Epilog Sebuah PhD

Assalamualaikum (may peace be upon you) and good day!

It had been a while, since I last wrote here.
(well, not really a while though, it had been 4 years since! haha. Time flies so fast....I'm sorry that I was so consumed with my PhD for the past few years).

Anyway, recently someone asked me to share about my experienced of doing a PhD. Is it easy? To be honest, I was'nt sure how to answer that....but I'm pretty sure, it was not easy at all. Haha. It takes me almost 4 years to complete.

So, I have been reflecting overnight, thinking of what had been happen to me throughout these challenging four years, and what I could and I should have done to make things better.

So here are 9 points coming out of that overnight reflection. Hope this would be useful for anyone embarking on a PhD journey. Enjoy!!

1. Supervisor
Paling critical, choose supervisor wisely. Kalau boleh sv yang expert dalam bidang tu, kalau tak expert, tapi dia understanding, boleh dibawa berbincang. boleh guide.
Ada good networking, so bila kita ada masalah,dan sv pun tak boleh settlekan masalah kita, dia boleh direct kita kepada kawan2 dia yg expert bidang tu. Dan kalau boleh sv yg tak busy sgt (yg banyak jawatan), nnt dia busy kita susah nak jumpa. Dan doa byk2 sv kita sihat, panjang umur :)

2.  Financial resources
Saya tak tau research bidang lain, tapi research saya memang banyak pakai duit. Untuk kos sara hidup, Alhamdulillah, saya dapat SLAB dari UIA. Boleh juga apply MyBrain. Untuk kos penyelidikan, saya kena apply research grant. Ada byk research grant contoh.., LRGS, FRGS, ERGS (dari KPT), dan EScience-Fund dari MOSTI. Bincang baik2 dgn sv untuk memohon geran ni, sebab sv yang kena apply kan on behalf of you. Ada sesetengah sv memang dah ada geran, which is good. Tapi biasanya geran ni dah ada specific topic. So, the good thing..you dah tak payah pening2 nak fikir topic apa nk buat. But the not-so-good thing, tajuk tu mungkin tajuk yang you tak minat sebenarnya tapi terpaksa buat. So there is a plus-minus point of that.

3. Tajuk: Do what you love, love what you do.
Like I said, sometimes sv dah ada tajuk, dah ada geran...tinggal buat saja. If that co-incide with your interest, Alhamdulillah, boleh sujud syukur,  rezeki sgt tu. But often it does'nt. Bila kita pilih tajuk/bidang apa nak buat, we are talking about something that we will be doing for 3-4 years, sometimes 7 years. It's something that you have to put your heart into it..and you have to be continuously motivated to do it throughout those years.. Susah nak put 'our heart' kalau tajuk tu kita tak minat. Dan lagi satu tajuk tu mestilah RELEVAN DAN SIGNIFIKAN sepanjang pengajian sampai kita viva. Lagi bagus kalau relevan dan signifikan saympai 10-20 tahun akan datang. Sebab saya teringat, ada sorg pensyarah cerita kawan dia ambil PhD, masa tu Pak Lah jd PM. So dia buat research tentang Islam Hadhari in Malaysia. By the time dia viva 3-4 year later, Pak Lah dah tak jadi PM. Examiner tanya satu soalan je yg dia tak dapat jawab..."What is the significance of this study? Its not applied anymore..". So choose your topic wisely, topic that you love doing, but also relevance and significant.
4.  Research gap 
Nak cari topic, boleh juga mula dgn literature review. Cari review paper biasanya kat title dia tulis "A systematic review ...", take a look at the paper's discussion, conclusion part. They will highlight research gap that require further investigation. If you can find several papers of 'systematic reviews' and identify common research gap reported in these papers, that will be awesome. 

5.  Responden (sampling)
Responden pun sgt kritikal jugak. Paling convenient kalau responden kita student undergraduate/postgraduate kat universiti. Kalau tak, kena plan betul2, how to get access to them, how to recruit, where I can gather these respondents.  Do I need any permission to interview/collect data from them. How long would it takes to collect all data? In my case nak recruit participants pun ambik masa. Dah recruit, under inevitable circumstances, drop out pulak. Bila follow up, email , whatsapp dia..dah tak respon. So bertabahlah....kena recruit lagi, Drag masa lagi. This is normal. So choose your respondents wisely.

6. Don't judge. Stay humble.
I could'nt say this before, because I'm not in a position where people would heard me. Now, that I..at least unofficially have passed my PhD, I hope I could be heard now.. (at least thats what I thought  :') haha)

Quiet a few times, I heard there were people boasting over how good they were at completing their PhD within a short period of time (within 3 years or less). While it's good to GOT (Graduate On Time), it does'nt mean those who could'nt  make it are less competent.
Although I do my PhD quiet relatively short too (3.5 years-which is average I think), but I have equal respect to those who did it in 5, 7 years . (I think I respect them more because not everyone could withstand this stressful journey that long )

Because for me PhD is highly individual experience. We have different objective, different respondents, different area. No two PhD research are the same, and hence we are facing different kind of challenges. Not to mention personal life challenges throughout the journey e.g. losing of love ones, divorce, major accidents, suffering from cancers, pregnancy complications, depressions, financial problems, anak sakit etc. which in some way effecting their research.

I remember I went to a conference in KL somewhere in November 2014. During coffee break I met this lady, who I shall call kak Mas (not real name). We were having a random chat over our research, which also include typical most-heated question "akak dah semester berapa?". I dont remember her exact semester but I still remember when she told me her semester, I have this thought in my mind.."oh lamanya".

Little did I know what she had been through.

After coffee break, we went to separate parallel session, and I met another friend, who I call Kak Zam

Kak Zam: Jumpa kak Mas ya tadi.
Me: Haah. akak kenal dia ya.
Kak Zam: Kenal..kesian dia, last year dia accident satu family..and husband dia meninggal. Dia & anak sorg selamat, tp badly injured. Tu baru baik tu lepas setahun..
Me: oh..kesiannya (I was speechless 😥...To recover from that tragedy, and to continue pursuing your PhD, she was a strong lady indeed. I truly impressed)

Lessons learnt: we dont know what these people have been through that make them taking a longer time to complete their PhD, so dont judge.

7.  Its okay to cry
My PhD, was like a roller-coaster journey. When my paper is accepted in ISI journal, I felt so happy, an optimistic that PhD is doing well. I was so confidence that I could finish within the 3 years timeframe and got GOT.

But that does'nt last long.

My 6th semester was a pitfall.I lose control over my own research, my application does'nt work. My experiment does'nt work. Some respondents whom I hardly recruited..drop out.
and there are other complexities that build up on top of each other that was just overwhelming.

I can't help but ..I cried. A lot. I completely lose control over my own PhD. Nothing that I do is working. I'm running out of time. I'm running out of money too. I was devastated. Saya sedih sgt. saya menangis. Dalam solat saya menangis, dalam doa pun saya menangis. Saya call mak saya minta tolong doakan saya..saya menangis lg. Saya tak bagitau ayah saya sbb saya malu nak bgtau saya kena extend. Saya tau harapan ayah saya pada saya tinggi, so saya tak nak kecewakan dia. Saya jumpa supervisor, cerita masalah saya..dan saya tahan konon tak nak nangis, tapi bila sv ckp "saya faham ape yg kamu lalui" sambil pandang direct dalam mata saya,  saya tak tahan sebak, saya menangis jgk. Sy ckp "Dr. tolong doakan saya. Saya rasa susah sgt ni. Saya tak tau dah nk buat apa..". Sv sy ckp "Sy selalu doakan. Memang PhD mcm ni. Ada orang susah kat awal senang di akhir, ada org senang di awal susah di akhir. In your case akhir2 ni je susah skit, tp sy percaya kamu boleh buat."

8."Kau takkan dpt PhD atas usaha kau semata-mata"
Lepas jumpa sv sy balik rumah, saya muhasabah diri. saya sedar..saya ade sikit ujub. rasa diri bagus sgt. "My research is doing well. I'm good". Rasa ape yg sy capai so far smua atas usaha sendiri. 

tapi tidak. saya lupa smuanya dari Allah dan berkat doa mak ayah. 
Saya menangis mohon Allah ampunkan saya sbb saya ujub. Saya doa minta Allah tunjukkan jalan keluar dari kesusahan yg saya lalui. 

Saya teringat kwn saya bg tips, kalau kita rasa susah cuba bagi sedekah dlm jumlah yg kita jarang bagi dalam keadaan biasa, dengan niat "Ya Allah mudahkan urusankan ku, sebagaimana aku telah mudahkan urusannya".

Saya buat. 
Alhamdulillah, akhirnya Allah ilhamkan jalan keluar pada saya. Saya dpt jumpa org yg boleh tolong saya. Alhamdulillah...
Things are getting better, and I able to submit my thesis about 3 months afterwards. 

and on 14 Dec 2016, I passed my viva with minor corrections. 

Syukur, Alhamdulillah. 

9.Apa maksud doktor yang difalsafahkan? 
Saya teringat saya ada terbaca satu blog tentang Prof Abd Rahman Embong (UKM). Prof tanya pada pelajar-pelajar beliau yg berjaya tamatkan PhD. 

"Apa maksud doktor yang difalsafahkan?"

to which one of his supervised student answered..

"Jangan angkuh, jangan sombong, jangan pandang rendah pada orang lain".

...I agree. 

# sekadar perkongsian
# tiada niat nak show off (learn it the hard way already 😅) 
# apology for the typo and mix of languages though. I was in a hurry ..
# PhD are not meant to be easy. If you find it hard, if you find it difficult, kalau you menangis masa buat PhD.. you buat PhD la tu. Its okay, that was perfectly normal. Hang on and stay strong. 
Don't give up and keep swimmingIt's okay to do little as long as you did'nt stop. 
# Bykkan doa dan sedekah. Insya-Allah one fine day, all your hardship will be worth-it :)

Best wishes!


IELTS...2 years later

Disclaimer: This article is based on personal account. Tips given may work for a person but may not work well enough for others. Grammatical errors may be detected everywhere here, but, it was'nt like I care! LOL. Readers discretion is advice ^^

Assalamualaikum  (Peace be upon you) and Hi everyone,

It had been a long time since my last post, so I think its time to update my blog? LOL, once a year update, pardon me ;)

Anyway, I have this strong intuition that most of the readers here were coming for my "IELTS experienced posts" so, I think it's good if I can share with you some few points that I think worth looking up to.

It had been 2 years since the last time I take my IETLS test, so my IELTS result which I have taken in February 2011 should have been invalid by now. So, as one of the condition that I need to fulfil for my PhD sponsorship is recent result, so I have no choice except to retake the IELTS.

To be honest, I was'nt really prepared this time since I'm working at the moment and it's quite hard to shift between working tasks and studying for IELTS. But I guess spending one year in London do help me a lot, especially in listening and speaking tests. 

Oh talking about "listening" and "speaking", my first 2 months abroad was really challenging...if not catastrophic. Okay, I might sound a little bit over-expressive, but I do cry several times........< "hey I thought you gonna talk about IELTS? why suddenly so emotional, we're not interested in reading your personal stories">. Fine, I heard that! LOL. 

What I'm trying to say is that, well coming from far-east to other side of the world, which have different culture and values, is quite shocking...and communication is just one of the obstacle. You  know, all these while, you thought you're really good in English, A1 in SPM 1119, Band 5 in MUET,  7.0 for IELTS and you felt like you all the way ready for a London's life!...but suddenly when you got there, and start to converse with English native speakers.....all the thing they said was, "Sorry?" "Say it again?", "Pardon?", "Sorry, I can't really get what you mean". Oh my! My world was like turning upside down! I speak English but even English can't really get what I'm saying. HAHAHA (well, I do  literally laugh, but actually I was confused. What language  I have been learning all these while? phew.....

I was taken aback, and I did'nt move out from my house for a week. I was thinking what had gone wrong. Why it's hard for us to communicate. Finally, I realize it turns out to be......yep you're right! MY ACCENT!

< ops, I have some work to do now, shall tell you more, btw this is my recent IELTS result :) > 

<"sigh, this person, is all ranting about her miserable time in London, and still have not yet shared any valuable tips. what a waste reading.......">

Me: hehe, sorry....I'll be back darl!

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