A PhD Is Expensive. Would You Go for It?

Edwin Antonio Chingate (ESR3)

I’m about to share with you personal feelings from my own journey. Everyone would follow a different pathway, and for some, it could be very different from mine. Even though I think that most people experience some hard times while doing their PhD. In my PhD time, I got good moments after lots of effort, but bad moments too. Moments without any clue about how to proceed, and times when I feel that I’m very close to breaking down.

Since I started my PhD, many things changed, especially because it’s easy for me to hyper-focus on stuff that I enjoy. I don’t have so many hobbies at this moment of my life, and rarely I can stop thinking about my work. Even though some people advise me to relax and try unrelated things, it’s difficult to stop thinking about something when I don’t feel so much progress.

A PhD is very different from all previous academic stages, and it’s not like a regular job, neither. In a PhD you have to study to develop your tasks, and you always find new tasks to do. Most of the time, your final goal is related to things that no one else did before, and you could feel like walking in the dark. You perform experiments to solve questions, and you need to organize those experiments as arguments to support your statements. Everything should be very clear, and easy to reproduce by others that may find your conclusions useful in their pathway.

A PhD is a constant learning process where you define your route. You got support and advice from your supervisors, but you are the one in charge of this project. You will find several moments when you don’t know what’s happening or why your experiments don’t work after putting in that much effort. Frustration will be a constant friend, but you will have to understand that it’s natural to fail and that if you want to achieve your goals, this feeling won’t help. Your only option is to keep trying. You’re performing your research, but your research is shaping you!

Too frequent failures won’t help with your self-confidence. It’s easy to think that you’re the problem for the experiments, that you’re not enough to prepare, or that you’re making too many mistakes. You may lose some self-confidence for a while, but it will return after you realize all that you did and compare yourself with the person you were at the beginning of this journey. Instead, you will get a lot of resilience in exchange, training and keep trying is the only way to proceed.

The way that the PhD system is designed is not very good for mental health neither. A lot of people experience anxiety and depression on their journeys. You may follow your dreams, but one has more requirements in life. In general, salaries are not very good compared to what industry would offer for the same formation. Contracts are not very stable, and you push yourself to get the better result as soon as possible and fit the project’s frame.

A PhD is a step in professional formation but also drives to several valuable products. Society should offer better conditions after that much effort and sacrifice. PhD projects are pushing knowledge barriers in all fields.

I wanted to show you that this is a difficult pathway. As long as I’m going deeper in my research, I feel more admiration and respect for all of those who managed to overcome this before than me, my senior colleges, the ones that successfully defended their thesis, and of course, all my professors since my bachelor until my supervisors now.

Finally, with these words, I would like to promote the campaign #HugaPhDStudentTheyAlreadyLostTheirMinds