This question often accompanies the ‘what are you studying’ question, and for me it is not as straightforward to answer.
For others the answer is clear-cut. There are plenty of students whose PhD is the next logical step in their academic careers. They have a plan, a goal and they can see where they are headed. For me, it is the opportunity of three more years of study and then…?
If you look at my academic career, a PhD was not on the cards. I didn’t do well at high school. I was too distracted to pay much attention in class. I enjoyed school, because of my friends, but school in general bored me to death. At seventeen, I went straight from school to university, and slept through most of my lectures; eventually failing in third year and dropping out.
So, I travelled and worked and had a great time, but then I surprised my parents and went back and finished that course. My first degree; I was a qualified nurse; a job I still do today and love to do. But back then, I did not love it, I wanted to do something else, but had no idea what.
I started taking community courses; in acting, painting, photography, sculpture, and short film making, to name a few. Clearly, I felt drawn to the creative arts, but had this notion that you needed to be a great talent to do anything like that, and I had shown no talent. In fact my art teacher in year 10 had said: you should not keep doing art, you have no talent for it.
A few years later, after some more travelling, working and having a baby, I finally had the balls to say: who cares if I have no talent. It was the film making that had stuck with me the most. So I applied for AFTRS and did not get in. So I applied for UTS and WooHoo! I got in, to do a BA in Communications. It was fantastic and I didn’t fall asleep in my lectures. The course had a good balance between the theoretical and the practical, and it reintroduced me to creative writing, something I had not done since high school.
In Australia, there is still debate about whether or not creative writing is something you can actually teach and whether it is worthy of academic study. Without university, I could have just knuckled down and written a novel, but as I have already mentioned I am easily distracted, I need some external form of discipline. During my breaks from study, I hardly write at all.
So, I applied because I enjoy learning new things. And I am hoping that three years on a project of this size will kick me into a momentum that continues afterwards. It is about community as well; I like to be around other students, they are fascinating. The theory also feeds the creative work. It sends me off in directions I would not find without it.
And a PhD is a great excuse for getting out of the housework.
Why don’t you tell us why you are going back to Uni?