As I mentioned a couple of blogs ago, I’m in Shanghai right now, so wrote some posts ahead of time to keep you entertained, which means I’m weirdly writing to you from the past, imagining a future in which I’m eating tons of noodles. Since it’s a pertinent topic for me right now I thought I’d talk about taking a holiday during your PhD – I’m not referring to research trips or travelling to conferences, which are different beasts entirely (anyone who would like to write a post about this, get in touch! Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is the third holiday abroad I’ve taken during my year and a half of studying so far…and now I’ve written that it kinda seems like a lot. To be fair the first one was a swift city break to Amsterdam and I wrote a poem about a heron while I was there, so it was practically a business trip. The second was a visit to friends in Boston and that definitely was a holiday, although I managed to rack up a £7 library fee while I was away so didn’t completely forget about work – word to the wise: take your library books back before you leave the country.
I suppose, like any job, if you plan a holiday during your PhD, you need to prepare in advance so that things don’t fall apart while you’re away. I think a lot of people tend to feel hugely guilty about taking time off; I know I did and still do. I mean, often if I spend too long eating lunch I chastise myself for wasting valuable reading time. The run up to this trip has been no different. I put a lot of pressure on myself to finish a draft of a chapter before we left and wound up too anxious to concentrate fully, which meant I only wrote half of what I’d planned and as a result I’m probably not even enjoying my tons of noodles properly (I’ll let you know when we return). It’s about 1000 times worse because you’re pretty much your own boss during a PhD and the only person who will suffer is you.
As a Creative Writing student I’m really lucky that I can take my little notebook and pen with me, writing poetry about my experiences along the way (WOW, I just made myself sound like an absolute wiener!) while other people need access to often cumbersome books, manuscripts and websites to be able to press ahead (I do need those things too, just not 100% of the time). But the whole point of a holiday is to relax, and I think that’s a really important aspect of the PhD experience, otherwise we’d all just burn out and there’d be no sweet research outcomes for us to share with the world.
So here are some tips for planning a holiday during your studies, most of which I failed to follow myself, hence almost packing The Collected Letters of D.H. Lawrence in my hand luggage:
- Be realistic about how much time you can take off. A week or two isn’t going to change your research outcomes that much, unless you’re working on some very time-dependent experiments…in which case, don’t plan a holiday until they’re over, yeah? At the same time spending three months in the middle of nowhere with no access to your work may have a knock on effect when it comes to catching up.
- Speak to your supervisor before you book, partly to be courteous – you guys are kind of a team – and partly to get their opinion on whether or not you’re in a position to take a break. I think pretty much all HEIs want to know if you’re out of the local area for more than a week anyway, in case of emergencies; Edinburgh definitely do.
- Give yourself a pre-holiday research goal to achieve so you can put away your books and relax without worrying that you have a huge pile of work waiting for you when you come home.
- If you’re really stressing out about completely leaving work behind, download a few podcasts in your area of interest so you can listen to them while you’re travelling (I can only really recommend poetry/writing podcasts, but the Scottish Poetry Library do a really great fortnightly release and The Poetry Magazine podcast comes out once a month.)
- Take your library books back!
- Erm, if you’re going to China, DON’T try and get your currency the DAY before you leave? Most places have to order it in advance…
Would love to hear your PhD holiday experiences etc. so do get in touch if you want to share anything – you can tweet me @MarianneMacRae, or @SGSAH_, where you can also find updates of all the latest SGSAH goings on.
g2g pack a suitcase now, with less than 12hrs to go until we fly. Lolololololol.
Peace out x