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A Realistic Day in the life of a PhD Student: A Day on Campus

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Those who keep up with Student News may have seen my (a first year theology PhD student) day in the life post and TikTok, which documented a typical day off campus as a remote student working on my research and fitting that around work and socialising. I thought it’d also be useful to document what a day looks like when I am on campus too, and how I choose to utilise my time there as it isn’t as frequent as a typical student. My morning and evening routines are often no different to my previous post, so I won’t repeat that – check that previous post out for a full picture!

10.30am – 11.30am – The Journey

My commute to campus takes around an hour (train schedule permitting!), and I often travel around this time so that I miss the morning rush hour, whilst still arriving on campus as early as I can to get a full day in. If I am blessed with the luxury of a table seat I may do some laptop work on the journey, but it’s equally as likely that I’ll sit back and enjoy the journey with a coffee and a podcast.

11.30am onwards – Time on Campus – Events, Library, Lunch

Every campus day looks slightly different depending on what I need to get done. On the day I’m documenting, I arrived on campus after a walk from Oxford Road station and was pleasantly surprised to see that the student union was holding an event that I was really interested in. I often try to check out the union as there’s always something interesting going on, and on this day there was an art print sale where I picked up some great pieces for my flat at a really reasonable £4 each. It was great to see so many other students checking it out too and was a pleasantly surprising way to start my day on the bustling campus. I’ll be sure to pop my head in more often when I’m around to check out similarly interesting events.

I then ate the lunch I’d packed in the picturesque square outside of the library before heading into the library itself. I was keen to get my hands on some books amongst the vast collection that the library holds, particularly older copies that I cannot access online. Using the scan feature on the printers I made digital copies of multiple book pages I needed for my research and settled into a desk to get some work done. As much as I can be productive off campus, at home or in cafes etc., there is something particularly motivating about working at the library on campus surrounded by fellow working students. It was a productive few hours!

3.00pm – 4.00pm – Supervisory Meeting

I will often plan my days on campus around obligations such as meetings with my supervisor. Whilst I often get these done by zoom, I try to make one meeting a month an in-person one. As typical meetings with my supervisor go, we discussed my research progress, what my current focus has been since the last meeting and what my findings and queries have been. We will then set goals for the next meeting and schedule that in based on our upcoming schedules. These meetings are always very reassuring and a vital help in my progress, feeling particularly productive after an in-person chat.

5.00pm – Heading Home

After briefly popping my head into the library again post-meeting for some more books, I headed for the train station at this time in the hopes I would miss the rush hour madness. As my days are often more structured and productive on campus, I find I can mark this time as the end of my working day and can confidently head home to wind down feeling pleased with what I’ve achieved – an important rationale to have when you are solely responsible for your study schedule. Again, if I am lucky enough to get a table seat on the journey home (which I unfortunately didn’t this time) I may do a little more laptop admin with the hour of travel ahead of me, but after all the library time a day on campus gives me, it isn’t always necessary!

A day on campus can look always look a little different depending on my to do list, what obligations I have, and what events are going on. However, no matter the schedule, I always make sure that my trips have been ‘worth’ it as a typically remote student – that my journey was worthwhile, and I ticked as many boxes as possible. I certainly felt like this day was worth it and that I utilised campus in the ways I should be whilst I am lucky enough to have access to these resources. I hope this was helpful in giving a contrasting insight into my days on campus compared to my days working remotely. A combination of the two is what makes my PhD happen, so I hope any future or existing PhD students took something useful away from this!

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