• Abbie Tibbott

Friday Special: PhD Q&A

I’ve had quite a few messages on Instagram asking how my PhD is going, so I thought I’d do a round-up and answer some questions. I also popped a post on my Instagram Stories a few weeks back asking for questions, so thank you to everyone who popped something into my inbox. Instead of writing a post like I normally do, I thought a Q&A would make for a nice change, as I haven’t done one for ages. Also, there’s a post coming on the 23rd March, but then I am taking a short break until after Easter in April. I’ve been posting continuously since my break over Christmas, so I thought it would be nice to take some time away to enjoy my Easter holiday. I’ll still be active on Instagram, so I’ll see you over there!


What do you do every day?

My days are varied! I spend time blogging, researching, writing, planning, teaching, mentoring and educating myself. I don’t have a timetable so I make my own, and I’ve been getting involved in lots of skills-based sessions that are meant to develop you as a researcher. They’ve been hit and miss for me, but at least they’re online so I don’t have to drag myself to campus at random times.

I’m generally on campus four days a week on average, as I spend one day at home watching online seminars, participating in online sessions and taking care of adult things. I don’t mind doing non-interactive sessions in the office, but anything that I have to participate in I usually do at home.


Where do you work?

Due to Covid-19, it’s been hard to find allocated study space that’s guaranteed. My supervisor is generously sharing her office with me, so I spend 2-3 days a week working there. I have my own desk, and it’s a more relaxed environment than working in the library. I also have my own key so I can access the office whenever I need. It’s a lovely collaborative environment, but there are days where I have the place to myself which is also nice.

I’m trying to limit working in my bedroom to Zoom and Teams calls only, as it makes the space seem much more like home, and I sleep a lot better when I don’t bring my work home with me. I still collect books from the library, but only study in there when I really need the motivation. I prefer the silent floor, and capacity is limited due to the pandemic, so it can be difficult to get a seat. If I do feel the need to study there, I arrive early in the morning and have an early finish.


What/how are you teaching?

Teaching requirements and expectations for PhD students seem to really vary! My boyfriend is responsible for several lab students and ‘demonstrates’ lab classes, for which he is paid. I’m not doing any structured solo teaching this year, but I hope to in subsequent years of my PhD, which is normal in my department.

I took part in a teacher training course at the end of January which took two days, as well as a few complimentary online sessions in the same week. It was pretty exhausting doing it all online, but I gained a lot from the course and it’s definitely prepared me for taking on more teaching responsibilities soon. I’m also involved in the department’s widening participation programme and have had the opportunity to lecture to some sixth form students.

I’ve been sitting in on a third year module that’s aligned to my research, and have been contributing to the teaching of that module under the guidance of my supervisor. It’s been a really valuable experience as it’s given me some structure, as well as insight into what teaching involves. I’ve also been doing a lot of reading on teaching higher education, all of which I will feed into my sessions soon.


Do you have a job?

I have a few part-time hustles through the university, and I’m really enjoying recruitment and widening participation roles. I’ve been careful to make sure that I am paid for the work I do as I’m not funded, but I’ve been trying to get involved with a variety of work to bulk-up my CV and LinkedIn pages.

Some things I do are:

- Help to build content pages for university and research sites

- Lecture at Open Days and Visit Days

- Assist on widening participation projects

- Research at an archive part-time for a book project


Is it what you expected?

Pretty much! I’d spent nine months waiting to start my PhD, and have jumped in with a positive mindset and tried to be as organised as possible. It’s great having a community around me, and I’m getting involved with as much as I can.


Is it stressful?

Sometimes, but it’s more the element of balancing my time rather than the actual PhD, which I think is pretty common. I’m someone that likes to be organised, so it’s fitting everything in and still having time for myself that I find difficult. I’ve been enjoying deliberately leaving my weekends free so I can decide on the day what I want/need to do which has been helpful.

I’ve got lots of blog posts on organisation and stress, so I’ll link a few to this one for you to read if you’re interested in how I manage.


Will you write more about your PhD?

This was a common one, as a lot of lovely people are interested in what I do on the daily. I will write more, and I’m thinking of doing a day-in-the-life type of post for one of my Friday Specials in the future. I’m just aware of how varied my life is, and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea of what I do.


What’s your social life like?

Pretty much the same as my pre-Covid 19 MA experience. I have lots of lovely people close by, and I try and physically catch up with people when I can, which is usually on the weekends. I love having friends to stay, as well as seeing my parents, and I’m glad I’m able to continue doing that at the same level I was before.

I definitely don’t go out drinking or clubbing as much, and I think that’s a reflection of Covid precautions, finances and the weather. I prefer socialising in pubs and bars where there’s no pressure to go on a night out, as well as just catching up with friends over video calls at home. Dan and I see a lot of each other, and living on the opposite ends of campus has been pretty manageable, but I am looking forward to moving in together.


I hope you all have a great Easter holiday, as this is my last post to be written and scheduled for this quarter. After my post next week I’ll be back in April, so keep an eye on my Instagram @tibbotttalks_study for updates on me in the meantime.

Happy studying!