Big steps and deep breaths.

Just shy of year since moving to Australia to pursue my PhD, I find myself in a reflective space. I had intended to do a word count of my thesis or hobble together a list of my accomplishments. Instead though, I have decided to write a short blog about this journey.

 apostleBeing a tourist on the Great Ocean Road.

Arriving here on a plane with two suitcases and housing for two weeks, a ridiculously small bank balance, and wide eyes, I had EXPECTATIONS. I put this in capital letters, because I am pretty sure these EXPECTATIONS were sky high.

  1. I would easily adjust to the demands/schedules of a PhD since I had no friends or family here.
  2. I would be great at public transport naturally, as I had been riding it all my life.
  3. Australian culture was close enough to American culture that I would not have to make many adjustments.
  4. Finding a permanent place to live would be easy.
  5. I could live like a king off of my scholarship.

None of these turned out to be completely true or untrue. Well, except for the last one which was completely untrue, as I realized the cost of living in Melbourne was double that of Portland, Oregon where I am from. Isn’t there an adage about one man’s riches is another man’s poverty? Or something like that.

Anyway, two through four turned out to all be negotiations. I learned, I adjusted, and I took in whatever I could. I still take the wrong tram sometimes and Australian culture can still be a delicate place to navigate as well, but I feel like I am finally getting it. I have a lovely houseshare and I know to just shorten every word to fit in. I joke here, of course, but I am up for some avo smash for brekky in the arvo and brought my bathers/togs/cozzie for a swim afterwards.

Number one, however, remains a balancing act which I will be performing for the rest of my journey here. The pressure to publish, keep writing on your thesis, meet the demands of research assistant work, attend conferences and classes, and still find time for myself, my hobbies, and a small social life sometimes feels overwhelming. Being away from my partner and support network during the holidays was one of the hardest times of my life.

I find as I enter my second year, however, I am ready to throw myself back into the fray with renewed vigor—both for the work that I am doing and the work/life balance I am trying to strike. I am replacing those sky high EXPECTATIONS with small goals, deep breaths, and a will to just keep moving forward.


Safety first– whether it be around trains or your PhD.


About brandyc

PhD Candidate, Momash University Communication & Media Strategist, Border Crossing Observatory: Research Assistant Post-Graduate Representative, Sustainable Transport Committee Blog: Twitter: @brandy_cochrane