What is it like to do a PhD?

PhD Fellow Maria Obojska has given her answer, after working on her dissertation at MultiLing for more than two years.

Maria Obojska (Photo: Nadia Frantsen / UiO)

Maria Obojska (Photo: Nadia Frantsen / UiO)

Photo: Nadia Frantsen, UiO.

So it happened – I applied and I got the job!

After a four-year break from the University, I was going to quit my ‘job-for-life’ at a Luxembourgish bank and start a PhD project on Multilingualism in Polish Families in Norway at MultiLing. 'Studies again? Wasn’t a 5-year Master already enough?' 'A PhD in Sociolinguistics? What on earth is that anyway?' were the reactions I got from most of my bewildered friends, colleagues and family. Today, I am almost at the end of this amazing adventure, writing frantically while the deadline for submission of my thesis approaches fast. So what has it been like to be a PhD Candidate at MultiLing for the past 26 months or so?

Allow me to summarize the experience into a few neat points.

  1. Illuminating. After my long break from studies I definitely had a lot to catch up on, especially as I was about to conduct the first sociolinguistic study in my life. Luckily, I have had help from colleagues, access to all possible resources one can think of, and was lucky to be able to work with two amazing scholars as supervisors.
  2. Not as lonely as one might expect. A PhD in humanities is allegedly a very solitary journey, but in my case it hasn’t been, really. The MultiLing community has welcomed me and offered support from day one. I believe over the past two years, I have not only been able to meet great professionals but also make friends for life.
  3. Testing. Let’s be honest – moving, leaving people behind and starting from scratch again is a big test for friendships and other relationships. But I guess the ones that survived are the ones really worth it anyway.
  4. Extremely challenging at times. As a newbie to the academic world I couldn’t possibly have imagined all the aspects of thesis writing process. Of course, I knew I would need to collect data, analyse it and eventually write it all up. What I was not fully aware of was for example that finding people happy to be interviewed (multiple times), stalked on social media and bugged (also literally) with recordings of their family life might not be such a piece of cake. Not to mention all the intricacies of the publication process, which can become a nightmare if you write an article-based thesis!
  5. Rather cool anyway. I mean, who gets all the freedom and independence to decide what they will work on for the coming three years (and how they will do it) while at the same time having a secure job at a very diverse and international workplace?
  6. Essentially fun. When you think of all the tasks my job involves, there is really no place for boredom or routine. An important part at the  beginning of the project was of course recruiting participants and collecting data – meaning meeting a lot of interesting new people and getting to talk to them at length about their experiences of multilingualism and migration. Then there is the process of analysis; looking for patterns in the data, learning to use software and discovering analytical heuristics. And when this is done, the work (sometimes also the one in progress) can be presented, either in a written form, which involves lots of writing, editing, revising and at the end, hopefully, results in a publication;   or in a spoken form, which allows you to travel to conferences, meet fellow researchers in the field and exchange with them. And all of this, of course, comes with lots of reading and studying in between. A multitude of tasks at its best!
  7. Sometimes stressful. Juggling all these different things can be tough at times and every now and then you feel stressed. To be honest, the more so, the closer the deadline for submitting your thesis is! Will I be on time? Will I have published (most of) my articles? Will my work be accepted by the evaluation committee? Well, I will know quite soon – eight months to go!
  8. Tremendously exciting nevertheless. Over the course of the past two years, I have had the possibility and privilege to meet and work with some extremely inspiring people, not only at MultiLing itself but also while participating in five international workshops and nine conferences. Not to mention that I was also able to be involved in organising one workshop and one course myself!
  9. Intense. See previous points. There is a lot happening in the life of PhD Candidates at MultiLing.
  10. Not always easy. Sometimes you get stuck and frustrated, sometimes you make mistakes, sometimes your papers get rejected. And this is when it is especially important to have supportive colleagues who will not only be able to cheer you up but also help you out academically.
  11. Great! All in all, it is the most rewarding job I have had so far and the friendliest workplace I have experienced!

This is what being a PhD Candidate at MultiLing has been for me, others may of course have experienced it very differently. After all, this journey is very individual and everyone takes a slightly different path, so experiences will differ accordingly. Anyway, I am almost at the end, which means I have little time and actually need to go back to writing right now! And, if I may, please keep your fingers crossed for me.

By Maria Obojska
Published Feb. 20, 2018 11:30 AM - Last modified Oct. 14, 2019 4:46 PM