One of my children asked me, “Mom, what is your job”? My quick answer was, “I am studying, doing research, and sometimes I teach”. I think the pile of books I have in the shelves triggers his curiosity. My work is a study. I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Malmö in southern Sweden. Here in Sweden, a PhD study is a job, and this means that we get our regulated salary, pay our taxes and pension, and get to enjoy freebies or discounts for students.
As any typical immigrant, I had to find different ways of surviving, and for me it became clear that studying or going back to school would be the best way to get the job that I like and want. I juggled my hours between my new task as a mother and a university student. It was not easy but I managed with the help of my husband. After getting my Bachelor’s degree, I further pursued two Master’s degrees from two universities in the south. I was in my early 30s when I went back to school, and I would have to admit that it was not at all easy, but in the end it was possible to achieve the goal I set.
After a field work in London
During my second MA, I thought that research was an enjoyable job. Interviewing people and trying to understand their perspectives on certain matters caught my interest, so I looked for jobs that were related to the academia until I was accepted for a doctoral position in 2014. I never really planned on becoming a PhD student, but as an immigrant, one has to be creative in surviving in our new home. A university study gives a stable foundation for a career, and for me as an immigrant woman I have to make that foundation as stable as possible since it is not easy to be an immigrant. Finding jobs that we like have not been easy, and we oftentimes feel that we are discriminated, but to protect ourselves and to find more possibilities and opportunities, going back to school can be one way of addressing the problem. I know several Filipino women in Sweden who have enrolled in universities because they know that studying will help them find better career opportunities.
Doing a PhD study is a mixture of several challenges. Perhaps if there is one particular aspect that could be seen as less attractive in this career, then it will be the feeling of being alone. A PhD study is done by the student with the help of a couple of supervisors, so there will be moments that one feels isolated despite working in an environment with fellow students and university teachers. The feeling of isolation is rather common among PhD students at least with my immediate network, but at the end of the day we tell ourselves and each other that even though we are alone in our own project, we are anyway all in the same boat, we know and understand the situation that many of us go through.
My husband has always been the wind beneath my wings, the one who took care of our children.
Advise to fellow Filipino immigrant
If I were to share one advice to a fellow Filipino immigrant, then that would be to take the challenge that is offered to you and be creative in solving it. I know that many Filipino immigrants feel frustrated that they are not able to use their education from the Philippines in Sweden. This is of course disheartening and I completely understand the frustration that many go through, but it is possible to update our knowledge especially if we want to pursue the same career in Sweden. And we are lucky because in Sweden we do not need to pay any tuition to study at any university, and there are also university programmes that offer online teaching, so it makes it possible to combine work and study.
Lisa Lopez Pedersen is a Doctoral Candidate for the University of Malmö