My viva story: The night before the viva I went to the theatre …December 14th, 2011 | Posted by in Viva Stories
by Bairbre Walsh*
My viva was held on November 2nd at an Irish University. My thesis is on three works of fiction and the two autobiographies of the Jamaican author, Claude McKay.
I submitted my thesis about 8 weeks before my viva. In between, I re-read my thesis, my primary texts, and read some papers and articles relating to the broader area of my research topic. I wanted to keep my mind focused, but did not want to swamp it with too much new info.
I was naturally very anxious in the weeks leading up to the viva. I had to make a real effort to get out for plenty of walks and to try to eat well and not have too many late nights. I started to take echinacea with gold seal root to to ward off any post-submission colds etc! I didn’t feel the wave of relief upon submission that some people describe- in fact, I had a new set of nerves the very next day after submitting. There was no longer anything between me and the viva now that I had handed in the thesis.
The night before the viva I went to the theatre so I would be out of the house, and distracted by the play. I came home from that and had a glass of wine to help me sleep. I went to bed at roughly the same time as usual, and slept relatively well, which I did not expect.
The morning of the viva I got up, showered and had breakfast, and spent some time getting dressed and groomed- it was a good way to focus myself for what lay ahead. I had planned what I was going to wear earlier in the week; again, I found this a good way to channel some of the nerves, and a way of imagining myself through the process.
I was given a spin to the university campus that morning- I didn’t want to risk any driving/parking related issues that morning! I arrived at about 9.30, and had time to have a drink of water, take my rescue remedy, and do the little things you need to do to feel calm before going in.
I went to wait outside the room where it was to be held, and was called in at 10am. The viva lasted one and a half hours, after which time I was asked to leave the room for about 5-10 mins while the examiners deliberated. The viva was certainly challenging, and I am glad it was. The most surprising part was the amount I learned throughout that hour and a half. I was reinvigorated about elements of my topic, and found that I was genuinely taken up with the discussion. My extern and intern were extremely generous with advice for the future, and were encouraging and engaged throughout.
I passed my viva, and although it is now a month ago, it still seems strange to have it completed, this milestone which looms from the moment you make the decision to begin PhD research.
Alot of people told me about the anti-climax I might experience in the days after the viva, and I think they were so right. As happy as I am that I have completed this stage , I think we are programmed as researchers to constantly think about the next step we need to take.
My conferring is next week, so for the moment, I will look forward to that.
*Bairbre Walsh successfully passed her PhD viva last month at a University in Ireland. Her PhD was in English Literature.