, I'm saving over 60% on my degree by doing it in the UK rather than the programmes I applied to in the US.

What's your favourite thing about Loughborough?

My favourite thing about the University is the community. It's been great getting to know people across all disciplines at the University. My favourite thing about the town of Loughborough is that there are numerous walking trails all around the area, and most of them are really nice.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering doing a PhD, what would it be?

There's numerous things that can be found online providing advice about doing a PhD, but what I've found in all my stages of education to be the most important is make sure you enjoy where you're going to live and maintain interests outside of your PhD because you do have a life outside of work. Being able to enjoy that life outside of work is going to help you get through some of the harder times of the PhD.