Thursday, June 3, 2010


I just had a friend come and visit me in my office for the first time. He made a joke about how much the office hallways made it feel like we were in the famous prison Alcatraz. Is doing a PhD really any different from being in prison?

My office hallway, actually.

I guess superficially there are a lot of similarities between being a PhD student and an inmate serving a 3 - 5 year sentence: we are put in small rooms with limited daylight, we spend long hours with nothing to do but read, we have to share basic bathroom facilities, we often eat the same food day in and day out, we might not see our families for long periods of time, we have to go through several review processes before we can “get out”, the building gets locked down after 9pm, and when you’re ready to scream you can’t out of fear that the anxious guy sitting next to you will shank you in your eye ball.

Obviously being a student is nothing like being a prisoner - I got given a brand new computer when I started, the people I share my office with are awesome, I get flown to really fun conferences at no expense of my own, and, of course, I can leave whenever I want.

The freedom and perks of being a PhD student don’t stop some people from feeling trapped, though. Even after being a PhD student for less than a year, I certainly have felt at times that I can’t leave my office when I want to, even though I’m the one who holds the key to my door.

Fortunately for me, feelings of being a PhD-prisoner are few and far between and 99% of the time I love my time at uni. I attribute a lot of the joy I have during my PhD to the fact that I took a lot of time, a whole 6 months actually, working out whether or not I wanted to do it in the first place because it is a big commitment. I also took this time to think about who I could be happy with as supervisors for years on end, because they're the closest thing to the "prison wardens".

I wasn’t planning on being preachy in this blog post, but I do feel like I have to end with this final point. If you are considering doing postgraduate research, and I highly encourage it, take the time to think about it and plan it carefully and you’ll never feel like you’re in prison!

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1 comment:

  1. I absolutely agree with Will's last point - if you're considering doing a PhD, take the time to think about it first!!! I decided to jump straight in, and I feel very lost. Taking a few months before beginning would have certainly helped me think about what I want to do and who I wanted to do it with.