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So, for the past few months I have been crazy busy on something I refused to talk about because I was super-stressed out. Finally, I have a reprieve because at least for now (I think and hope), there’s nothing more for me to do.

And what was it I was doing? *drumroll please, though of the anti-climactic sort*

I was applying to PhD programmes.

I know. I wasn’t pregnant or launching a revolutionary product that would end world hunger. I was just preparing to humbly submit my application for the opportunity to spend a few years studying some obscure topic (related to gender studies – do not ask me more at this point).

How hard could that be, you ask? Well, one has to write a proposal with a bibliography that is about two pages long which means one has to read enough reference books to fill two pages with their titles, but more importantly one has to read enough reference books to make the other eight pages or so sound like you have a clue. Thus, you read and you read and you try to distil everything into less than 10 pages, which is always a challenge for me. There is so much I want to say, but at the proposal stage, it’s too early to say it.

Then, in my case, I had to find referees willing to say yes, I recommend that you invest resources at your institution in this person and her obscure research project. And I graduated from my Master’s seven years ago, so I had to reach back in time and say hello to people who may or may have remembered me. Well, one of them did and I’m pretty sure one of them didn’t but she was nice anyway, despite being a eminent scholar in her field.

In the meantime, I had to ask my mum and my uncle back in India to run around and start getting documents like transcripts done for me. Indian universities should really have an email for this kind of thing so that at least preliminary details could be obtained without paying a visit, but that would be asking too much.

Then, I had to shop my proposal around to prospective supervisors, which means writing personalised emails which not only talk about my proposal (which by then I could confidently go on about) but about how they and their work tied into my proposal (which was harder, because we’re in Hong Kong and my research area deals with India but I’m not a spin doctor for nothing), which means actually reading some of their work so that they are convinced there is a connection (and also flattered that I read their work).

Then, once a few people said okay it sounds interesting, I had to start applying. I thought I had all the documents and people on standby but noooo, life could never be so easy. The online referee link didn’t work, my transcript format wasn’t acceptable, I needed an additional letter, I needed to do the Toefl. All this would have been easier if I didn’t have to ask someone else in India to run around for me. At one point, I was at breaking point and in despair.

And then suddenly, it was over. Well, for now. Or is it? At the back of my mind is the fear that someone is going to pop up and ask for another document. Or that I have clicked something wrong and I’ve not really submitted my application. The silence is freaking me out.

When I told Mincat I had finally finished submitting everything I needed to submit, she asked: “So what are you going to do now?” Good question. It is very strange to be (temporarily) not doing five things at once like a headless chicken.

I’m grateful for: 1) friends and family and former professors who rallied around me 2) access to a great library 3) not having to write the GRE. Oh God, I feel like an Oscar winner though I haven’t won anything but have in fact lost a chunk of my sanity.

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