Have you ever been on one of those journeys that just doesn’t seem to end, and not in a good way? You know like when you’re visiting London for the first time with your parents and you’re next stop is the London Eye but because it’s a nice day your parents insist on walking along the riverfront. It’s only ‘round the corner’ they insist. Several corners and good 45mins later you finally make it there. I still don’t let them live this down! Or perhaps it was that time you weren’t told about the unbearably long and uncomfortable transfer from the airport delaying the actual start of your long awaited holiday?
Well a PhD is a little like this.
It’s different from your typical undergraduate degree in that there isn’t really a defined end date. Yes there’s the date when your funding runs out and the date by which you have to have submitted your final version of your thesis (which can actually be easily extended) but your finish date is your own and not really shared with anyone else. I guess you could liken it to the journey of becoming a maester if Samwell’s journey so far is anything to go (GoT reference for you none thronies out there)
So you finish in the lab, only to be faced with the prospect of writing a book. You eventually finish that and submit it (a thoroughly underwhelming experience you can read about here) but it isn’t over yet.
No you have to wait.
Then wait a little bit more.
Once enough time has elapsed that you have inevitably forgotten most of what you wrote it is time to prepare to defend what you wrote in the viva.
That is where I am write now, as you read this I will be sat facing my 2 examiners sweating it out, trying to defend the last 3 and half years of my life. All for a piece of paper and a few letters.
As I write this however, I am acutely aware that I’m most likely procrastinating my prep time away. So I thank you guys for reading this and making it worthwhile.
I don’t want to whine about how hard prepping for an ‘exam’ that no-one else in the entire space-time (that is assuming that there aren’t like parallel universes obviously) is ever going to take but…
Yep there it is the big butt, I can almost feel your collective sighs rustle through my hair.
Find your Thesis
It really is hard. First off you have to find the motivation to pull your thesis out of that draw you stashed it in immediately (and I mean instantaneously) after submitting. If you’re anything like I am then once you have finished something then that is that. You’re done and you don’t need to think about it any more.
PhD’s don’t work like that though. They’re like that one annoying ‘friend’ (I am using that term loosely) that you think you have managed to ditch only to see them stroll around the corner a couple of weeks later.
Secondly, after re-reading your thesis and discovering ALL THOSE TYPOS – I mean seriously they weren’t there when I last looked at it – you have to try and predict what your examiners are going to ask you!
Exactly when did this technique ever work for any exam ever? It is a well known ancient proverb that whatever you don’t revise for an exam will come up
Have a Practice Go
Next you have to navigate the old mock viva. For me this meant trekking back down to nottingham for a few hours, and by trekking I mean I sat on a train for 2 hours (each way). Luckily my supervisor just wanted a chat and to talk me through the process of the viva and go over anything that I was worried about.
It lasted a grand total of 30mins.
However it meant more time for pub lunch catch-ups with old lab frwiends which was a bonus. Obviously for it to be a true mock we had to have mock celebration right? That’s totally legit yeah?
Fake It ‘til You Make It
Lastly you have to ditch the nerves. It’s difficult, I know. I’m sat here feeling like Jon Snow thinking about all the random, off-tangent questions I could be asked and how I know nothing about those topics.
The thing is that doesn’t help, hence why I am writing this instead. Yes this post probably isn’t my greatest piece of writing ever and most people probably won’t have made it this far but I’m sure there will be at least one person out there who will feel as I do and just knowing there is someone else going through the same sh*t helps them.
So I apologise for moaning and whinging but right now that is how I feel. It is super sunny outside and I am stuck inside trying to remember everything that I have ever done in the last 3.5 years and why I did it and everything else that is connected to it.
Perhaps next week I will feel a little more adventurous, a little more creative and little more me.
Until then keep adventuring!
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