Blogs are always difficult to start, and often feel pretty self-indulgent and narcissistic – this weird notion that people are interested enough in your day-to-day life to take time out of their day to read about your thoughts, feelings, and the mundanities of your work. However, in the process of applying for and starting my PhD, I really struggled to find any people talking openly and honestly about the day-to-day experience of PhD studies in the UK. I’m a first-generation student from a working-class background, with me and my brother the first in our family to attend higher education, and me being the first in the family to go on to postgraduate studies – so there was even less information available to me. I didn’t know anybody in my personal life who had gone onto do a PhD, so there were so many questions I didn’t have answers too, and I couldn’t find anybody on the internet talking about this.
I’m currently in the final stages of writing up my thesis for submission for my MSc in Social Science Research Methods at Cardiff University, on the cusp of moving into the PhD phase of my Wales DTP ESRC 1+3 PhD. I started my academic journey at Aberystwyth University with a BSc in Business Economics, before moving to the Institute of Development Studies for my MA in Globalization, Business and Development. Throughout my studies, I was involved in running the Aberystwyth University Economics Society and various committee roles in an amalgamation of sports teams, as well as working as: a subway sandwich artist, a pet store colleague, an international student recruitment assistant, a finance assistant, a entrepreneurship NGO in Kosovo, a gym assistant, a project manager at an NGO for entrepreneurship education, a research assistant at a Bosnian think tank and a business and entrepreneurship teacher at an international summer school. I then worked at Oxford Brookes Business School as a research assistant for the Centre for Business, Society and Global Challenges for 1 year, where I was involved in research (obviously), teaching and coordinating the Oxford Human Rights Festival.
Throughout my time at OBBS, I realised I wanted to continue with the research I had been conducting throughout my undergraduate and masters – focusing on how young people in the Western Balkans transition into employment, and what a ‘successful’ school to work transition looks like for them. So, I applied for my PhD with a proposal surrounding this idea, focusing on Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo as I had worked in these countries, and my two dissertations for my BSc and MA had focused on these countries – plus, I was learning the local languages already. I interviewed for a few, was accepted for a few, but Cardiff University was both able to fund me, and I felt a stronger affinity to my potential supervisors than in other places based off our mutual research interests. I’m somebody that deeply struggles with commitment, never staying in the same place or job for too long, so finding a team of supervisors I felt confident enough to commit four years of my life to was definitely a big step to take. So, I packed my bags, moved all the way to Cardiff, and started the (1+) part of the ESRC programme in the midst of the global pandemic.
The 1+ consisted of completing an MSc in Social Science Research Methods (SSRM), which involved extensive theoretical and philosophical teaching surrounding social science – which was completely new to me, as someone who had mainly been in business schools and development studies prior to this. To say it’s been a challenging year would be the understatement of the century, and there are definitely many things I would change and improve about the SSRM training, but overall – I feel like a more competent and theoretically grounded researcher now I’m coming to the end of it. I’m an incredibly practical person who is still learning to see nuance and think of a world outside of the teachings of neoclassical economics and the business school bravado, so undertaking the SSRM allowed me to gain an appreciation for the study of the nuances of the world, and the various creative and outlandish methods that researchers use to uncover knowledge within the social sciences. Will you ever see me undertaking an ethnomethodological investigation into the science of waiting for the discount stickers to be put on the fridge produce at my local Tesco Extra? Maybe not. But it has pushed me to a greater appreciation for qualitative research, where my SSRM dissertation involved interviews rather than large surveys (one day I’ll get my interview data into a pretty graph!).
Outside of academia, I’m a self-employed freelance consultant – I basically help various NGOs and charities across Europe with their social entrepreneurship education training material and deliver workshops and courses on social enterprise as and when people want me. I also work zero-hours at the universities COVID testing centre – it’s an excuse to leave my house and speak to people outside of my PhD programme, and I really enjoy the time away from ‘academic work’. In my free time, I’m really into fitness – I do weight training and running in the gym, recently completing four half marathons in a month to fundraise for Remembering Srebrenica Wales, who I sit on the board for as the Education Lead. I run the Youth Ambassador programme for Remembering Srebrenica Wales, working with young people across Wales to fight the denialism about Srebrenica, and educate other young people on what happened at Srebrenica, and what is being done to fight for justice. I’m also an Ambassador for the World Summit Awards, an organisation centred on technology-driven social entrepreneurship to combat the UN SDGs, where I attend in-person and virtual hackathons and summits in both a mentorship and juror capacity, occasionally hosting events for them too. I really enjoy cooking and baking too – trying to veganize my favourite foods (Italian and Turkish) and bake protein powder into anything chocolatey. I am also really into reading – however, I am very lazy with it and trying to get better! That does mean I have some very aesthetically pleasing bookshelves, and arguably, that’s halfway there to being a ‘readingluencer’ or ‘bookstagram’ or whatever it’s called!
So now, as I write this, I’m in the final stages of the SSRM – I’m finalising the write up of my dissertation, and relentlessly drafting and redrafting my work until I feel ready to send it into the world (like a parent sending their child off to university, but I’m just submitting a word document into Turnitin). I’m hopefully planning to publish a few pieces from this dissertation during the first year of my PhD (check back in a years’ time and we’ll see if that happened), and come October, I’ll be officially a fully fledged PhD student. I’m planning to ‘blog’ at least once a month, about the day-to-day mundanities of PhD life, and anything else I think is relevant, interesting, or worth sitting down for an hour to write 1,000 words or so about. I’ll also be sharing blogs I write for other organisations on this website too, as well as other professional things – essentially, this website is becoming a portfolio of everything going on in my life, because LinkedIn is so last year.