This is the first in a series of posts in which I document the transition from an undergraduate into a postgraduate student and the joys, fears, excitements, and frustrations that follow from it!
I have been a postgraduate student for coming up six weeks now. I have officially dived headfirst into some of the most independent study I have ever done, and I thought that starting a new post series would be a great way to document how things were going and to talk about aspects of postgraduate life in a nice and succinct way! This post will focus upon the somewhat looming question that I am just now coming to find the answer to, and it is a big one at the moment, especially having just started a masters course: That of where to go once this year is over.
Ever since starting an undergraduate history course in 2013, I have wanted to continue studying. I took the opportunity to study in Australia from 2015-2016 (if anyone ever offers you the chance to study abroad, take it, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done!). I was also pleasantly surprised to find during the final year of an undergraduate history degree that I actually enjoyed writing the 9,000 word dissertation at the end of it. Far from being a chore, I love researching a topic of my choosing, sifting through pages and pages of historical documents, and building from a single research question to a piece of work that (I’m not ashamed to admit) I am quite proud of. So, following on naturally from this, I applied for a place on a masters course at the same institution (which is where I currently am) and have just about adjusted to the change in pace and workload by this point in time. My essays are constantly simmering away in the background, having finally settled on the topics, a few members of staff seem interested in how this piece of research or that piece of research is going, and I feel like part of the centre here – Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that I’m the least qualified person in the room at regular intervals, but I do feel to a degree like I belong here. And so this brings me onto the focus of this article:
PhD Application Time.
Well, the stress has come piling on once the PhD application reared its head. Anyone I’ve spoken to about it has said the same thing, that once you decided a PhD is the way you want to go, the application becomes a huge part of your time management. And a huge source of restless hours and sleepless nights. And I’m starting to feel that happening to me.
In fact, it was only in the past week that I finally refined a potential topic idea and approached a potential supervisor about my proposal for research. I struggled for a long while over the past month to find something original that I could commit 3 years of my life to researching full time. Every idea I had seemed to have already been done once I scoured the internet for literature on the topic, and I kept hitting brick wall after brick wall. Then, finally, it hit me after a conversation with a member of staff here at university about the nature of psychiatry in the late 1940s and 50s and suddenly I had my idea (albeit a totally unrelated one). I emailed a supervisor and have arranged a meeting after a promising discussion on the topic, and I can now begin drafting research proposals and funding applications. It’s promising, but that doesn’t mean it’s not stressful.
I’m also horribly aware that by this point, some six weeks into term, I’m already behind the timeline that’s expected of me regarding PhD application deadlines. Funding deadlines are looming on the fast approaching horizon and what spare time I have these days is soon subsumed by seminar reading, essay research, and dissertation preparation. I will get it done, as I’ve found stress in recent years to be more of a motivator to me than anything else – It make me get the work done on time. But that doesn’t stop it from being perhaps one of the most nerve wracking decisions I’ve ever made. What if the idea doesn’t have enough to go on? What if the supervisor doesn’t want to supervise it? What if I’m unable to fund myself? All these are questions that I imagine many potential applicants face, and I would be lying if I said they weren’t constantly bothering me. And, in fact, this blog post is the result of feeling stressed to the point where I just needed to take twenty minutes and write it all down, process it, and get ready to start the application process at large. I will get it done, I will make the best go of it I can, and I will love every minute of it if I’m successful. The doubts are (somewhat paradoxically but bear with me on this one) only making me want to do a PhD more and I know that whatever I put my mind to will be a brilliant few years. I love researching things, I love asking questions and finding answers out there somewhere, and I hope a PhD will allow me to put my mind to something big and terrifying and wonderful and challenging like nothing I’ve ever done before.
If you’ve made it this far through the post, thank you for indulging my processing of what have been building amounts of worry, I have tried to utilise this wonderful blogging platform as a means to talk about my worries and turn them into something constructive. Spending half an hour putting these thoughts onto paper has helped me enormously to solidify what I want, where I want to go, and why I want to do it, and I thank anyone that has read this post for allowing me to throw my thoughts at a wall and hope that some of them stick!
That’s all for now,
All Images used have been acquired from Pixabay.com. All Images and Videos on Pixabay are released under the Creative Commons CC0 license and are free for use without attribution. Also, I feel they highlight what much of my life these days has amounted to: Drinking lots of coffee, reading lots of large and quite wordy books, and