Beginnings

Beware your fears made into light!And so ends my first full week as a PhD student and it’s been an interesting one.  I think the overwhelming feeling I’ve had this week has been one of uncertainty  coupled with a fair bit of trepidation.  There remains a great deal about the PhD process and my integration into the University that is all very much still in the air.  There’s also the fact that every time I add an action to my list of tasks, I seem to then think of about three more things to do as well!  One is trying to be systematic, and while I am aware that you can’t do everything at once it’s a very different style to the working world.  There everything was needed yesterday, and yet now I’ve actually got the space to think, to read, to research and plan.  I don’t want to waste the time either, nor do I want to charge down blind alleys.

Chief among my discoveries this week is the joy of setting my own hours.  I’ve been in to campus early, I’ve wandered in late, and I’ve spent the entire day working at home on different occasions   All of them have certain merits to them.  Certainly to my surprise I’ve got more focussed work done at home than sitting in the Library or one of the IT rooms.  Working from home though means I have been spending some time sorting out a home filing system, and making a space that will be suitable for study.  You may remember I mentioned last time that I wasn’t sure if I had a personal study space or office to call my own, well I’ve answered that question now – the answer is “nope”.

I can’t help but be a little disappointed by this.  In part having somewhere to call home at the Uni would mean I could leave my bag, wander for a tea, nip to the loo and then return to work.  Without it I sense I’m going to more limited to half day excursions, as I’m someone who likes to just knuckle down and work solidly for hours at a time.  Having to pack everything up whenever I want to nip to the loo is really going to put a crimp on my focus.  Not having a laptop either is also going to a bit of a pain in arse in the long run, though I remain to be convinced that I might be able to get away with an updated netbook and working in the cloud for the most part.

Library entrance - been here a few times!I have discovered though that my campus library does have a dedicated graduate room although yesterday afternoon I had to ask them to unlock it, so I sense it’s not in heavy use.  I had to laugh when I was in there to spot that some student has claimed one of the computers with books and cups all around it.  Was half tempted to channel my old librarian spirit and clear it all away, but I resisted.  It was lovely and peaceful in there yesterday afternoon and I had a cracking three hours post-supervisor meeting planning and plotting work.  I also had a chat to one of the library staff as well, always helps to keep them on side and mentioning that I was until recently one of them isn’t going to do me any harm.

I also took out my first batch of books, which I’m slowly starting to read.  I also went on the library tour, during which I had to stop myself at least twice from answering one of the questions of my fellow students.  I mean when they ask about ILLs I’m just used to being the one person in the uni who HAS to know the answer.  Been impressed though with my interactions with the library staff to date, all very cordial and I expect they’ll either be sick of me asking daft questions or know me by name by the end of the year.  Wonder if I can achieve a favourite student status…would come in handy when I’ll need that inevitable library favour!

A lot of this week though was about familiarly   Getting used to the commute.  Getting used to the good and not so good places to work on campus; though I’ve yet to try out the CELS graduate space.  That’s on my agenda for next week, and I’m hoping that it’s a nice airy and well-lit space with a locker, kettle and handy loo.  If it is, that’s going to become my home away from home and I’ll be able to start spending a little more time working on campus.

I also finally met up with my two supervisors yesterday – nice chaps the pair of them who seemed genuinely interested in my proposed area of research.  Still chuckling slightly at being an English, Communications and Media student – I think the knowledge would kill my old English teacher at school.  He always spoke very highly of me, even if he despaired of my command of the written language.  To know I’m now a doctoral candidate in this field would (hopefully) tickle him more than aggravate   Given the limited contact hours I’ve got with my supervisors, it looks like a monthly meet is likely to be my schedule (something that caused Mrs Llama who worked very closely with her PhD supervisor to raise her eyebrows considerably); but they seemed happily confident in my own ability to drive my research work forward.  They were also pretty brilliant at giving me some pointers on where I really need to rethink aspects of my proposal – to broaden its scope and give it a real polish.  Hence the heavy reading schedule I’m drawing up for the next few weeks.

Okay, whose turn is it to buy the coffee?So to be fair why I’m still a bit uncertain about how I fit into this whole PhD experience, and it’ll be nice when I start to meet some more of the poor sods who are in the same boat next week when the taught component kicks off I am still loving what I’m doing.  Hopefully by January I’ll start to have a real feel for what I’ll be doing for the next three years and really start to get my teeth into it.  For now though, baby steps, lots of training (online and in the flesh) and expansion of the mind are the order of the day.

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2 thoughts on “Beginnings

  1. So riddle me this Mr PhD student. I’ve never convinced any PhD student that social media was of any value to them for their degree. In part that’s because most supervisors are warning them off, but I think there’s something else too. What is it about the process itself that makes people antisocial?

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    1. Interesting question Alan. Certainly no where in my introduction was social media covered, aside from a few references to Graduate Junction (“2000 students from across the country”) and the proprietary software blogs that are only visible to…other people on the same system. I have found that my supervisor has a twitter account, but with two entries from years ago – so sense it won’t be a big route to communicate there. I do keep hoping that if I keep tweeting and blogging about NTU and the PhD long enough I might make some connections, but so far not much success.

      I do worry that not engaging on social media is the start of a long trend of isolation and insular nature that many full blooded academics seem to espouse, and in a time when we must/should be engaging with the wider community with out research outputs I don’t think it’s healthy. I’d love to say it’s a generational shift and in time we might well see more PhDs embracing it – but there’s certainly no courses I’ve found where I am that espouse to teach or advocate it. Maybe NTU ought to pay me to run some 😉 #ImpoverishedStudent

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