Challenges of Navigating a PhD while Recovering from Mental Health Conditions by Daeun Jung 

I was first diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety disorder ten years ago. My first reaction to getting the diagnosis was relief. I was relieved that my problems were medically recognised. I was not just “weak” or “lazy” or “attention-seeking”; I felt validated. Then I felt angry. Why did I have to seek validation through a medical diagnosis? Since then, I have been on three different antidepressants, been hospitalised a few times, and gained some scars along the way. At the same time, I have finished my bachelor’s and master’s degrees and worked in four different jobs, which led to last year when I started my PhD programme and joined the world of academia. In this blog post, I will share my experiences of navigating the first year of PhD while managing mental health conditions.

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Coping as a PhD Student During COVID-19 by Alex Wakeman

Prologue – February 2020: Pre-pandemic in the UK

I’ve spent the morning traversing half the length of Britain. The chill of winter hides in every shady corner but is powerfully countered by direct sunlight, resulting in a day of constantly putting on, then taking off, then putting back on my coat. Maybe I’m just restless because I’m on my way to a PhD interview. At King’s Cross I take a smaller, more tightly packed, less ventilated tube along the Victoria line. In the five-minute walk between Victoria station and the location of my PhD interview I bump shoulders with more people than I’ll see in the next ten months of the year.

When I’m ushered into the interview room, I’m informed that the panel of ageing academics will not be shaking anyone’s hands today – just to be safe. I’d like to think that despite my many insecurities, I am capable of admitting when I’m wrong, so I won’t make out like I was some sort of Nostradamus. The amount of people I’ve been in contact with throughout my journey seems normal, not skin-crawling and so the lack of handshaking strikes me as more rude than cautious, I think it’s a little overkill for ‘just some flu in China’. The UK had yet to officially register any coronavirus related deaths, but there had been a few confirmed cases. Two of which had been international students at the University of York – where I’d spent the day interviewing for a different PhD funding scheme just a few days prior.

“Don’t get COVID!” my family joked to me the day before I left for York. And it was a joke.

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