PhD status: Submitted

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It did took a while but now I am here. I am definitely a different person from the one who started the PhD journey in May 2010. Though the journey indeed started a while back, when I took ethnobotany and dendrology at university in Peru. My Professor was the only PhD from the faculty back then. Later on, I attended an inspiring career talk by a Peruvian Yale PhD graduate. Fast forward 10 years, I remember when my boss told me “You are ready”. I felt ready, I felt i could do anything, focused and fast, and eager to learn. Unstoppable! … but i did stop for a while, after a short gig in Brazil I decided to pause. After working almost non stop for 7 years, I decided to take a deep breath. A six months deep breath. Then life happened. I met my other half, moved back to Kenya to work and got a PhD offer in Australia. Dreams come true.

So the journey started, this time with my copilot next to me, my husband, my best friend. It has been an amazing experience where I have learnt to question myself, I want to think i have matured as well. Falling off the productivity wagon was not uncommon, my stamina levels sometimes run low, really low. On the upside, I engaged in academic and philosophical discussions about the future of the Earth, volunteered as student mentor, volunteered with the Latin American community, organised a poetry contest. The best part of all: teaching! My dream of teaching at a top uni, even as a tutor, became true. My international students were the best, the most motivated and curious ones. I loved it.

I also discovered a new “me”, I changed my diet for good, started walking more, exercising more, became more self-aware and when I thought I was done with my PhD, I accepted a full time job in another country. Although starting a dream job combining forestry and economics was a blessing, it was very hard to “find the time” to complete my last chapters. The dreamed “clear mind space” never really materialised after work or on weekends. It took me a while to be able to create time as I was never able to “find” time. Being a “solo” mum for 2 weeks when hubby took holidays abroad helped me immensely to finish up. I needed to do everything myself, from breakfast, lunch and dinner, shopping, school drop offs and pick up, take my son to his almost daily extra curricular activities and wait for him, I even managed to fit in a couple of Pilates classes in between. Waking up early to work on my PhD, doing exactly my 8 hours day job, then working on my PhD at a cafe while waiting for my son, and also working on my PhD after dinner. I became a PhD soldier. I feel it was the busiest and most productive time in my life. I don’t think i could sustain that rhythm for a long time though but the experience definitely put me in the right path, the finishing path. So here I am now, my PhD is submitted and gone out to the external examiners for their verdict. Of course, I do have a most interesting submission story but that one deserves its own post 🙂

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About sandravelarde

Peruvian Forest Engineer (UNALM) and MSc. in Ecological Economics (University of Edinburgh, UK). I am a natural resource management specialist. My experience is in socio-economics in tropical forests, evaluating the trade-offs across different land uses: biodiversity, carbon,and profitability (FAO, ASB, ICRAF). My PhD thesis at the Australian National University (ANU) is about tree planting for bioenergy. My passion: Planning and capacity building, using participatory methods, like Future Scenarios (CIFOR, ASB, ICRAF, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment). Currently working as Economist / transdisciplinary scientist at the New Zealand Forest Research Institute (Scion).

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