2022 has ended on a high note for me... :)
From 11 to 16 December, I attended the Dr Deaf workshop held in the Ål Folkehøyskole og kurssenter for døve in Ål. There were two week-long parallel workshops that took place - the PhD Deaf workshop and the Dr Deaf Winter Writing Retreat. More than 30 participants across 18 countries participated in both workshops.
What a phenomenal experience with a diverse group of people! I felt at home from day one. People were so welcoming. I realise I am at my happiest when I am in an international deaf space like this - one that is deaf-led and accessible. It was facilitated by deaf professors who shared their own challenges during their phd journey. It was such a refreshing change from the past 2 years because I did not have the hassle and extra labour of having to organise a notetaker or interpreter. Nor did I need to rely on an assistive technological device like the Roger to hear, which I sometimes do at university.
After experiencing the first day of the PhD Deaf retreat, I was wondering whether to switch to the writing retreat. It felt like I already had experience with some of the initial topics addressed such as finding the right PhD committee and navigating accessibility.
Later, I found out that there were some PhD students in their 3rd and 4th year who were just there to enjoy the experience of networking and sharing experiences. One student shared that she planned on coming back for a writing retreat in 2023 as she would be in the writing stage of her PhD then. I also found that I quite enjoyed sharing my own PhD journey experience with the group. So, I decided to stay on, relax and enjoy the experience.
One of the key takeaways for me was "motivations to publish", addressed during a session by Octavian Robinson. I have wrestled with this issue, particularly, whether publishing research is to attain academic fame for oneself or for other reasons such as advocacy to advance outcomes for deaf communities. This is especially more so when the results and impact of research are not tangible immediately, but only much later down the track like several years or a few decades later. Thus, it was great to be reminded that social change and policy requires evidence-based research and to get a sense of why it is important to publish. It was also reinforced during the workshop that publishing is not easy. I recall how it took me 5 years to get a piece I was working on published. What a great sense of accomplishment I felt from that! I'm glad I didn't throw in the towel even when the going got tough. I look forward to working on more publications in the future. I hope that my voice in my writing and all the work that I do will yield positive outcomes for deaf and hard of hearing people in Singapore in the years to come.
After reflecting on the PhD Deaf workshop overall, I realised that I enjoyed the networking aspect the most, especially meeting deaf professors, current PhD students and those aspiring to do a PhD in the future. It was cool to meet deaf academics from all over the world who were researching various fields beyond my own discipline. This included fields such as STEM, health, nursing, art education, and so on. It broadened my outlook even more and made me feel like nothing is impossible. I also enjoyed connecting with those who shared similar research interests as me in deaf education, deaf studies and linguistics. I loved the energy in the room and the intellectually stimulating conversations that ensued.
I left Ål feeling rejuvenated. I now feel motivated to press on for the remainder of my PhD journey. The interactions I had with the facilitators and participants during the workshop served as fuel for me. My tank is full. Even though I have a supportive PhD supervisor and have made friends with some hearing students at NTU who have filled me in on the ins and outs of how to navigate a PhD in the Singapore context, hearing spaces are not always fully accessible to me. Being the only deaf PhD student at NTU is not easy and navigating accessibility in Singapore does drain my energy at times.
I must say that I have enjoyed the PhD journey in Singapore thus far despite the challenges that I have encountered. One of the main reasons is my PhD supervisor. The other thing that keeps me going is the support of friends and former colleagues from the US, UK as well as a few friends from Singapore via zoom calls, text messages or in-person catch-ups. It has mitigated this energy drain that I sometimes experience. I notice my motivation and energy levels rise whenever I get to chat with them about my research, work and life in general. My cup goes from nearly empty to almost full. However, there is nothing like meeting other deaf academics in-person and having that face-to-face interaction. The onsite experience at the retreat was energising and empowering in a way that all the text messages and zoom video calls cannot beat.
Although, I do admit I was a little over stimulated on the first day with all the signing going on in the room - simply because I haven't been in a vibrant deaf space like this in a long time ever since the pandemic stopped the world for 2 years. But, I got used to it as time went on and was just happy to be there. The week went by so quickly. I wished it could have gone on for another week!
The Norway trip is also one of the reasons why I got motivated to start this blog and finally create a professional site for myself which I have been wanting to do for a while. Someone emphasised the importance of writing regularly, even if it's just a bit everyday. I have therefore decided to use this blog as an outlet to share the highs and lows of my PhD journey in Singapore, and other aspects of my life on a regular basis.
Much gratitude to my PhD supervisor and co-supervisor for allowing me to claim their bench fees to offset part of the cost for this trip.
My brain is happy and my heart is full. 😃
I feel so pumped up for what is to come.
In 2024, I should be in the writing stage of my PhD, if all goes to plan. I wouldn't mind coming back to Ål for a writing retreat in the summer if there is one organised at that time. That is, if my life circumstances and finances permit me to do so then.
Hope to be back!