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A Postgrad Survival Guide

Hi! My name is Bee and I’m a postgrad student here at AUT. I’m studying a Master of Science (Research), majoring in Marine Biology (rounds two’s but that’s a story for another day). This is my third year as a postgrad and my sixth year of university altogether - so today I want to share my opinion on it! Duh.

Is postgraduate study right for you? This is a question I wish someone, literally anyone (hello?) had asked me. I did my due diligence as an undergraduate student and googled “Postgrad AUT”. I found out all about what a master's and PhD involved, both at AUT and other New Zealand and Australian (long story) universities. I’d like to inform you that it is not all rainbows and butterflies and it is VERY, I REPEAT, VERY, different to undergraduate study.

So, if you’re like me, bright eyed and rosy cheeked, thinking about the next step and wondering “is postgraduate study for me?” then I certainly hope some of the difficulties I’ve experienced can help you make that hellish decision.

A thesis is one super, ultra, mega large assignment and it truly feels like it will never end. Up until recently I still felt as though I wasn’t achieving a damn thing - it feels like you’re doing all this work and getting nowhere. It can feel overwhelming and never ending! Bee’s Solution: Set yourself up with a thesis template! That way, when you’ve written your introduction, your literature review and your methods, it’s all in one document and you can keep track of your progress. This sounds self-explanatory, but every postgrad will tell you it’s not! You’ll have a million different Word documents, with your introduction scattered throughout. There’s AMAZING Word templates available online. As well as a thesis template, create yourself a Gantt chart with an official timeline and dates to adhere to (don’t worry if they don’t go to plan, they’ll still help keep you on track).

Your call has gone to voicemail, please leave a message after the tone. Um, hello…supervisor? Bee’s Solution: Girl, your supervisor is far too busy to pick up the phone and tell you what to do next. Get yourself a good co-supervisor! If you are in for the long-haul with master's or PhD, find a postdoc student who has the time to co-supervise and can answer any immediate questions you may have to help you along the way. Get to know the people in similar research to you too, or if you’re in a group, get to know your people. It’s ok to ask people around you for help and it’s totally ok to not know what you’re doing!

Motivation, don’t know her. Bee’s Solution: I swear we met once, right? It can be so difficult to find the motivation to keep going when you’re working on a thesis or a large assignment. Researcher Bee found that there are supposedly eight different motivation styles and we all fit into one. They are: Physiological, Achievement, Attitude, Learning, Incentive, Fear, Power, and Social Motivation. Essentially, find what motivates you. Are you someone who likes to feel a sense of achievement (deadlines, due dates for parts of your thesis), or are you someone who needs rewards for motivation? (A chocolate bar after 500 words, or drinks with a friend upon completion.) Find ways to keep yourself motivated and your headspace functioning.

Postgraduate Survival Guide

1. See a therapist. I couldn’t recommend seeing a therapist enough. AUT has incredible counselling services which are accessible to anyone at AUT. It can be challenging doing a higher level of study, and having someone to talk through the challenges with makes life so much easier.

2. Consider whether postgraduate study will help with your career goals or direction. Some professions don’t require you to have postgraduate study. Consider whether it is something you need for your chosen path.

3. Find a supervisor who matches your needs and expectations. It’s important for your supervisor to specialise in the same field as you, but it’s also important that they match your needs. This can be emotional support, more in-depth help or independence. Whatever you need from a supervisor, make sure they can give that to you.

4. Remember who you are. Honestly, sometimes I forget I’m a real human being with friends, a family, a boyfriend and HOBBIES (I swear I left these things somewhere). Don’t forget who you are. Make time for yourself, the things you love and the people in your life.

5. Keep your supervisors’ comments when they make comments on your thesis or Word documents. It’s annoying having all the comments and words everywhere, especially if you’re a tidy person like me. But, it’s handy to see your progress and look over previous changes.

6. COMFORT IS KEY. Having a comfortable space to work is so important. Make sure you have a good workspace with a suitable chair and desk. It’s so difficult to work when you’re not comfortable.

7. ALWAYS put yourself first. You are number one. And so is your mental health.

In conclusion, postgraduate study is not for everyone! If you’ve read this through and thought as much, it’s ok! Postgraduate study is difficult as heck, and to be honest it might not be for me either, but I’ve found ways to mould it, shape it and make it work. I hope this article has shed some light on postgrad life, so everything goes a bit more smoothly (if that’s what you want!)

Author : Bee Kyle


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