The PhD voice

Thankful for the PhD journey

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Hi all! I meant to write a completely different thing for my PhD related post this week and I’ll save that for the next post, but since it’s Thanksgiving week, nothing is more appropriate than to stop and think about our journeys. So, if you’re reading this post, either if you’re an academic like me or not, stop whatever you’re doing right now and think on the top of your head 5 things you’re thankful for!

Done? This seems a bit self help stuff but in a world where comparison is inevitable at every moment, and even moreso with social media, it’s very likely you may feel down. I do a lot of times too. I often think that I don’t know everything I want about my field of research, I don’t have enough followers, I can’t engage people the way I’d like, I can’t fit in into large groups enough, are you seeing the pattern? This is absolute crap! Whenever I’m thinking one of this very “healthy” thoughts, life punches me in the face and I see that I don’t have that much to worry about and I’m doing pretty well. I could go now and say how awesome it is that I get to live in a free country with a democratic regime, that I have a family and friends, a house with clean water, electricity and sanitation, a good healthcare system in my country, while sometimes we forget all our counterparts that don’t have these goods. It is indeed and you should never forget about this and check all the good things in your life in general! However, I’m going to focus my 5 things I’m thankful for on my PhD journey thus far since it is, of course, a huge part of my life.

1. I’m thankful for learning so much

As I mentioned already in previous posts, I decided to start this PhD (MIT Portugal program in Bioengineering) because, unlike other PhD programs, there is a strong focus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship as I did not want only something purely academic. During the year of classes, I got out of my biomedical comfort zone and had entrepreneurship projects on biofuels and waste water treatment. I learned a few things about the complicated world of intellectual property and how to assess the economical viability of a project, which has been focal for my PhD project now. Throughout this first year of the thesis, I’m learning all about bioprocesses, manufacturing, stem cells, programming in multiple languages, decision and policy making, and the list goes on and on! Sometimes I feel it’s too much but I feel all these new skills will make me a more rounded professional in the field. Also, and since the blog also became part of my life, I’m learning even more about productivity and time management. So yes, despite all the work and confusion that comes into this, I am learning a lot and I only have to be thankful for this opportunity.

2. I’m thankful for having time to learn other skills too

As I said before, this year I got an interest into going to multiple meetups. This was also because of the blog and for learning skills related with it that can also help me professionally too. I went to multiple meetups: women in tech/entrepreneurship, front end web development, programming in Ruby, Technical Writing in English, Intellectual Property to name a few. I also got the chance to learn more about Web Development in Pixels Camp and also about how to deliver presentations where you have to improvise. I also got the chance to volunteer at Web Summit which made me learn even more about what can make or break a startup. Also I just had a Bloggers Meetup this week with awesome Portuguese bloggers and awesome food! So yes, despite all the busyness of a PhD, I still can learn other things that keep me refreshed.

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That crumble was perfection! Check out Doce ao Rubro if you’re in Lisbon

3. I’m thankful for having a support system

During my PhD, I felt that my supervisors have been quite supportive and provide constructive feedback on my work. This helps a lot and I also already had my Thesis Committee meeting, where I had a lot of feedback (and a lot of work ahead to incorporate the feedback too lol). I also feel grateful for friends and colleagues that are willing to help with any question I have and to provide some cheering up, and for my loved ones that are always there for me even though sometimes I can be a bit disappointed for not getting results as fast as I wanted. So yes, thank you!

4. I’m thankful for having time and money to travel

As you know, I love traveling and I try to visit somewhere new whenever I can! After I started my PhD, I had several adventures already documented on the blog. In 2015, I made a very impulsive weekend break to Rome, I went to two music festivals here in Portugal (here and here), had a roadtrip with friends through the North of Spain and had my traditional December weekend break with my boyfriend to Évora, Portugal. In 2016, I started by going to São Miguel, Azores, had my super adventure to Norway  and I won the ISIC Portugal contest to go to Belgium and that’s where I’m heading off to in December! 2 weeks from now, can’t wait! So yes, my PhD fellowship has been more than enough to save money for travel (I know still living with my parents helps even though I help with expenses of course, but when I was living in Aveiro by myself I still managed to save a lot each month). Also, since I have a flexible time schedule, I can sometimes take a day off during the week and, if needed, compensate by working on weekends. Learn more about our vacations regime here. This is something I am truly thankful for, and I’ll keep on saving because the largest adventure of my life is going to come in 2017…stay tuned for BIG news right next…

5. I’m thankful my PhD journey will take me to the place where Thanksgiving began!

You guessed it…in 2017 I’m off to the USA! Yay! I’ll stay there for 11 months and, best of all, I’ll be based in Boston, in the state of Massachusetts. I only learned this year that the first Thanksgiving celebration in the USA was where today is Plymouth, Massachusetts, and I’ll definitely go there to check it out myself. I know next year a lot of celebrations we are used to hear about but not celebrate that much are going to be huge (4th of July, Halloween, Thanskgiving)! In terms of finances this will be challenging because Boston is a quite expensive city and the euro-dollar rate is crappy right now but I can do this. I also already have plans for Thanksgiving next year which involve watching my first ever live figure skating competition since Skate America will be in Thanksgiving weekend and in a city in the state of New York, let’s see if that works out! I have a lot of travel wishes which may or may not involve my bucket list of National Parks. I want all your travel ideas and best things (preferably free) to do in Boston and cheer for me through this journey into the unknown!

Now that you know my 5 things to be thankful for, share with me in the comments what are you thankful for in your professional or personal life! Happy Thanksgiving!

Cátia

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