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17 Things Only PhD Students Would Understand

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17 Things Only PhD Students Would Understand

No mater what topic you’re researching, there are a few things that many PhD students have in common. Some good, some bad, some downright ugly. How many of these sound familiar?

1. You feel like an imposter all the time

PhDs are something that clever people do. You spend the first few months thinking you’ll start to feel like one of those clever people soon… But you’ll soon realise it never happens and you worry that on graduation day they’ll finally catch you out and refuse to award you your doctorate.

2. You worry that your students will outsmart you

If you wind up teaching undergraduates, you worry that you’ll get a super smart one who knows way more than you do. You practice ‘looking clever’ in the hope that they’ll fall for it. You’re not sure they will…

3. Sometimes you read what you’ve written and find you’re in awe of yourself

You’re constantly in awe of all those amazing academics around you – and sometimes you even find yourself in awe of you! Reading back old papers you’ve written, you find yourself nodding in agreement with the wise sage who wrote them and thinking they sound like they were written by someone really, really clever rather than little old you.

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4. You are addicted to studying

You love to learn. You can’t get enough of it and find yourself wondering what you will study next when you’ve completed your PhD. You’ve been contemplating what your next academic endeavour should be since you were about two months into your PhD.

5. When your research is going well, you get so engrossed you practically forget to draw breath

Eating and sleeping don’t really happen. You don’t hear anything around you, you’re in the research zone and nothing else matters.

6. You go through nocturnal periods

You end up in weird wake–sleep cycles of staying up really late because you’re so hooked on your work, only to crash out and sleep as the rest of the world is ready to start a new day. This cycle can last for weeks at a time.

7. You dream about your research

Especially during your more intense studying periods, you think about your research all day and all night. Occasionally you make amazing discoveries in your sleep and are hugely disappointed when you wake up and discover your discoveries were all just a dream.

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8. You are more likely to quote papers written by people with memorable names

When people have really complicated names that you find hard to spell or remember, you find yourself quoting them less. Consequently you find yourself worrying about how memorable your own name is and whether you should rebrand yourself to maximise your impact factor.

9. You know where all the cheapest coffee shops are

You’re living on a super skinny budget but you need coffee and you need to escape the lab or library pretty regularly or you’d grow hysterical so you head out for coffee. You know where to find the best, cheapest coffee. You don’t go anywhere without your coffee shop loyalty cards and you work your day around coffee happy hour.

10. You know exactly where all electrical outlets are located in all the cheapest coffee shops

Once you’ve arrived at your favourite coffee shop, you head straight to the seat where it’s not too noisy, there’s plenty of natural light and there’s a socket to plug in your computer. You know exactly where this perfect spot is located in at least three different coffee shops.

11. You know more than anyone in the world about one teeny tiny thing…

When it comes to your research niche you know more about it than anyone else the entire world. That’s really kind of cool.

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12. …But you’re the only person who cares about that teeny tiny thing

So no one else cares about this teeny tiny niche you know inside out and upside down. You discover this every time you try to talk to anyone about it. Most people just look overwhelmed and under-excited whilst some people look outright bored.

13. You bore even yourself sometimes

You’re pretty sure that by the time you’ve finished writing your thesis, you’ll never EVER want to talk about your research topic ever again.

14. You get really excited if your research topic is even tangentially relevant in every day life

It doesn’t happen often, but the once or twice in your entire life that you feel your teeny tiny research niche is relevant to every day conversation, you feel like the king of the world.

15. Your idea of fame is being quoted in New Scientist

Or the equivalent for your subject. You dream about it happening some far off day when you’re really clever and well published and everyone is hanging off your every word. It could happen…

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16. You can’t wait to be called ‘Doctor’

You’ve secretly rehearsed calling yourself doctor. You tell everyone you’re not doing a PhD for the title or credentials but rather because you are deeply passionate about your subject. But as the end draws closer you cannot wait to be called doctor and will insist that absolutely everyone uses your proper title – and rightly so. You earned it!

17. You have no idea where your life is headed

You dream of graduating but you have literally no idea what happens next. You figure that you’ll work out what you want to do when you grow up at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Featured photo credit: MacBook Pro by VFS Digital Design via flickr.com

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