It is a question which I’ve asked, since I confronted a nowadays academic reality with my idealistic expectations…

Should I start from expectations or from the reality? 

 What was my vision of being a PhD student? Very traditional one – that I would have a supervisor who would be “My Professor” in the same time, that I would be a part of an institute/ department, that I would take a part in their research, that I could learn based on a master-apprentice model. 

I was also thinking that all people in an academia have similar idealistic approach to their work, that this work is for something, that we should do research useful for society…

And the reality… At my Uni I feel as just “number” in a register of students. Maybe it depends on a supervisor, maybe it is because systemic changes (PhD studies are treated now as 3rd stage of studies after bachelor and master). I don’t know, but I was really disappointed in the first year of my studies that it didn’t look as I had expected. So, I decided to use international scholarships for PhD students an advantage of my studies and confront my reality with other realities. And it varies in different countries, and anywhere is not perfect, but still I had impression that this things which annoyed me at my Uni didn’t exist in other places… Maybe it is because I am engaged type of a person and I like to go into things for 100%, not just pretend that we do things.

During this 3 years, I’ve met a few more “idealistic” researchers as me. It gives me hope, that I am not alone 😉 most of people who I met, treat academic career just as another kind of job… And when I confront my “idealistic” approach with this lets call it “practical” one, I feel like we don’t understand each other. And it is case of my supervisor – I would like to discuss with him ideas, he discusses with me technical details of my proposal, and argues that proposed titles of chapters are too simple for a doctoral thesis… Or when I go to he conference or scientific seminar, and talk with someone, I say – “I like this place, because I can discuss with people with similar research interests” or “It is good that there is interest in this research topic, working on it we can go into discussion with other researchers, we can build ideas…” and someone in the same situation tell me – “it is good that there is interest, because there is no sense to write something if no-one will cite you”…

In such moments I feel like – “all this is not about that”, and I feel lost in the system…

I was thinking a lot about that issue last weeks, I was talking with my Husband, with my Friends, with other people. I was thinking also about my Professor in Bremen, who I admire because she is able to work and realise her ideas within the system. 

What are my reflections, after this weeks:

  • Don’t fight with the system if you cannot change it – it is just wasting energy for being angry
  • Use your energy for constructive work, and do best your tasks
  • Find people in the system who share your point of view, your “idealistic” approach to being a researcher
  • Try to find your place in the system
  • Mark your own “red lines” – define things which you will never do even if people push on you (my Friend advice) 
  • Accept that other people can have a diffrent approach to being a scientist
  • If you feel that something is missing in the system try to organise it in the system by your own with other people representing similar values (advice of one PhD in philosophy from my Uni, who I met on a scientific seminar)

And the most important though – maybe I was asking wrong question all this years… Maybe it is better to ask – “How can I use the system the best to realise my ideas?!”