It’s official. I am Dr Jennifer Wagner.
As of December 10, 2015, my degree was conferred by the university council and I have the right to call myself a doctor. My PhD took more than four years, even though nine months at the end was mostly doing paperwork and waiting. The actual research and thesis writing portion was around 3.5 years, which is normal for a PhD in the Commonwealth where there is no coursework. I wrote almost 80,000 words on language and culture in French textbooks. I like to joke that my thesis is a 300 page complaint of the way textbooks teach French – but honestly, I’m only half-joking.
So what led me to do an entire PhD on French textbooks? Anger, mostly. And the frustration at learning things in class that I never heard or used in real life and being utterly confused at the French I heard and read everywhere in France. I learned French in the days before Youtube, or FluentU, or Yabla, and I couldn’t afford expensive cassettes or CDs to listen to French – but that is exactly what I needed. I’m still surprised at how many of my students today think that reading a textbook means they will be able to understand spoken language and have conversations with their peers. Sorry, but it’s not going to happen. Technology is your friend.
I have returned to the US since my Australian visa was expiring but I am looking for jobs in North America, Europe, or Australia/New Zealand. Please let me know if you hear of opportunities in Applied Linguistics, French, or English as a Second Language. If it involves languages, then I’m interested.
I submitted my PhD thesis for examination this week. “Congratulations! / That’s exciting! / It must feel good to have that done.” is the normal response from everyone, but I honestly don’t feel any different. Technically I am not completely done with the thesis because Australia does not have the same system of oral defense for doctorates that many other countries use.
So. much. paper.
Autsralian PhD students submit a thesis to two examiners, one in Australia and one abroad, who have 12 weeks to write a report and give a score between 1 (pass forthwith) and 5 (fail/accept as Master’s). If the score is anything less than 1, students have a few weeks to a few months to make minor or major corrections before printing the final copy, and only after that is the degree officially conferred by the university. The whole process is supposed to take 3 to 6 months after submission, and so I do not actually know when I will be able to put Dr. before my name.
I also have not yet found a job or a way to stay in Australia so I may have to leave the country in a few months, which is an endless source of stress. I suppose the main reason why submitting my thesis changes nothing for me is that it does not actually help that much with finding a job. Most job listings specify “must have PhD in hand” by time of appointment, meaning the degree must already be conferred. I was rejected from one job because I did not yet have my PhD, the second I never heard back from, which is just cruel and unfortunately a common occurrence in academia, and the third re-listed the job announcement with a new closing date, which I’m assuming is bad news for me.
In the meantime, I’m teaching French and linguistics this semester (as a casual tutor), which I enjoy immensely. My students are great, as always, and I’m already sad that I won’t be able to teach them again next semester.