a perspective into international student life

Hello, and Welcome…


My name is Pia. I am a PhD student doing research on the concept of whether participation in theater and drama activities can help first time international students deal with the challenges of settling in the university environment.

Phew! That is a long title! I know!

I consider myself to be a  ‘digital primitive’, as opposed to the ‘digital natives’! This is my first blog to help me baby step ‘hopefully’ into the world of digital media and its many interfaces using the 23 things for research online module. I also intend to use the blog to be an interactive interface to document the ups and downs of the journey of international students at Surrey. If you are an international student first time in the UK, please take some time to document the hiccups and bumps of the student life in Surrey. If you are not participating in drama and theater activities, you are still very welcome. Your documentation can act as a lighthouse to show the way for lost travelers. Of course, I will also post about my own trials and tribulations as an international student and occasionally ramblings about my research area.

As I pointed out earlier that I am taking baby steps into the world of digital tools and media for ‘research and otherwise, it is highly probable that I will make mistakes, sometimes serious ones! I will be happy if you logically point it out if I am wrong.

Well now I am ready with my endless cups of tea in mugs that suit my mood and look forward to blogging and learning together with you all.

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Thing 3 to Thing 9

Dear all, sorry I was off the blog for some time. Missed the lively discussion with all of you. Meanwhile, the New Year 2017 has set in with new hopes and promises. Wish you all the very best.

I have returned back to the blog about a week back from now and was refreshing my memory with Thing 3, right towards the beginning trying to have a peek into what you all have been learning about and writing while I was away.

I am not surprised that you guys are miles ahead of me. While I was going through the ‘23 things’ posts and your blogs, I felt like the famous short story character of Irving -‘Rip Van Winkle’ who fell asleep and woke up twenty years later to find that things have seriously changed.

Now before you keep wondering about why I feel this way, let me give an insight into my life. I had read about the challenges of doing a PhD while being a mother. It seemed daunting but you never quite estimate how hot the soup is until you taste it. Quite coincidentally, I am researching international student belonging while being an international student myself. My latest experience showed that it is a serious challenge indeed when your patience, time and self management skills are put to the test! Being a full-time international student, trying to meet a deadline for a literature review and being a mother to an incredible 5 year old who had a month long persistent cough that thank goodness got diagnosed as an allergy, has been a tough journey to say the least. I have won the battle for now. Anyway more about doing a PhD as an International student and a mother later! Before you all shut the screen, here are my findings starting from Thing 4, ‘Consider your personal brand’

When I typed my full name ‘Priyanki’, I saw lots of other Priyanki’s photos and accounts. None of them were me though. The interesting part was ‘’ can teach you how to pronounce my full name in the first place. What a great decision I have made to cut back to ‘Pia’. Worth it! Now when I typed ‘Pia’ it took me straight to Pakistan International Airlines and some ‘Princess Pia’ on Twitter. I quickly deleted it and typed Pia Ghosh which yielded a namesake associated with a medical university in Sweden and a writer blogger based in England, also from Kolkata where I come from. My conclusion… I am invisible! In my welcome blog, I had pointed out that I am bordering to a ‘digital primitive’. I don’t feel proud of it but it aptly describes my state. However this whole fun exercise pointed two interesting facts about the digital world. Firstly you no longer need to be famous to come up on ‘Google’ searches. The more information you put on the web the more visible you become. Secondly it justifies why we should therefore consider our personal branding. I think it must be quite difficult to segregate your professional image from your personal ‘avatar’ since one Google search can threaten to expose us all. I am wondering if most people add neutral information about themselves or is there a way to really segregate and give access to suitable audiences as per content. Any idea bloggers?

Thing 5: Twitter: I have managed to open a Twitter account and you can find me as ‘PiaGhosh31’. The Twitter vocabulary glossary is very useful. It took me several days to tweet and it was only yesterday that I managed it. It was surprisingly easy I should say and I used hashtags for the first time. I have a Facebook account but I have never used hashtags in it. The best part was ‘#phd chats’ opened up a great point wise writing on literature review that is quite the piece of information I have been looking for these days. I think, I am quite intrigued! Look forward to tweeting more. But on an honest note, the challenge will be to manage both Facebook and Twitter as they both seem to serve the same purpose.

My musings on Thing 6 and 8: LinkedIn,, Research Gate and Reference Management Software’s: I had reactivated my account on LinkedIn. I am finally on my way to update my profile and invite my contacts. I was aware of but Research Gate is new to me. After visiting the sites and reading up on them on 23 Things, I however feel that Research Gate does a little more than and therefore my initial experience says it might be a little more complex. However as suggested, I am taking my time to decide which one is better suited for my purpose. As for the reference software’s, I am stuck between Endnote and Refworks. I am planning to visit the librarian as advised by Sam to know more about them. I will update on my progress in my next post soon.

Things 8 and 9: The Creative Commons thing is mighty interesting. I support the whole concept of sharing knowledge for the sole sake of making education free and available to all. But I don’t think I am happy with my grasp of the matter. So in all possibility I will have things to say and ask about it in my next post.

Wikipedia: I did not think it will be one of the 23 things for research. I have always been prone to regard it less respectfully. Personally to be honest, there have been innumerable times I have gone into it to read about something as this is one of the most prominent links that pop up when you search anything. I have always used it for information regarding non academic and non official things but have always resorted to other resources for the more serious matters. I have a feeling that is what most people do. ‘The ten simple rules of Editing Wikipedia’ and Wikipedia’s guide to starting an article is new to me though.

I am increasingly feeling that I am perhaps the most suited candidate for ’23 things for research. All of these things seem to be vital for a PhD researcher and had I not registered with ’23 things’ these would have been shelved till eternity until they became crucial. So thanks to the RDP team for coming up with this program and pats on my own back for signing on. To sum it up, I have Things 10, 11 to write about in my next post where I will be exploring Flickr and the likes. There is no doubt that the digital world has opened up new opportunities for image sharing. The copyright issue is another area that I want to know more so that I do not infringe the law and know how to use it properly when needed. I am also looking to narrow down and start using a reference management software because it certainly looks like something to nail early on. I will also try to see if I can successfully give links on my blog for my twitter and other accounts.Finally to sign off,  I look forward to your ideas if any on this post and engaging in future discussions on ’23 things’ and beyond.


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Looking backwards from Thing 22 – Thing 14

Hello everyone! Of all the things I have come across as part of the 23 things for research, some which I already knew like Twitter, Wikipedia, dropbox, hangout and others which are quite new to me like Creative Commons, Altmetrics, Bibliometrics and sharing your research online, I have come to the conclusion that while we can reach people beyond our immediate periphery with these tools and make our research potentially global, this also puts new age researchers like us under constant pressure to perform and present. It’s no longer about what you have found as a researcher but also how you have packaged yourself and your research. It has to look good and hold hands with the other platforms. It has to have the right images with the right font and just the language that would catch both the internet wanderers and the regulars.

Over this span of 23 things, I have opened quite a few accounts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Reserchgate, Research Professional and looked into first time stuff like Altmetrics, Gapminder, Euraxess and online scheduling like Doodle. To be honest, I am yet to figure out a plan to keep tab of all these different sites as well as concentrate on my research at the same time.

Thing 22 about having your own website seems like a solution to this problem. Just thinking of it this way, that if you can put your research and your collaborations on your webpage and then give away links on everything else. This way, people who are interested can come back and have a look into your webpage for the information that they might have found interesting. But the issue of time management still remains sort of a concern as you struggle to update your website and then put links on to other social media sites and then monitor how people are engaging with your posts.

Thing 21 about Research and Euraxess: I have found Euraxess to be more oriented to different needs of different researcher’s career trajectory than Research Professional. I think the filter and search option really makes it easy to segregate information about things like funding and jobs.

Thing 20: Google Drive and Dropbox: I have been using Dropbox for some time now especially after the welcome week where older PhD’s and professors warned us in jest about the possibility of losing data if you didn’t store in multiple locations!  However the information here on Dropbox, is helping me gain a better grasp of the tool and use it better.

Thing 19: Doodle has gracefully introduced itself through its appearance on my emails about scheduling meetings for reading groups and more before we met gain on 23 things. I am contemplating that it might come handy when I am looking to schedule focus groups as part of my research design with the international students in the societies.

Thing 18: Webinars and hangouts: I use Skype for my video call. However I have recently become quite dissatisfied with the quality of video calling which seems to get worse with cross country exchanges. I am looking for a suitable alternative and exploring Google Hangout at the moment.

Thing 17:  Crowd sourcing: I thought, crowd sourcing was about generating funding for projects by making it open to the public. But 23 things did open my eyes with examples like the Run Coco project and the one on endangered species run by one of our very own Surrey PhD students or even the Transcribe Bentham project. Currently I am trying to think, how and if I can use it for my project to get together international student views on belonging from all over the world.

Thing 15 and 14: Research Impact, Altmetrics and Bibliometrics, SRI and Open access:  I have found this to be interesting, highly organised but again the focus seems to be on how popular the research is than the quality of the research. There appears to be some bright ray of light with open access and SRI, because I strongly believe in making real research open and available to all for the sake of education. It was good to know about how and where to approach SRI once and if I manage to secure a deal with any publisher. I reckon it will take a while. Taking inspiration from the Hare and Tortoise story, I am pretending to be a tortoise and hoping it will get to my destination even if I am slow but steady!

Enjoy the first blushes of spring and good luck with your Phd! Hope to get back to you all soon about some musings about ‘belonging for an international student’. Goodbye for now.

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What I learnt from 23 things from research


The world says ‘What is in the name?’ … But for me it all started with the name of the program – ‘ 23 things for research’. If nothing, I thought coming from the RDP who are a team of successful PhD’s, it would in the least, introduce me to some useful tools that a PhD student might need.

Research has been a  thing I wanted to pursue as a career for a long time. So when I started my journey as a PhD student at Surrey in late September 2016, I was quite excited with the scope of both my research title and how I wanted to plan the time I have in hand as a PGR. However the journey seemed lined with a lot of things to do. I was overwhelmed with the amount of information and resources that were being offered from different sources that included my supervisors, RDP, experienced students, professors in the Welcome week and the postgraduate office.

The problem was that the information was all there but since they came from various places at different times, they all looked rather scattered and difficult to keep track of.  I wanted something that would help me put them all in perspective by introducing me to tools that could help me organise and get on these jobs. For example I knew I had to start working on my own publications at some point, but I was looking for sources to help me identify the areas that I had be aware of early on to avoid pitfalls, like the areas of copyright (Creative Commons), making it available  on Surrey Research Insight(SRI), the whole complex process of how publications are judged(Bioliometrics and Altmetrics) and then how to collaborate and make your research available to the wider research communities(Research Gate, Research Professional) and social networking sites like Twitter, Google Hangout and Webinars.

23 things for research helped me have an idea of what these things are like. Coming back to research after a long gap has made my situation quite difficult. I was systematically putting off things for later with the excuse of my own research workload.  I knew I had to start saving my documents as evident from the prophecies by professors and experienced PGR’s of how you could risk losing all your research. Had it not been for 23 things, I would have been too lazy to open a Dropbox account and be acquainted with other sources like the Google Drive. The same goes for the reference management software.

But no, I have not learnt everything and I cannot tell you I am on top of all the ’23 things’, but at least I know them by name.  I have them all in my cabinet and I can now take them out and look deeper into them at my own time and pace.

Having said so, while the digital world have opened up opportunities to connect with almost everyone, the pressure it creates on a new PGR is immense. People don’t expect you to only concentrate on your research but also systematically bang your own chest and make yourself known while getting to know others. The challenges for a PGR therefore seems manifold now. 23 things for research is an excellent platform to help PGR’s explore the tools they will need to take part in this ‘academic race’.

However considering PGR’s are already hard pressed for managing time, sometimes I did feel that some of the weeks had too many work agenda to concentrate on in a week’s time frame. For future, if ’23 things for research’ could be spread over 15 or more weeks for example, it would allow researchers to do it in a more relaxed manner. Since this is a program that most PGR’s are doing on the side while also working on their research, allowing it to spread over a few more weeks or alternatively allowing a pre-agreed flexible time frame  as per the requirements of each participant would in turn enable them to give more time to each week’s topic. While I agree that not all PGR’s may need that extra time, it could be beneficial to people like me who are full time first year PhD students and a mother at the same time.

Never the less, ’23 things for research ‘, apart from being an informative program also provided a dual opportunity to share our thoughts and work , get feedback from others, answer queries and know about what other PGR’s and staff bloggers are doing in their research fields. Above all, I think I am glad that I opened up the blog as part of ’23 things’. As I am researching international student belonging with theatre and drama, a topic that touches the life of all students irrespective of whether you are international or not,  this blog seems to be a perfect way to communicate and collaborate with other students and the research community at Surrey and beyond. I want this common meeting place to be a common ground where everyone can communicate about there experiences of belonging on campus, while I share my own thoughts and experiences on the matter.So while ’23 things for research’ is officially ending for us, I want to keep on the good habit of blogging and exploring that started with ’23 things for research’.


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