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What do people enjoy most about their doctoral experience?

Written by Dr Katryna Kalawsky

As someone who has a keen interest in Doctoral Wellbeing, when I’ve read the literature in this important area, I’ve noticed that whilst it’s now common to learn about potential/actual challenges that doctoral researchers may face/have faced, it’s less common for papers and reports to showcase the positive aspects of undertaking a doctorate. This inadvertent negatively skewed viewpoint is not always helpful. I mean, yes it’s really important to know and acknowledge what potential/actual challenges doctoral researchers can face so that they can be avoided/remedied, but it’s equally as important to highlight all the MANY enjoyable aspects of undertaking a doctorate. So with that being said I thought it would be uplifting to share the responses received during the Doctoral Wellbeing Week Twitter Chat to the question “What did you enjoy most about your doctoral experience?”. Some responses may resonate with you, some may have no parallels at all, but either way, the point of this blog post is to encourage you all to occasionally take time out to take stock and reflect on all the positive aspects of your doctoral journey so far – no matter how big or small!

“I enjoyed the amazing colleagues I worked with in Sheffield, the travel I got to do and being the most skilled isolator of chloroplasts in the lab!” – Dr Sophie Crouchman

“I was lucky to be able to have time and space to focus on researching one thing whilst feeling part of a learning community, meeting people who are part of my life now who are doing some incredible things” – Dr Ksenija Kuzmina

“My friends! It would’ve been so much harder without them (although on reflection, we sometimes wonder how any of us have actually managed to complete our PhDs, as we spent a lot of time chatting/having coffee/going for walks).” – Dr Ksenia Chmutina

“My PhD was undertaken part-time and from a distance so I didn’t have any friends also doing their PhDs. This could have been isolating but my supervisors kept in touch with me when I needed help. Coming to Uni was a great way of feeling like a researcher.” – Dr Ash Casey

“Being with fellow PhD students, learning about their research, bouncing ideas off them. I also really enjoyed the challenge of getting so deep into a topic and exploring it. Lastly, being able to teach alongside doing my PhD was a brilliant experience” – Dr Manuel Alonso

“I had the most inspiring and wonderful supervisor who really helped me through the more challenging times. The kids who took part in my research though, really made it all worthwhile. I loved hearing their stories. Children are both hilarious and insightful in equal measure”. – Dr Janine Coates

“Probably should say it’s where I met my wife! but being in the most supportive department possible – best supervisor and staff (both academic and professional services ) and place (@AberUni)” – Dr John Harrison

“I enjoyed being with the ladies with breast cancer who took part in my study. These ladies gave their time willingly and freely when feeling vulnerable and sometimes very poorly. Their experiences were a great source of inspiration both academically and personally. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning from healthcare professionals.” Dr Katryna Kalawsky

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Being part of a vibrant Loughborough research culture. The enthusiasm/dynamism/support of supervisor. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway”– Professor Elizabeth Peel

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What do you/did you enjoy most about your doctorate? Please feel free to share your thoughts on this topic via the blog comments box or via Twitter. After all, one of the many aspects of ‘kindness’ (the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020) is about taking time out for others.

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