So I have now been a part time PhD student for just over one month. What have I learned?
1. Some sort of note taking and making system is vital. Whether it be paperclips and sheaves of notepaper, the trusty ipad or laptop, helpful apps etc, organising yourself is vital. In one month I have almost filled a box file with notes, a lot of them on books that I really don’t want to have to read again.
2. Sometimes it’s cheaper to spend £25 on books from Amazon rather than on the train fare to London to get to a library. Especially as I have to spend another £25 to get the books back again. Books are also very heavy.
3. Get a SCONUL card, its free and you can access other university libraries. In my case the University of Essex.
4. It’s very easy to feel out of step with your full time fellow PhD students, they are on a different timescale to you and under different pressures. In my case there is a ten year age difference and I also have young children which means I am much more restricted. Plus I don’t drink which leaves me out a bit during some social events. Try and attend what you can, its useful to talk to other students about things you do have in common, especially in the early stages.
5. If you are doing a slightly weird subject (like something related to….I don’t know…..menstruation) expect to feel a bit odd when everyone else is doing something more ‘normal’ like crusading knights or President Carter. But presumably you have chosen a subject you love so be happy and shrug off any funny looks.
6. Read. Write. Do something PhD related for at least 90 minutes a day.
7. A supportive and interested spouse is a boon and a blessing. Mine pushes me, encourages me, listens and has completely changed his life to allow me to do this without any complaints. He seems genuinely proud of me, the madman. I have my own tiny office space away from the kids and have been pushed in here to work despite it being half term. This stuff is hard but made so much easier by the fact I chose the right man all those years ago (twelve and a half years ago in fact).