Here's my story. I moved from my home country to the UK in October to start a PhD in the UK with lots of excitement and positive expectations. However, what I discovered once I started was that the division I am in had never funded a PhD project before (they focus on professional doctorates), the environment is not a research one (I share the office with lecturers and tutors, apart from another PhD student who won my same scholarship) and my main supervisor, although supportive, is at the uni just for 3 days per week, has never supervised a PhD and has not a PhD himself (he has the professional doctorate). My second supervisor does have a PhD, but follows me very occasionally, since she only takes care of the 20% of the supervision.
Therefore, since the beginning the experience has been very isolating and not really stimulating. In addition, for various reasons, I have changed the theme of my original project and since then I have the sensation that my main supervisor is not really interested in this, even though he says he is. Also, he has no particular expertise in the specific subject I am doing research on he is generally very busy.
Moreover, I am doing clinical research and I have to face many logistical difficulties, such as the fact that the hospital in which I should work in is quite distant from the uni and basically my PhD depends on lots of people whose sudden disappearance may lead to very big problems.
As a result, I am now approaching the 10th month and I haven't done anything yet, apart from having started the literature review the draft for a survey. I find myself thinking about quitting quite often in this period, but I am terribly concerned about the possible consequences: even if I quit I still would like to purse a PhD somewhere else, but what are the odds of getting any other scholarship after having quit one?
What do you guys think?
Thank you very much in advance.
Have you spoken to them about how you feel? It might not be clear to them that you feel isolated. How does the other PhD student feel?
The only thing I would say is that all supervisors are busy, you won't see them every week, and you will be generally left to your own devices (regardless of their experience). My supervisor has been in the academic system so long he doesn't have a PhD, although he has supervised many. He is constantly busy.
I don't know what the chances are of starting again, can you transfer to another institution? Or talk to your existing institution about your experience? Are you due an annual review after twelve months where you could discuss these issues?
He knows I feel isolated, but I guess there is really nothing he can do to fix it. And of course I can't create my own research environment in the division.
I haven't spoken about quitting with my supervisor because I think that once I tell him he would definitely lose interest in the project, so I am taking some time to think before doing anything. The problem is that I really don't know what to do. I moved to the UK because I thought I could have better opportunities compared to my home country, but I think I ended up in a quite peculiar and difficult doctoral experience I am afraid that the fact of having already obtained funding is going to prevent me from having any other opportunity if I quit. Also quitting would have a very big impact on my psychological well-being, since I do not see myself as a quitter and I would totally feel it as a personal failure, despite all the variables that I have told you.
I can't transfer to another institution, since I am funded by my department.
It's really hard being away from home and I expect that is contributing in a massive way to how you are feeling. It will get easier, but it takes a lot of time. Do you have many real friends in the UK? If not, try to join as many things as you can either within the university or in the place you live.
I think if you feel better about other aspects of your life in the UK it will make it easier to continue with the PhD, even if it does not turn out to be the experience you expected it would.
It will make it more difficult to get another funded project if you have quit one.
Would it really be that harder to obtain new funding?
I have made a couple of friends, yes, but I still lack a proper group since most of the people I have met are MSc students who are going to leave in a couple of months. The fact that my division has no other PhD students (and is not funding any other next year) of course doesn't help.
It may help if you focus on making or seeing friends who are not connected with your PhD or the university. That is what I am doing, since I haven't really become friends with anyone at all at my university (because I live too far away to be there all the time, and because I am older than the other students and they really don't see me as part of their group). I don't think my experience is unusual for a PhD - it would be nice if it led to a close group, but I think it very often doesn't, so you may need to concentrate on having friends outside of the university.
Put it this way, if a big part of your motivation to change university is to get a close group of colleagues, then this is not a guarantee with any PhD - I think it is more common to feel isolated. I only started to feel better when I realised this and started making more of an effort with my social life away from my PhD.
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