The good.

Let me start by saying that I consider myself to have had, on a whole, an excellent PhD experience. If I were to meet someone new and tell them about my PhD I would probably come across as one of the people who had a good experience. I had an excellent work environment. I have an enormous amount of respect my supervisor and enjoyed working with him very much. I could not have asked for a better student-supervisor relationship.

I really wanted to do a PhD.

I had a project I was really interested in. I found the work challenging but I was able to work though most problems. I liked the independence. I loved the lifestyle. I got some results that I am proud of. So on the surface it looks likes its all good. Right? Wrong.

I worked really hard in the first few months of my PhD. I did a bachelors degree in advanced science, majoring in physics, with first class honours. After that I took 18 months off to work. I felt pure passion over the idea of doing a PhD.

I am one of those 'annoying' people who at 15 could tell you what they wanted to do with their lives. I knew I wanted to do a PhD. It was that simple. So I really felt energised about returning to study. It took some time to get back into the swing of things. There was a big learning curve as I had no experience at all in atmospheric sciences. None at all. But I was up for the challenge.

I have a great marriage, a very supportive close family and I felt settled where I lived. I found it easy to make new friends. In fact on my first day I meet another new PhD student who turned into one of my closest friends. The type of friend you can see in your life forever. I found community in my work environment. I found community in sport. A second avenue in which I meet a life long friend. These two ladies kept me sane throughout my PhD.

Why it was enjoyable

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my PhD as working with another PhD student and post doc of my supervisor. We all sat near each other and the information exchange between us was amazing. I learnt a great deal from them both.

There were so many small components of a PhD that I enjoyed. When you list them they make you sound a little strange. But they are the type of things that make you look forward to going into work. They are the type of things which makes you think often that your in the right place at the right time. There is nothing else you want to do more than this.

I spent three months abroad, from June-August, in 2013. I went to America to attend an AMS conference. I spent two months at MPI in Hamburg, Germany. I had a brilliant time. I felt like I was still enjoying my PhD when I left Australia. But somewhere along the way I forgot why I was doing it. I forgot how good the lifestyle was because I was too stressed to notice it. I forgot how much I wanted a PhD. I forgot what the point of it was. I found the point of it all again while I was in Hamburg.

I can say without question, that if you get the chance to work in a new group you should do it. Don't expect it to be easy though and it will take a lot of time to organise. My supervisor did not say to me 'Hey Penny want to spend the summer in Europe? I have it all organised you just need to say yes'. No one offered me this opportunity. I made it happen. But who knows what you will get out of the experience. I got something unexpected. It reminded me of who I am and what I want for myself.

Life is good. At least for the first 2-3 years.

Continue to the next part of this blog: the bad »