It feels weird to write that it has only been two weeks since I started my Clinical PhD in psychology. Weird, not because this past fortnight has dragged by, it hasn’t, but because it feels like I’ve been a Clinical PhD candidate for longer than just two weeks. I think it’s because the usual ‘start of the year rites of passage’ happened in fast-forward. Thanks to the many perks of having only two seminar rooms and fourteen people in the clinical program, I already know where all my seminars are held and my classmates’ names.
Another unusual experience is being the youngest, at least in the clinical program. There aren’t many school leavers and I’m the only one of us who didn’t take a year off between undergraduate and postgraduate study. I must admit I was surprised when I realised I was ‘the baby’ of the group. I’m almost always the oldest, though I’m really not much more than a year younger than the other school leavers. It’s a great group, everyone has such diverse backgrounds so we all bring something new to the table.
At this point I should probably explain my degree so you’ll know what I mean when I make distinctions between the clinical (‘practical’) program and my research/PhD. I’m undertaking a Clinical PhD in psychology. Simply put it’s a double degree; a Masters in Psychology (the clinical program) and a research PhD. Traditionally, a Masters degree is two years and a ‘straight’ research PhD is three years. My degree is four years altogether. I’ll submit a PhD thesis rather than a Masters thesis (so mine will be quite a bit longer) but unlike a straight PhD I’ll also complete coursework and 1000 hours of placements. I could have tried to do the two degrees separately, one after the other, but I figured it would be good to get it all done at once in a shorter time frame. It’s also nice doing both programs simultaneously. I have variety and, motivation to make the most of the time I spend working on my research. I’m also finding that each part of my degree; the clinical program and the research, is useful for the other.
You’ve heard a lot about the clinical program, but what about the PhD side of things? There are roughly ten people in that program and most of us are in the shared office where the first years are traditionally placed. This office has several great nicknames, but so as not to make it blatantly obvious where I hail from, I’m going to come up with one of my own: the Nerve Centre. There are eight of us in the Nerve Centre, though I’ve never seen more than four people in there at once. Most of us work from home from time to time or, at other organisations if we have an external supervisor. We each have our own computer, a desk and some storage space. If you’ve ever been an undergraduate student you’ll appreciate what a luxury this is!
There are several other benefits to being in the Nerve Centre. First, I feel more inclined to persevere when things get difficult because there are other people working away beside me. Second, when I’ve reached saturation point, there’s someone to chat to. This really helps normalise those feelings of uncertainty. Lastly, let’s face it, where else are you going to readily find people who get excited by research and the prospect of unlimited printing?!
At the end of the first fortnight of my clinical PhD I can confidently say I’m loving it! And, I have to agree with a very good friend of mine, doing a Clinical PhD is a Pretty Huge Deal.