A PhD is not just about researching, reading and writing. It’s often about convincing others (and ourselves) that we’ve made the right decision by embarking on this journey.
Some questions and advice provide help; others not so much (check out the #unhelpfuladvice on Twitter). Ever since I packed my life in two suitcases and flew over to Warwick (oops, Coventry) to start my studies, people, those dear and close to me, as well as complete strangers, have been asking very random questions.
I was curious to find out if this happened to other PhD students, too. Turns out it did. I laughed and tried to answer some of these…
Why are you doing this?
Are you serious? You’re not crazy, are you? No. But don’t recall the library books I just started reading…I might get a bit upset.
Does anyone care other than you? Yes. My supervisor. (But seriously, yes. Just because something is not in your field doesn’t mean it’s not important.)
Why are you researching that? Because it’s important, interesting and I enjoy it.
Why are you still studying? See above.
Not that kind of doctor
So you will be the type of doctor who can save me on a plane? No, not even on the ground, sorry. Although, I’m sure some PhDs are medics/first aiders…
Can you make meth? Errrmmm…Not really top priority in our research methods training.
So are you going to be a teacher/pharmacist? Are you?
Why do you think a PhD means that you can expect that kind of salary? Some fields value employees with PhD degrees; others do not.
How can you become a doctor of philosophy? You don’t study philosophy? No, I don’t (which is good ’cause I’m terrible at it), but that’s the title, love of wisdom and all that. Take it or leave it.
When will you…
Finish your studies? When I pass my viva. And submit the corrections. I’ll let you know when to bring the cake.
Get a real job? Ouuuch…We’re all doing cutting-edge research in our fields. How much more real can it get?
Get married? When and if I see it fit.
Have a baby? See above.
As random as it gets…
How is your pet? They’re all fine, thanks. We’re teaching them to Skype.
What if you come home with a British husband? PhD degrees don’t come with husbands, British or any other nationality, sorry. We have to make a romantic effort, just like everyone else.
Why does your name have an umlaut? Some names have umlaut. Mine has an “s” with a small “v” over it (looks like this: š, and reads like this: ʃ). It’s OK.
You’re a linguist? So how many languages do you speak then? Oh, sorry, you might have misheard, a linguist, not a polyglot. Ask your local semanticist. (OK, now I’m pushing it…)
Ana Kedveš is a doctoral student at the Centre for Applied Linguistics (CAL) at the University of Warwick. She edits the PhD Life blog, based at Warwick’s Research Exchange, where this post was originally published.