I am back to business (blogging) and decided to put together this article to share my experience of being an international student and tell the story of how I became more than my PhD. As I am reaching the end, less than 6 months away from my thesis submission, I have been reflecting on the 4 years spent in Nottingham. I honestly could not be any happier of the unique opportunity I was given to. This PhD made me grow professionally and as a person in a way that I could have never envisioned. I have learned a lot about science, science communication and about myself.
A PhD should be an experience that makes you grow professionally and personally!
Either if you study in your own country or abroad please MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR HIGHER EDUCATION. You master/PhD should be a transition from being a school lad/lass to becoming a young professional. You don’t have to make a drastic transition as I did but alternating leisure activities to some more fulfilling ones should definitely be something to invest on. I started all this business after a friend of mine suggested to become more and how participating in more professional stuff could have helped my career. Back at the time, I came across the profile of Samantha Yammine. I looked at her with loads of admiration for using Instagram to share pictures of her daily work in the lab and show the world how it is like to be a scientist on a daily basis. I set up an Instagram account myself and the rest is history.
If social media isn’t your thing, FIND YOUR PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITY and get involved. As soon as I started my PhD, I became a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Society of Chemistry Industry. I attended their events and did stuff for them. I joined the American Chemical Society only recently and I regret not having done it before because their magazine is amazing. I also do stuff for these organisations. I joined the Ambassador Scheme of the Society of Chemical Industry 3 years ago, and I did loads of OutReach for the Royal Society of chemistry. Alternatively, you can write an article about your research or any sciency topic really for their blogs. This is a great way to expose yourself to a professional environment.
People you decide to stick with will make a crucial impact in your life. Surround yourself with people who uplift you, give positive vibes and energy every day. They should encourage you to be the best you can be, support your decision and compliment on your success and achievements. I have plenty of this is my life, some of them are friends I met personally, with others, I have virtual connections because I met them through Instagram or Twitter. Do not stick to those who undermine your value, who question every decision you make and make you feel like you are never enough. They don’t deserve you. Just forget them!
How do you identify your PhD? Work or school. I tend to say work because this is actually a job. I tend to dress professionally and do myself up every day although working in a laboratory isn’t always feminine-friendly. The fact that you have to tie up your hair, wear constantly long trousers, no sandals or open-toe shoes doesn’t mean that you can’t look good. It only takes a lot more time, careful planning, finding the right accessories. But it is possible to make science a lot more fashionable than the stereotypes associated with women and men in science.
Lastly, but not the least important, BE OPEN-MINDED. Leave stereotypes and judgements home. Either if you study in your home country or in a foreign one, try to talk to other people and learn how it is like for them to do a PhD. Listen to people and their experience. Get out from your comfort zone and do new things repeatedly. I would have not learned all that if I didn’t put myself out there and challenged constantly myself and my ideas.
To finish off, shout out to my fave PhD lifestyle bloggers, a daily source of great inspiration:
Julia Ravey, PhD candidate in Neuroscience in London, UK, she blogs at memycellsandi.org
Laura Markley, PhD candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering in Syracuse, NY, she blogs at wastefreephd.com
Shani is a PhD candidate in Medical Engineering in Richmond, Virginia, she blogs at graduateperspective.blog
Emma McKellar an IT student in Austin, Texas, she blogs at emmamckellar.com
Rukia Henry, a PhD candidate in cancer research in New Jersey, she blogs at lifewithrukia.com
Rachel Broomfield, A PhD candidate in Organic Chemistry (like me) in Bath, UK, she blogs at broomfie.blogspot.com
Nicola, PhD Student in London, she blogs at freshscience-nicola.blogspot.com
Catia Bandeiras, PhD Candidate in Stem Cell Bioengineering in Lisbon, she blogs at apulgarita.com
Paige DeGarmo, who finished school but I love her posts on the science behind cosmetics, she blogs at cosmeticcomposition.com