I have been a fully fledged PhD student for exactly a month and a day. When people ask me what I do and I tell them I’m doing a PhD, their response is usually:
“But what do you actually do?”
I read. I read constantly. I make lists of things to read. I panic that I haven’t read enough. I read and make notes on what I read. I incur library fines for not reading fast enough.
The thing with life as a PhD student is that no one else is doing what you are doing. Sure you have colleagues who are also doing PhDs but on very different topics than yours. I am in the rather odd position of doing a PhD on something I don’t actually know that much about yet. So I really am starting from scratch. I’m trying to get my head around background stuff, just simply learning the main ideas that are already out there before I can even think about starting my own research.
I thought I’d use this wee blog of mine to provide updates on life as a PhD student. Of course, my experience is personal, PhDs are very different in the UK as opposed to the USA and specific to the field of history. I also have the lovely honour of being a chronically awesome PhD student fighting an invisible illness.
So if anyone out there wonders what it is like to do a History PhD in the UK while living with a chronic illness…you are welcome here.
So, after one month I can exclusively reveal my top ten PhD revelations:
1) You spend a hell of a lot of time reading
2) You must pretend to be interested in other people’s topics when you don’t have a clue what they’re talking about
3) You will need to alternate hot beverages because if you drink coffee exclusively you will never sleep
4) You will have ridiculous arguments with the people you share an office with over whether it is acceptable to use a teaspoon as a doorstop (it’s not)
5) Don’t be embarrassed when you see your supervisor in the cafe, they are also procrastinating.
6) Reply to important emails asap because you will forget about them
7) Forget about your MA results. No one cares any more.
8) Always keep a book in your bag in case you have time to kill. Then you can tick it off your ‘to read’ list.
9) If you must be involved in a committee with other PhD students, do not let them walk all over you just because you’ve only started
10) Presenting a paper at a conference in your second month is a lot more work than you originally thought.
Now…back to the dauntingly large pile of reading and oh yeah, writing that conference paper…