Taken down a notch…
That time between 2009-2011 was extremely important for my professional growth and personal maturity. Perhaps a bit of that went to my head, as I started to believe I’d have little problem pursuing my PhD. It didn’t take long for me to be proven wrong, though.
I made attempts to apply in other PhD programmes early on. Under no circumstances was I going to study locally. So, I took a TOEFL IBT back in 2011. I accepted that it was going to be significantly more difficult to secure a PhD position abroad. Still, I anticipated I’d be studying again by the time the two-year validity of its results expired. Unfortunately, I failed to get my act together within that time frame and beyond.
I couldn’t establish any meaningful connection to anyone involved in the programmes I was interested in. All my expressions of interest and applications got rejected. I needed help and direction, but couldn't get much. It wasn't looking good. I gradually lost confidence. And I could not get any guidance that could help me solve that.
Actually, there was one time I did. I met a prof in a conference in Hungary back in 2014. He taught in a university in the US. After a lengthy discussion, several glasses of that nice Eger wine, ang getting egged on by others in the same table, he agreed to take me on as a student if I could get in. Unfortunately, after looking into it over the next year, I reached a conclusion that studying anywhere in the US would be unfeasible.
That was demoralizing. I seriously considered quitting the academe and starting a new career path after that. Maybe I wasn't good enough, after all...
One last try?
It was not until mid-2017 when, upon my boss’s urging, I found myself exchanging emails with Lancaster University’s Don Passey about their PhD in E-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning programme. I consulted him for months up to the time he went to UPOU for a month as a visiting professor. By the time I completed my application requirements, I felt it was my best shot. I couldn’t see how I could do better. If I got rejected, I didn’t have what it takes to have a doctorate.
In November 2017, a week after I sent my application, Lancaster University sent me my notice of rejection.
At first, I thought it was because I applied too late. So, I asked if I could re-apply (for the following year or when I had a clearer idea of what I wanted to study for my dissertation). They said no. I was told my grades weren’t good enough, which I thought was strange. All this time, I had been preaching to students not to worry about their grades too much. But there I was, apparently suffering first-hand the consequence of mine not being high enough.
I was stunned by the apparent finality of it. Was my head so far out of the game? Did I really misspend enough of my youth to cost me this career advancement? Thankfully, I didn't feel sorry enough for myself to dwell on those questions for long. I quickly started, or rather resumed thinking about my next career. I’d been slowly building a multimedia home studio and workshop since I started teaching. It seemed interesting to start earning something with it. Lecturing gigs will likely be available, as well.
Then my thoughts led to the business of having to tell my bosses, as well as my dad, about my change of plans. That wasn't going to be fun.
I had to take care of one thing first, though. I promptly emailed Don presumably one last time to let him know about the unfavorable outcome of my application and thank him for his time. That was time he did not need to waste on me, but he did. And I'm forever grateful for that. Unexpectedly, he replied immediately and told me to stand by while he looked into it.
So, I put my departure plans on hold for a while longer.