Don't want to travel



Looking for some views on the following situation.

I am undertaking a funded PhD. My supervisor recently suggested it may be a good idea for me to do an placement overseas as part of my PhD research. This is something that I really would not want to do. The country in question is also not one I would even want to visit. I really don't like being away from home and am at a stage in my life where I cannot spend extended periods away from my family. The thought of having to spend months in a country I don't want to go to fills me with dread.

No travel overseas or was mentioned in the advert for the PhD. In fact, the PhD is very much focussed on the UK which was ideal for me.

Do I have to travel if my supervisor things this would be a good idea or am I completely within my rights to say thanks for the suggestion but no thanks?

Many thanks for your input.

Avatar for rewt

Hi curious_mind,

Tell your supervisor you don't want to go. A PhD supervisor can't force you to do a placement overseas and your concerns are perfectly reasonable. Unless it said in your PhD advert that it was required you should have control over the process.

Though it would look better if you tried to compromise somehow. Maybe a shorter placement or go somewhere else in the UK? Your supervisor probably thinks you will gain something out of the placement and if you can replicate that without months overseas it would make the problem disappear. I did 2 months in a backwater of Ireland in my first year because another university offered to teach me their methods. It was an awful backwater town but it was an amazing methodology crash course that I wouldn't have got at my own uni. Granted I was single with zero commitments.


Thank you for your reply rewt. Glad that I was leaning towards the fact that I could not be forced to go.

I am doing my PhD as an older student. Married with care commitments, a husband who often works away, pets and a mortgage. My single with zero commitment days are long gone!


Hi curious_mind,
Just want to say how relatable this is to me. I was also in committed relationship but without care duty to pets or kids. It made me feel like I had no excuse to reject opportunities (especially a lot of my colleagues were committing to years of long-distance relationship in order to finish their PhD). My main worry was that I'd seem passive and unmotivated to my supervisor, and I was a bit ashamed that I chose the quality of my relationship over my career. I couldn't discuss it with anyone because the general vibe I get from peers only confirms my shame.
Ultimately, as long as it is not written in contract or your programme handbook, you cannot be forced to travel. However, depending on your supervisor, their personal stake in your PhD project, and the exact benefit of the placement, their reaction to your refusal may or may not have a negative impact on the rest of your PhD. It would be great to prepare for that, and suggest an alternative if possible, as rewt mentioned.
My general feeling is that if you wish to stay in academia after PhD, traveling and other sacrifice are more expected, and the conversation with your supervisor may be a little harder.


Thanks AMartian for your reply.

That's so awful that you felt like that.

My days of being able to spend weeks away from home are certainly over. I think a frank conversation with my supervisor is on the cards!

I don't plan to go into academia. I haven't 100% ruled it out but I am doing this for other reasons.

Thanks for those replies. Much appreciated and made me feel better!


Hi curious_mind,
A friend of mine has a similar dilemma at the moment, although for some additional reasons too. She's an international PhD student (luckily on a full scholarship), and she's been told she might have to go to a country in mainland Europe for 4 months+ at some point. Not only is she not particularly keen, but her visa also only allows her to leave the UK for 3 months at a time. I don't know whether travel was in her contract, but she was surprised when her supervisor mentioned it, so probably not. I think she's currently discussing her options with her supervisor, as she entered a pre-existing project partnered with a university in the European country, which makes her position a bit tougher. If your project is something you proposed, I'd imagine you'd have more flexibility to decline suggestions from supervisors.


PheonixFortune. That sounds a very tough position for your friend. I hope this is something she can resolve. All the best to her.

Avatar for Maxxx17

It's a very frustrating situation. I hope you can solve it.