Thursday, July 16, 2009

Not a bed of roses all the time


A lot of people reading my blog seems to think we are having a lot of fun here in the UK. In fact, several people back in Malaysia seem to think that doing a PhD in the UK is a big long vacation and we are all having fun here.

I guess it's kind of easy to get that impression looking at the big second hand Mercedes Benz car the students bring back, all the happy photographs posted on Facebook and blogs - of going to Paris, Rome and La Rochelle.

Despite the fact that I blog and twitter constantly, I am actually quite private. I prefer to keep some things to myself. Apart from my wife, I guess no body will ever know the problems we went through and the tears we cried.

Doing a PhD is not easy. We knew that but we still decided to go ahead and enroll for the PhD programmes here at the University of Warwick - both of us, with small kids. My son was just 3 months old when we moved here to the UK. Furthermore I took a huge gamble, resigned from my comfy job and decided to pay for my studies on my own. I didn't know how but we just went ahead. As they say, when there's a will, there is a way.


With God's blessings I received a scholarship for my first year at the Warwick Business School. That was the honeymoon period and the first year passed without any problems. Then the second year came and we found out that I would have to pay for the 2nd year of my studies on my own. Right now the fees is £10,900 for overseas full time students. That does not include other living expenses - food, petrol, insurance, etc.

That was hard - I had to take up several jobs. At one time I was actually working at 4 different places and doing different things including developing web sites and teaching at the University of Warwick. We even had to dig into the little savings we had back in Malaysia. And I had to study, do research and write papers at the same time. That was really hard.

Recently I was informed that I got the studentships for the next year. Praise be to God. I realise that most of our problems were related to money. However, there are other things as well that money can't solve.

I am sure we are not the only ones with a problem. Probably, many others doing a PhD here have it worse. I know of several PhD students whose relationships broke down, spouses passing away, having miscarriages and even mental breakdowns. I sometimes wonder how some of the Malaysian doctoral students managed to get on.

We are nearing the end now but still have a long way to go. We have survived and we will continue to fight as I am sure others have. We are really happy when our older colleagues finally pass out and we learn that they passed their viva without any or minor corrections. Gives some kind of hope to us still trying to find our way through the literature and various theories.

When we were totally stressed out, we took time out, going on family vacations - to rejuvenate our batteries. I guess that kept up sane. We also supported each other and pushed each other when we had to. All the time trying to be optimistic and smile. Having religion does help and though I have always been spiritual, I am more so now. I don't want to get into arguments with Atheists but I know God exists even though I can't explain how.

I am going off on a tangent here and I don't want to put people off from doing a PhD. Just want to say that it's definitely not a bed of roses but it's not something impossible.

First Commentator


chics said...

Many people think they knew someone just by reading their blog the thing is, we don't tell everything.

I mean those unnecessary parts are meant to be keep for us only isn't it? Plus, it's good that people like you always try to think positive, you need that positive vibes.

Logically, getting a PHD is not easy, especially in a foreign land.

I wish you all the best!

yazid said...

Now I understand the hardship that you mentioned to me earlier.

Emila Yusof said...

Love the roses picture!! they're so bloomy!

Wow! You have 4 jobs? You're really a hardworking man and I am sure your hardship will be paid off soon. All the best!

Adam Dilip Mutum said...

Chics: Thanks Chics. I am definitely optimistic and that's one of the reasons I hardly write anything negative on my blog.

Emil: Not any more. Right now, I am only doing some teaching.

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gryfino said...

I tried to make PhD title in Poland and sure it's not easy. Lots of learning and classes with students. Not much time to rest, there is always something that need to be done. Publication here, new lecture there... I guess that in GB it is even more difficult and demanding.

classyadele said...

U forgot to mention about the idiosyncracies of pleasing everybody in a foreign land, especially supervisors. As we are the foreigners, we have to fight harder to excel.

Problems, esp expectations by a PhD student of a supervisor can be very stressful too. Supervisors may only have us phD students taking <5% of their list of priorities, but they dont realise that they take >60-70% of ours. I personally find that difficult to manage.

And ure right - all this boils down to mini stresses all accumulating to a huge ball of mental/physical/emotional breakdown - and that badly affects relationships. It's affecting my marriage too.


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