Thoughts and Soul Searching : Quitting a PhD Program for a MASc

My goal, when in high school was to get a Master’s degree and get a job as an engineer in France. I accomplished that in 2007 and then worked as an engineer for 3 years before thinking that one thing was missing in my curriculum and that had been a dream of mine for a really long time. I was 25 in 2010 and thought that it was “now or never” : I was still young and without real commitments. So I looked for jobs abroad but had trouble landing an interview because they expect you to have experience abroad if you apply for a job abroad. It is basically a vicious circle. Then I realized that the process was easier if I tried to study at the same time. So I decided to enroll into a PhD program so I could get that so called experience abroad and off I went to Canada, in British Columbia more precisely.

I got to work on an optical instrument that had to be developed in a very short period but without much supervision. The thing is that in France, a PhD program is very different from a North American one. The biggest difference is that a doctorate in France is basically a 3-year-job : you get a project to carry out, that they know you can do in 3 years and then you’re done. In North America, it starts with taking classes that you need to validate with at least a B. It’s a degree after all so you spend time taking classes and lose precious research time. Then you do your research but sometimes you don’t end up finding anything and it’s even harder without a guide. What I didn’t realise when starting is that my project is time limited but I didn’t have an official supervisor (or guide) to help me stay in line.

Then, there is that PhD proposal exam that comes where you have to present your research work. You have to present what you have done so far and also what you are going toward. I had very little time to come up with my whole report and presentation because I was trying to get a paper submitted at the same time. I realize now that I should have put more time into preparing for the proposal and more importantly preparing to answer the basic questions I was asked. At the end of it, it came out that they didn’t think I would have enough time (6 months) to finish what I was proposing. Those 6 months would have made the length of the PhD to 3 years.