First up, I should warn you not to take the title of this post the wrong way. This is not a holy grail checklist of things to do in order to succeed/ survive/ both (although I do hope to report back positively on all fronts in another 1.75 years…) Rather, it is a comment on an online course I recently enrolled in. The MOOC, entitled “How to Survive Your PhD”, is run out of the Australian National University, and designed by Dr Inger Mewburn (aka The Thesis Whisperer – what a title!)
The course description is as follows:
What you’ll learn
- Understand the common emotional experiences of research students and why they tend to have emotional issues in common.
- Discuss and create strategies and approaches to help research students cope with the emotional challenges of research study.
- Help academics and prospective academics become more effective research supervisors.
Why am I doing the course? It’s definitely not because I have stacks of time to spare (between tutoring, chapter writing, reading, and actual PhD-ing, there’s only just enough time to cook dinner and tease the dog). It did, however, look like a great opportunity to connect with other PhD students at different stages of their research. Connections are really important, and they can often be neglected when in the throes of writing on a very specific and obscure topic that no one else has even heard of. I actually found out about the MOOC when reading The Thesis Whisperer’s blog post on isolation, so that was one motivation. That’s the same motivation that makes me want to help out at social events at our university, because I think that creating the opportunities for people to come together is a really important step in building a community.
Then there is the course content itself. With weekly topics such as Confidence, Loneliness, Frustration, and Curiosity, the course looked both interesting and useful. Such emotions are common to most PhD students at some point, but we often don’t think about them until we’re right under their shadow. In New Zealand we are taught about Hauora whilst at school; the Maori philosophy of health teaches that wellbeing consists of many elements, including physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. This course seems like one way to make sure the emotional side of things gets a look in. It’s also a good chance to take a look at the balance of everything else as well, before I get quicksunk into the convoluted theories and half-drafts of a midway PhD student’s working life.
Thirdly, I’m just curious. Curious to see how the course will pan out, curious to see how a MOOC works, and curious to see what the experience of participating in such a course is like. Having never taken parti n anything like this before, I’m pretty much guaranteed to learn something – and hopefully some ways to make that something count for more things down the track.
So, there you have it: Ten Weeks to find the answers to life, the universe, and everything (or just to make contact with other like minded researchers, and take stock of what’s what). Either way, you can follow along on twitter using the hashtag #survivephd15