I am in limbo

According to the Oxford Dictionary to be in limbo is to be in an intermediate or transitional state. Not only that, but from a theological perspective, to be in limbo means to be in a place outside hell and heaven. This is where I feel I am at the moment, in limbo land. I have just submitted my PhD thesis and I am in transition.

As a PhD student at an australian university, when you submit your thesis, this means that you have submitted it for examination. The examination is done by three external examiners. This process can take between three and six months or more ( I have heard stories of even a year after submission). Hard copies of my dissertation travel across the oceans to be reviewed. Although I participated suggesting names for my examiners, the final selection was done by the chair of my panel. She contacted some academics and asked them to review my thesis. Therefore, I don’t know who my examiners are and where my thesis is travelling to.

Between now and who knows when I will be in limbo wondering what the assessment of my dissertation will be . Examiners will read my thesis and they will make any of the recommendations below:

  • Accepted as is
  • Accepted after minor editorial changes
  • Accepted after more substantial change
  • Revised and resubmitted for examination
  • Failed.

I expect that my dissertation is accepted after minor editorial changes. I already know that there are certain things that could have been better in terms of layout, headings, typos, numbers, tables, and so on. I would be really happy if the reports say that. If more substantial changes are requested, we’ll see how to tackle that at that moment.  The thought that that could be the outcome of the thesis makes me feel like in  hell! But no, I am in limbo now.

So what shall I do while I am in limbo?

Funnily, as I submitted I became a passive student in the university registers and access to the library has been cut. Fortunately, as I am also a tutor, I still have access to the library resources and can continue doing some academic work.  I have between 12 and 18 weeks before I receive the reports of my thesis. Therefore, there is plenty of time to kill and have some stuff done. Thus, I am planning to finish two papers before the end of the year. One of these is on a topic different from the thesis. It is related to my teaching. It is about how interactive blogging and podcasting were integrated in an intermediate Spanish course. The lecturer of that course and I , the tutor, are writing the paper, and it is looking good! I have felt useful and knowledgeable as I have been writing it.  The other paper I plan to finish before the end of the year is part of the thesis. I want to use one of the chapters as the base for a journal paper. It is on how a group of pre-service teachers of English in Chile developed their concepts about language teaching through the curriculum of the SLTE program. There is no doubt that publications are key as part of an academic career. therefore if I want that, I’d better use limbo time for some writing.

What about conferences? networking? 

I have also been suggested that during  this time I should put myself  out there.  One way to do this is attending conferences. Luckily I submitted an abstract some months ago for a conference in December. It is AARE, an annual conference that I have been participating in the last years. I doubted to go because of lack of financial support, but I decided to invest some money in that and get some learnings. This is the third paper I have to prepare before the end of the year. It is also based on a chapter of my thesis. It is about the contradictions in the activity of learning to teach EFL in Chile.  I am looking forward to this conference and the feedback on my paper.

and finding a job?

This is probably the most daunting task. My scholarship ran out and I am self supporting with tutoring. I cannot be doing this for too long, but I am in limbo land and I cannot move on so quickly. I feel a bit reluctant to apply for academic jobs yet as I haven’t got the bloody PhD in my hands. However, I need to do it so as to get one in a year’s time or so. My transitory state does not refer only to the wait of the examination process, but also to be between countries. I plan to go back to Chile by the end of next year and get a job as an academic over there. Therefore, I should be getting ready for the Chilean context. What can I do to prepare myself better?

Anyway, there is no doubt that to be in limbo feels better than being in the valley of shit. Therefore, i’ better go back to writing my papers and do my academic work.


About Malba Barahona

Educational researcher, language educator. PhD from Australian National University. Passionate bushwalker and mountain lover. I procrastinate reading fiction, hiking, doing yoga, riding, having a beer and more recently decolonizing my existence. I write in English and Spanish in different blogs especially with the purpose of encouraging my students to write.

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