Peers for PhDs is a student-led group to support wellbeing of PhD students at the University of Liverpool. It was initially started by three postgraduate researchers from different parts of the university (including Natasha Bradley, an ESRC funded student). We initially met at personal development workshops and wanted to provide more opportunities for PhD students to network outside of their department. We hosted focus groups with other students, who often described a PhD as a lonely experience. Looking at the published evidence on postgraduate student mental health, it seemed to us that increasing opportunities for PhD students to support each other would be beneficial.
Attending the coaching session led by Will, taught me that it’s quite normal to be derailed amidst a pandemic, and whilst returning to a sense of calm and focus will be a challenge, it’s okay to take it one step at a time, I just need to remember to breathe!
I am a researcher as well as an activist, both of which are not easy to do in isolation. 2020 has been a rollercoaster of pandemics, protests, and personal struggles. Working during all of this has also been turbulent. I have faced difficulties which have included: being ill, home becoming my office space, trying to continue activism from afar, no decent way to print papers off to read, and managing levels and methods of productivity. Reflecting on how I have worked during the first half of this year, I have gone through three phases:
I am writing this like a story, though it could also be a PhD if such things were only meant to be less than a thousand words long. A stretch to imagine, but the story for me begins years ago with a long fascination that groups of humans might be able to make up better lives in better places for themselves. It also has another beginning just over two years ago when I applied to be doing the work I’m now doing. Back then it was to be a study of time and it’s effects on Port Sunlight, but that soon got wider and deeper once I got going with my Sociology MA and began calling it ‘Looking for Utopia’. Which it still is, for now, despite my gathering doubts about whether anything called a utopia is going to be useful in any of the places where people actually live.