My Damn PhD student life !

Did you know that I’m PhD student? No. for serious, I totally do!!

“Save meeeee!!!“

The common jokes we all heard about us tend to think of PhD experience as a choice away from life,or something that locks us in libraries and labs, the  grey hair on the forehead, the stress anxiety attacks all day long, Feeling like drowning, feeling alone and scared most of the time, feeling like you’re getting it all wrong, Overwhelmed by the weight and responsibility of completing this journey… You name it.

Yeah, that’s not a JOKE, unfortunately.

It’s totally 100%true

Most people who know me, and my journey to get here, get excited about the whole ‘becoming a Doctor’ thing. I appreciate their support but I can’t share the enthusiasm because the shiny appeal of being Dr. Safaa EL OUADIFI is well and truly lost.

Let me take you on a life journey of a damn PhD Student :

  • 3-6 first months into a PhD Feeling somedegree of “impostor syndrome” “I have no idea what I’m doinghere“. The core of my skills includes reading an entire page of anacademic text without absorbing a single word.
  • 1st year you have no idea what to do, you just get used to Multi-reading, and start asking fatal questions such as« is there any way to process knowledge faster » awkward silence…Anyway, gimme more caffeine !!
  • 2nd year you worry whether you’ve got enough time to do all your research and writing. This is when you start seriously considering quitting, but too ashamed to announce it to your family & friends and too frustrated that you wanna drop everything and run a hippie life.
  • 3rd year you panic because you don’t think you’ve done enough to even put together a thesis. Not sure if the PhD (Project Half Done) is really going this well…Or I have no idea what I’m doing…
  • By 4th year you’re worried about your thesis defense, and what to do when you’ll get this paper. « Bro, can I just have my PhD already » …at the end of your thesis,  I’m free at last going« Freedoooom » Braveheart tone…1 moment later « And now what? »
  • By 5th if you get here, dude you are screwed

Most of the questionI get is, What’s your PhD about anyway? Your inner voice goes – “ How do youexplain something that you can’t even understand yourself.

Let me tell you rightnow, 90% of people who ask this question aren’t interested in what my PhD isabout at all and are asking out of politeness. The other 10% is made up of: MySupervisors and my PhD fellows

Another advice, for the sake of god, stop asking us those kind of questions: 

When will you finish your PhD ?

How is your research going?

What year are you again?

The best is how your relationship is going with your surprivisor?

If you persist on asking those embarrassing questions, I’ll be lying to you, or in the common cases, I will be sobbing in tears like a baby because it hurts.

As long as everyone seems so certain of his/her own career direction, unlike me. Why can’t I be as good as them?

So when someone claims that being in a doctoral program isn’t “the same thing as having a real job”. That’s not even a little bit true. Because for the god sake I work more than 7 hours a day for free. You want proof, here is a typical day in the life of a PhDfighter :

Assuming you are a few years into research, your day begins as you snooze your mobile alarm for more than an hour. You wake up with a sudden realization of time, destroyed by piles of blankets you threw over yourself when you got the chill from this bad dream about your supervisor. You finally drag yourself to your office/Library promising yourself that you will wake up earlier the next day.

You settle down in front of your computer completely ignoring the fact that your work-space looks like someone played dart on it with the contents of the trash can. You do have yourphone beside you, which is the only thing around you that’s shiny andbeautiful. 

After a few hours of admiring your screen, your period of getting frustrated, feeling stupid and walking around aimlessly begins. You bump into an email from your advisor, asking you for the 100 times, about your research advancement and the paper you promised to send 2 weeks ago, you get the 10 second urge to ask for a new deadline from, but then you realize that s/he controls your grade, graduation possibility, graduation date, and the rest of your life.

You promise him/her to send it by the end of the week thank her/him and thank yourself for not saying something stupid. You get back to your paper not able to decide if you need a hug, a double espresso or 2 weeks of holiday. So stressed, having so much work to do and so little time. You trying to rewrite the draft.

Things came crumbling down, realizing you are running out of fancy vocabulary to put on the paper. You just toss your hair up, drink your fifth cup of coffee in 2 hours, put on some 90’s hip-hop or whatever your personal brand of pump up the music and you get back to work. Once done, you email your advisor with a polite greeting, multiple paragraphs, and perfect grammar only to find yourself rewarded with an– “’Ok’- sent from my iPhone”.

Let me put into one phrase for you, Research is spending 8 hours a day reading 40 papers, so you can write two sentences containing 4 references

Let’s face it, one of the greatest challenges you may encounter as PhD research is getting to concentrate, your mind will do anything on its power to get you distracted.

You convince yourself that after half an hour of hard work it’s time for a well-deserved break of 10min, which eventually last for more than 2 hours. 

Working on your research is hard OK? The coffee buzz wears off and as you start to crash you get into your pajamas and try to study in bed. Oh, who are you kidding? You’re not going to study in bed. Just watch Game of Thrones for the 10th time you pathetic excuse for an adult.

You gonna tell there is some vacation to rest, « Wrong »!!, You may be home for the holidays sitting on the table, but your mind is stuck with the reviewing and the editing you should be running shortly.

PhD students don’t get to enjoy their vacation either there weekend, because they suffer from a syndrome of feeling ultra-guilty anytime we try to relax.

Now I guess most of you here who think or just get the thought of applying for a PhD program, just got discouraged and hated the idea of it.

I’m sorry for that guys.

But listen I know there are huge opportunities and learning coming from this experience, but now this is what I got for you, maybe next time it will be more cheerful and optimistic.

Just bear with me this time!!

Part 2 _Coming soon_