Reflections on the first year of my PhD study
Hi everyone. It has been a year since I started my PhD studies. Looking back at my first year experience, I could not see as to which part of it that many may have described it as the honeymoon year J. It was more like an a–maze-ing journey of being and becoming; an interweaving process from a practitioner to a research student. Indeed, the whole transition was a daunting and labouring process yet an exciting one to me. Throughout the year, I focused on digesting the new knowledge, while at the same time polishing my existing skills. True enough, as pointed out by my supervisor, Richard, my first year was a phase of discovery, marked by the 4-Cs: Curiosity, Creativity, Confidence and Competence. Hence, I would like to share some of the highlights of my experiences, which hopefully others can relate to.
MSc research training
My first year experience was marked significantly by the MSc Research training. I completed 6 research modules over two semesters. At first, it was quite hectic as I had to juggle the subjects as well as getting used to the new academic environment. Nevertheless, as the training went on, I managed to get the hang of things. From the training, I discovered some interesting things; learning statistics was actually manageable and fun. I was apprehensive at first, but with some supports from the instructors and classmates, my levels of anxiety dwindled tremendously and I (surprisingly) found myself enjoying the lessons. I also learnt that reflexivity is an important trait in a research as it mediates the relationship between researcher and the research. Although I am still grazing on the surface, I am now more aware of the intricacy of reflexivity (how to exercise critical self-awareness etc..) and its impact on the dynamics of the research as a whole. Apart from that, showcasing research sophistication is another area that I have to work on. Looking back I am glad to say that the training was good and I enjoyed it. It was indeed illuminating to engage with the many facets of methodology of research (quantitative & qualitative methods, data analysis, ethics forms). In sum, the research training was a wholesome experience and one that I would recommend to other research students.
The supervision meeting is the core element of my experience. If I were to describe my supervision meetings, I would say that they are similar to therapeutic discourse (sets against the landscape of doctoral supervision 🙂 From the beginning, Richard and Susan have made it very clear, that their main role is to guide me , so that I can complete my studies and be proud of my PhD. However, in the beginning of the year, I found that it was difficult to focus and to prioritise, and to balance between my own research and the training. Most often than not, I would end up in panic mode as a result of being overwhelmed with everything. Thankfully, from the dialogues that I had with my supervisors, I learnt to calm down and focus on my priorities. Apart from that, I benefit a lot from the discourse session as I learn about what they expected from me, how they viewed my work and the ways to improve myself both academically and professionally. I also felt that the sessions were gradually becoming more demanding yet illuminating. Demanding, in the sense that in every feedback and discussion, I was often reminded that I had to be in charge of my study and I was expected to challenge, to reason, to be self-critical, over decision or choices that I made. The meetings were also illuminating, as I took away with me something new after each discussion. In sum, the supervision has provided me a safe but stimulating environment to develop my confidence and competence as a research student.
Annual Review meeting
The annual review meeting was the finale of my first year PhD experience. I thought it would nerve-wrecking because for the first time I had an external reviewer; Dr Gary Motteram. Surprisingly, the meeting went smoothly and was not as scary as I imagined it would be. The essence of the meeting consisted of my reflection of the first year: my perceptions of the research training experience, supervisors and supervision, participation with the research community and plans and hopes for the coming year. In sum, the meeting is beneficial to me as it helps to emphasise some areas that I can work on and provides the opportunity to get feedback from a different perspective regarding my studies.
My aspiration for the future
I look forward to welcoming new challenges and new experiences in my second year. I hope I am able to set my priorities and committing to them, keep a good balance between my family and studies, utilise as many opportunities as possible to attend workshops, seminars and training provided by the school and the university, start with my writings, follow strict but realistic time management, to be able to present my research proposal in the panel, confidently and execute my study plan successfully. In conclusion, looking back, these experiences (the high and low, the anxiety, the many cups of coffee, the laughters and tears) as well as the wonderful individuals (supervisor, MSc lecturers, MSc friends, MIE friends) that I met have helped me grow both personally and academically 🙂