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It ain’t over till it’s over – Reflections on the Postgraduate Research Journey

Author: Kate Green   18th April 2016
Guest Post written by Federica Jorio PhD in Education and Communication Sciences


foto - F.JorioI was in Coventry on April 4th for a challenging and intriguing “experiment”: I met 8 doctoral students from Coventry University @ Jaguar Centre to talk about our situation of “being Ph.D. students” – even if I completed my doctorate last autumn, I still feel like a doctoral student.

It was a joint journey, made possible with support and conceptual supervision of Dr. Katherine Wimpenny from DMLL, ant the help of Ria Gibbison. We all met for a couple of hours and, starting from an introduction on the institutional differences between Italian and British doctoral “systems”, I proposed my autobiographical experience as Ph.D. student to invite the participants to share some pieces of their actual and current situations.

From bureaucratic to emotional issues, we started an, however brief and auroral, conversation on disciplinary boundaries and possibilities, on finding our own voices in our research, and in relation with our topics of interests. Slowly breaking through the shyness, the strangeness and the novelty of the meeting, we started to discuss our potentials as researchers: our positions as individuals involved by the research and our, sometimes unseen, influence and power when strength and meanings seem lost.

I felt we all, as Ph.D. students, with no specification of disciplines or institutions, need to find a place where to share our stories, which are in some way, the autoethnographies of an intellectual and existential journey as the doctorate is. Some questions arose during the meeting gave me the feeling that meaning is a central dimension to not give up against the worries and difficulties.

The meeting was perceived as a good spotlight, and the expectations of the participants seemed to confirm the need for sharing on a more regular basis, through dialogue, interactive and self-explorative narrative activities. If doctorate is very often perceived as a very lonely experience of the individual, I think that finding out that eight very lonely individuals shared the same curiosity for the proposed session is a good start for building up a community of destinies and a support group to share knowings and visions.

This meeting wasn’t intended as an occasion in which to find answers or solutions, or provided survival handbooks. It was intended as a crossroad of a complicated journey where to stop and give legitimateness to (sometimes silent) voices who interrogate reality and want to meaningfully and passionately keep on walking into research pathways.

For this reason I can happily say that probably some participants were puzzled because the session wanted to problematize rather than reduce the “doctoral issue”: the meeting was, so to say, a metaphor for the constant uncertainty and the fog we often live by as researchers and travelers.

It was the first step to rethink our personal positions as powerful Ph.D students, and to engage in a never-ending journey of transformation as the doctorate can and should be.

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