By Audrey Scardina |

Scheduling your summer as a PhD student can be complicated. First of all, everyone who knows you’re a student, but doesn’t quite get PhDs, probably thinks you’ll have time off. Secondly, conferences are happening every weekend, research trips must be scheduled, grant applications are due, your parents want to see you, and maybe you should take a holiday (do you really have money for a holiday?). Below is some of my advice for trying to schedule your summer, based on my own experience.

I think the first thing that normally hits me is the conferences. Call for papers for summer conferences can start circulating as early as October or November of the year before, so before you just start applying to anything that may be relevant, do look at the dates! This year I intelligently applied to a conference that was less than a week after one I organised myself, so I had three days off in-between! Luckily it was a poster and I did most of it ahead of time, but man I was tired by the end of week two. Also, look at the costs. If it is within the UK and you are taking the train, look at the length of the train and how many changes you have to make as well. For example the train from Edinburgh to Oxford is 5 – 6hrs with one to two stops, and I’ve been told it can be cheaper to fly to London Luton airport and just take a bus. Faster too.

Keep an eye on what is coming up at your own university as well. This year I’ll have gone to three (maybe four… I just got another email today…) conferences at Edinburgh that are related to what I want to do. It’s great because I don’t have to pay the cost of travel, get a day ‘off’, and get to hear cool talks and meet new people (and get free food?) without the stress of presenting and travelling. On the other hand, of course, I’ve thus filled up a lot of my month of June, which I purposefully left free for work.

Which brings me to my next point, which is, once again, scheduling. If you go on research trips, or language programmes, or anything along those lines, make sure you set those dates out before even thinking about conferences! The earlier you buy those tickets the better, and it can help you weed out some conferences. Plus, you can use the research done on the trip for the conferences.

Then there are grant deadlines. I’ve had two big ones this week and it was perhaps not the smartest to schedule a trip home the week before they were due. I guess the theme is – try to plan out your summer but also try not to overcommit. You’ll probably need to be actually working on your PhD dissertation, so make sure you keep some free time for that as well.

But, the most important piece of advice is to take some time off. Go on holiday if you can (and no I don’t mean with your family because then you’ll spend about 1/4 – 3/4 of the time talking about how your PhD/Masters etc. is going anyway…). Go away with a friend or by yourself. Research trips don’t count either. Even if it is just a day or two. Even if you just take the train somewhere different for the day. I promise it will clear your mind, and hopefully make you feel better.


Audrey Scardina is a second year PhD in Archaeology, where she studies the architectural development of Byzantine churches in southwest Turkey. Though this mostly takes the form of making databases and translating German, it does occasionally mean trekking through the rocky countryside of Lycia to find crumbling ruins. You can find her Academia page here.


(Image ⓒ Audrey Scardina)