Currently, I'm working rather manically, trying to fit in all my testing, writing a conference submission, teaching, coding and analysis. Oh, and a life. (Occassionally). When you're caught up in the crazy blur of days where it feels like months ago you last had a weekend, it can be hard to pull apart any individual element of your day-to-day PhD existence as meaningful.
While it's important to avoid full on existential crisis, it can be hard when you're wondering "What's the point?" That's what makes it so important to do something a little different from time to time that reminds you why you've chosen the path you're on.
Part of the reason I wanted to become an academic was because my experiences as an undergradaute showed me how having dedicated teachers can radically improve your learning journey. I am proud to have been (and to currently be) an undergrad and postgrad student in Psychology at the University of Dundee. Our School has repeatedly come top in student satisfaction surveys and all the lecturers work hard to make their courses as engaging and interesting as possible.
One of the most influential experiences of my undergrad though was a residential trip in the January of my third year. It gave me the confidence to push for a First Class degree, to get involved in the School and to make a difference while I was here. Now, as a postgrad, I had the opportunity to go back on the residential, to share my experiences and some of the tricks and tips I learned along the way.
I think we're very lucky to have a Dean who cares so much about student enrichment, and dedicated staff members who take so much time out of their own holidays and put such an increase on to their workload to organise it all.
But for me, going to the Burn (shown in the picture) was one of those moments that allowed me to take a step back and remind myself why I'm doing this.
Of course, research is my main passion, but I strongly believe in giving back. I can't oversell how much attending the residential changed my life. I was all for coasting through my degree before then, and if I hadn't been given the incentive to push higher, I would never have had the opportunities I have now. I also think it's great being able to be useful for something. When I was an undergraduate, there was so much unknown about life after uni. What's a PhD anyway? How can I use my degree for other stuff? How am I going to balance this with all my other goals?
It's why - however much I moan about it - teaching is something that is, ultimately, rewarding. But special cases like the residential are even better because everyone wants to be there. They're all interested and enthusiastic and it makes it a pleasure to talk about how to get into a PhD and things I learned about Clinical Psychology as a career and how I do (or don't) balance family life alongside my degree.
Feeling like I can help make someone else make good choices is hugely rewarding for me, and however difficult my PhD is just now, it's really nice to remember that whatever happens at the end of it, I've had the chance to help some people.