1 December 2016

A Day in the Life of a PhD Student-Mother | Study With New Zealand

Sherrie Lee
Singaporean PhD student

Many think of a PhD student’s life as revolving around library visits and long hours at the computer. But PhD students have more going on in their lives other than books and writing.

Many international PhD students in New Zealand come with their families and striking a balance between study and family is all in a day’s work. Here’s what a typical day in my life might look like.


Around 6 am, I wake up, get dressed and have breakfast before I start my routine of preparing lunch boxes for me and the kids. I usually make ham & cheese sandwiches, cut up some fruit, and include a homemade treat (muffin or cake). Once I’m done with lunch prep, I start to wake up the kids. It take a while before all three are washed up, dressed and ready for breakfast. Once we’re all done with breakfast, we’re off to school which is 10 minutes from home. I then head for the university to start my “school day”.

The time I spend at the university is focused on my PhD work. Some students prefer to work from home but I like the quiet space in my office, and the computing and library facilities nearby. For me, it’s hard to work at home with kids and other distractions around, so the office is the best place for me to concentrate on important tasks like reading and writing.


Around 12 pm, I have my lunch at the tearoom. Many PhD students don’t have regular lunch hours so it’s hard to meet them informally. I try to arrange to meet with them once or twice a week over lunch or coffee. For me, it’s important to have a lunch break to disconnect momentarily from PhD work, and be able to socialise with others over a meal.

In the afternoons, I may continue where I left off in the morning, or attend workshops, presentations or meetings. There is more to learning than locking yourself in the office and facing a computer screen. Doing a PhD is largely self-directed, so I make it a point to attend workshops and presentations that are related to my academic interests.


I head home in the late afternoon, ready to switch back to my mummy role. This usually means going through school notices, reading or playing with my kids, and helping with dinner preparations. After dinner, my husband and I chat over wine while the kids relax with their books and games. Before you know it, it’s time to wash up and get ready for bed. While the kids are sound asleep, I catch up with Facebook or do some light reading.

And this allows me to enjoy being both a student and a mother without sacrificing one for the other!

Partners and children are welcome – if you’ve advanced to doctoral research, and partnered or even had children along the way, New Zealand is a great place to broaden your horizons and continue your postgraduate studies. Visit Immigration New Zealand for more information.

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About the contributors
Sherrie Lee
Singaporean PhD student

Sherrie is a PhD student and emergent scholar at Waikato University interested in language, literacy and identity. She is a tech-savvy multi-tasker, tea-drinker and mum who is interested in sharing her musings on teaching and research. Visit Sherrie's blog at https://teachersherrie.wordpress.com/