You know how you have a brief bit of downtime to prepare for your new job or whatever it may be. That period, between the time you get offered the job and your starting date, where you just kick back, relax and watch your favourite TV shows. Well, I had a LOT of downtime which started from the beginning of Dec 2015 and lasted till the end of Jan 2016. I spent it doing a bit of background reading on my PhD but mostly trying to fathom the fact that I’ll be doing a PhD after years of rejecting the idea.
The whole process of me getting enrolled and up and running was a bit of a mess and somewhat unorganised. To cut the long story short and to give you an idea of the enormity of the cock-up, I found out when my starting date would be ON THE DAY! Good thing I had woken up early that morning to read my supervisor’s e-mail otherwise I would have slept right through my ‘first day’.
So on my first day, I was greeted by my supervisor, who had interviewed me for the studentship, and I also met the rest of the team, two 2 fellow PhD students who welcomed me like I was their long lost friend. To put their hospitality to perspective, I would not have been surprised if they wrapped a lei around my neck and we started singing kumbaya around a camp fire. I was then shown the desk where I would be working from and shackled to for the next four years spending my time in involuntary servitude. On the flip side, I found out that I’ll be sharing the same office as my supervisor which came as a huge surprise to me! I was expecting him to just show me my desk and say ‘see you in a couple of years mate’ as he cruises off into the sunset. In my opinion, the pros of having your supervisor babysit you throughout the entirety of your PhD far outweigh the cons (if any). You always hear complaints from PhD students about how they hardly get to speak to their supervisors, and how lonely and abandoned they feel as a result of their supervisors being completely oblivious to their existence. Well in my case, there’s no escape for my supervisor. I just turn my head and voila, there he is, typing away.
I felt like I was already behind in my PhD before I had even started. As soon as I sat down at my desk thinking I’ll ease into the whole process, my supervisor chucked me in the deep end and was burying with books and journals not only with physical copies but also digital ones as well. I definitely struggled to cope with the sheer amount of reading that needed to be done. Everytime I’d finish deciphering a book or a journal with all sorts of weird symbols and notations, I gave myself a pat on the back and a well done sticker but little did I know that there was a plethora of literature queueing up to be read. My supervisor had told me that learning curve of the process in the first 6 months is extremely steep and had advised me not to be overwhelmed by the whole thing as it will take time to get used to. This is the best piece of advice I’ve been enlightened with so far and I would like to relay it to anyone out there who is endeavouring towards acquiring a PhD. I’m still neck deep in literature barely staying afloat but I refuse to let such trivial things stress me out. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like I’ll get sacked…..I just won’t be a student again. XD
I was also shown 3 laboratories, where I’d be disintegrated from civilisation like Doc. Brown, which were exclusive only to the 4 of us and I was given keys for all 3 of the labs. This momentarily made me feel like a VIP member but then I quickly came to the realisation that it was only a bloody set of labs and not a vault. All 3 labs housed a variety of advanced hi-tech and expensive machinery which seemed to be a bit intimidating and daunting to me initially. I mean, I’m still used to holding my mum’s hand crossing the road let alone working in a lab by myself surrounded by bulky pieces of equipment. Again, my supervisor had informed me that it will take about a year (2 years for my feeble mind) to get my head wrapped around the machines and be a bit more tech-savvy.
So to sum up my experience of the first two weeks at the university, I’d comment that it was a positive one overall. At first, I have to admit that I was frustrated by the enrolment process as it was a bit of hassle but then that was all quickly forgotten as I was welcomed by a team of friendly faces and a desk piled sky high with papers. I guess that’s all I have to share for this blog post so other than that, thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next.