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Diving into the final stages of your PhD or uncharted territory

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Diving into the final stages of your PhD or uncharted territory

Salaam, in the name of God.

I wrote bits of this entry quite a while ago. Bits of it were added in yesterday and this morning.

Being at the final stages of a PhD means that you are about to go into the deep end or another way of putting it (inspired by Emily Slade’s song that she sung in college this afternoon) - you are about to climb another hill. Going to (your) uncharted territories.

It is an uncharted territory, because, after four years, the scaffolding that has been put in place by your supervisor comes off and you are on your own.

It is an uncharted territory, because, you are entering the unstable and competitive job market.

It is an uncharted territory, because, you do not know what is next.

Lectureship? Research associate? Who knows?

The world is your oyster, but would immigration and visa block your way? The world is your oyster, but would your skin colour and hijab get in the way?

But then, what’s another hill if you’ve climbed a mountain (Credits to Emily Slade who sang this verse in college yesterday afternoon)? What’s another valley if you’ve gone to the deep end?

The scaffolding is almost gone; the supervisor has taken pieces of it off you when you start owning your research topic.

That’s perhaps the reason why someone who I’ve just met recently told me that he was surprised to see me so relaxed despite the fact that I am submitting my thesis soon.

I think I look relaxed because:

a) I have a brilliant supervisor who slowly took off the scaffolding without me realising it.

b) I have moved the viva and thesis submission to my drive cycle, rather than letting it simmer in the threat cycle. I’m pumping dopamine into my system rather than norepinephrine.

c) I am taking care of my well-being by doing the things I love on top of my research. It may be taking a day off to do some singing, or spending time with a friend or reading.

d) Or maybe, this relaxed demeanour is just a facade. It’s just me blagging. Nothing more than a mask I put on to tell myself, everything will be fine. After all, fake it till you make it, right?

Regardless of whether it is options a, b, c, or d; as a Muslim, I also believe in the concept of “rezq” (loosely translated to provision). The concept states that, what’s meant to be yours by the grace of God, will be yours. No matter the circumstances.

I am excited on finishing up my PhD, but I am also terrified because I do not know what’s next. However, I know I will be in good hands, because God wouldn’t put me in a situation that I cannot bear and He will provide, even when the odds seem impossible

UPDATE: Mark laughed when I mentioned I did not realise that he has slowly been taking off the scaffolding until recently. 

Hamizah Haji-Haidi (@AmyHeidi) is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge. This story was published on June 20, 2018, on Hamizah’s blog, Reflective journeys of a doctoral student (available here), and has been republished here with her permission.

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Published on: Jun 26, 2019

PhD candidate at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
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