Lessons from my Ph.D. experience part 2.

People always talk about having support systems and their importance; I 100% agree and support
this. However, when you are an introvert who struggles with anxiety and is an international
student, building a network can be challenging. When I started my Ph.D., I thought I would be the
girl with many friends and a diverse network, but that was and is not my reality. My support
system currently comprises my family, and a handful of friends spread across the world, and that
works for me. My support system includes people in my office I can talk to when I am struggling
or need to vent. However, none of these people are in the same research group as me, and only
one is in the same department as me. Nevertheless, that is okay because, in their way, they
provide support for me when I need it and vice versa. A support system is an essential part of
getting through grad school, but your support system does not need to look like everyone else\’
support system.

I have also found that Twitter is such a useful tool for finding people who understand your
struggles and can celebrate your successes with you. I love the community of Ph.D. students and
just academics in general that I have found on Twitter because they remind me that I am not
alone and that this is merely just a phase in my life.

Over the last few years, I have learned so much about myself due to the pressure of the Ph.D. It\’s
interesting when you think about it, and if anyone asked me how I have made it this far, I would
honestly have to say, \”I have no idea\”, and that is the truth. There is no \”one size fits all\” rule for
completing a Ph.D. and overcoming the accompanying challenges. Everyone has to figure out
what works best for them and stick with it. The best advice I can give anyone is, be kind to
yourself. This experience is a marathon, and you have to pace yourself in every way. You have to
intentionally take care of yourself and be kind to yourself when things don\’t go the way you
planned. If you genuinely love what you do, then you should always remind yourself that the
goal is not just to finish. The goal is to answer a question, advance the research, and solve a
problem. It does not matter if other people are sprinting across the field. Your jog will get you
there eventually. You deserve to play in the game with everyone else, and you are doing a great
job even if you cannot see it.

Ultimately, a Ph.D. is an experience, but it is also just a part of your life. It is not your whole life.
You might buy a house, get married, lose a loved one, have a child, have a falling out with a
loved one, etc. The list of things that may or may not happen while you are in the phase is
endless, but they can happen, and that\’s just the way life is. When these things happen, don\’t give
your Ph.D. priority over everything else. Remember, it is a part of your life, not your entire life.

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