Almost, but not quite one of them.
While it was never my first choice, personal circumstances led me to taking up my PhD in distance mode. Time will tell whether or not this will end up being a good choice. But I would need to make the most out of it. I had thought that my experience as an online teacher would be an advantage. This made me feel secure enough to feel more relaxed coming in.
Relaxed I was, and to some degree, still am. However, that doesn’t mean things have gone according to plan. I almost immediately faced quite a few problems as I switched roles from University of the Philippines teacher to Lancaster University student. Front and center was of course, the challenge of meeting the academic expectations from a PhD level student. But just as intriguing was a series of predicaments that gave me pause and look inward and make sense of how I felt about them.
I never receive my funding on time. So, every year I have to ask Lancaster University’s credit control office to defer the payment of my tuition fee. The deadline extension ends up being so long. Truth be told, LU is so much more considerate than my home university. Of course, I didn’t know they were that lenient at the beginning. During that first year, I was so worried that I was hesitant to prepare for the residential where I had to book a bunch of stuff to travel to the physical campus.
For international travel, I learned to typically prepare at least two months in advance. LU scheduled the residential at the beginning of April that year, but my funding still was not available as of February. The university could cancel my enrollment at any time, for all I knew. As much as I looked forward to a trip to the United Kingdom, I wasn’t happy about paying for the bookings in advance with my own money for it under the circumstances. I didn’t want to face the embarrassment of pleading for my case in person.
The funding finally came in around March and I was able to initiate a bank transfer to pay for my tuition. It did take a while before it reflected on my student record, though. That only happened just before my flight to the UK. I was still quite anxious going into the residential. The cold and eerily silent landscape that greeted me at the bus stop of the campus on a late Sunday afternoon certainly didn’t help.
Part of me even dreaded meeting my cohort and mentors in person for the first time. It wasn’t that I was feeling imposter’s syndrome for the first time in my life. I wasn’t the best in the bunch, but I know I can hold my own as a graduate student. My problem was the feeling of anxiety stemming from my funding debacle was still fresh. In fact, it wasn’t until I claimed and held my university identification card near the end of the residential that I was able to smile and let go of that anxiety. I was no longer what we would call colorum back in college. No longer was I a fake student.