Guest blog post by Dylan Williams “Doing a PhD by distance + Doing a PhD with family”

This is our first in a series of guest blog posts by current PhD students studying at the University of Manchester. These blog posts give a glimpse into the experiences of what it’s like doing a PhD. Dylan Williams is a Welsh-born, part-time PhD student studying as a distance (e.g. in-context) from South Korea with his wife and two young children. He is a student from the School of Environment, Education and Development. His work focuses on the areas of Sociocultural Theory and student autonomy. His PhD thesis will focus upon understanding the English Medium Instruction (EMI) experiences of students on their majors in the Higher Education context.

Hi, my name is Dylan and I’m doing my PhD in-context with Manchester. I’m based in South Korea and I’m just starting year 3 of a 6 year PhD. I’m all done with the training units, and this summer I’ve passed panel. Now I’m at the beginning stages of collecting fieldwork data. Doing a PhD by distance requires a great amount of self-motivation – you need to have the passion to do it and you need to be focused on the end-goal. Take a proactive approach and make sure you are in full-control of your time and your studies. If you do your PhD by distance you are not eligible for any funding from Manchester as you need to be based on campus and a full-time student to be eligible for this. You might however, be able to organise local funding from the context which you are in. This is however something you will have to chase-up yourself.

Being a distance student is something which is to my advantage in terms of not having to up-root my family and also having access to my students. Additionally, I’m quite used to motivating myself as I did my masters also through distance. However, the distance label is not really fitting these days given all the tech I can use to contact my supervisors and cohorts at Manchester. Being in full-time employment and raising a young family, getting time to fit everything in is always a struggle, so in this this case my advice to you is don’t procrastinate – i.e. use any available time for your studies. I think they key to managing a PhD, work and a family is setting yourself realistic goals and becoming organised. In this organisation of your time it’s also important for you to set time aside for your family as well as time for yourself.

What I’ve noticed is that your PhD workload comes in waves of busyness. For instance, in your initial training the approaching due dates of the assignments are busy times. So, be prepared for late nights and early mornings (i.e. burning the candle at both ends). Additionally, pre-panel was a very busy time, but after this I had a break over the summer. Additionally, my other advice is to plan ahead. For instance, my panel was in June and my work term in Korea is March to June, so I knew I’d be busy during term time before panel, so I met bi-monthly with my supervisor for the month of Jan and Feb to get most of the panel written up.

For the journey to progress it requires dedication, tenacity and patience. These are not only prerequisites for your PhD studies, but also for your work and definitely for your family. So, you should maintain an equal perspective on all three if you choose to do your PhD in this way.

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