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Student Stories

Student Stories

Blogs and vlogs from students of the University of Edinburgh

The many faces of a PhD programme…

Reading Time: 2 minutes

…by Doireann / from Ireland / studying PhD Precision Medicine / 2nd Year

When I imagined the life of a PhD student two years ago, I pictured long days in the lab, no time for hobbies, loneliness and isolation. While the isolation part was proven to be true this year (do we need to discuss why?), this image was shattered quite quickly when I started my PhD last year (thankfully!). One of the many benefits of the PhD programme is meeting a range of people scattered across campus, all united by the programme – who doesn’t need more friends when moving to a new city? Even though I haven’t seen many of them since the beginning of the year, or only have the odd chat here and there to check we’re all alive, being part of a cohort is one of the highlights of a PhD programme (partly due to the high frequency of pizza on such occasion).

One particularly beneficial aspect of my programme is taking several MSc courses alongside research. I can only describe this experience with a quote from the very wise Ron Weasley: “You’re going to suffer, but you’re going to be happy about it.”  This past month has been particularly grim with regards to The Pandemic, and even though learning Python for one of my courses was the bane of my existence for a week, it was a welcome distraction from the current state of the world. I felt very lucky during the national lockdown to have so much coursework to do – which is not a sentence I ever thought I’d say.

As winter approaches and the possibility of a second lockdown looms, life feels very surreal. The beauty of autumn in Edinburgh seems oddly enhanced since everywhere is shut, and we have a lot more time to appreciate the natural world. In particular, I’ve been struggling with motivation with work as everything is so uncertain. At least with a full lockdown, we knew where we stood! Now, every week brings a new set of rules that have become impossible to keep track of and take seriously. Are we doomed to become a society where we just go to work and come home, never to see our friends and go out for an evening meal? This thought has been gnawing at the back of my head whenever I’m coming back from work in the evening, with no prospects other than sitting at home and entertaining myself. But perhaps being cooped up at home in the evenings is a good thing, I keep telling myself; it gives me a chance to play that video game I bought over a year ago (the box is still sitting on my bookshelf, unplayed, but it’s the thought that counts, right?)

For the next month, I’ll be happily getting into the Christmas spirit (November 1st means it’s Christmas!) and hopefully be doing some more productive research. I’ve also got a two week course with the Karolinska Institute, although sadly this won’t be in Sweden. I’m excited for the weather to get colder so I can finally wear 10 layers of jumpers and coats and hats and scarves, and fully embrace the Scottish weather!

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