I am in my first year of a fully-funded PhD. Despite having won a scholarship, I am struggling to pay rent and keep up with the bills living in London. My partner and I moved back to the UK from Berlin, this was a choice we both made (perhaps it was a little naive considering the current political climate) - my partner is European. She has yet to secure a job also. Anyway I have always wanted to do my PhD, and the funding was such a blessing. I am currently looking for work to bump up my monthly income - I have an interview to work as a tutor with the Brilliant Club - but I cannot even afford the train ticket to attend the interview.
I have been thinking a great deal about what I want from life, what I want for me an my partner. More than me she is destined to be an academic, I could be happy doing something else I am sure. So to conclude my professional and existential crisis - I am thinking about leaving my studies to get a job that pays what we need to have a less stressful future, and a family etc, and be able to survive more comfortably. But I cannot make the decision so easily. I worked so hard to get to where I am. I worked three jobs whilst I did my MA part-time so I could pay the tuition fees, I really didn't want to have to do the same for my PhD.
Of course, the other concern is my mental health which has begun deteriorating once again. I know this is a problem throughout academia. It limits my focus and motivation, and find I struggle to produce good work as a result. I know a lot of people suffer the same. I think it is important we show that no-one is alone in this respect. My though are with anyone who feels the same pressures.
Anyway I cannot decide what to do. Any advice?
Can you find cheaper accommodation? London is a nightmare, especially compared to rent in many German cities I know. But maybe you could downgrade in someway? Or maybe you could go part time slightly (not half time but 3 quarters?) to allow you to take an extra job if that would work out any better than your full time stipend allowance? Have you tried looking for basic German translation work (e.g., translating manuals or website material)? Some jobs like this are work from home and quite boring/tedious (which might be nice as a relief from the PhD work and help with the anxiety/stress).
Not sure of any of this helps. If you really see life as better if you quit your PhD, and you don't think that you would regret it in a month, a year, or 5 years time, then do that. You could always return to one later in life when you're more financially stable - there's no age limit.
I empathize with you, there is no way a fully funded PhD in London can cover living costs.
It would be a shame to give up having come this far.
Does your university have a hardship fund? I believe this is the time to apply for it, and I believe you would be given at least some form of financial support to cover your living costs.
You also need to perhaps look at reducing costs. Which zone do you live in? Could you move say to the end of the tube lines where rent is a lot cheaper. The other thing you could do is reduce the days you go into your office, so save on travel costs.
I believe another way to make money and a lot of undergraduates do is become a private one to one tutor. As a PhD student you could charge around £15 per hour or even more. I have heard it is quite lucrative.
Also encourage your partner to consider casual work to get some experience. For example in retail.
You have been given some great advice. I don't live in the UK-so I can't offer any practical comments. My contribution is more to confirm that your situation as outlined is pretty complex (behind the lack of finances-which are obviously a big factor). You have got four major life issues: completing PHD-dream you have been working towards; how to finance this and support this in an extremely expensive city; whether your relationship requires you to take the major responsibility for financing your relationship and an ongoing wellbeing concern that is probably not helped by current circumstances.
Given your issues are pretty significant: are you able to access some form of reliable and trustworthy counsellor-or do you have a mentor who will help you work these through in person?
I know supervisors have been mentioned. My personal experience over the years is that lecturers/supervisors will provide advice and support with academic inquiries but do not offer help with personal or life issues.
So possibly university financial counselling and wellbeing counselling services will be of help-if you do not already have someone to support you while you work through these issues and decisions. If the university support services are fairly ordinary, would there be community based ones that could assist?
I'm also concerned that you seem to be taking on more responsibility in your relationship for managing financial concerns and giving more weight to your partner's dream for a phd than your own. You have worked very hard for this opportunity and deserve to complete your scholarship. Best wishes-hope you can resolve things in a way that helps you realise your dream and is supportive of your relationship.
I empathize with your situation. A few suggestions:
Unable to attend interview physically: Is Skype interview not an option? Did you ask for a possible travel cost reimbursement? You will be very surprised at what you can get if you are brave enough to ask.
Finance: This one is tricky. But, have you talked to your supervisor about this? Could you ask for a part time RA role in your group or within the uni? How about tutoring or other casual role in the uni? My friend got through her entire PhD (self sponsored) by working as a part time RA to pay for her tuition fees and as a tutor to get some money for her living allowance. It was really tough for her, but she made it. Another friend worked as a cleaner and restaurant waitress to supplement her cost of living.
These are just some of my suggestions. Good luck.
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