If you browse through the first chapter of most books that focus on undertaking a PhD you will probably read that it is an isolating experience. You are also likely to come across many articles that refer to a lonely and solitary existence.
As I countdown what I hope will be the last ten months of writing my own PhD thesis, I have also been reflecting on my own experience, which involved moving from my birthplace London, to Manchester in the north-west of England.
In the beginning I felt very homesick. My family, friends and networks are all located in London and the south-east and initially it felt like being cut off from all of them. I did feel very isolated and lonely to start with.
However, my dear siblings with whom I am very close have always maintained regular contact. One of my older sisters, who are very protective, initially rang me every and even now we still speak on phone at least three times a week.
I maintain contact with close friends by phone, email, through my lifestyle blog – sending links of my latest posts; and also through Facebook, observing the latest activities of family members and friends, and commenting on their posts.
Being away from home has actually been quite beneficial to my progress since there are no family members or friends up here to distract me. There is no socialising, no partying, just reading and writing, seven days a week. But I have had enjoyed visits back home two to three times a year, including each Christmas.
In spite of the physical separation, my family and friends have been my biggest supporters and have played a crucial role in my mental and emotional wellbeing. Right from the start they have provided heaps of encouragement, motivation, emotional and financial support, and I simply would not have made it this far without them.
So whilst it is fair to say that undertaking a PhD requires the kind of dedication and time commitment that is necessarily solitary at times, it does not have to be a lonely road at all.