Regretting PhD choice

  • Thread starter kurre
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  • #1
Hey all!
I am in a bit of a bad situation. I recently started my PhD in another country, but now I feel that I am regretting it. The main reason is that my girlfriend does not seem to be able to move here (she lives in a different country, also different from where I am from). Right now I just feel like I want to quit and move and live with her, but then I would probably make some people upset and I dont know what my chances would be in academia after that. The university is also not good enough such that I could view it as an investment for my future that would be worth living four more years like this and jeopardizing my relationship. I also do not enjoy myself very much here and have quite few friends.

The only reasonable way out right now is that I could turn this into a joint PhD with a university where she lives and then spend at least half of the time there. I am also considering doing this unpaid, ie move there and start working for free and hope that they will think I am good enough to be admitted (I have enough money to support myself for up to a year).

How realistic is my plan? If there are any staff members reading this, how supportive would you be of such a decision? Or what other choices do I have?

(and I dont really want to discuss why I made the decisions I made, what is done is done and cant be changed.)

Edit: I could add that the reason that she cant move here is that the immigration laws are much worse than we had anticipated, so she is not even eligible to apply for most jobs.
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Vanadium 50
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If you do that, can tell you the question that will be on everybody's mind: "When they break up, will he go right back where he came from?".
  • #3
Education Advisor
A question to the OP: where are you from, and where are you studying for your PhD? And where does your girlfriend come from?
  • #4
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
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It sounds to me like you're making a lot of assumptions. When making decisions like this it's best to do what you can to make sure that you have all the facts, even if that means sucking it up and forcing some difficult conversations.

1. "probably make some people upset..." - Which people are these and how upset will they be? Is it possible that they would understand that you're not in a position to perform well right now? In my experience most faculty, (supervisors, committee members, etc.) would much rather a student do what they need to do in order to be successful as opposed to slug through something with only a half-hearted effort, produce mediocre work, and possibly fail out.

2. "the university is not good enough..." If you really feel that the quality of the program is so bad that completing it is not going to help get you where you want to go, then there really isn't much point in continuing on. That, said, it's important to make such an assessment objectively. Often on these forums I'm seen posts that convey the attitude that if a school doesn't hold a top 10 position (on a largely subjective scale) then the program is somehow "worthless" - a notion that is incorrect.

3. "jeopardizing my relationship" - There are issues here that need to be considered. First, if your relationship is going to fail because the two of you can't be physically close right now, is it really all that strong? Second, if you plan to go on in academia, the "two body problem" doesn't go away when it's time for post-docs.

4. With respect to the possibility of a joint PhD, you would need to contact this second school to see if this is a possibility. It's not unheard of, particularly if they are strong in your field. The big issue that you'll be facing though is that it will only work if the academic side is favourable, ie. a collaboration is mutually beneficial for both sides. The "I want to work here because my girlfriend lives close to your city" is not likely to be seen favourably. As for the money, the details will be situation specific. Many schools are happy to continue funding you if you're doing collaborative work and are physically in a different location.

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