So you’ve accepted your place, now what? If you’re anything like me, you’re not going to be ok with just chilling over the summer. I’m going to go ahead and assume that if you’re starting a PhD you probably love to be busy. If you don’t, get ready for a shock.
I’m quite bad at relaxing. This sounds like one of those awful answers to a job interview question where you say your biggest weakness is that you’re a perfectionist, but in reality it’s probably something to do with my overwhelming awareness of my own mortality. Knowing I was starting a PhD in September seemed huge and scary to me and my coping mechanism for huge and scary things is to trick myself into thinking I am in control of them.
Sorting my accommodation took most of my summer, so that kept me occupied, but knowing that at some point I was going to have to sit down in front of two experts in my area of study and tell them my plans for this research project I had proposed was, let’s say, somewhat present in my mind. So I started preparations: jotting down notes of thoughts, chapter structure ideas, and possible case studies for my project. It made me feel so much more in control and less overwhelmed by the huge task I was about to undertake.
The summer period (if you choose to start your PhD in September/October) that separates the time of your PhD offer from your induction is a great time to get a head start on your research, but with absolutely no pressure. You can actually read the books you want to read! And I mean actually read them, like you would a novel, not that awful skimming you’re forced to do as a researcher. You can take a book to the park on a Sunday, and feel excited to embark upon a new life as a postgraduate research student. You can explore your local library, set up an Amazon wish list, or treat yourself to a new book or two to show off with a cute plant in your latest #shelfie.
Enjoy this time to get to know your subject area a little better, and read at your leisure, because you’re about to get really busy.