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Limbo-Log #1:

I like reading “day in the life” type posts, so I thought I’d have a go at doing some of my own. I also thought it would be a good chance to show what I really get up to in some of my post-PhD pre-“real job” days (Hint: it isn’t lazing around and being ‘unemployed’!)

On with the first installment 🙂

9am – Woke up. Read emails and found that I made a sale on RedBubble (this means I get 17 pence). Drank a glass of cranberry and raspberry juice, got dressed, and then participated in a study on Prolific – this is actually a decent way to earn an easy few pounds every now and then. Today’s was about emotion recognition, and I learnt that I tend to rate surprised faces as being really over-acted.

10am – Breakfast: Granola with dried strawberries and a brazil nut (yes, just one…the rest looked weird)

10.15 – Violin practice. Tuning strings is the worst. My E string took me 4 minutes to get right-ish today – not helped by an alarm and a recycling lorry outside!

11am – Research for my music psychology project idea. I’m trying to dedicate some time on a regular basis to moving ahead with various research ideas I have despite having no institutional affiliation at present. Today I was trying to find a platform to collect data that allows participants to rate or categorise sounds. Then I got distracted and watched a BPS ‘Tips on securing your first job in academia’ video on youtube.

11.55 – Got ready to do an online tutoring session – this is my ‘main job’ and today I was teaching a student how to do t-tests and correlations in SPSS. As it was conveniently over lunch time, I ate (most of) my corned beef sandwich just before starting, and some graze honeycomb flapjack afterwards.

1.15 – Walk with the borrowed doggy. We walked for about an hour and played a ‘game’ which was really just me testing out how reliably the dog would run back to me when off lead in a long, fenced-off pathway!

3pm – Chill and change clothes – the walk was a lot warmer than expected!

3.30 – Dealt with emails from my PhD supervisor who expects very speedy responses on publication drafts. I’m currently working on two papers with two different people…one possibly more successfully than the other! Then some other emails. And got a headache.

4pm – More research time, punctuated by crisps and diet pepsi to attempt to attack the headache.

5.15 – Made and ate dinner (spaghetti with tomato and herb sauce and melted cheese), went to the supermarket for more food, then faffed around on social media for a while.

7.30 – Had a bubbly bath.

8pm – More music practice and watching TV.

10pm – A sudden realisation that I hadn’t finished all my prep for tomorrow’s teaching session…on with that!

10.30 – Reading a paper for the music psychology idea

11.45 – Getting ready for bed (and I still didn’t get to sleep until at least 12.45)

I Met My Borrowed-Dog Today!

Last week I received a message on ‘BorrowMyDoggy’ and I decided to activate my account so that I could respond and meet up with the dog (and his human).

Today I met up with them and the dog is awesome and the human is a lot more chilled than most of the people I meet in life! She essentially said that I can take the dog out for walks whenever I feel like it as long as I let her know before I take him. This is a pretty perfect arrangement for me because I don’t have to worry about schedule changes with things like my tutoring work and traveling to other cities causing a clash, and I don’t have to worry about feeling under pressure or otherwise anxious.

I think that being able to take a dog out will motivate me to go for more walks, which is definitely a good thing because I’m currently very unfit and the exercise I do is basically walking from my bed to my desk…and occasionally outside to the shop or the takeaway… I’m also hoping for some sunny days so that I can go further, possibly cross paths with other people who I used to know from dog walking, get lots of fresh air, and have some out-of-the-house and off-screen time!

Three Years in the Life of a Psychology Student

My response to the “week in the life” posts and videos that seem popular at this time of year, as soon-to-be-undergraduates start to contemplate what their new life will actually look like on a daily basis…

In my experience, ‘week in the life’ or ‘day in the life’ posts never captured enough to give a satisfactory idea of what was in store, simply because there was a lot of variation in my weekly timetable. Helpfully, I recently stumbled across the excel sheets I made as an undergraduate, to keep track of my classes and commitments for each semester – check it out in the image below!

The general structure was a weekly lecture (1-2 hours) for each module, plus workshops, seminars, tutorials, etc as required. I liked the fact that the latter were not placed weekly, but rather organised to fit alongside relevant topics – unlike some of my teaching experience, there were no seminars when seminars weren’t needed!

I plan to do some more detailed posts in the future about various aspects of my undergraduate experience, but will happily answer any questions posted to help current/prospective students in the mean time!

The Pros and Cons of Online Tutoring

(from the tutor’s perspective)

The pros…

  • Flexible schedule – you don’t have to work when you don’t want to, you can choose what times and days, and you can take your work anywhere with a decent internet connection
  • No travel time – allowing you to potentially fit in more sessions and earn more – it also means that you can offer shorter sessions that otherwise might not feel worth their while
  • Lovely students – often you’ll meet really engaged and interested students who are happy to have an easy way to access help and extend their studies
  • Easy CV – if you have profiles on online platforms, you can easily display your qualifications, experience, references/reviews, subjects offered, availability, to potential new clients without having to repeatedly give information
  • Schemes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds – some sites allow tutors to join schemes that offer regular work tutoring students who may not otherwise be able to afford one-to-one tuition
  • Summer slump – is still a thing but has a slightly smaller impact when you’re able to access a wider pool of students who are still studying
  • Safety/supervision – you don’t need to worry about letting someone know when you’re off to meet a new student, and parents don’t need to worry so much about chaperoning/ferrying their young
  • Extra bits and pieces – sometimes you can work with students for occasional sessions to support with a particular topic, and one-off tasks like proofreading, which seem to be more popular opportunities when working online
  • Peer support – if you can get involved in online tutor discussion forums, this can be an excellent resource

The cons…

  • Difficult schedule – sometimes, to earn enough money, you have to accept awkward sessions…to fit with your students’ availability, you can often end up with awkward gaps that are too small to fit anyone into (but add up to a lot over time!) or a piecemeal schedule with early starts AND late finishes on the same days…you also come across the occasional student who expects instant responses/bookings simply because it’s online
  • Technical issues – occasionally your sessions will get disrupted by things that are not your fault…and you may end up paying for that, especially if you are working through a site that doesn’t offer a partial refund option
  • No-shows and ‘ghosters’ – can also cost you time and money
  • Disinterested or rude students (usually the younger ones) – it can be difficult to capture a student’s attention if they are looking away from the computer, watching videos in another tab, or otherwise blatantly not listening to you
  • Questionable parents – from those who constantly try to insert themselves into your schedule without regard to the options you provide, to those who appear half-dressed in the background to your lesson…parents can be a source of anxiety – sometimes with the added pressure of feeling like you have to ‘prove your worth’ more than you would offline if they are not confident in the online method
  • Isolation – if you’re working from home, it can be an odd experience
  • Commission – if you work through an online tutoring website to get the advantage of recruiting students and using a professional online classroom, the price you charge can be a lot higher than what you actually take home…some sites reward tutors for example by lowering the percentage that they take from you from 25% to 20% once you complete a number of sessions…others take the biscuit (I’m talking 37%)

The Path to Music Psychology

This summer marks the tenth year since I started studying Psychology – reading Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour (Richard Gross) prior to starting the A-level course. At that time I had an intention of studying and working within Psychology, and very little experience with Music. The interest in music grew gradually, and I began to take violin lessons finally at the age of 23, progressing from beginner to grade 7 level…whilst knee-deep in a Psychology PhD focusing on cognitive neuroscience and visual perception.

One of my current aims is to build a path towards some academic research that bridges between the two areas of interest. I’ve built extensive experience within Psychology, and taken my nerdy obsession with Music Theory as far as possible in a three year period, but the combination is proving trickier.

Naturally, progressing from a long-standing interest in cognitive psychology, I’m particularly interested in the cognitive and perceptual aspects of music, and am currently looking into designing a paradigm to test whether/when people tend to over- or under- estimate pitch intervals between musical notes. It remains to be seen whether I would be able to conduct (and eventually possibly publish) some research in this area, given that I don’t currently have an institutional affiliation.

Specific Music Psychology jobs seem somewhat rare (and therefore presumably competitive), so I do feel the need to build up some experience in a demonstrable way – reading lots of books is not always considered ‘CV-worthy’ unfortunately! Another idea I’m working on is to create an online course, though this is proving tricky to plan, let alone actually record and build!

As well as the links between music theory and perception, I am also interested in music performance psychology, however, this is even further removed from my previous experiences. I did not have much success gathering interest to host a guest speaker even even when I had the association of a student union!

I would certainly be excited about potential collaborative projects associated with music and psychology, so if you are in a similar position to me or simply have an idea or interest you’d like to develop, I’d love to hear from you!

Life Post-PhD

9 months post-submission.

7 months post-viva.

4 months post-final submission/approval.

It seems like a lot of time to have passed, but the intervening time was busy. I had taken up online tutoring to help fund the ‘lifestyle’ of PhD work which was unfunded since September 2017, and increased my tutoring workload once the pressures of the PhD lightened. So for a couple of months, that was a large focus. On top of that I decided to throw myself into Grade 8 Music Theory, academic job-hunting, and an involuntary house move. It is only recently, as exam season came to an end, that the overall workload really did lift.

No more PhD, no more music revision, very little paid work, and I’ve also completed my numerous trips to the dentist!

I was certainly right in thinking that the ending of the PhD (when it eventually came) would take a huge weight from me, but there’s also an odd ‘lostness’ to my current self. From school, to university, to postgraduate work, I always had a clear pathway – a logical ‘next step’ – so it is very strange to have this apparent freedom of future…

Motivation is a difficulty at present. The main culprit is, I would say, job applications, which take a long time and give nothing in return. This week I applied for a part-time, temporary administrative post, and received a relatively quick rejection response (within 2 days!). As is typical though, there was no opportunity for any feedback. My PhD supervisors have all offered support in terms of references, but I don’t think that any of my applications have reached that stage so far.

Working alone and from home (and with very few students at the moment) is another example of little reward for one’s work. The summer months also bring a hiatus for both the orchestra I was in before my house-move, and the one I was interested in joining locally, and I find it difficult to practice in a focused way without something to work towards. I am always glad of a break, but it is very strange to be in a situation where everything breaks or tapers off at the same time!

I hope that in the summer months I will be able to find a new level of self-motivation, reflect on my experiences so far, and achieve some constructive, productive, and enjoyable outcomes!