Student - March 29, 2007

PhD propositions reflect suffering and culture shock

It’s a well-known fact that a PhD researcher’s life is not a bed of roses. The pay is low, the stress is high and as if that isn’t enough, PhD students from other countries are faced with strange Dutch habits. The compulsory ‘socially relevant’ propositions on the loose leaf in the dissertation shed light on the PhD researcher's suffering, as candidates express the frustrations they have experienced along the way to becoming a doctor.

Adriana Ignaciuk, a doctor since 22 September 2006, found writing a dissertation a difficult delivery: ‘Being pregnant and writing a PhD thesis is very similar; in both cases you hope in vain that life will become easier afterwards’. The stress of being an AIO was clearly also too much for Maarten Jacobs at times, who included the proposition ‘The best time to take a holiday is when there is no time to take a holiday’ (10 November 2006).

Antonio Sinzogan, who obtained his doctorate in October 2006, made clear what he thought of some of his chair group’s habits: ‘Doing a PhD at Wageningen University entails not only writing articles but also learning to socialize with other people in strange ways – like taking coffee at 3.30 pm.’ But coffee is what keeps PhD researchers going, according to Mark Kwaaital who made the grade on 31 January 2007. ‘Obtaining a PhD requires persistence, five years of your life and four cubic metres of coffee’.

Tea drinking customs in the Netherlands are a different story. ‘Say yes when offered tea by a Dutch. Otherwise you get nothing’, is how Le Chen formulates her impression of Dutch hospitality (6 March 2007). But it’s not all trouble and affliction for foreign PhD researchers in this chilly country. ‘Closing shops on Sundays, like in the Netherlands, gives you enough time to relax and results in a good mood during the coming working days’, proposes Jianjun Zhao on 22 January 2007. The Christian parties in the new Dutch cabinet will be happy to hear this.

Afaf Hassan Abdel Rahim (20 November 2006) questions just what he has achieved with all his toil. ‘Looking at the amount of paper I used during my PhD work, I wonder: was my ultimate goal to save the forest or deplete it.’