Doing a PhD in times of COVID-19 – our coping strategies at DLGS

May 2020

Staying motivated right now is not an easy task, especially if you are a PhD candidate. Many researchers have themselves admitted on social media how they struggle with being productive and to find a consistent routine. Things have not been so different for PhD candidates at Dresden Leibniz Graduate School (DLGS). Here is how they are coping with this tough situation in their own words.

Fitria A. Feliciani

The COVID-19 pandemic requires almost everyone to work from home. The strategy that I apply during this time is creating enjoyable space and establishing a new routine. I consider creating enjoyable space is important to boost the mood for working on my theses since most of the time I will stay indoors. I decorate my room with plants, scent candles, and small decorations. I try to maintain my room as tidy as possible. My COVID-19 routine applies the same working pattern that I have before, with breaks in between which is my daily prayer or sometimes longer break. During this time, I have regular joint study time together with other doctoral students online. Apart from having social contact, this has helped me to keep up the motivation.


Mengfan Jiang

Working at home during Coronavirus time is a huge challenge for me. The boundaries of work time and leisure time, daytime and night-time, as well as normal day and holiday, became blurred. Self-isolation and loneliness can cause mental depression and other health issues. My newly-built daily routine is to do sports in the morning and sit under the sun for half an hour, which helps to keep a good mood for the whole day. Fortunately, I am presently in the final analysis and drafting period of my dissertation, so I don’t have a special demand for equipment and site. I would positively consider this period as a time for meditation and contemplation.


Tieza Mica Santos

I have just started with the Ph.D. program when the lockdown was imposed. It was a major transition for me – the move into a new city, not having established a defined social circle, and new social and work environments were the main challenges I had to adjust to. The lockdown significantly altered my planned routine and work program. Since I have an experience in project consulting in the past, I used agile strategic management to pivot amidst this current situation to accomplish my daily tasks, but with a conscious effort to do self-care. We now live in an unprecedented moment and while time management is crucial to achieving one’s daily goals, managing expectations and mental health are also necessary. Reading Filipino humor stories and a 15-minute stroll around the neighborhood helped me maintain a sense of balance.


Fred Nkubito

As a doctoral researcher COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably caused disruptions to both my work and life routines. For instance, in the early days of the lockdown it was very difficult to distinguish between work time and own time as one could often overlap the other. To cope with this, I go for shopping or have a walk to facilitate the transition from work time. Also, the closure of university facilities such as libraries and lack of physical interaction with colleagues are among other inconveniences. On the other hand, this unprecedented situation has also compelled me to learn in terms of space organization, taking care of own mental health and encouraged me to explore and leverage on online resources and services that I was not necessarily aware of before COVID-19.

Jiyoon Song

As the pandemic started I was confronted with lots of terrifying news about COVID-19. At some point I got very frustrated because I could not do much to help society, other than staying at home and doing my research. Spending time alone made me ponder the meaning and significance of my work. I started appreciating my research topic more, for example the question of how society can become more resilient to threats, such as not only the pandemic but also the impacts of climate change. After some distractions from the sad news about COVID-19, I realized that my work can be beneficial for society in the long run, and I found a stronger motivation to work on my topic, which made me work even harder while working at home. To be more efficient at home I have several strategies, for example separating my studio apartment into working space and non-working space, making timelines that contain to-do lists and regular breaks, and talking to my family and friends on the phone to feel less isolated.


Fahim Nawaz

The COVID-19 pandemic has added many new dimensions to my work-life equation. All of a sudden, it replaced the pre-determined work drill with a more flexible but isolated routine. One of the challenges that I faced initially was maintaining a balance between working and non-working hours as these often took toll on each other. On the bright side, I enjoy fresh and hot meals every day amid the pandemic. The pandemic helped in expanding my capacity thereby adjusting to a new normal. Taking small breaks in between, going out for short walks in the street and talking to friends and family via calls helps me in remaining productive and focused.


Riyan Habeeb

The pandemic started within the first week of my landing in Dresden, even before official formalities could be completed entire Germany experienced lockdown. Thankfully due to online facilitation I was able to register online for the semester as well as avail membership of Graduate Academy, other administrative formalities like registration at Immigration office and availing bank facilities had to wait another month before they could be streamlined. The pandemic brought certain set-backs - like our get-together orientation at IOER and welcome lunch with colleagues which are better experienced in-person - to some point it left me a little clueless about the ongoings and other formalities associated with DLGS. However, the situation also presented me with the opportunity to explore more on my topic as a lot of online courses were made freely accessible and it definitely helped me progress in my PhD research, frequent email conversations, skype and zoom meetings with colleagues organized by IOER, DLGS as well as Graduate Academy enabled me to cross the barriers posed by the pandemic establishing a communication which otherwise was inhibited. It was definitely the defining moment to experience resilience in time of risks!


Nikita Sharma

Corona Virus disease has affected every aspect of our daily life. It has capsized the way we do things, work, and socialize. Researchers are no different than others especially PhD students who already have to deal with the issue of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The current crisis has exacerbated the issue further. It has pushed all of us to uncertainty and home office. Leaving us an only option of staying positive and trying our best to maintain work productivity. In these circumstances staying in touch with work colleagues virtually and discussing not just work but daily life and sharing ideas to stay physically active at home helped to cope with the situation to some extent.