There are three weeks left until my PhD viva, and my stress level is rising every day.
Two weeks ago, my viva prep kicked off slowly, but I have now read four general viva guidebooks as well as re-read my thesis. The guidebooks are helpful, and it’s nice to read many different variations and stories. The format of the viva seems to vary depending on the institution, discipline, country, and even each case. Strangely, I started feeling as though I was losing my grip on my viva, and I realised it was time to ask my supervisors or a colleague for some advice.
This week, my supervisors and I started talking about my viva. They gave me advice on what will be included as well as what WON’T be included, which is exactly what I wanted to know. They then suggested that I should concentrate on my strong points and achievements, not on potential problems. The best vivas are, they said, interesting conversations among experts flagging new insights and challenges for research.
I also talked to my colleague, and she left me several voice messages telling me about her viva experience and giving some tips for me.
By asking my supervisors and colleague, I eventually amassed a tsunami of advice and awareness about what I must focus on. They reassured me that everything will be all right.
To have advisors is really a blessing, and I am grateful for it.
When the right time comes
Since May, I have worked on two other research projects, which will keep me busy for a while. These opportunities have given me a chance to learn corpus linguistics and a couple of forms of coding software. I really enjoy them!
It feels weird that I started using analysis software after submitting my thesis, which I analysed manually in a traditional way. When I was writing my thesis, I didn’t have much capacity or space to seriously learn how to use research-related software. Familiarity – and the ability to solve technical problems – doesn’t happen instantly, and it was an obvious disadvantage for me.
But now I can clearly see many advantages of analysis software. I think I was so blind to the bright side of using comprehensive tools, worrying about losing time for learning, and focusing on only one thing. Worrying makes you blind. But I understand that being focused was inevitable during the study. We open our eyes when the right time comes.
What I realise now is that I didn’t need to worry about the future either.
In April, in the midst of the pandemic, I had no vision of what might happen after I obtained my degree, and three of my job applications were unsuccessful. I felt like I was staring ahead at some long, dark months, and I felt I had lost my way. But the feeling didn’t last long. In May, several pieces of good news came in, and before I knew it, my healthy and positive mindset returned.
How did it happen? I just said yes to every small opportunity that came my way.
During the dark period in April, one of my Japanese friends offered me a coaching programme that he had established. This greatly assisted me in seriously thinking of and discovering what makes me truly happy. I tried a coaching programme for the first time in my life, and to be honest, I was surprised to find that it actually worked!
Again, to have good advisors is truly a blessing.