I have great respect and admiration for international PhD students, more for those who are attempting to do their thesis in another language. Though I myself have not experienced to be an international student but with my discussions in various forums and discussions with friend and acquaintances, I have a compilation of some very pragmatic suggestions for those who are outside their domestic boundary for their doctoral programme.
To begin with, it is truth that doing a PhD is tough and all the more a herculean task when doing from a foreign land. I really hope you never get into a situation where you realise pretty late in your journey that you started wrong. Be cautious in all these areas I suggest:
- Check all the rules of the game: you may have idea about the PhD programme in your country but the system is going to be altogether different when you move to another country. Some countries, like Australia, do not have any course work and the researchers are expected to be more independent in their work. Do ensure, you know all the intricacies involved before you venture out into an altogether unfamiliar zone.
- Absorb the Distinction in the Scholar-Supervisor Relationship in Your New Place: This is more applicable for scholars migrating from the eastern world to the western world or vice versa. While in the eastern world the supervisors are more authoritative and students have to listen to them. On the contrary, in some of the western countries supervisors are mere helping hands and the main decision maker is the scholar himself. There are mere advisors in the journey and one should not expect anything much from them. As a migrating scholar, understand and prepare yourself for what you can expect from your supervisor.
- Overcome the Hurdles of Language, Culture and Writing Style: A thesis is all about writing, about everything from research design, analysis, literature, interpretation and much more. All that you know and learn during your journey is communicated through writing. Where writing a thesis in itself is a task, writing it in another language is all the more a task. You also need to follow the academic style and pattern followed in
- Prepare for Isolation: isolation is a universal experience associated with PhD. Students who have family, friends and acquaintances in the vicinity can still seek their help to grow during the process but in a new and strange land, find ways in which you can deal with isolation and not let it affect your state of mind and sanity. Having individual hobbies such as painting, music or anything that can be soothing to the soul work as great aids.
- Get to Build Networks from a Scratch: we need a network for work, for socialising and for staying sane sometimes. Join communities, hobby groups.. One thing important here is to take initiative. Remember, in a strange land, people wouldn’t come to you, rather you would have to take initiative to overcome the cultural barriers, make friends and do networking. A lot of help can be fetched on the internet in the current times.