Dialogue. I believe that in the thorough yet enjoyable experience that the PhD can be, we all go through times of self-doubt and questioning. Not only about the research itself, but about our own capabilities and the, sometimes, fearful prospect of having to finish. I am glad to have a supportive supervisor. However, our relationship would probably not work so well if I did not feel like I could talk to my supervisor. I can rely on him for guidance regarding my research, and I also trust I will have his support when I am going through hard times in my PhD or my personal life, affecting my work. Knowing that my supervisor is aware that I am a human being who makes mistakes and has limits but is still ready and willing to give their best for their work allows me to step back during stressful times; because I know I have support.
What I find interesting about my relationship with my supervisor is that he gives me as much guidance as I ask for. For the rest of the time I am free to conduct my research in the direction I would like to take it. This allows me to be independent and at the same time, I am certain that I can rely on someone for guidance. At this stage of my PhD I am still unclear about what my immediate future will look like. However, having the possibility to experience relative freedom in my research gives me a taste of what it would be like to pursue a career in academia. In my Department, I observe some fellow PhD students being very much guided in a specific way, which is often appreciated. Others are practically left alone, with only their peers to ask for moral support.
Different supervisors behave differently with different students, and the supervisor-student relationship requires responsibility from both parties. Nevertheless, I believe that students should never feel trapped in this relationship. Unfortunately, many students have the impression that there is no way out if the relationship doesn’t work and that they must stick with their supervisor until the end of their PhD. In my department, new guidelines are now being put in place so that such situations could be resolved. But in the past, I have discussed with fellow PhD students who have been ignored by their post-graduate tutors when they sought help. Hopefully this will not happen any longer, and I wish that any new student at College will understand that no matter what their situation is, they can always find support near them.
Through the relationship with my supervisor and others around me, I have observed how feelings of isolation can be exacerbated by the lack of dialogue, as well as how beneficial an open dialogue is for our well-being and performance.