Spotlight on: working and studying

In talking about the experience of a PhD, we sometimes forget that a PhD is not a homogeneous experience.  For many students, a PhD is only one part of their life, balanced with family, work or other responsibilities.  Anna Maguire Elliott, a PhD student in the Department of English, was kind enough to talk to us about her experience of doing a PhD and working.  She provides tells us a little bit about how she manages, some advice for people doing the same, and some training sessions that have been particularly useful.

If you’d like to talk to the Hive blog about your experiences or any resources that we should feature, let us know at: researchhive@sussex.ac.uk

Could you introduce yourself?

I am a final year, full-time PhD student in American Literature and my research is an ecocritical approach to the female-authored domestic novel.  Basically, I’m interested in how writing set within the home contributes to, and challenges, the literary construction of the American landscape.  In my other life, I work part-time in the American study abroad sector as an academic programme manager, helping US students coming to study in UK universities for a semester or a year.

What are some of the challenges of juggling work and study?

A shortage of time, tiredness (I also commute), and fitting in friends and family.

What are some of the benefits?

Strangely, having little time makes me quite focused on my studies.  I enjoy my job because it consists of self-contained tasks, which are a good brain break from research.  Work allows me to interact with other humans on a more regular basis, too!

How often do you come to campus?

I’m in the writing up stages now so I’m there less frequently but it was roughly 2-3 days a week.

Have you attended many training sessions? Have you found any particularly helpful?

I attended the most in my first and second years.  I got a lot out of the writing sessions: I am most definitely a Liz Sage fan! Also the Building your Academic Web Presence Using Social Media session with Catherine Pope gave me the confidence to get a bit more twitter active, which led to some networking, which in turn spawned a symposium.

Do you attend many conferences/events around your subject?

I attend about 3-4 a year.

How do you stay motivated?

I really enjoy my research and feel glad to have the opportunity to pursue it, plus work gives me structure so I’m fairly motivated.  When I’m in a writing slump I like to play loud music and dance around my desk (but I try to do that at home – not recommended in the office).

What advice would you have to those embarking on a PhD and working?

Keep your work and study boundaries as clear as you can (not easy with current technology meaning you can check e-mail, access databases, video call, etc from anywhere).  Sleep when you can – I am now quite good at power naps on the train.  And remember you’re not alone: the number of students who work is increasing.

 

 

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