Story

First year of PhD: how to begin.

PhD: Doctor of Philosophy, the highest degree that a person can earn.  Its main purpose is to train university research and teaching.

This is one of the most common definition of what to do a PhD means, but how about being a PhD student? Well, that’s much more difficult to explain in one or two sentences; the meaning of ‘being a PhD’ is also different from person to person (an n order degeneration we could say…), so what were you thinking when, after maybe writing a master thesis or after passing a stressful period trying to give as much exams as possible, you have definitely decide to apply to a PhD position?

In my case I don’t really had a choice, in the sense that I knew that I could do whatever I wanted to do (fortunately I’m lucky because I was born in a country that more or less works) but I just didn’t want to spend all my life doing stuff that I don’t like, just because life would be easier that way. I thought that was better to live an intense, irrepressible, strange, unstable life doing what you love, than trying to survive.

So at one point I decided to pack everything, leave my family and friends, pretend to be strong and conformable in a new country (with new rules and new group), and finally start my new adventure here in UCLouvain.

I met my group and started to get confidence with my new tasks. I wake up every morning trying to do the best and to learn something from each single day. I met those who, in a more or less a couple of months, will become my new friends.

Yes, is true, they make you work a lot and you always come back home destroyed, tired and hungry, so you also have to cook dinner when the only thing that you want is to sleep…at this point however you always feel free and comfortable in this new strange part of your life.

The difficulties come when you have to say ‘no’ to people you love.

You are far away from home and, even if you would, is not always easy to get a flight and attend someone’s birthday or graduation day or whatever it is, thus you start losing dates and each date you lose you promise yourself that is the last time, unfortunately it is only a lie.

This is the hardest part of the game, you realize that you can’t split into different parts… you are only a poor, stupid, unreliable human.

But, while you are sad and you hate yourself for being so unsplittable, your phone rings (!) and it’s always the person you thought you have lost forever talking, because basically you don’t lose anything… your friends are still there (in the same place around the world) ready to lift you up when you are down, your family is still waiting for you, but mostly your cat will always be at your door whenever you’ll come back.

So don’t panic, being a PhD could be hard but you are strong; if not you can always find the strength picking up the and calling someone, (better if it is your animal of course), also having a beer with people in the same situation works! If you can just wait, at the end everything is going to be fine.

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