Rewards from Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

In this post, Walaipun Puengpipattrakul, a PGR in CAL, shares some of her academic and personal development experiences during her PhD study, both part-time/distant learning and full-time on-campus.

Faculty of Arts Buildings, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok.  Photo credit: Peerawat.b

Change is inevitable in life and often perceived unfavourably, since it frequently takes our lives out of our comfort zones.  I used to perceive change as previously mentioned. However, I started to alter my perception of change to be rewarding, particularly when it takes me out of my comfort zone, after a decision to pursue my PhD study here, at the University of Birmingham.  I have had a good opportunity of being back to the University campus again after my first Master’s degree from here, but this time, as both an alumnus and a PhD candidate.

I must admit that studying a PhD together with working as a full-time lecturer is a decision which took me out of my comfort zone indeed.

Due to some particular situations of my workplace in 2012, it was, at that time, not the right time for me to have a full-time PhD study leave in the UK. Instead of perceiving this situation as a crisis or an obstacle to my future professional development, I perceived it as an opportunity and a challenge for me to take along my life journey. In addition to working as a full-time university lecturer in Thailand, I then decided taking a PhD research programme through the distance learning mode. Despite the massive investment in energy and time in wearing two hats of a full-time lecturer and a PhD candidate, distance learning allows me to study anytime anywhere in Thailand where cost of living is less than that in the UK. At the same time, I could carry on my full-time job. In doing so, there are some main points to be considered when deciding to study a PhD in English Language and Applied Linguistics by distant-learning mode:

  • The mode takes less tuition amount but longer time than the full-time study mode. However, in the end, both modes are not so different in terms of education standards and financial investment, I think.
  • The candidates would need more careful time management to balance between their work and study.

With the flexibility of the UoB postgraduate programme, I decided to have my distance learning transferred to the full-time study mode and started on-campus study since February 2018. Being an on-campus PhD student, I have had several good opportunities to attend many useful training sessions to broaden my hands-on experience and have part-time jobs on the campus.

There are also some similar aspects between distant learning and full-time study mode. In terms of PhD students’ progress, the students are required, based on the University’s supervision regulations, to submit the online form every time they have a regular supervision meeting, for example, every other month via Skype for distance learning and monthly face-to-face meeting for full-time study mode. The students’ progress and the supervision are supported and monitored by the departments. Regarding the additional professional development for both distant learning and full-time students, there are departments’ online training courses, summer schools, and postgraduate conferences available.

Are you studying part-time or distance learning?  How do you think your experience compares to that of full-time on-campus PGRs?

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