A Day In The Life – Ellis Spicer

by Ellis Spicer, University of Kent, Student Committee Chair and Kent Representative.

Describe a typical working day.

They say the life of a PhD student can get a little unpredictable, but in some ways I’m finding the opposite (unless I have particular plans on a specific day for interviewing, archives etc). In fact I’m sitting in my office writing on a very untypical day, one I’ve dedicated to catching up on admin.

But usually, you’ll find me groaning at my alarm at 7am virtually every morning – I’m one of those disastrous human beings that never wakes up on the first alarm, needing one every five or so minutes until I motivate myself to get out of bed. After a compulsory cup of tea in the morning (I can’t function without one), some breakfast and getting ready for the day, I start my walk to campus. I’m getting a lot better at trekking up the hill that leads to the University of Kent, although I’m sure asthma medication has also been helping on that front.

A lovely autumnal view from our Rutherford College Office at the University of Kent

By the time I’ve made it to the office, I usually need a glug of water and a cup of coffee to get my working day properly started. Admittedly this can be anywhere between 9-10am depending on how long I can ignore my alarm for.

I am excessively proud of my little working space when it’s not a mess.

When I’ve got a coffee by my side and my computer is all loaded up, I like to take a look at my to-do-list. You would be right in thinking that I am one of those people. Love a good list, love a bit of order and if the stationery is also adorable then that is even better! Then I start writing more often than not.

I am a fully-fledged victim of the post-lunch slump so if I’m writing a chapter or a conference paper most of my work will be done before then. I’m often so consumed by the writing process my hands hammer the keyboard until my brain enters ‘shut down mode’, I finish what I planned to do that day or if hunger or the need for caffeine intervenes, whichever one may arrive first.

I try and take a break for lunch, even if I am sitting at my desk. Mostly I’ll scour the news to see if anything interesting is happening or read whichever book I happen to be delving into at that point. Even if I don’t leave my desk, I like the mental break from my work I get from these lunchtimes.

Afternoons massively vary, they can vary between admin tasks, keeping an eye on emails, planning outreach sessions or revising my notes from my Spanish class. Sometimes I feel cooped up and leave campus early, needing some fresh air, and it’s those kind of days where you’ll find me in the gym, a new found hobby I’ve become rather fond of.

Evenings become a chance for some PhD decompression, with a focus on indulging myself – whether it’s leisurely reading, Netflix or social time, and I’m rather protective of them. You’ll never catch me working in the evenings because I don’t feel productive in the slightest during them.

What’s your top productivity tip?

See above – I’m not an evening person, I prefer to work in the mornings. I always think people should work out when they work the best and roll with that, there’s no right answer. Know yourself and know your schedule and even if you’re busy you can make the most of the time you have.

What do you do to unwind?

I read a lot of fiction and watch a fair amount of TV on my protected evenings to escape from the PhD bubble.

What is your favourite way to start the day?

With a vital cup of tea, a decent breakfast and an episode of something lighthearted.

Two Weeks of Greek Islands

Kate Docking, University of Kent

When I’m not ‘PhDing’, one of my favourite things to do is to find a cheap flight, cajole someone (usually my sister) into coming with me, and visit a new country. One of the highlights of my recent non-work related travels – if not the highlight, really – was going Greek island hopping in June with my friend Tab. Over the course of two weeks, we visited three islands in the Cyclades: Santorini, Anafi and Ios. Here is essentially a ‘mish-mash’ of some of my favourite bits.

One of Anafi‘s many isolated beaches

Swimming in the sulphur springs of Nea Kameni, a volcanic island very close to Santorini, was definitely a memorable experience. We got on a boat to get there, which ended up actually docking some distance away from the actual springs, and we were informed by the tour guide that only ‘strong swimmers’ should make the crossing. Tab and I quickly assessed our respective swimming abilities, and, more concerned on potentially losing out on the 20 euros each we’d coughed up to do the trip than the possibility of being stranded in the Aegean Sea, we launched ourselves off the side of the boat and completed the swim. Surrounded by hyperactive young backpackers wielding Go-Pros, we somewhat ceremoniously and a bit dubiously covered ourselves in the ‘sulphur-mud’ (I’m not certain what it actually was, but apparently it’s good for your skin). This was certainly a unique and fun way to spend one of our mornings in Santorini. Another Santorini highlight was the two and a half hour walk we undertook from Fira (the capital of Santorini) to Oia. We were laughably unprepared (we had about one bottle of water each in blazing heat), but thoroughly enjoyed the amazing views and talking about a range of riveting things on the way, such as Santorini building regulations and the ideal size of a water bottle.

The walk from Fira to Oia

After a week in Santorini, we spent a few days in Anafi, a much smaller island about an hour and a half boat away. I absolutely loved Anafi, and I think, on balance, it was my favourite island. For me, Anafi really encapsulated what springs to mind when someone mentions a Greek island: rugged beaches, traditional domed white houses, churches with blue tops, and incredible sunsets. As soon as we stepped off the ferry (while uttering the classic ‘I’ve still got my sea legs on!’ as we walked onto dry land), I knew Anafi would be a very different experience from touristy Santorini. Only a handful of us disembarked, and, indeed, we kept seeing the same people throughout our stay. We spent most of our time there sleeping under the tamarisk trees on many of the beautiful beaches, which provided a natural form of shade when the temperatures soared during the day, and swimming in crystal clear waters, often the only ones in the sea. Anafi remains untouched by mass tourism (for now), and I think that contributes greatly to its sense of isolation, ruggedness, and community. This is a place where people actually live, and have done for years, not somewhere that simply caters for the demands of modern tourists.


Our last island was Ios. We were firmly told by several people in Santorini that Ios that it was the ‘party island’, but it didn’t really live up to this reputation. When we arrived in the Chora on our first evening (the main village) we were faced with lots of virtually empty clubs and bars. We couldn’t walk through the streets without getting hounded by promoters trying to get us into their empty places. All Tab and I wanted was to find somewhere to have a drink that wasn’t 8 euros and didn’t consist of literally energy drink in a plastic bag. Surrounded by 18 year olds probably on their first trip abroad without an authoritative figure, I felt distinctly out of place. Ios was lovely – it’s got great beaches, a nice town with some really good restaurants and it’s very aesthetically pleasing – but it didn’t have the rugged charm of Anafi nor the jaw-dropping views of Santorini. But of course you can’t love everything about travelling, and our slightly negative experience of Ios definitely did not even taint what was an absolutely incredible trip.