So, I got my PhD... during a pandemic.

Hi all,

today's post is a bit different. As many of you know, I have been working on my PhD for about five and a half years. Well, I should say that I worked on it for about five and a half years – since I have finally made it. I am officially a doctor now!

(Not the medical kind. Just the kind that does research. So don't start sending pictures of your warts to me.)

I defended my thesis publicly in early April. However, because of the COVID-19 situation, it was a different type of public defence than I had expected... as I did it from my own living room. The wonders of modern technology!

For context, defending your doctoral thesis is a big deal in Finland. It's usually a very formal, kind of old-fashioned ceremony, where specific people do and say specific things, there's a strict dress code, and there's an audience present. Usually, there's some kind of after-party in the evening, too. It can be a big party (like, comparable to a wedding reception, I guess), or a more intimate dinner type of deal. You can Google more about Finnish academic traditions if you wish, I'm not going to go into too much detail here.

The point is, it's a big deal. And it was a massive disappointment when I realized it would not happen. I had been looking forward to it for years, after all. So, I had to make a choice. Either postpone – until the worst of the pandemic is over, which... well, no-one really knows for sure when that will be – or do it via a remote connection, online. Because I had already (mentally and financially) prepared to have my defence this spring, and I wanted to get my degree, as I hoped it would help me get a job or further research funding, I chose the online option.

It was pretty surreal, to be honest. One of the biggest events of my life... happening in my living room. The same place where I watch Netflix in my pajamas every evening. But the funny thing about people is that we adapt to our circumstances. So I adapted. In the end, it went pretty well, at least the technical side of things. I was super nervous but I think I had a good discussion with my opponent. And I passed, which is the main thing! ;)

Here's a picture of me right before the defence.

Good thing I'm a YouTuber and my husband is a gamer, so we had good equipment: a table mic, a ring light, a nice camera. I'm wearing a dress from Boohoo. According to the dress code, it had to be a knee-length black dress with long sleeves. Kinda boring, I know, but this one is pretty cute! (According to my husband, it makes the booty look great as well. Which didn't really matter in the circumstances, but good to know, right?)

And here I am after the successful defence! I love this photo. My lovely PhD supervisors had roses delivered to me. Other people also sent flowers, cards and messages, which was really sweet and made it all feel a bit more festive.

Of course, we had to pop open a bottle of champagne – the good stuff – immediately after it was over! The necklace I'm wearing is actually a brooch that has been passed on in my family from one generation to another. I always wear it when I feel like I need some extra good luck.  The shoes I got from Primark when I was in the UK two years ago (man, I miss Oxford).

As mentioned, I didn't get a proper evening party (the restaurants are currently closed and meetings of more than ten people are banned in Finland until June), but my darling husband helped me make the most of it. He cooked me a nice steak, and we had prepared an appropriate amount of delicious drinks and snacks. Later in the evening, he even watched Mean Girls with me! Can you believe he hadn't seen it before? It's a CLASSIC!

Anyway, onto the evening outfit! The dress is by Collectif and I got it from a Finnish boutique, Miss Windy Shop. I'm wearing a 4XL which I believe is the equivalent of a UK 22 / US 18 / EU 50. Anyway, it fit me perfectly. I also wore a tulle skirt underneath to give it some extra oomph, but you can't see it in the photos. I styled it with my wedding jewelry, a crystal headband from Pink Clove and a silver belt from ASOS.

All in all, it was definitely not the day that I had expected for the culmination of a five-year long project, but it was a good day. I was really happy, I got so many lovely comments on all my social media, and video-called a lot of my friends and family. I even went live on Facebook for the first time ever! And my husband (as well as my lovely pets) were beside me, which was the most important thing.

We are currently living in a very difficult time. Even those of us who have (so far) stayed physically well are under a lot of emotional and psychological stress. Personally, I'm quite unsure about my future as a researcher. But I still have hope. That's the most important thing, I think. We will get through these times, even though now everything seems dark and scary. Until then, take care of yourself and those who are close to you (but, you know, from an appropriate physical distance). Use the technology we have to check on your friends or relatives who live alone or who have mental health problems. Remember that your worth is not tied to your productivity during these times.

And most importantly,  unless you absolutely have to go out for work or to buy groceries etc., STAY AT HOME. Here in Finland the government is slowly starting to lift some of the restrictions, but we should still all be very careful.

If I can defend my doctoral dissertation from home, I – and all of you – can also survive a few months without going to bars, restaurants or coffee houses (although I really do miss catching up with friends over a caramel frappé). We can survive video-calling our friends instead of hosting parties. We can adapt.

Wishing you all the best,

Dr. Curvaceous Confidence


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