• Abbie Tibbott

Friday Special: Things I’ve been doing outside of my PhD

As much as my life revolves around research and teaching, I do (surprisingly) have a life outside of university. I work long hours, pick up paid employment on the side and spend too much time at the library, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a healthy work-life balance. After the stress of the second half of my MA due to Covid-19, I wanted to be intentional about having a life outside of working and being able to enjoy my twenties. I’m really privileged to have the opportunity to do my PhD, and do it at the university which started it all for me, but I also believe that it’s important to enjoy your life as well! In this Friday Special, I’m going into detail about some of the things I’ve been doing outside of my studies.


1. Learning German

I wrote about this in my 2022 resolutions blog, but I have been keeping going with it consistently. I’m using Duolingo, and although I know it isn’t a substitute for actually speaking German with other people, it’s a small commitment that I enjoy every day. For me, when learning a language, reading is definitely the easiest and speaking is the hardest, so by concentrating on the reading and recollection element, I’ve found that I’m making decent progress. I’ll always do the minimum recommended time, but Duolingo has been getting me through train rides and waiting around for appointments. It is more screen time, but I convince myself that it’s okay because I’m learning something.


2. My blogs and Instagram page

Working on my website and blogs provides a welcome relief from academic literature at times. Although my writings are non-fiction, I view blogging as a creative exercise that allows me to write in an informal way. My Instagram does the same thing, just with photos and in a quicker format to construct.

I was getting haphazard with Instagram posting during the summer, as I a) wasn’t studying, and b) I was low on content as I was working so much. I didn’t want to move away from a #studygram format, so I just didn’t post as much. Towards the end of 2021 I took a decisive break from social media, as news about the pandemic was everywhere and I was sick of hearing about it. However, I made the decision to start posting regularly again once I started spring semester and it’s become part of my daily working routine. Around mid-morning, I take a break from my work and post to Instagram, and it doesn’t feel like a chore that way. I also decided that I’m also only going to post when I’m actively working on campus, which removes the pressure of trying to post every day. Typically, that’ll mean that I’m posting around four times a week, which is a nice level for me.

My blogging and website building is a time commitment, but I believe it’s time worth spending. I’m essentially creating an online portfolio of my creative work, as well as developing tech skills which I hope will boost my employability in the future. For the few hours I dedicate each week, blogging gives me a welcome break from PhD study.


3. Planning for the future

This currently involves hunting for a flat, researching energy companies and WIFI deals, as well as thinking about moving dates, furniture and decoration. Moving in with Dan will mark the first time we will be living without other people, and honestly I’m so excited to leave that aspect of university behind. I’ve been lucky with halls this year as my flat mates are lovely, clean and quiet, but I don’t want to do it again. I feel like I’m too old, and I want to have some real control over my space and make it feel homely. I also want my own kitchen and living room, and not be relying on other people to keep a space clean. I moved into halls as my PhD was organised at the last minute, so I’m looking forward to getting our own place in the summer.


4. Gaming

I want to preface this by saying that I’m not competitive and that I don’t play online, but I’m really enjoying using my brain while playing PC or PS4 games. My consoles and TV are all things I saved up for and bought myself, and are definitely not essential for university life.

However, I find sitting and watching Netflix very mind-numbing, and it often wastes time meaninglessly. While playing games, I get to spend quality time with Dan where we have a lot of laughs, hang out in our comfy clothes and use our brains for something other than work.

I have been playing Sims for a few years now, but have recently got into the Assassin’s Creed franchise too. I also play a lot of Animal Crossing on my Switch, which I find super relaxing. I do try and limit the time I spend gaming so it doesn’t take over my life, but it’s a low cost activity that requires minimal effort, and it’s better than vegetating in front of Netflix every night.


5. Reading for fun

I do a lot of academic reading, and during my MA I hardly read any fiction at all. After I finished my course, I made an effort to pick up more books and read in an evening. I have a kindle, so I’ll often read a chapter before bed or when I’m waiting for something to cook. I definitely don’t read in the volumes I used to when I was a teenager, but a few chapters a week fills in some time. I’ve been enjoying the Bridgerton series, as well as the Poldark books. I used to read a lot of classics, so I’m going to download some for free and see how I get on.


Honestly, this isn’t the most exciting list, but it’s important to remember that I actually don’t have that much time outside of my PhD and paid work, so all these activities help me to do sensible things with my time. I of course spend time relaxing, shopping and going on date nights, but the things I’ve talked about are low-cost and low commitment, which is important as I have to be flexible with my time. On top of this, we are still in a pandemic, which is why I haven’t booked trips or a holiday. I’m just biding my time until the world is in a better place.

Happy studying!