Different people, different ways of coping with isolation

We are living unexpected times, in which our state of mind depends directly on our mental skills and social settings. Have you given a thought of how your doctoral colleagues are feeling in this very moment? The following are examples of verisimilar situations:

Anne is pregnant. She is in the end of her program, there are only three more months to go. She was supposed to deliver – her baby, not the dissertation – in May. She calculated her pregnancy not to interfere with the defense. The delivery (this time of her dissertation) was in the end of February, and her defense was supposed to take place in the end of April.

Thomas and Mario are a couple who just moved together. Thomas has just started his doctoral research in Anthropology. Mario is writing his Master thesis and decided to follow his boyfriend to a new city. They are living in a tiny studio with the cat and the newly built routine.

Yusuf was born in Germany from a Turkish family. He is carrying out his doctoral research in cell immunology in his hometown. This was not exactly his dream field of research, but he had to stay in the city to take care of his grandma. Currently, his institute allows him to take care of the mice he uses for the experiments. Unfortunately, many of them will not be used because of the timing.

Renate dropped her career to focus on her family back in the 1970’s. Now, at 69 she decided to finally fulfill the dream of having a doctorate in Medieval History. She is a widow and her two sons live abroad. She would never leave her home. She does not own a computer either.

Julia is a single mother. Her four-year old twins are a handful. She lives in a small apartment quite far from the city center. There is no one who could help her out with daily chores. She cannot find the peace of mind to take care of her small child, read and write. Going to the market once every two weeks already feels like yet another complex operation.

Catalina and Oscar recently moved from South America to the north of Germany. She was supposed to start her doctorate program when the lockdown came into place. He is unemployed and they both were counting on him finding a job right at the first month in the country. There is still a lot of bureaucracy she has to take care of, before starting her doctorate, including immigration issues. Most offices are not working at the moment. They do not speak German yet.

Marcus is handicapped. He leads his life on a wheelchair. His mother has a serious heart condition that does not affect her daily life, but this new virus seems to be dangerous for someone like her. She usually goes for grocery shopping and does other tasks. Now that is all on him. Germany is pretty accessible, but the way to the supermarket takes 20 minutes of his day.

Mei has been living in the same German city since her master’s degree. She could not visit her family back in her home country for the past three years. Her family lives in one of the pandemic initial hotspots. Unfortunately, she is not the most communicative person, so she does not have a big network of friends, so she has no one whom she could share her worries with. Lately, she has been having troubles sleeping at night. Her home office productivity is practically null, and her anxiety only grows as the days go by.

These were fictitious examples of doctoral candidates, but all that can be happening in the neighboring town or even in your own institute. Can you think of a way to help them out?

by Guilherme M. O. Abuchahla and WG Diversity

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