I am a 25-years-old woman doing my PhD abroad on a scholarship. I am working as a PhD research candidate in a European company. The good thing about my job is that I get time to focus on my PhD as I am not required to work on other projects of our company.
The problem is that I am not a hard working person at all. I need constant guidance and the occasional push from people around me to complete my work. That’s how I always used to get work done when I was in Pakistan. But over here the concept of studies and work is quite different. Nobody is here to help me. In the near future, I have to submit a research proposal. It’s been six months since I started it but yet have to write a single page on it. This has led me to getting so much stress that now I can’t even focus on my work. I have stopped socialising and lost all interest in life.
Another problem is that I feel very homesick. I recently returned from Pakistan, where I had gone for a short visit, and am missing my parents terribly. Both of them are old and not keeping very well as far as their health is concerned. I worry a lot about them and want to quit my PhD and shift back to Pakistan in order to be with them and take care of them. I discussed this with a few people but everyone I spoke to has discouraged me to quit my studies and give up my scholarship.
I am fearful of what if something happens to my parents while I am abroad. If any one of them passes away while I am here, I will always regret not having spent enough time with them because of this scholarship.
I sometimes think of not completing my PhD from here in Europe and to do it in Pakistan instead. But I know very well that it would be nearly impossible for me to complete my PhD in Pakistan. And without PhD I won’t be able to teach in a University, which is my ultimate career goal.
I might get married in the next couple of years. This means that whatever time I have now is the only time I have to complete my PhD. I don’t believe I will be able to study after marriage.
Also, in the past two months, my aunt and my best friend passed away. Because of this, I have become very emotional and sensitive.
I am very confused as to what should I do. Should I work harder and try to do better in my studies? Or should I give my scholarship up and shift back to Pakistan to be with my parents? Please help me decide.
Dear PhD Girl,
I am very sorry to hear about the demise of your aunt and your best friend. May GOD have mercy on their souls. Ameen! It’s a big loss and your feeling very emotional and sensitive is quite natural. Hopefully, with time you will get better.
I believe you should not quit doing your PhD in Europe. Once you have completed it you can shift back to Pakistan and spend time there with your parents. During this time, if possible, you can visit them during your holidays. And later on when it’s time for you to get married, you can choose to look for a guy who is settled in the city where your parents are. This will allow you to be near them and you could visit them often.
Leaving your PhD incomplete and shifting to Pakistan is not going to be helpful in any way. You will just end up having another regret in life. I can well understand your concern regarding your parents. This is a predicament that most expats go through; being away from loved ones and stressing about all the time lost that could have been spent with them.
I believe one of the reasons that you want to shift back to Pakistan is because right now you are finding your studies overwhelming and difficult to cope with. Therefore, you are trying to find an external excuse to leave it – such as the health of your mother. The reason you are trying to find an external excuse is because you want to be able to justify leaving your studies without feeling guilty. This is something very natural. When we want to quit something, we normally try to find a reason that would justify our quitting it. We do this because we don’t want our conscience pricking at us, making us feel guilty and making us believe that we are quitters. Nobody wants to feel like a quitter. Therefore, we come up with an excuse –usually external and unrelated – for quitting. This, in our eyes, justifies –and in some cases even strengthens and quickens our resolve – to quit.
As for what you should do to motivate yourself to study, think about it this way – you are spending time away from your parents (with whom you very badly want to be with) and if you don’t utilise this time away from them productively then it will all go to waste for nothing. Think of this next time you don’t feel like studying. Hopefully it will encourage you to get down and start studying.
Note: I have written extensively in my previous columns about motivation, dealing with procrastination, effective work/study habits, etc. You can read those columns on my FB page, Ask Asad. You can also research for studying tips, ways to motivate yourself, etc. using the Internet, where you will find a ton of useful information to deal with your procrastination.
In the end, life is all about choices and sacrifices. You knew about your parents’ health when you chose to apply for a scholarship abroad. You also knew about it when you accepted it. You also knew about it when you travelled abroad and settled there. Thus you are where you are because of a series of your choices. Stick to the choice you have made – of doing PhD from Europe – and don’t back out.
All the best!
Asad is a counsellor, life coach, inspirational speaker and a personal-development expert. He advises on social, personal and emotional issues. You can send him your questions for this weekly column at email@example.com with “Ask Asad” mentioned in the subject line and provide as many details as possible.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Express Tribune.