To PhD or not to PhD

My friends and family might say I’m obsessed, but I simply say that I love Australia (although they may be right…). Ever since I lived in Adelaide for my master thesis for over half a year, I have been wanting to go back. There’s simply no other place like Australia. So, when I was waiting to hear whether I would get a permanent position at NIOO-KNAW, I also started looking for other jobs; Down Under.

My initial plan was to find a research assistant position. I liked working as a research assistant, and not to brag, but I think I was pretty good at what I did. So, I applied to some positions, all without even making it to the interview stage. One of the biggest hurdles when trying to get a job in Australia is the visa… Unless you already have a visa, it’s really hard to find a job, because this often means that the employer has to sponsor you for a visa with working rights. I will never know, as I never received a reply to my job rejection response emails, but I like to think that this a big reason as to why all my applications were unsuccessful.

One day, I was scrolling on Twitter when a Tweet caught my eye:

Marine plants (!), environmental stress (!!), plant-soil feedbacks (!!!), in AUSTRALIA?! How amazing!! This perfectly combines my expertise and interests! But wait, what? A PhD position?! That was not the plan.

The thought of doing a PhD had crossed my mind before. But during my time at the NIOO, I had seen so many people struggle and get burned out because of their PhD. That’s something I definitely didn’t want. And being pretty perfectionistic, I knew I would be capable of falling into the trap of working too hard, and too much for too long. I mean, I had done it before during my Masters. Let’s just say that when people start asking you whether you are okay, because your face is as pale as a polar bear and the bags under your eyes are about to touch the floor, you know something is off.

I decided not to apply, but the Tweet kept popping up in my mind at random moments: “Is a PhD something for me? Should I do this? The project does sound pretty perfect… But leaving everything I have behind to move to the other side of the world?”. I was super excited and scared as fuck at the same time. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to write an email and see from there. The project sounded super cool, but good supervisors are also key to making your PhD a nice experience. I wanted to meet my potential supervisors first. A couple of weeks later, after having some long internal discussions, I decided to update my CV and send an email with my application.