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Studying a PhD in Quarantine: My Experience

Studying a PhD in Quarantine: My Experience main image

By Jaspreet Singh

My name is Jaspreet Singh and I am an international student from Punjab. My experiences of being a PhD student in quarantine have been very unique and something which I will never forget. I had ups and downs, but the support of my university kept me going.

I started my PhD in February and was really looking forward to be the part of the research community at the Birmingham City University Business School. My supervisor introduced me to my seniors and my seniors also made me aware that there is a Mentoring Scheme in which the senior students in the research community help newcomers and give them tips about how to excel in their studies.

I was really excited and happy to be able to learn from the seniors and at the same time meet staff members and ask questions about their own research.

The UK was put under lockdown during March and for me it was shocking. Suddenly, the freedom I had and the goals which I had made for the upcoming few months were looking like an illusion.

In the first few weeks I was struggling a lot, I started showing some signs of anxiety and was finding it really hard to communicate with people online as I am an extrovert who loves meeting new people and having chats with students, staff members and my colleagues. I was also concerned whether I will be able to work to pay my fee for the next semesters.

After a few weeks of hardship, I can proudly say I was supported by my university in so many different ways. One of the ways in which university supported the student community is by giving students access to the Hardship Fund, granting us £200 each during these hard times.

The Business, Law and Social Sciences faculty was very quick in setting up virtual communities like Business Law and Social Sciences Doctoral Research Group and Business, Law and Social Sciences Student Network which helped me a lot to feel connected with the fellow students and the staff members.

The Business, Law and Social Sciences Doctoral College Research Group on the Microsoft Teams was key as being a first year PhD student I was able to access all the information about workshops and lectures in one place, plus was also able to ask questions directly to the most senior members of staff which were also part of this community.

I do miss seeing my seniors and miss their words full of golden nuggets, but the digital community makes it feel easier for me to be in touch with them.

I have one monthly meeting online with my supervisors which has been really interesting and something which I will never forget. I have to say my supervisors are the best and have supported me so much during this time. My supervisors always encourage me to read more widely and would also sometimes suggest me some reading material. For me, this was really motivating.

I also had an online six-month PhD review in which I had to make a 10-minute presentation about the research I have done so far and what aims I have for the next six months with a 20-minute Q&A session. I was really nervous initially as this was the first time I was presenting my work to a panel of academics. I called out for support in our virtual community at the Microsoft Teams and the PhD WhatsApp group and was helped by a senior with some of the very simple questions which I had in my mind. This helped me perform really well in my review and I’m confident that I did really well.

I am so grateful that I was able to work from home to add value to the lives of our international students here at Birmingham City University. I can’t explain how much of a relief this was for myself and my family. I love being a student at our university and simply can’t wait to be back on campus once everything is safe.

The #WeAreTogether campaign brings students together from universities across the UK to share their experience of what it’s like to study in the UK during Covid-19. It is a difficult time for international students right now, but universities are here to support them. Follow us on Instagram for tips, advice, and information for current and future international students.

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