Stories from Beijing

I’m writing down things and people I encounter in Beijing on Facebook. As a more lasting record, I will post these short stories here as well. Before I leave Beijing, this post will keep being updated.


Story 4. Aug 21st, 2018.

11:05 pm. I was just out from Dongzhimen subway station, back from an interview. The was another 10-minute walk before I could get back home. Clutching my backpack tightly in front of me, I kept reminding myself that this is Beijing; it’s safe and there’s nothing to worry about. Before long, I saw evidence of such safety. A guy in a white shirt was throwing up intensively in the hollow made up by two tires stacked together neatly. Apparently drunk, but harmless. Not sure why there were tires though. A few steps later, there was a couple sitting on the ground beside the walkway. The man was smoking silently, forming clouds above himself. The women had her head down on his laps, crying loudly.
The Beijing with a midsummer night’s dream.

Story 3. Aug 21st, 2018.

I don’t think I have seen anyone carries his/her wallet around. Neither cash nor credit cards. But definitely a smartphone and maybe also a battery bank (in case there are no public battery bank leasing cabinets). At restaurants, you scan the QR code on your table to order and pay inside the restaurant’s WeChat mini app. On subways or buses, you tap your phone screen to the card reader to pay. To enjoy any street food, scan the seller’s personal WeChat QR code to pay; he/she will print out the QR code on a piece of paper and stick it on the food truck. Internet is never an issue. Mobile connectivity is so good no matter you are indoor, outdoor, underground, or high up on Mount Everest. All you need is a phone connected with China Mobile’s network, with your WeChat logged in and a bank account registered.

Story 2. Aug 14th, 2018.

McDonald's WeChat mini app

I was at a McDonald’s, ready to order from one of the big screens standing in front me. Almost touching the screen with my finger, a woman’s voice rang into my ear: “Ma’am, are you our member? You can become our member from within our WeChat mini app and you will get daily special discount exclusive to our mini app. You don’t have to use this screen to order; just open your WeChat and go to our mini app.” Following the voice, I saw a young woman with McDonald’s uniform and another older women busy working with her phone — apparently, she was instructed as I did moments ago.

I did what I heard. I saw the WeChat McDonald’s mini app recognized my location and then identified the store I was at without making any mistakes. Then I ordered what I wanted — the meal was much cheaper (as today’s daily special) than buying the sandwich alone, so why not buy the meal? The mini app naturally prompted payment with WeChat pay. Then I received my calling number in the mini app. I hit the top right black dot and ring button. The mini app closed, I was brought to where I was at in WeChat.

A few minutes later, my number was called at the counter. I showed my number and grabbed my dinner. Efficiency.

Story 1. Aug 13th, 2018.

Beijing Transportation Card in iPhone wallet

Right after I landed at Beijing airport, I got notified by my iPhone, saying that I could add the Beijing public transportation card to my phone wallet. I did that and then loaded money to the card directly (“you will get your 20 CNY deposit back!”). The entire interaction was very smooth. Next day I hopped on to a bus and tried to tap my phone to the card reader. I touched my phone once. It didn’t work. I looked like a hopeless barbarian. A girl with a modern look beside me held my phone impatiently, changed my phone angle swiftly, touched the reader again, and the reader uttered a clear beep sound. Wow! What a sound that welcomes me to the mysterious digital Beijing!

Research in Academia vs. in Industry: From My Experience as a UX Research Intern at Facebook

I spent the past three months at Facebook as a user experience researcher intern. I worked in the Facebook App Monetization org and did research with two different product teams. I interviewed Facebook users inside and outside of the US, and I also conducted usability tests of prototypes. This is my very first formal industry experience as a user researcher, so everything (literally, everything) was new to me. The journey has been more challenging than I expected, but it was definitely a great learning experience. I applied for this position last Fall, wanting to know what research is like in industry (or at Facebook, in my case). Luckily I got in, and more luckily, I got most of the answers I was looking for — if not all.

1. Objective. The focus of research in industry is to point out directions and offer recommendations for product design, development, and more. So it’s all about the product. Research in academia cares more about studying and exploring important questions in the field. If not necessary, it is often unlikely for research in academia to be related to any product.

Hence, the significance of research in industry is to help product teams make appropriate decisions that fit the company’s overall mission/goal/plan/interest. What about defining research questions? What about finding the right methodology and implement it? These are all important. However, in industry, oftentimes decisions are not made solely by the researcher but based on the entire product team’s discussion or the product’s current need/requirement. For instance, if a product team wants to know what a certain population will think about the product, then the researcher can only research this topic to find answers from users that will guide the team’s decision-making process.

In academia, research questions are usually determined by one or several principal investigators (PIs, who are commonly professors). Things can be researched no matter it’s a new topic that worths studying or a critical realm that worths being dug deeper (even though one might not get an answer). How do you know if a research topic is significant? It all depends on how the field looks at it. A research topic about how a mosquito’s flying will be affected if its wings are hit by raindrops sounds meaningless to our real lives. But if it’s meaningful for its field, then it could be studied. What is not important is whether it can lead a product. This is why many studies in academia look imaginative and less valuable to the reality. This is also why research in academia is way ahead into the future.

2. Significance. Research in the industry is unnecessary. Without researchers, product teams can still make decisions and keep developing products. The point of doing research (i.e. user research) is to establish the communication channel between users and product teams, so that product teams can make informed, wise, and better decisions. There are product teams who develop products freely without taking into consideration of researchers’ suggestions — but this is another story.

Because research is unnecessary, there are cases that researchers are neglected by the product team. Researchers thus have to work on helping the team to understand the value of research.

In comparison, academia is all about research. A research university (my institution is an example) pays all its attention to research. Professors and their teams have to do research and meet a certain criterion of research, especially before professors are tenured. So the importance of research in academia goes without saying.

3. Resource. Facebook as more than 40,000 people in total with hundreds of UX researchers, which is a lot in the industry. Naturally, more people get more resources. Examples include research labs built especially for conducting user research (better than the labs I have seen in academia) and a separate recruitment team for helping researcher recruit participants. Researchers also support each other by running training and creating discussion groups.

On the other hand, I think the resource in academia mainly comes from connections. Industry depends heavily on connections as well, but best researchers mostly stay in academia. Connections in academia can lead to knowing more researchers in the same or related fields and then creating more opportunities. In my opinion, the distinction between resource in industry and resource in academia lies in their types.

4. Who does the researcher represent? At work, UX researchers represent users in product teams; they speak for users and communicate users’ needs and difficulties to product team members. UX researchers represent their company in front of users.

Researchers in academia represent experts in the field. They represent themselves too.

5. Forms of outcomes. Researchers in industry present users’ needs and recommendations to product teams through presentation slides, charts, tables, reports, etc.

In academia, the major form of presentation is publications, such as conference papers or journal articles. Publications present research outcomes (e.g., new experiments, new methods, new algorithms, etc.)

6. Pressure. This is really all about my personal experiences… In industry, user research is only a small part of the product team and it is usually in the earlier stage of product development. Designers and engineers wait for research outcomes to move forward. This means researchers’ pressure often comes from their product team members and the progress timeline of the team. The quality of research is crucial too, but not as crucial as some other things, relatively speaking. That why people say “done is better than perfect.” It’s not okay to ask your colleagues to wait for you.

About pressure in academia… Can’t finish talking about this in one paragraph lol. I feel stress in academia comes not only from producing high-quality research that will truly contribute to the field (which includes a lot more smaller “sub-pressures”) but also pushing oneself to his or her intellectual and mental limits of learning and pursuing knowledge. Because of this, I will not recommend anybody doing a PhD degree without true passion and love of research…

7. Income. Of course, industry offers higher income… Much higher than academia, in fact.

There should be more about research in academia and industry, but I can only think about things listed above for now.

If you ask me which one I will choose… Actually, I still have no answer. But at least I can see more clearly the differences now since I experienced.

Dynamics

I went to CRC (Georgia Tech’s gym), drank iced milk tea, ate crispy chicken nuggets, and did grocery shopping this morning. This was all because I submitted a conference paper last night. I guess I need to celebrate, so I offer myself some treats.

I don’t have many experiences with writing conference papers. Previously, I had turned in two papers with myself being the first author and co-authored another paper. Yet writing a conference paper always teaches me new lessons. The lessons that I’m going to share might be cliché — smart people may learn this quickly, but I need to wait until I’m writing another conference paper. A bit dumb.

The thing I learned is that different papers have different dynamics. I know, this seems obvious — this seems obvious only when we are reading papers. It may not be the case when we are the ones who are writing. Why? I didn’t really feel this when I was writing my first two papers. I thought it was me who was writing, and since I was the author and I did not change, so I supposed the papers should look pretty similar in terms of style? Well, this is not true. The paper that I was writing recent days had an entirely distinct dynamics in a sense that it kept leading me, instead of being led by me. It refused being structured. The findings of this study were complicated. There were so many details and I didn’t know which ones I should pick. In fact, I couldn’t even find a proper way to tell a story for a couple of days. Findings were already messy, hence the Discussion section was even more difficult to write. I remember I had a hard time on the day I planned to write the Discussion section. Sitting in front of computer screen and hearing my heart bouncing anxiously, I told myself that no matter what I had to at least outline the section before I went to sleep. I jotted down whatever I thought of that might be useful in the section, and to my surprise, these random lines seemed to represent some commonalities that I could talk about. The paper had something it wanted to say. I was only its medium.

I want to record my feelings and thoughts because they are important to me as forms of reflection. This is also to remind myself that I learned a lot by going through the process regardless of the outcome.

A rotten tomato

I had a really hard time sleeping well these days. It has been a while, for at least two weeks. This is quite odd for me since I usually experience no difficulty at all to fall asleep. Every day, from 11 pm to 7:30 am in the morning, I’ll be roaming in my own dream freely. But it looks like I’m running out of luck.

It’s really not because of work. I have no problem completing my jobs these days, and I have not been complaining about my workload for a quite long time. For what reason am I prevented from going to sleep? No clue. All I can tell is that I am, subconsciously, being disturbed by unknown anxiety.

When I failed to sleep, I could hear a lot of sounds. Last night I woke up three times. One at midnight, one around 2 am, and the last one around 5 am. I heard heavy raindrops hitting my window crazily. I could also hear different kinds of birds chirping. I heard my cat licking his paws. I even heard the sound of a new message’s arrival from one of my neighbors. I heard all the sounds that I wouldn’t notice normally. Insomnia is like a huge ship, it carries you to the ocean and all you can do is to float along the waves. Surrendered.

All I can do is to wait for the first beam of sunshine to arrive. And then I will play the roles I’m supposed to play (assigned, yes) — as usual, as nothing has happened.

A few days ago, I stood in front of my fridge, examining what’s inside carefully and trying to come up with a plan for lunch. I spot my last tomato and some eggs. Might be good to cook them with some wontons. The tomato looked as fresh and as lovely as always. I cut it into halves, but it was rotten. Its core, the central location, displayed a greenish black and started melting. I was deceived by its appearance. With no other options but throwing it to trash, I wondered when it went bad.

I think it’s a rather crucial quality to be able to distinguish an about-to-rotten tomato from others, especially when I’m one of the tomatoes.

A List for My 2017

People often list things that they want to do or places that they want to be before the start of a new year. I don’t really have such a practice, but I can still clearly remember what I posted on Moments at the beginning of 2017; I hoped I could sleep and exercise more. Have I completed these goals? I’d like to make a list to answer this question.

  • I think I have slept more because I no longer registered more than one class per semester. I again went back to China to do research in summer, but my past summer was way friendlier than the one in 2016. I also stopped TA-ing in the fall semester, leaving me much more flexible time (and much more time to sleep as well).
  • I also exercised more. On average, I went to the gym five to six times in a month. This is definitely not frequent but already more than last year. I got my driver’s license in June and was then able to go to the gym more often. I started living alone since September, so I was also more flexible due to this change.

Hence, I think I have, at least to a certain extent, fulfilled my goals.

I also did some other things:

  • I traveled quite a lot. I went to Denver (for CHI) in May, visited London and Edinburgh in June (for DIS), went back to Shenzhen for the rest of the summer, drove along California 1 in November, and now I’m in Florida ready to drive US 1 tomorrow. I never really like flying but I had no other options for long-distance travels. Driving is a lot of fun but can be exhausted too. I think travel is, in general, a double-edged sword to me – I enjoy it and I hate it at the same time. Let’s see if I get to travel this much again next year. (My next summer is already booked for California because of Facebook.)
  • As a Ph.D. student (which is, um, my “official” role), I published two first-authored papers at top-tier Human-Computer Interaction conferences. I’m happy with this solid start even though I didn’t really appreciate my first paper-writing experience.
  • As a Ph.D. student (again), I passed my Qualification Exam. I guess my worst two days in 2017 were March 20th and 21st. The exam was so damn cruel.
  • I know I mentioned just a few lines above, but still – I’m thrilled to get my Georgia driver’s license. What a mark of my yet another step towards independence!
  • Finally, I got an intern offer from Facebook. I promised myself that I would get one. I’m happy I keep this promise.

Of course there were pains too:

  • I have been in relationships with guys (different ones, of course) since 2008. The year of 2017 marks an end. I broke up with my boyfriend and started my expected-to-be the longest period of my single life. I had always wanted to be single and cool and live alone since I was pretty young, but you know dreams change as people grow. I enjoy being single quite a lot, but sometimes it could be difficult too.
  • It’s still hard for me to get used to living in America. I mean, I have already been here for four and a half years, but I still can’t see myself as part of people who live in the United States. I hate most of the foods here, I hate how things are designed here, I hate the system here, etc. I don’t really like here but I have to stay here. This pain is in no way a new one, but it keeps burning me. I think it will still do in the future, so I’d better find a way to get along with it.

I learned many things throughout this year. One thing that struck me the most is the importance of waiting. Actively waiting, not passively. I had to work hard consistently for a (sometimes very) long time to get certain stuff (e.g., a research intern in the States). Maybe more precious things need more time to reach me. I’ll keep waiting for them.

I hope these are enough for a year. And for those of you who read till this line, thank you for bearing me babbling. Happy New Year!

A Cyborg Story: Study WeChat Users and Practices through Feminist Theory and STS

(Note: This short essay is my final piece of homework for the class Feminist Theory and STS, taught by Dr. Anne Pollock. I tried to draw connections between my research on WeChat and what I learned from this class. It was a great mental exercise for me to think about my dissertation, and I hope you enjoy reading it as well.)

To be able to engage with feminist theories and STS in my own research projects is one of my major purposes of taking this class. In this essay, I will talk about my prospective dissertation topic and discuss how feminist theories and STS will shed light on it from various angles.

Recent years, social networks start booming more than ever. The fast development of the Internet and the widespread of smartphones make it possible for people to connect with each other at nearly any time and anywhere, and social networks are the foundation for this connected virtual “web.” With an interest in culture, technology, and social networks, I’m eager to learn how culture and technology affect each other in the shape of social networking, and what a “cultural” social network means and possibly looks like. For my Ph.D. dissertation, I will take one single technology as a case to study: WeChat. WeChat is the most popular mobile instant messenger in China. However, different from other instant messaging tools such as WhatsApp or Line, WeChat is not only a mobile instant messenger but also a social network. In fact, being an instant messenger or a social network is only a small part of it; it is a huge mobile platform that almost encompasses everything, including money transaction, news subscription, online shopping and many more (Lawrence, 2016). WeChat users often find themselves spending most of their time interacting with WeChat, without the need to switch to other applications. Besides this most outstanding characteristic, WeChat is mostly used by Chinese people, unlike Facebook, whose users come from various countries. This relatively coherent user base in terms of nationality and the powerful functional integration of WeChat attract me. How do people use WeChat, if they are all Chinese but have diverse life experiences and coming from different backgrounds (e.g., gender, age, education, occupation, etc.)? How are people’s lives influenced, if any, by WeChat? In addition, I want to know if people’s use of WeChat influences WeChat itself, in some ways. All in all, I would like to study the co-construction of WeChat and its users in the context of contemporary China.

Having conducted two studies on WeChat, I’m currently at the stage of planning my next study and thinking about the overall story to tell in my dissertation as well. Reflecting on what I learned throughout this semester, I believe I can see several possibilities for my next steps, inspired by feminist theory and STS.

First, feminist theory and STS can offer me new places to start from. Feminist theorist and philosopher Sandra Harding criticizes the common, conventional understanding of “objectivity” (which usually relates to absolute truth, fairness, and equality) of not being truly objective. Instead, she argues for a “strong objectivity,” where studies of our world should originate more from minorities and those who haven’t been heard of in the past (e.g., the poor, the oppressed), so that our knowledge will be more complete, and thus achieves the strong objectivity (Harding, 1993). Thinking about this call of starting from women’s lives, I remember interviewing rural Chinese villagers a year ago. To my surprise, female villagers tended to know much more about information technologies than their husbands or brothers. This was because “sticking to the phone all the time is perceived as ‘not doing formal business’ and also ‘a waste of (men’s) time’ and thus only women will do that,” explained one of my female interviewees. However, such a technology proficiency, together with the design of WeChat and the stable nationwide Internet connection, in fact, turns out to support female villagers to earn spare money through WeChat and hence gain more freedom and say in their families that they couldn’t expect before. Indeed, as Wajcman says, “the materiality of technology affords or inhibits the doing of particular gender power relations” (Wajcman, 2010). A promising next move could be continuously digging deeper into female WeChat users’ lives and learn how they use WeChat to fulfill their needs.

Second, feminist theory and STS can also be my powerful analytic tool. Apply feminist epistemology to a case or phenomenon to gain insights is an old trick in feminist theory and STS. For instance, by describing black women’s experiences at American airports from a feminist standpoint with particular attention to these women, the preconceptions and discriminations imposed on them become more evident (Browne, 2015). I can map the same technique to one of my previous studies where I researched how Chinese people sent emoji on WeChat. I could ask questions such as what are the emoji used more by female users, what is the consequence of sending erotic stickers to women, and how do female and male WeChat users understand the same emoji differently. By examining my past study from a refreshing feminist lens, I hope to uncover some implicit gender dichotomies and underlying discourses in the emoji world, just as what Emily Martin does to contrast how people talk about the egg and the sperm differently (Martin, 1991).

Third, feminist theory and STS push me to imagine alternatives, both for future and for technology. The question that I keep asking myself in the course of studying WeChat is, what is the alternative form of WeChat? In the context of feminist theory and STS, I can ask, is it possible for WeChat to be feminist and what does a “feminist” WeChat look like? In her book Reinventing Hoodia, Laura Foster describes the roles played by the plant Hoodia in different communities, including the San people, the South African scientists, the drug companies, and the Hoodia growers (Foster, 2017). By putting forward these distinct and sometimes conflicting roles of the same object, we can easily see the flexibility and also the diverse possibilities of Hoodia. Similarly, Nakamura tells the story of the company Fairchild Semiconductor building its plant on Navajo land and discusses how parties such as Fairchild executives, Navajo leaders, and the media all had their own understandings of this project, which again addresses that the project itself was never neutral or independent but subject to interpretations and changes coming from all directions (Nakamura, 2014). To envision alternative WeChats, I can learn from this method and describe what WeChat means to people who are younger, who are older, who are disabled, who invest money in it, who spend their time to develop it and more. Different images of WeChat will emerge from different people’s views, and altogether they will reach a feminist collection of WeChats.

Taking a step back, the projects I listed above seem to reflect a common theme: cyborg. Cyborg, in feminist theory, is a concept raised by Donna Haraway to contest the singular and dominating understanding of identity. In her A Cyborg Manifesto, she challenges widespread dichotomies (e.g., human vs. animal, culture vs. nature) that people rely on to describe (and categorize) themselves and the world (Haraway, 1991). She believes the fixed, homogeneous view of identity should be shattered, and cyborg is the alternative “identity” she comes up, in which humans are not pure but mingle with animals, technologies, and other objects or concepts that people traditionally will not think of. Coming back to my own project, I am convinced that nobody and no object will be left innocent in the world of social networks. Cyber, but not virtual, identities consciously or unconsciously established by every single WeChat user are instances of cyborg. An unchangeable identity is rendered impossible because everybody is a cyborg. On the other hand, WeChat, even usually seen as a passive technology, could also be a cyborg because it exerts power but receives power from users (and/or non-users) and other societal forces too. Cyborgs are the basis of the fluid WeChat world. In the end, I strive to avoid any dualism because there will only be connections and networks in a cyborg space. With the lead of cyborg, I hope the pieces in my dissertation will all come together and shine illuminating lights.

One of the last pieces I read for this class is Sara Ahmed’s Bringing Feminist Theory Home. In that chapter, she says feminism matters everywhere and “feminism is homework” (Ahmed, 2017). By homework, she means that feminism should be the kind of homework that we voluntarily assign to ourselves not only inside academic setting but also outside in our daily lives. With this essay, I hope I successfully complete one of self-assigned feminist homework, marking only the beginning of more homework, as both a woman and a feminist STS scholar.

 

 

References

  • Ahmed, S. (2017). Bringing Feminist Theory Home. In Living a Feminist Life (pp. 1–18). Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1353/qui.2012.0008
  • Browne, S. (2015). “What Did TSA Find in Solange’s Fro”?: Security Theater at the Airport. In Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (pp. 133–159). Duke University Press.
  • Foster, L. A. (2017). Reinventing Hoodia: Peoples, Plants, and Patents in South Africa. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.
  • Haraway, D. J. (1991). A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (pp. 149–181). New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.2307/2076334
  • Harding, S. (1993). Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What Is “Strong Objectivity”? In L. Alcoff & E. Potter (Eds.), Feminist Epistemologies (pp. 49–82). Routledge.
  • Lawrence, D. (2016, June). Life in the People’s Republic of WeChat. Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-09/life-in-the-people-s-republic-of-wechat
  • Martin, E. (1991). The Egg and the Sperm : How Science Has Constructed a Male-Female Roles. Signs, 16(3), 485–501.
  • Nakamura, L. (2014). Indigenous Circuits: Navajo Women and the Racialization of Early Electronic Manufacture. American Quarterly, 66(4), 919–941. https://doi.org/10.1353/aq.2014.0070
  • Wajcman, J. (2010). Feminist theories of technology. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 34(1), 143–152. https://doi.org/10.1093/cje/ben057

The Pleasure of Being a Ph.D. Student

I have been approached multiple times after becoming a PhD student — people asked me about what is good of being a PhD student. Normally, I don’t think about this much, because, as an ongoing PhD student, I’m supposed to be embedded in all kinds of work and thus don’t have time to generate random thoughts. But today is a different one. I had the leisure to come up with a list of things that I enjoy about being a PhD student. Here it is.
  1. Think: Of course, right? (I take this for granted.)
  2. Read books/papers/articles: Yes, I really mean it. I know there are many people who don’t enjoy reading fictions, let alone scholarly writings. But I always love reading stuff, even though English is not my native language. Some scholarly works can be hard to digest and I’m with you here. I tend to read these works more quickly. 🙂
  3. Write stuff: Yes, I still mean this seriously. Writing is something that I started liking once I had done enough amount of readings of different kinds (e.g., fictions, poems, etc.). I simply like the feeling of seeing words flowing out on screens or paper. I admit that oftentimes writing academic papers doesn’t contain much fun, but I think pain is also part of the experience of learning, and learning is usually enjoyable.
  4. Accept hard intellectual challenges: This one almost goes without saying. One privilege of being a PhD student is the opportunity to be challenged intellectually. This doesn’t mean one won’t be challenged intellectually in other jobs, but one gets the chance to think about many deep and sometimes weird questions more as a PhD student. This can be life-changing, and I enjoy this process.
  5. Work independently (for a large portion of my working time): While this is not necessarily true for every scholar based on their discipline, this is true in my case. I like staying in a quiet space that helps me to concentrate on my task and thinking. Having to read and write a lot contributes to my independent work.
  6. Learn from wise minds: This is another privilege that PhD students get. What a joy of being able to listen to professors’ (who are experts in their fields) and wonderful peers’ discussions and grow from their conversations and actions!
  7. Review papers: This one goes together with the one above. Reviewing papers is a great way to see what’s going on in my community. And knowing that I also contribute to part of the process of generating more sincere knowledge is exciting.
  8. Take some cool classes: Same point as the two above. My institution offers many interesting classes. I can take them as my minor classes so that I can enjoy them even if they are not directly related to my major. One of these classes is Science and Technology Studies core seminar.
  9. Get to know and talk to so many different people: I’m especially referring to my lovely qualitative research methods (e.g., interview, observation, etc.) here. As an introvert who doesn’t really social a lot, getting to know new people can be hard for me. However, being a researcher who uses mostly qualitative methods, I am sweetly “forced” to talk to many people — people who I don’t imagine I will even have the channel to get to know if I were not a PhD student. Talking to people from diverse communities help me to know the world and reflect on my own identity. I’ll say this is the best part of being a PhD student (for me).
  10. A bonus: If my paper gets in, I can visit different places/countries: I don’t like being stuck on the plane for long hours, but I really don’t mind visiting new places that I have never visited before. (And drinking new beverages, and tasting new foods, and meeting new people, and more, and more…)
  11. Finally, there are always more to enjoy in the future! 😀
I think what I enjoy the most of being a PhD student, or doing research in general, is the possibility of pursuing my ideas semi-freely. I consider this as a sheer luck of mine, and it is definitely a luxury as well.