Guest Post: Rachel Adams

One more guest post for you! I have such lovely colleagues and friends who are so very supportive of this blog, and so willing to share their own experiences with you.

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When Amy put a call out on a well-known social network for contributions to her blog, I was quick to offer a blog on the perspective of a distance learner PhD. It wasn’t long after I publicly declared that statement that I realised that what I could actually offer was ‘A’ perspective rather than ‘the’ definitive one. The truth of the matter is that for every person working towards a PhD; whether Full-Time, Part-Time, Distance learning or campus based, the journey is different and very much an individual one.

Another “truth” of my experience is that I am writing this at 02.00am in bed, while my husband and dog are snoring their heads off next to me. Since starting on my PhD journey, neither time or sleep has proven to be a friend of mine. I’m not really complaining because honestly a PhD has always been the dream that I never thought would happen for me…..it was too expensive, I am too “working-class” to be mingling in these classy circles (bear with! That’s my complex hang-up), I wasn’t academic or clever enough, What could I possibly say or contribute that would make any kind of difference?! Then there’s the torture of reacquainting yourself with your old friend Harvard Referencing. The journey is not an easy one.

But that’s the point! If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so damned worthwhile and whilst it feels a torturous process at times; the potential joy of overcoming that doctoral obstacle is something that keeps me going.

To provide a bit of background about myself, I work full-time as a Curator of a Military Museum and in June will have been in my current workplace for 7 years. This role sometimes feels anachronistic in that despite having been appointed to the role to use my museum experience to help the organisation I work for, the reality is that my museological knowledge is often overlooked as insignificant in comparison to the military values of those that I work alongside. In my workplace rank matters!

My PhD has already become my saving grace to some extent, as I discover the difference that my research has the potential to make. It has been a source of comfort for me to talk to colleagues from other organisations and realise that some of the “issues” I encounter in my daily working life exist elsewhere. It has also been a great confidence builder for me to know that there is a need for the focus that my PhD Research is beginning to take.

I did my Masters degree in 2000 and at the time was lucky enough to find employment just in time for graduation. Touch wood, I have managed to maintain this employment for some 16 years now, but let’s be honest…….the employment market in the museums sector is not great right now. Ideally, I could see myself teaching. I enjoy working with new talent, I relish seeing their enthusiasm. Realistically though, what are my chances of teaching? As a distance learner, one if the downsides is that my employment gets in the way of any opportunity for me to get involved in teaching within the department. That old saying of “the grass being greener on the other side” seems to resonate loudly. It’s a vicious circle….those in education are seeking employment, while those in employment long to be more firmly rooted within academia.

Still, I am left with no regrets at all. The PhD is more than just being a personal journey. To use a military analogy, it is another piece of armour that I wear to defend my professional position and hopefully maintain a career well into the future, because quite simply, if I did not work in heritage I would be at a loss as to fathom where to go from here.

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