Some notes on the transcription…

I wanted to provide a transcript of The PhD Life Raft podcast episodes to make the material more accessible.

I have used an automated transcription service to produce this document. These, as we all know, are not 100% accurate. Please excuse the odd typos and grammatical mis-translations. I hope that you will find the documentation of this conversation useful.    

You can find the full interview here:

So looking forward to this conversation. It is a topic that is dear to my heart, about fairy research assistants and the PhD, and you have got a gorgeous story to tell, and I can’t wait to share this morning. So thank you very much for being up for this. But before we get going with that I’m going to do as I asked for everybody to just tell us a little bit about your PhD journey so far, because you are still in the works. So tell us your journey into the PhD and to where you’ve got now.

Oh, thank you so much. It’s really just lovely to be here. And yeah, I my PhD journey actually started back in Mexico. So I’m originally from Mexico. Um, my background is in history, art and culture. And I think I’m one of these really weird people that always wanted or always knew I wanted to do a PhD.

I love I love.

I think I was like, 17 or so when I said, Oh, yeah, I want to like really study history art, but I really want to go like to the limit of that I really want to do a PhD. So it was always on my mind. Wow. But I think, of course, is the influence from my father. He, he also he did a PhD. And he actually did a PhD abroad in the UK. So for me, it was like very natural to move abroad and move about as a child, I always like move to different places. It was my like, natural instinct, instinct to follow these search for a PhD, outside Mexico. Um, this actually started since the Masters because I did partly in Germany, partly in Egypt. And I wanted to continue with these. So I began with this very intense process. I think every PhD student knows how really intensities to apply for a PhD programme. Yes, yes. So much for just, you know, writing the proposal, finding the supervisor. And also, for me, it was also like finding like a country where I want to also leave, because it’s like the foreigner three to five, six years of a PhD, yes, yes, also requires like you will kind of, I mean, you will live in this country, and you kind of have to also, like, get used to that. So I sent applications everywhere, really, I was like,

I love that.

Everywhere, really. And it was kind of a very tense time, of course, but also halfway through that the pandemic heat. So that was like, really hard. And it was just like, just a very, at this point of my life where like, all this uncertainty was really getting to me. So I don’t know, like just, I was just dreading it. But I don’t know, one day, I call it like a miracle happened. I’m just I was living like in the north part of Mexico. And there it’s I mean, in general in Mexico is quite common to have like street dogs, street cats. And some neighbours found these little kitten from the trash. And they asked like, who would be willing to take care of a little cut? And I was like, okay, I can do this. I will just take him to the vet and get him like all cleaned up. And and with these. I mean, my idea was just to like, keep him clean him and then find him like a good stable home. That God Sorry, just like those. That never happened. I think the first moment where He just slept next to me. And I was like, No, I have to keep him. He thought he he’d called Joby. He was tiny. He was like two months old. Now he’s three years old. Though got I just was like, Okay, I will keep him. I was aware of the fact that I was gonna like eventually maybe move abroad what I was like, Okay, this won’t stop me. I will still keep him. And yeah, I just fell in love with him. I have always been actually a dog person. I’ve never had a cat. So it was my first time when he was just lovely. I was like I think cats are just so smart. Yeah, so yeah. sent. They’re just beautiful creatures really. So I think I think I want to point out here that like, really my whole journey from the PhD like since the application waiting for responses, finally getting the acceptance. And everything happened with with Toby like, I cannot imagine my PhD journey without him. He’s always been a part of it.

So the day I remember the day I got accepted to Brandenburg University of Technology in Corpus Germany, for a PhD in heritage studies, so all this, they really changed my life, deliberated with Jovi. And I can say that this is the point where like my PhD journey actually started. Yet, I still had the problem that like many of us, we were affected by the pandemic, I couldn’t travel to Germany jet, I had to do my first year of the PhD in Mexico. So I mean, that was really no problem. Because the first year for me, it was just like, just reading like, like crazy. So that was okay. Just the problem was that I had some seminars. And they were, they were mandatory seminars. But of course, I would have also taken them and and the thing is, though, Mexico is like, seven, eight hours, the time difference. Luckily, for me, that was a little annoying, because my seminars went through like 2am until 10am. Lonely. A little bit tricky. But I don’t know, like, I think my boyfriend and me always joke that at some point, I think this was the point. I don’t know what, how exactly, I don’t know, I think I turned into a cat or a chubby turned into me, I don’t know. But I think I’m more like I became a cat, cat, woman or something. Because, you know, we weren’t Wait, we were awake, the multiples the whole night. We kind of okay, started to try to sleep during the day. Maybe Toby was better at this than me. I don’t know, I just like, maybe just also, like, I call him the pandemic cat, also, because he came just in the pandemic. So everything was kind of a bit messy. But yeah, I just, I just turned into account somehow. We were in this journey together. So that was really nice. And this lasted until like, the very next year. So I’m talking about 2021 When finally the pandemic was mean, there was still going on, but it was a bit easier to travel. So I managed to get my visa and move to Germany. And of course, I was not moving without CIOB. So you also had to prepare everything for him. It wasn’t as hard actually. But it does require like some organisation and you know, preparing and deeds. But I think I couldn’t have gotten without chaabi like, I mean, I liked the idea of living living abroad. I wanted to do this. But of course, like, in theory is very nice in practice is different.

Yes, yes, it can be really challenging. 

Yeah, it’s certainly so Toby was just this emotional support, like, you know, isn’t seen as taking the aeroplane arriving, preparing all the house and everything. Also, I think people that live in Europe also are aware of the winter in Europe. Mexico, we have sown all year around here, we can have like, I don’t know, one month without so. Um, and then Tommy was just there for me. You know, like those days where I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t do anything, you know, I had to do it because because I needed to pick him I needed to clean him. So he kind of gave me this motivation. I call him my little fairy Angel, because he does really helped me in every sense. So he really is like the perfect PhD colleague, because he’s not just because of the emotional support, but also because like, you know, throughout the pandemic, sometimes it was kind of hard to meet people I did try you know, together with my friends and stuff, but sometimes it was not possible. So, you know, Toby became my listener, you know, he will be the first the first creature really to, to know my ideas. You know, all my struggles. So it was just really nice for me. And, and then yeah, after everything kind of was like how America, you know, I was already in Germany, things became a bit easier. I think I also have started to develop this cup routine, like I was I really looked at Jovi, like how he managed his life. So yes, you know, from like waking up, you know, moving your body around, and you and Toby would just like run around the flat, as soon as he wakes up, I would also like lay my yoga mat, and he would just hop there. So we would like move our body together, we would also have like this big breakfast to start the day. And I think also, a very important thing that I’m learning is this idea of breast. I think, being academia in US PhD students, postdocs, we have this sense of like, No, we cannot rest we have to continue. And sometimes I actually feel guilty, you know, of resting of taking a nap, you know, I have this luxury that I can work from home. So I think I really take advantage of that. And I see chaabi napping, so I’m like, yeah, why not? Maybe I can take also a power nap to continue later on.

Yes. I remember this reminds me of Devon Price episode, when they they said basically, we are big cats, we are like cats. And we need to exactly as you said, Take a rest, stretch our bodies feed ourselves. And this related to their work. You know, laziness does not exist. It isn’t lazy. It’s it’s restful, and restorative and all of that. So I love that you are having a cat routine. To support you through the journey. There’s so much in there, I’d totally relate because I was always a dog person. And then in the pandemic, a cat started to come and visit us. And I just fell in love with this cat. And now we have two cats of our own. And I love it. I love them. And I love that sense of being with cats and as you say the wisdom or wisdom of them. But I know there will be some people out there who I’d still committed dog people and respect to you too. But we also have a guinea pig. So we’re covering covering all I know that there are many that PhD support animals come in many forms. And I really respect that. And I love what you were saying there about what how chubby has helped you. And your sense of motivation. And this sense of kind of having to keep to a routine because I know our cats, they’re very, they are very committed to their routine. And so it keeps you on track where where the days could blur into one actually, you’re kind of like right okay, now I need to get up and I need to do this because this this other being is, is relying on me to do that. And I know we’re dog walkers, dog owners, they find that really useful, don’t they in terms of like I’ve got to get out and take the dog out. I love that you and Tommy do yoga together that just makes my heart sing. But also that sense of having a presence that was really powerful when you were talking about having to be up in the night and just having another beating heart with you awake watching through the night. And I remember one of my books was dedicated to my Harvey who was my dog at the time who did just sit at my feet through it all with very kind of unconditional love. That’s the thing with very research assistants give us an IT unconditional love. Just there whatever you’re doing I know it’s gonna be smart and it really is really is an encouragement. I love it. I’m a chubby listen to your ideas. That’s very cool to know all the secrets really.

You go there you go. And as I say the thing isn’t totally accepts totally accepts that. Really, you know, unconditional love. Perfect. Anything else then about that? Well, what we also need to say at this point is Toby also is a bit of a bit of a superstar because he has his own, he has his own Instagram, which I love.

It all began really with my boyfriend and me I’m just thinking, Oh, we should all do this, like, because I’m a PhD student, he’s a postdoc. So I think he would love let’s just, let’s just do like these, you know, small, like, just Shanell our stress, you know, by humour. So we just tried to post like reels and stuff, like, what struggles people in academia may face on


It’s very funny. We will have we will have a link in the in the in the show notes for the PhD cats. 

Yes. And, and I’m sure lots of very common, very common issues that chaabi is relating to their

Yes, absolutely. I think, yeah, it’s just there’s something I don’t know, I’ll also cats are really funny, just in general. How you say like, they are also helpful distraction that people need, you’re not just in terms of like, oh, I can go and hug him because I really need some cuddling or something. Yes. So like, I call him also like this, my own Pomodoro a cat because I, like I have to write for you know, half an hour. So and then he does something and then have to go and check. So you know, that’s like my five minute break. is really nice.

This is so true. And so many people have said this to me in terms of like the, you know, they remind me of when I need to go and take a break or and how important is that? Because I think obviously, there’s going to be moments where we’re really, really absorbed in things, but sometimes to the detriment you know, forget to stretch, stretch, and we forget to eat and actually really, really useful to have a someone who can nudge you and go hang on a minute. Come on. This is other things to be getting on with out there. I love that. That

leads us this idea of like, 

Please chaabi is also like, you know what, that’s why he’s called Chava he’s always eating. So it’s like, oh, please apply and have dinner, eat a snack? Yes.

Excellent. Excellent. That’s my kind of cat right there. And also, as you just mentioned, we cannot underestimate the cuddles and her I mean, there’s been lots of studies in terms of how it can really that kind of that sensory aspect of having an animal around, you know, especially because it can be a very lonely process. And some people will go without seeing other people. You know, that was especially true during the pandemic, but even now, I think if people are working intensively on something, they might not be in contact with another living being and having living with a living bee can be really, really important and the stress relief that comes from petting an animal can be just so important and really fill up your soul. So hooray for the cuddles though.

Yes, absolutely. And I also think like maybe cats in general are quite picky know when it comes to meeting new people and stuff. I think maybe I also learned this from Jovi it’s just this idea to surround yourself with like, loving people, your own like group and, you know, friends for support colleagues, I think it’s very important just to to have this group that supports you and you support them. Not just of course, because of the PhD it’s so it’s so such a lonely yearning really. But although in general I would add to when living abroad as well. In my PMA PhD programme, we are mostly international students so we I think we have like this extra support of like most of us come from, you know, very far away so it’s just really nice to have like these support groups and absolutely yeah.

Amazing. Laura, thank you so much for sharing all of that. And I have met I need to tell everybody I have met he’s he’s here in the room. He is contributing to this interview and he’s already been on camera here. We will share pictures so that you can see see because he is indeed a very handsome fellow. So I am sure you’ll want to be show Peter and as I say it’s got its own Instagram channel so you can go and have a look we call the channel we don’t check channel do we say feed Blimey, it’s because I’m an old lady.

I really have no idea.

Bless you. That’s very That’s very kind of you, Laura. So I’m aware of time these things. It always go so quickly here but I just wonder if there’s if there’s anything else that you wanted to mention and also to think about the kind of the top tips from your perspective as a as a cat, woman, PhD researcher.

I always love this part of the podcast, of course. And I think for me, for sure, it feels like this idea having this idea of staying curious like a cut in during the PhD journey, like, I think, of course, at PhD researchers, we are experts in a certain topic, and that’s important. But just having like, this humbled attitude of like, a learning mindset really goes a long way. When reading when, you know, rereading a new article, or an old article, or attending conferences, seminars, or other presentations, I think it’s just very important just to, to think, okay, I can always learn something new. Instead of maybe acting the whole time as an expert, I do think is important, but really just having this learning or eager or thirst to learn is very important during the whole PhD journey, I would say,

Oh, yes to that. Yes to that. Stay curious. Like I kept it in deed, need some T shirts printed up with that on? That would have been nice. Much. Gotta gotta get the merch in law, Laura until the end, because I know you’re there. Thank you so so much, and I just wish you both all the very best. Thank you for sharing, sharing your friendship with us. Thank you so much.

Thanks. Thank you. 

And thank you all for listening.