Challenges of doing an internship alongside a PhD

by | Mar 16, 2020 | Blogposts | 0 comments

In this blog, our research communicator and PhD student Gemma Bridge shares three challenges of doing an internship alongside a PhD.
This is the second of three posts about Gemma’s experience of doing an internship alongside her PhD.
Together the three posts cover:

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Part 2: Three challenges of doing an internship alongside a PhD

Internships can be great learning experiences. They can:

  • enhance employability skills
  • allow individuals to gain experience of working with new people
  • increase networking opportunities
  • reduce feelings of isolation – one of the most common problems for PhD students.

 
For me, doing an internship with the WFPHA helped me become a more well-rounded researcher, by giving me the opportunity to:

  • publish in peer-reviewed academic journals
  • engage in multi-disciplinary, cross-cultural research
  • get exposure to various different health topics.

However, despite the advantages of doing an internship alongside a PhD, consider these three challenges before undertaking an internship.
 

1. Increased stress

With looming deadlines, large scale projects, and a huge amount of personal investment, a PhD can be extremely stressful. Doing an internship can add to this stress since it will add to the workload and reduce time to do the PhD.
This is certainly something I experienced, especially since I was already juggling several things as a PhD student.
Moreover, doing an internship can make the work/life balance even more of a challenge. An internship will inevitably reduce the amount of free time available, impacting how much time can be spent seeing friends, exercising and doing cultural activities, which are all essential to long term health and happiness.
 

2. Conflict between student and internship supervisor

Whilst it is not an issue I have faced, issues between PhD students and their supervisors are a frequent problem for graduate students. Such conflict can also happen in internships since the student may not get on well with the internship supervisor, especially if coming from different research backgrounds or if they have differing expectations. Managing this conflict can be challenging.
 

3. Lack of funding

Although I have a scholarship for my PhD studies, I’m aware that lacking secure funding can be a stress for PhDs. Undertaking an internship can further add to these financial worries. Even if the internship is paid (sadly, many are not), supporting additional travel, work and study costs can become even more difficult.
 
Challenges of doing an internship alongside a PhD Gemma Bridge

Overcoming these challenges

Despite these challenges, I actually found that completing an internship put me in a better position to complete my doctorate.
In the first year of my PhD, I struggled to make time to reflect and think about my research problem. Doing an internship gave me time away from my PhD. This reflection time gave me fresh ideas on how to approach the problems I was facing.
Moreover, the challenges of fitting an internship into my busy schedule forced me to be creative at balancing my responsibilities. I fell confident in my prioritisation skills, which I will take forward in the world of work.
If I were to go through the PhD – internship process again, I would keep my PhD supervisors better informed about the work and time demands I was under from the internship. This would have helped me to manage my workload better and reduced my stress levels.
Lastly, if you’re considering an internship alongside your PhD, don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal – your PhD thesis. If the internship starts to ‘hurt’ the PhD, then it may be better to postpone it, to ensure that the research remains number 1.
(to be continued)
 

We hope you enjoyed Gemma’s post about the challenges of doing an internship alongside a PhD. 

In case you missed it, here is the first post in the series about finding an internship, with lots of tips and advice.

Next week, in the final post of the series, you’ll read about why doing an internship alongside your PhD is a worthwhile effort.

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