Navigating through the PhD journey

Navigating through the PhD journey

Student Sucharita Sen has enjoyed excellent academic exposure and a vibrant community life while studying at Te Herenga Waka. But most importantly, she feels indebted to the University for connecting her with her PhD supervisor Professor Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, who has been crucial to a peaceful and enjoyable PhD journey.

It is a universally accepted truth that PhD life is stressful. My friends often lamented to me half-way through their doctoral studies about obstacles they were facing. Some even dabbled with thoughts of quitting.

International PhD student Sucharita Sen in the Library at Kelburn Campus.

How I got to Wellington… and what it was like to arrive

It was on a December morning, after waking up in a tussle with my own uncertainties, that I opened an email offering me doctoral admission to Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.  I imagined my new life in New Zealand, and I felt like I wouldn’t only be embarking on a new academic journey – I would also be taking my shy and timid self across the world alone. Presidency University, where I completed my postgraduate degree, was thoroughly supportive of my new venture. So off I went, to fulfil my ambitions in Wellington.

Arriving in the picturesque capital I realised I’d need to adjust from a tropical Indian summer to a frigid New Zealand winter. An ambassador from the university greeted me at the airport with a warm welcome and took me to my accommodation in a two-storey cottage owned by University Hall. A breath-taking view greeted me when my housemate showed me to my new room.

Surprisingly, as I looked out the window at the city below, there were faint traces of jetlag and homesickness. At hall-dinners and inter-hall competitions, I made new friends and within a short time, Wellington became my home sweet home.

The view from the third floor of the Library at Kelburn campus – one of Sucharita’s favourites.

Beginning study at my new University

Away from the busy Wellington streets, I went along Kelburn Parade to Old Kirk building for my first look at where I’d be studying. Anxiously, I climbed the stairs, to be heartily greeted at the History Department. The PhD room was a warm and cosy office with eight desks, proudly occupied by future historians. Soon I set up a world of my own in my first-ever office space. A reservoir of treasured sources, the library enchanted me with its magnetic charisma.

Often, I wonder what makes my PhD life so stress-free, much in contrast with the pre-conceived notions which I had packed with me from India. The answer lies at a room in Old Kirk, where I can go regardless of whether I have impressive ideas or perilous news. My supervisor’s office is the first destination, and I walk in either with rolling tears or a wide grin. Researching under the supervision of Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, an eminent historian has been a fascinating experience. From paper-publications to conference-presentations, his untiring guidance has steered every accomplishment in PhD life.

An International PhD student’s desk is a place for lots of books, caffeinated drinks, and reminders of home.

An inspiring and prudent professor who has made the journey great

Beyond academic guidance, Professor Bandyopadhyay has also been the only person who stood as a solid pillar of support, when I had lost myself in a tumultuous interlude of my life. His prudence, admirable discretion and temperament compound the generosity, so unique to him, with his humility complementing his achievements. As I continue my interactions with Professor Bandyopadhyay, I discover every moment, the magnanimous personality he embodies.

This University has given me the best academic experience and supervisor I could have wished for. The plethora of available facilities, from academic exposure to recreation and pastoral support, continue to sustain me. Participation in University events and hall activities has given me an extended family. Thanks to them, I happily ride through this delightful PhD journey.

Professor Sekhar Bandyopadhyay – Sucharita’s mentor throughout her PhD journey

Sucharita Sen is studying for a PhD in History

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