After spending a couple of months reading my thesis, retranslating all the texts I quoted, and trying to keep up to speed with the tide of academic research, I was ready to defend my thesis. I wanted a sense of closure to the PhD, which had been the all-consuming master of my life for the past few years. I was particularly keen to draw a line under the doctorate because I’ve started a new job, and while I was preparing for my examination it was as if I was straddling two worlds – one foot in the grown-up world of work, and the other still lingering in academia.
Preparing for the viva was an exercise in self-restraint, an almighty challenge to “get a grip” and remain calm. I had doubts ranging from serious issues like “what if the examiner completely disagrees with my theory from start to finish?” to the utterly ridiculous “… is that an incorrect use of the semi-colon on page 281?… Can they fail you for that?” Experiencing doubt at this stage is nothing to be concerned about in itself, it’s perfectly normal to feel on edge – after spending four years of your life working on a thesis, the success of which hangs on a two-hour defence, everyone is bound to have a wobble on the day.
It turned out that my anxieties were unfounded, which is the best possible scenario. My examiners were enthusiastic about my thesis, supported my conclusions, and were full of encouragement to develop my doctorate into a book. I got some invaluable feedback on my ideas, and it was great to have two world experts with a wealth of experience tease out my ideas and show me new directions (and broad horizons) in which to develop my work. To be honest, I actually had a great time in my viva.
I celebrated with friends and family for about a week (a fantastic time, and thank you to everyone who came along), and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. Don’t get me wrong, I loved researching my thesis, but at times I hated the PhD process. After seven years of working hard and making sacrifices for your education, it’s as if you’re tasting freedom after the final battle in a long war. And it tastes great.