Rosie Macpherson is a PhD student in Sociology. Here she describes the draw of the academics in the Sociology Department and how she has grown in confidence as a researcher and teacher.
I came to Surrey originally to do my MSc. I was choosing between a few universities, but my tutor at Roehampton University helped me to decide on Surrey when he excitedly grabbed from his shelf Researching Social Life, the essential textbook in this field written by academics in the Sociology Department here at Surrey. My tutor at Roehampton told me how amazing it would be to be taught by the authors of this book and how I would receive an incredibly valuable education from them during my MSc. He knew I wanted to do a PhD afterwards and said that an MSc at Surrey would put me in a very good position, both on my applications and for the actual doing of my PhD. I will be honest, I hadn’t even looked at the Surrey campus at that point, but just the pure excitement from him and the other academics who were there made me realise I must be on to something special!
When it came time to submit applications for PhD places whilst I was doing my MSc, I felt very strongly that I wanted to stay at Surrey. It had become a place that allowed me to flourish and develop as a researcher. I felt that Surrey would offer me so many opportunities throughout my PhD experience, including teaching, public speaking, and being part of an impressive team of academics. The reputation of the department was also a huge selling point as well as the reputation of the University as a whole.
Impressions of Surrey?
Having completed my undergraduate at a smaller university, I was at first overwhelmed by the size of the University, both in physical scale and academic impact. The combination between green spaces and buildings made it feel more comfortable and safer, and I was quickly able to explore the campus. Surrey feels like a tiny safe town and is somewhere I enjoy wandering around when I need to clear my head or get out in the fresh air.
The research conducted by the University never ceases to amaze me, and I love that there are continuous opportunities to learn about what is going on outside of your own department. The ways in which the University engages across disciplines and levels of study/careers is brilliant, as it makes everyone feel part of something bigger and that what they are contributing is really valuable and part of a larger picture.
"The ways in which the University engages across disciplines and levels of study/careers is brilliant, as it makes everyone feel part of something bigger and that what they are contributing is really valuable and part of a larger picture"
I also find it wonderful how the local community are engaged with the University. As someone who also has a vested interest in the local community of Guildford (as a member of bar staff In a local pub), I love seeing mutually beneficial impacts being made beyond the campus boundary.
Why are you passionate about your subject?
I was inspired by my lecturers to pursue a PhD. I found social sciences fascinating and wanted to spend my career pursuing research that could help make people’s lives and experiences better. I enjoy the flexibility of academic work and could see myself being well-suited to an academic career. I have always really enjoyed the more theoretical aspect of sociology and research methods, and doing a PhD allowed me to apply what I had learnt and expand on my knowledge of these areas even further. I also really enjoy guiding my own learning and development.
I think that Sociology has a great scope of impact that is not always thought about. It can be broadly applied throughout our society and can be used to enact change that can have a real impact on our lives. Studying Sociology has opened my eyes to the world around me and has completely changed my outlook on a lot of areas of our society, and how I choose to live within it.
Making use of the facilities and resources on offer
I mainly use my office space in the department. I have also made extensive use of the library and software (NVivo, SPSS). I have also used the various training resources available (Doctoral College training and the Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching).
My supervisors have been incredibly supportive. They have supported me with my studies and have understood the challenges that I have faced (such as difficulties collecting data during the pandemic). They regularly signpost me to conferences and training that they think I may benefit from and are always available should I need some help or advice. They have also helped me with my academic CV and their feedback was very helpful.
Support at the University
I feel very supported by the University. I feel like they give us many opportunities for feedback, and I like how they communicate change with us. The University is very supportive of my wellbeing and I have found the services available to be invaluable during a difficult few years in the pandemic. I feel like the University and my supervisors genuinely care about my progress and achievements.
I think my time at Surrey has put me in a good position to obtain a good job once I graduate. We have several careers talks throughout the year and get regular communication for the careers and employability people. I have obtained skills that have made me employable across a range of industries and I am excited to explore the job market to find the right fit for me.
The best things about life in general at Surrey
I love being so close to London, without London prices. I like Guildford and Surrey in general, as there is always somewhere new to explore. Train links are good and I can access many other places fairly easily. The campus is great and has everything I need, but town is also only a quick walk away if I fancy a change of scenery. There are so many nice places to wander around and to enjoy a coffee by the river in town. There are a good range of shops too!
Best moment at Surrey so far….
Growing as a person and becoming more confident in my abilities as a researcher and teacher. I am proud that I have overcome many hurdles placed in my way. I have become more resilient and amenable to change.
Advice for students thinking about postgraduate study?
"I have learnt more about myself as a person, a teacher, a friend, and academic and a student than I ever expected"
The PhD journey is so incredible and it is such a true privilege to be a part of it. A PhD is about so much more than just the research and the data (but I don’t think many people are told/realise that!). I would urge anyone with a true passion for a subject to consider a PhD. Being able to drive your own learning and development is so special. I have learnt more about myself as a person, a teacher, a friend, and academic and a student than I ever expected.