The brilliant thing about being a PhD student is the connectivity and variety. Some days I’ll be up at 5am to have a meeting with my new colleagues in Australia talking about our global research group, planning the next meeting, or discussing chapter ideas for a forthcoming book. Later that day I might be having a coffee with my supervisor, who does a brilliant job of being supportive and challenging simultaneously; and then jumping into a brain-stretching lecture about research methods. In the afternoon I might check in with my host creative agency, Effervescent, about how our programme of collaborative work is shaping up so that I can start collecting data for my thesis in the next few months; then together we will be meeting our clients or project funders. This weekend I’m travelling to Manchester to meet some of the young people who will be working on a co-design project next year with me.
Every week is different. It’s important to take care of yourself when you have a long-term project like a PhD thesis to write, so after work each day I either take my sausage dog for a long walk, or I hit the gym – or meet friends for a beer.
The postgraduate experience comes with much more autonomy than being an undergraduate: you really are in control of your own destiny. The whole point of a PhD is to discover or explore something that’s completely new in the world, and to ensure that the new idea or process or product you develop has currency and value – not only in the academic world, but for people and businesses and institutions in the community or across the world. It means you’re making challenging decisions where there is no ‘right’ answer and working hard not only to produce work that makes a genuine positive impact, but to ensure you’re the best person to be doing that piece of work – very careful considerations of ethics and power kick in at this level.
I really enjoy the relationships I have, not only with my two supervisors who are so generous with their time and so good at challenging me and being challenged right back – but with academics across the whole university and in fact across the world. I’m a ‘first gen’ doctoral researcher, which means not only am I the only person in my family to be studying at this level, but I was the first person in my family to go to university. I have been touched by how warm and welcoming the academic community can be to newbies like me.
I’ve only been here for two months, but I’ve felt warmly embraced by everybody at Loughborough – it’s a very friendly university. My fellow doctoral research students are really inspiring, doing incredible work that’s weird and wonderful and worthwhile, and it’s been so lovely to spend time with them and to be able to call them up when I’m looking for help with a complex idea, or just a bit of reassurance when I’m feeling a bit scared of the task ahead of me.