The PhD Parables: Privilege, Fear, and Feeling Like a Fraud

I’m so fucking privileged.

Sorry for swearing (especially if you’re my grandmother), but my privilege required emphasis. Because the series of things that led to me this moment have very little to do with me and my achievements, and a lot to do with, essentially, luck.

Let me explain – around three months ago, I submitted an application to study for a PhD. I’ve sort of known that’s what I wanted to do since the second year of my undergrad. I’ve been certain since studying for my MRes (which I’m nearing the end of). I slogged over a mountain of paperwork, and had a couple of sleepless nights, but I got the application in on time (with three whole hours to spare!).

Last week, I received an unconditional offer from my beautiful uni to study for a PhD. Roughly around the same time, I learned I wouldn’t get the fee waiver I’d hoped for, and would have to somehow find the thousands of pounds worth of tuition fees if I wanted to go ahead with it.

Dear reader, I found that money!

I won’t go into too much detail – as my Gran would say, it’s never polite to talk about money – but the fact I am able to fund this PhD makes me, perhaps, the luckiest person alive. (If not #1, certainly in the top ten.) And I want to acknowledge that from the start of this series of blog posts – not everyone can study for a PhD, and the fact I can is both amazing and terrifying. I’m some weird mixture of ecstatic, while at the same time questioning everything about this.

Am I ready? Am I capable? Should I take some time off first? Do I even deserve this? What if I drop out? Is it worth the money? Why have I, the biggest idiot in the world, been accepted?! I tried to drink from a bottle of water the other day and I missed my own mouth. My supervisors, in fact the whole university, must be mad.

On the other hand – this is my dream. I think I can produce something really, really good. I study animation, and in film studies, that’s a criminally under-researched field. I can spend years committed to studying some of favourite films, and produce some really wonderful, comprehensive, developed research.

I want to document this, both for myself and other people about to start this journey, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll share how my research is going, the state of my mental health, any tips and tricks I pick up along the way. In the next instalment, I want to talk about supervisors, and how I came to find mine, as well as the application process. It has already been a wild ride, and I’ve not even started yet.

To conclude: I’m thrilled, I feel like a fraud, but I can do this. I’m ready. Let’s go.

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