I've just finished my first year as a full time PhD student, and on Monday had my first year panel, where I officially passed from being on an M.Phil to being a Ph.D candidate proper. In order to pass that I had to write a 10,000 word report, including a literature review, a breakdown of my methodology and a schedule for my work over the next two years along with examples of my written work (I included two papers I've presented at conferences).
This past year has been much harder than I ever imagined. Everyone who has done a PhD told me it would be tough, but did I believe them? Not really. I've had twins, I thought, nothing could be tougher than the first
three years 6 months of that (...except maybe triplets). I've made films for tiny budgets under huge amounts of pressure, how could this be more stressful? I've taught in HE for years, I have nerves of steel. I've done all these things simultaneously, I'm a multi-tasker, it'll be fine.
We-e-ll, turns out, not so much. It has been a salutary lesson in how to eat humble pie with a big spoon and no custard.
High points: the sense of community and support from my fellow students, having my horizons widened so far they're barely even in my peripheral vision, the delight of getting papers finally accepted for publication, meeting amazingly interesting people who actually seem happy to meet me, learning to use an academic library properly, realising that I can join new communities and learn to speak a new language ('academic english' - I'm barely getting by), getting to travel to interesting conferences in incredible locations, getting a young person's railcard and NUS card again, 10% discount in Top Shop, being asked for ID buying alcohol in Asda aged 40 (I think that was related to the PhD, it was definitely a highlight anyway).
Low points: realising how unbelievably badly read I am, realising how much I don't know, realising that other people do know how much I don't know and they're not going to cut me any slack at all, the process of getting my first paper published (peer reviews? pointing and laughing more like), sinking under the weight of my reading list, the emotional ups and downs (which somehow I really didn't think would affect me but did), developing an Amazon habit so humungous it's embarrassing, travelling to odd places too far away, not understanding entire sentences people say (just before they say, "what do you think?"), feeling lonely and stranded at conferences, getting bone tired.
Anyway, this lovely outfit is keeping me going a bit. I know it's shallow, but when I finally get my hands on the "purple stuff of the London style" and that hideous black cloth bonnet (with a cord and tassel? oh joy) I shall feel like I've truly earned something worth having. And, thank the Lord, it'll mean it's over.