My PhD Journey
by Dr Nazlena Mohamad Ali
Year 1: Arrive in Dublin mid December 2005. My decisions to study in Ireland were confidently made after a few weeks of Solat Istikharah. We heard a lot of stories on the challenge living in Ireland especially Dublin. Yes, that’s true, and was far beyond my expectations. The first year indeed was hard and tough with the allowances logically could not support my family. I brought quite some of money from Malaysia to prepare for the worse. I could not focus on my studies as most of the time was used to think of how to get an income to survive the living (i.e. doing food catering, selling nasi bungkus at Trinity and etc). Spouse could not work due to visa regulations even though he has work for more than 11 years. I did go through the journey with a strong will and believe ALLAH will always at my side. I am blessed to be given a great supervisor and was surrounded in an excellent research group with first class research environment and facilities from the very beginning of my research.
Year 2: Started to be more focused on studies as year 1 gone with not much improvement. Alhamdulillah, my husband enrolls as a CIMA student and he managed to secure an accounting temporary work. Most of my times were spent in the University doing system programming and experiments and at one stage require me to work for 7-days a week.
Year 3: Most of the experiments were successfully done and started my thesis write-up at the end of year 3. Writing is not easy. It needs full concentration and I avoid distractions, thus less interaction with people surrounding me including friends. It took me about 7-8 months for the write-up.
Final Year: End of May 2009, I managed to submit the thesis for the viva voce, within 5-weeks time, my big day-viva were scheduled in July 2009, succeeded in my PhD defence, managed to complete all corrections within a week and finally submitted the final hardbound thesis to the University which means the whole PhD work were completed officially. That was a big relief. I knew, at this moment my parents were very proud of me.
Viva experiences - The first words from my external once he entered the viva room, “I’m so impressed of what you have done after reading your whole thesis…and don’t worry, your viva will be fine” and indeed the viva sessions went very well in 1 hour 45 minutes. At the end of the viva session, they end-up with these few lines… “Congratulations, Dr. Mohamad Ali, you have successfully defended your PhD work …” which I can’t imagine my feeling at that moment.
With all those hassled and challenged I faced through out my PhD journey, I managed to complete within a given time and the most important things is, I did it MY OWN WAY. Being a student, a wife, a daughter and a mother at the same time was really a huge responsibility. Through out these years, I faced with various unpleasant news and incidents from the love ones in Malaysia which make me think… is it worth for me staying further away from them when they really needs me by their side? All hard work paid off, the more difficult for me to get my PhD, the more valuable it means to me. ALLAH always by my side and has made my dreams come true.
Some tips: -
- Focus - try to avoid activities that can distract your focus and attention. There are times for socializing/vacation/break. After that you need to concentrate on work.
- Always have a strong will and determined to succeed. Never give up.
- Sentiasa berdoa meminta keberkatan daripadaNya. Sentiasa berdoa untuk kedua ibubapa, suami/isteri dan anak-anak. Kejayaan kita milik ALLAH dan memperolehi keberkatan daripadaNya amat penting. Tidak perlu riak apabila diberikan sedikit kejayaan. Setiap amalan dan aktiviti harian kita mencerminkan keberkatan yang bakal kita perolehi. Ramai yang terlepas pandang perkara ini atau ambil mudah. Kembali kepada niat kenapa kita berada di Ireland dan tujuan sebenar kita berada di sini.
- Always have a target and milestones and must have a check and balance why we missed the target.
- PhD is about hard work. If you are an intelligent person (i.e. always scores A in all subjects during undergraduates studies), it will be your extra bonus. I agreed with those people saying that to success in PhD, it require about 90% of hard work, 5% from intelligence and 5% from luck.
Dr. Nazlena Mohamad Ali
December 2005 – September 2009