Viva Survivor – One Student’s Experience of Completing her PhD

Symond

Eloise Symonds, Educational Research, Lancaster University, 2017 Cohort.

When I first started my PhD, the word ‘Viva’ would send chills down my spine; it sounded terrifying. I never thought I would be in a position to defend my work against two experts in the field.

But as the three years went by, so did my doubt in myself and my research. When it came to the day of my Viva, I remember pacing back and forth in my room avidly talking to myself about my own research. It was quite a sight; if anyone had been walking past the window, they might correctly surmise that I was on the edge of a breakdown. But, the Viva was not as terrifying as that prelude may suggest; when I got into the room with my examiners and I sat down, I felt excited. I couldn’t believe it, but here I was, looking forward to discussing my work and defending everything I knew to be valuable and original to my field. The examiners were not trying to trip me out or catch me out, much to my irrational brain’s expectations, but instead they were interested. They wanted to know more; they wanted to hear me talk about something they knew I was passionate about from reading my thesis.

As the Viva went on, I forgot it was an assessment; we were laughing, there were jokes being thrown back and forth and there was healthy and insightful debate. Dare I say it, but it was fun! When you get to the point of taking your Viva, so many PhD candidates, myself included, forget that at that moment, you are the expert in your field. You are the one who is providing the knowledge to interested listeners and it becomes, not a pressurised assessment of how much you know, but a rewarding discussion of all that you care about.

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