I am an industrial PhD student and I have spent about 28 months in Sweden of my total PhD time. I am employed by the research-oriented non-governmental organisation Forest Action in Kathmandu, Nepal, doing my PhD in rural development at the Department of Urban and Rural Development (SOL). I plan to defend my thesis in September 2018.
Has any new skill, method or way of thinking or doing things emerged from your PhD training so far?
I am a forester by background who took my Master's in development studies from the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, and now my PhD is in rural development at SLU. That transition of academic field has forced me to learn a lot of new things but also to de-learn some things. I needed new conceptual and theoretical lenses to become a policy researcher, something I feel I have gained during my PhD training. I have had to enhance my analytical skills, learn how to engage with literature more critically, construct sharper questions and make use of diverse research methods. I have also learned to use new software to analyse qualitative data.
What are your most personal and professional reflections from the time at SLU?
It took me more than six months to get acquainted with the rights and responsibilities I have as a PhD student, despite good support from supervisors and colleagues from the department. I feel a need for some sort of initial orientation for international PhD students who have no idea about the Swedish education system and roles and responsibilities during a PhD. However, I found colleagues at SOL very supportive. I felt like being part of the research team within the Division of Rural Development and SOL and believe I could also contribute to the research environment based on my experience as a locally engaged researcher. As I have been part of an ongoing research project with colleagues at SOL, I felt myself more as a team member rather than an individual PhD student.
It took me about a year to understand windows of opportunities from the research school and the faculty to participate in courses outside SLU and to access resources to attend conferences for example. This also signifies the need for having some well- -thought-out orientation.
Personally, I felt I have benefited a lot with regard to getting acquainted with the Swedish culture as I stayed with a Swedish family during my time here.
Would you like to share any unexpected experience?
I have tried several new things here in Sweden, like ice-skating which was something I had never thought I would do. However, it ended up with falling many times and breaking my arm, so never again...
Professionally, I felt welcomed as part of the staff at SOL and got the opportunity to engage in intellectual discussions. It was more than I expected and I think more than being a PhD student in other universities.