Over the past week I spent 1 hour doing yoga, 104 minutes sitting on my exercise ball, and 0 minutes meditating (again, darn!). I spent the week in the afterglow of the symposium, which I think was quite successful. I attended mandatory training about academic integrity and ethics (which featured some pretty shocking and public stories of falsifying data), and another training about the 4 domains of the Researcher Development Framework described by Vitae, which I will talk about in another post. I drank 11 cups of coffee and 7 cups of tea.
Last week I wrote about organising a symposium – I volunteered to organise externals speakers to overcome my fear of presenting myself professionally over email to strangers. I found this article (after the symposium ended, of course) about writing emails to be very useful. I know how important it is to present yourself well over email, but I often get so nervous about it that I end up not sending the email at all, which is just shooting myself in the foot.
I have mentioned before that I’m participating in a MOOC called How to Survive Your PhD, run by the marvellous Inger Mewburn of Thesis Whisperer fame. Each of the 10 modules focuses on a different emotion and how it manifests in the context of PhD research. While the readings are interesting, they are very light. The real value for me has been in reading the discussions (unfortunately I’ve joined the course after it finished in real time, so it’s too late to actually participate in the discussions) and watching the videos of the live chats. That is where you find the community, the advice, the tips and tools and tricks that make life as a PhD student easier and less lonely.
It is amazing the number of times people commented “I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who feels this way” or “I’m so happy what I’m going through is normal”. I have definitely seen a certain level of awareness among my peers of issues like imposter syndrome, depression, and fear of writing. However, it’s always discussed in very vague terms. Nobody says “I am feeling _____, do you ever feel that way too?” And there is certainly no discussion of how to deal with these emotions ourselves! Of course there are a lot of resources available on campus, but the value of a supportive community of peers collectively looking for ways to help each other is underrated.
The internet is such a vast and sometimes overwhelming place, but it’s gems like this that really make me appreciate technology and the ease of communication we have as a result of it. Thanks to the community I’ve found in the MOOC, not only do I feel more confident and supported personally, I now have more concrete ideas and tools to bring to my peers. I have avoided being active in the PostGrad community at my university because I didn’t feel able to contribute anything or socialise well, but that has changed!
The course is still available through EdX, and the communities that have sprung up around it are very welcoming! Come join us!