Before I started my PhD everyone told me to ‘expect the unexpected’, that at some point something would happen to derail my PhD plans and I should expect this to happen. I figured that was a really negative way of approaching a PhD, and why would something so awful happen to me? I’ll tell you now, the unexpected ALWAYS happens. Don’t make the same mistake as me and think that you’ll be the one that gets through without a hitch – something will happen – family, relationships, friendships, living arrangements, illness, finances – whatever it is, something will happen, and you will have to deal with it. I’m not going to go into what my unexpected event was, but it certainly derailed me, and I’m definitely dealing with it. My supervisor told me last week that a PhD is something you earn, something worthwhile, and being tested throughout that process is almost a right of passage. So there we go, life happens.
This month is my 9th month being a PhD student; at Aberdeen University the 9th month of study brings an assessment that decides if you can continue on the path towards a PhD. It’s a way of nipping problems in the bud early on, tackling fundamental flaws before you get to writing the thesis and defending it in your PhD viva. The assessment consists of 3 components; a report, a viva and a presentation. I wrote my 9 month assessment report a few weeks ago and was pretty happy with it, it wasn’t too stressful and I was able to just sit and write it, I quite enjoyed it actually. Today was my viva – I was a bit nervous about this beforehand. I’ve only ever had one viva before and it was related to my undergraduate degree, so a totally different kettle of fish. Thankfully today’s viva went well, it was a really positive experience being able to discuss my research with people not directly in my field, but who were just as enthusiastic and interested to find out what I’m doing and why. My viva lasted around an hour, and I was told my project was abitious and useful, and that I had nothing to worry about.
Given last month’s unexpected events this was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries. I left the viva feeling really enthused, excited to work on my project and looking forward to the potential publications ahead of me. At the beginning of this week I was cursing the fact I had a viva to endure, nervous for what I’d be asked and a bit frustrated that it had fallen at such a bad time. Turns out, it was just what I needed to keep me on track and working. Yes, sometimes life happens, but it’s also important to stress that life goes on, my project will continue and hopefully I’ll be awarded a PhD at the end of it.