Thinking About Doing a PhD?

Well, you’re at the right place! Before I embarked on my PhD journey I did a lot of research on PhD programs and possibilities because, let’s face it, it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. So, here are my thoughts on doing a PhD…

1. You’ve got to LOVE what you’re studying. This is really important. You are going to spend several years studying this one particular topic. If you don’t love it, it will drive you demented. When I first started thinking about pursuing postgraduate studies I had to think about whether I wanted to begin a Masters in Education or in History. A Masters in Education seemed like the logical choice because I had just received my Bachelor’s in Education, but I just couldn’t think of an interesting topic to study. I’d often browse through the theses in MIC’s library looking for inspiration but interesting historical topics kept popping into my head. And I was getting waaaay more excited about those ideas than any of the potential Education topics I had in mind. Ultimately, I chose to study History and I’ve never regretted it. I absolutely love what I do. I really enjoy getting up every morning, sitting at my desk with a coffee and writing, researching or reading.

2. You’ve got to be disciplined. I’m doing a research PhD which means that there are no classes or exams. It also means that there is no structure. Not that I mind. In fact, I prefer it that way. But that’s because I’m an organised person. Teaching a class of thirty will do that to you! If you undertake a research PhD then you have got to be disciplined with your time. It’s so easy to waste the first, or even the second, year of your studies if you’re not disciplined with you’re time. Even though I don’t have any classes I have established a routine so that I am as productive as possible. If a research PhD isn’t for you then there are some structured options available. As far as I know, most, if not all, of the PhD programs in the US are structured.

3. You’ve got to be prepared to defer gratification…for a long time! Doing a PhD can last for anything between three and ten years. I’m guessing that the average time is between four and six years. This means that you are going to be a student for quite a long time. Depending on the funding you get, it probably means that you are going to be a poor student for quite a long time. This didn’t bother me too much as I’ve only got myself to look after. But if you have a mortgage or a family to support then you need to seriously consider it. That being said, I wouldn’t let a lack of money totally turn you off doing a PhD. If you really want it then you can make it work. And it will be worth it in the end. Well, that’s what I keep telling myself!

4. After you’ve done your PhD you’ve got to be prepared to work hard. Or, should I say, continue working hard. You may have reached the top of the student ladder but you’re at the bottom of the academic ladder and it’s going to take time to work your way up. I’m not speaking from experience here because I’m not at that stage yet but I’d love to hear about how recent PhD graduates have survived the job market.

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My Trip to Washington, D.C.

Washington

Washington Monument

Hello again,

Time is going by so fast. I can’t believe that I will be going home next week! I’m devastated. Obviously I’m really excited about seeing my friends and family. And Christmas is a great time of year to be at home – everyone is back from their travels and there’s always a good buzz about the place. Even though it rains quite a bit here in NC, it’s not as dull or as gloomy as it is in Ireland during the winter so I’m definitely going to need some time to readjust to the Irish weather!

A couple of weeks ago I visited Washington, D.C. I loved it! Vimaljit, girl I met at the Gateway Orientation program, is studying at Georgetown University so I stayed with her for the weekend. One of the best things about getting a Fulbright is getting the chance to meet new people. I’ve also recently met up with two Irish Fulbrighters, one here in North Carolina and one in San Francisco (more about SF next week). Fulbright really does give you the opportunity to meet new people, from your home country as well as abroad.

My first day in DC was spent exploring Georgetown. It’s such a cute place. Looking at the different style of houses is one of my favourite things to do in a new place. I don’t know if that’s weird or not and I actually only found out how much I like doing it after visiting Chicago earlier this year. Chicago has some really cool architecture, especially around Lincoln Park. Vimaljit also showed me the house where The Exorcist was filmed! After grabbing a bite to eat we headed out for some drinks with her college friends. Going for drinks in DC is totally different from going for drinks in Chapel Hill, probably because Chapel Hill is your quintessential college town replete with UNC merchandise stores and frat houses (but I love it). There’s definitely a more businessy vibe in DC.

Washington DC

Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool

The next day I went sightseeing. I did the usual: Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool, the Capitol, the White House…They are all within walking distance from each other. I then headed to the museums. The first one I went to was the Smithsonian Holocaust Museum. That was really interesting. I spent at least three hours in there. I read everything on the walls so I moved pretty slowly. I also went to the Library of Congress and the Museum of American History. By that stage I was pretty tired so I headed back to the apartment. We went for dinner and wine at a Japanese restaurant later that evening and it was great to unwind.

My bus was leaving early the next morning so I didn’t have time to do any more sightseeing. Which I was a little disappointed about because there is so much to do and see in DC. But I definitely intend on heading back in the future. It’s a great city. After San Francisco it’s my favourite US city (so far). I would definitely recommended a visit! Washington me

As you’ve noticed, I also visited SF recently. I’ve family there so I went to spend thanksgiving with them. That was also so much fun and you’ll hear all about that next week!

Bye for now…