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I want a PhD too!

I was already 15 years into my career in international relations when I suddenly realised how many doctors I knew - not the medical kind, but ones with the letters kind. Almost overnight (or at least it seemed like it), people at work were putting 'Dr' in front of their name, or 'PhD' at the end of it. I knew that I wanted the same, but was not sure if the timing was right for me. There was always another meeting to go to, another task to complete, and another promotion to land.

Finally, after a year of ignoring the lure of going back to university, I finally decided that the work could wait, my PhD could not. It was one particular event, really, that tipped the scales in favour of pursuing a doctoral degree. There I was at a meeting, when colleagues practically fawned over this person (who had a PhD), taking his suggestions as gospel and his word as truth. The ironic thing was that I had made the very same suggestions two meetings ago, and received no reaction whatsoever.

Then it hit me. It was not that this person-with-a-PhD was more knowledgeable than me; it was just that he was validated, whereas I was not. And so I set out to seek that validation.

Deciding to go to Sheffield was not difficult. In the Research Assessment Exercises for 2008, Sheffield ranked joint first with Essex for Politics and International Studies. I had lived a short bus ride away from Essex during my undergraduate days, and fancied something different. Plus, Sheffield was the place I first went to school, way back in the 1970s, and my sister was born here.

The hard part was finding a supervisor who would take me on. The British Council told me that, unlike applying for an undergraduate degree, PhD students should find a supervisor first and then apply to the university.  Three years later, I am now at my journey’s end, ready to return to my career, and ready to be fawned over when I open my mouth at meetings.

Shazelina Abidin, PhD Student (Politics)
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