Ipoh Boy Journey To The World: Confessions of a Depressed Postgraduate Student - Top 3 Mistakes before Entering Graduate School

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Confessions of a Depressed Postgraduate Student - Top 3 Mistakes before Entering Graduate School

"Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine." By Jack Ma, China successful entrepreneur, Alibaba Founder.

You just finish your undergraduate studies. You are pretty much clueless or you may be one of the clueless one who doesn't know what to do with your life. Everyone around seems to be doing great in finding a new job, moving to a new place and some start their postgraduate studies right after. I was in your shoes last time and I made almost all the right call I could. But, as cunning as I could be, I made the LARGEST mistake, to get into graduate school without much thoughts. By saying it was a mistake, I didn't and don't feel regret about my decision but I could have a better choice. 

Let me tell share with you my track record! 
UPSR: 6 As out of 7 As
PMR: 7 As out 8 As
SPM: 11As out of 11 As
Foundation: 1st Class
Master Engineering Degree: 1st Class
PhD: On the verge of failing

As you can see, I am not a straight As person. There will always be one or two subjects that pull my legs. Now, the point is you can score all the As in the world, IT CAN'T HELP YOU MAKE A BETTER DECISION. Postgraduate, especially Ph.D is not about scoring marks and doing assessment. 

Post(graduate)- means you undertake another advance course after your 1st degree be it a Master or a Ph.D. Before, enrolling any graduate school always always check all the details. In the following 3 mistakes before entering graduate school, you might find some helpful info. 

1) Go to postgraduate school without trying a proper job

Ph.D programme requires high-level of dedication and commitment because the whole process can take up to 3 years or more. As Ph.D studies are very specific and advanced level of the study of interest, it requires that person to be fully specialises in something he/she interests. If you are tied with a topic you hate, I don't think you will enjoy the process. This actually happened to my friend in Imperial College London. He obtained a full scholarship right after his Master Degree in ICL. But after a year, he was so fed up with all the modelling and simulation that he called it quit despite was being paid for handsome sum of stipend.

So far, I can see a lot of youngsters just join the Ph.D programme right after graduating. This is a big NONO because you have yet sought out what fields you truly like. For example, chemical engineering encompasses a great deal of studies involving water treatment, software modelling, weather simulation, reactor design, material synthesis and others. Thus, my advice is to always find a profession that you adore and maybe from there, you can decide what topic to be suggested to your future supervisors. Work at least a year or so to do soul-searching for the right career path. Say, if you want to be an engineer, a Master/Ph.D qualification doesn't help much in pay-increment or promotion. If you want to be a lecturer, Master/Ph.D is a must for your career advancement. 

2) Accept a supervisor without a background check (MY MISTAKE)

Too hasty in accepting a supervisor because of a subject, a scholarship or a grant can also be a killer! Well, this mistake is definitely one of hardest to be spotted because as a fresh graduate, it is so hard to judge a person's characters. Thus, try to ask all the right questions if possible:
1) Does he/she have a grant for your research work?
2) Does he/she have have the required equipment for your research work?
    2a) Does the equipment belong to her/him?
    2b) Is there a charge on using the equipment if it's not his/her? 
3) Does the faculty provide you conference funding?
4) Does the university provide the scholarship or you need to pay for the tuition fee?
5) How many Ph.D students currently under him/her or graduated?
6) How long did his/her Ph.D students take to graduate?

My case was kinda very screw and sad . So far, my current boss is very unreasonable and manipulative! 
A) I am disallowed to use my boss' equipment because my boss worries that I will wreck the equipment. 
B) My boss keeps on exploiting me to do the admin job like drawing diagrams, posters and documentations for his/her own work.
C) My boss checks whether I am in the office like after working hours.
D) My boss creates all the false accusations on me. 
E) My boss even gives me all the wrong guidance in my research work which requires me to do a lot re-work
F) My boss is so indecisive that he/she throws away all words I wrote for 4 journal papers.
G) My boss CHANGES my research topics for 3 TIMES! A year a new topic!!!!!!!

Trust me! Do a background check on your potential supervisor! Now, I am in my final year and tied to my supervisor's control. 

3) Join postgraduate programme despite economically-incapable

There are numerous scholarships available for postgraduate studies but they are hardly easy to get and requires fierce competitions. Some students decided to take loans but eventually they are weighed down by this issue. A recent news stated that a 24yo Malaysia postgraduate student decided to end her life due to depression. One - if you decide to study in another country, you need to cope with the lifestyle and of course bear the living cost as well. Two - language barrier can also be a devastating factor to overcome. Three - if you go to a foreign country alone, depression and loneliness might not be a must but it will be there lurking! I suffered mild depression in UK when my boss and the equipment there gave me a hard time. 

If you really can't afford postgraduate school, take your time and work for a few years because there will always chances for you to continue studying! 

While these mistakes seem to be avoidable, they are not that easy to deal with. Going through so much hardships and disappointment, I still refuse to give up because this is once-in-a-lifetime study for me! There will no longer another higher degree for me obtain. Yet, even after earning this Ph.D (if I don't fail), I will still keep on working hard and find the happiness I want. Here, I hope that my post will be useful for some of you (^^)!

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Emily Tang said...

hahaha partly agree on u
in PhD program too

Ipoh Boy Journey said...

[Emily Tang]
hahahaha too late. Just keep on working!!! I can only say, you can do it!