Tag Archives: student experience

Postgrad Student Blog: The not-so-obvious choices

Postgraduate study is a lot more than the degree itself: it’s also a chance to understand the universe, and yourself, in your own unique way, says UC postgrad student Dr Sriparna Saha.

It is often said that pursuing a PhD is a matter of choice, and I couldn’t agree more. It has almost been a year since I started my second doctoral degree at the University of Canterbury. Whenever I have been asked how far along I am in my PhD journey and responded with 1st year of my second PhD, I have seen the look of incredulity on peoples’ faces ending with the same question each time, “Why.”

Why indeed?

It indeed is hard to justify choices to people when things are viewed from a lens of social norm, of things that one is expected to do, or career paths one is expected to follow. Even in academia, conformity lies in pursuing a postdoc as an independent researcher immediately after finishing up a postgrad, and keep at it till one lands a tenure track research position.

What, however, is not obvious is that there may be people who want to experiment and pursue careers that lie outside the spectrum of the obvious.

Academia is replete with stories of how the persistence to pursue a non-obvious career choice is seen as a sign of abandonment. But where amidst all this conformity is the space for the self, to bring in our other non-science passions and interests into the research we care so much about?

This is what I tell people.

While I loved cooking rocks in a highly prestigious experimental lab to understand how continents formed about 4 billion years ago, I felt restricted when I couldn’t bring my art, my interests in writing, storytelling and teaching to the lab.

It took me a while to realize that the postgraduate degree is a lot more than the degree itself. Of course you eventually become an expert in your field, but most importantly, it is an opportunity to understand the universe in your own way.

As with most other things in making life choices, the value of the postgrad degree is relative to what you want to do, and what it is that other people use to judge your version of success. It truly is about learning skills that inspire you each day to enquire and understand the world around you in different ways.

When I look back, I feel fortunate to have worked with people who have given me the space to make these not-so-obvious choices, and supported them no matter what.

At the end of the day, it is not about making it easy, but finding the niche, that space where every challenge can make you realize the value of pursuing your dreams.

This article was first published on 7 September 2020, on the UC Science Blog.

Dr Sriparna Saha is a 2nd year postgraduate student in GeoEducation at the University of Canterbury, where she is using Digital Storytelling for Volcano Risk Literacy. She has a PhD (2019) in Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences from Rice University (USA), where she used experiments to understand the origin of continents. She feels strongly for communicating science and art and is continuously looking for innovative ways to blend the two.

Come along to the Change Direction Postgraduate Expo (10-17 September) for a range of information sessions where you can find out more about postgraduate study options and pathways at UC. Check out the timetable and register free here.

Mid-year welcome and Orientation+ online induction modules

If you are a new UC student, check out this orientation information to help you get settled in and started on your road to success: 

Orientation+ online induction modules
Complete UC’s Orientation+ online induction modules before Monday 13 July to make sure you’ve got all the essential information you need for your first year of study at UC. There are five modules and topics covered include an introduction to UC, studying at UC, wellbeing, the UC community, and safety and security. It’s easy to get started and each module should only take 5-15 minutes to complete. Access the modules here. 

Mid-year Welcome – you’re invited
Completed the modules and want to know more? Drop in to our Mid-year Welcome Hot-Choc Social. This is an opportunity to meet support staff, student mentors and other new students over a cup of hot chocolate and biscuits.

Date: Tuesday 14 July
Time: 6pm – 7pm
Venue: Community Engagement Hub, Room 108, Rehua Building

UC Student Blogger | Learning to respond to fear of failure

Receiving your exam results might be a cause for celebration, or a chance to reflect and think about your next steps. There is a range of support on offer for students, including practical steps you can take if your grades were not what you were expecting.

UC student blogger gives their personal experience of addressing their feeling of failure and how to manage this as part of your journey to success. 

“Everyone has experienced failure at some point in their lives whether they’re open about it or not. When I failed a paper in my first year of university, I thought I’d never get over it and that it was going to ruin the rest of my time at university. But over time I learnt to accept and let go of the feeling of failure I used to feel every time I saw the big ‘D’ on my grade page. Of course, learning is never linear, and it won’t happen overnight, but here are a few things to remember as well as some resources to check out that might help you on your own personal journey of managing the fear of failure at university.

Failing is part of learning. 

First of all, failing is hard. At best it can be uncomfortable and at worst it can be painful. It can lead to questioning yourself and your abilities, a lot of self-doubt and feeling like you’re not good enough. However, something people often forget is that failure is a huge part of the learning process. The important thing about managing the fear of failure at university is remembering that everyone struggles with failure at some point, regardless if it’s at university or sometime later in life. Some of the most successful and inspirational leaders of our time – like Barack Obama for example! – have struggled with failure. It’s how you learn from failure that’s important.

Learning how to respond to it can be an important part of success.

Responding to the fear of failure is hard for everyone and can sometimes feel impossible. The trick is to break up responding to it in small, simple steps! Firstly, sit down and write a list. What have you learnt from this experience? What would you do differently next time? What do you need to work on in the future? Answering these questions will help you give insight into what your next steps should be.

There is also a huge variety of support that can be found at UC for free that you should definitely take advantage of:

  • The Academic Skills Centre offers free workshops on everything academic from essay writing, note taking and exam preparation skills. And if you think you need some one-on-one time with an expert that can look over some of your work with fresh eyes, you can book a free 40-minute appointment with a learning advisor at Academic Skills as well!
  • Student Care offers free counselling services that are definitely worth checking out if the fear of failure is taking up a lot of mental space and you just want to talk to someone about it.
  • Student Advisors are on hand if you’re struggling with your courses or degree, and you need some expert advice on what a better fit for you and your interests could be.

Failure and defeat are not the same thing – keep your learning progress in context.

It’s important to keep in mind that failing isn’t the end of the world. Treat failure as a learning experience, no matter how uncomfortable it feels, and don’t let it defeat you! Also try and remember that getting over the fear of failure doesn’t happen overnight and will take some time. Cut yourself some slack and keep chipping away at the small things you can do to learn from the experience which you’ll benefit from in the future!”