Out of the (Academic) Loop

This post is by Danielle Satterthwaite. Danielle is currently a PhD student in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

Starting a PhD is always daunting.

But, what about starting a PhD after years working away from the University? What if you are officially out of the (academic) loop?

It was a few  years ago when I graduated with my undergraduate degree and over two years since I got my masters. I had wanted to carry on in academia at that time but the right opportunity wasn’t there so I went away and worked (which was handy to get finances straight).

For two years I worked full-time selling chocolate (so it could have been worse). But, I still wanted my PhD. It took time and the relentless scanning of all the projects available but eventually my patience was rewarded. I found a project that seemed to fit well with what I wanted to do. Frantic reading ensued in order to understand the topic better; an e-mail sent to the supervisor to introduce myself and then the online application. There was nothing more I could do then but wait and hope. For the next few days all I thought of all the other ways I could have phrased my application, and all that other information that I could have included, isn’t that always the case?

Then, after what felt like an age (actually 10 days) I receive the email offering me an interview. Because of availability issues I was interviewed by Skype. Not ideal. But it went well. I’m back. The start of something wonderful. I’m a PhD student at last.

But this is when the doubt creeps back in.

I feel like I’m starting a new school. I feel as though everyone else knows each other whilst my peers have all graduated. Even those who haven’t come straight from another degree course have been working in their academic field for the last few years.

It’s daunting and overwhelming and I feel like I know nothing. An imposter.

I have to remind myself that a lot of people here must be feeling just as nervous as me. I tell myself to smile and talk to people. It’ll be OK, and with some more reading I can get up to speed.

Now I nervously wait for that first meeting with my supervisors, the one when they’ll expect me to understand the science again…

But, will I remember it?


2 thoughts on “Out of the (Academic) Loop

  1. Hello Danielle,

    Yes! You are going to be fine.

    Nervousness is commonly seen among PhD students since everything looks new and infinite things are going around which makes the situation confusing.
    With the passage of a few days, you are going to feel just as one of them. PhD journey is stressful but also exciting and an excellent opportunity in life to show our acquired skills.

    Best of luck for your studies!

  2. I can completely relate to your post!
    Imagine being out of the Academic loop for 10 + years!
    I must say that adjustment has not been easy but eventually, it happens. The most challenging part I find is switching “thinking gears” where theory and practice both take a central role. Working through all the knowledge out there can also be overwhelming.
    All the best!

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