De week van… Afrooz Rafiee

Afrooz is an external PhD candidate coming from Iran. She also works as a research assistant on two projects in the Meaning, Culture and Cognition group. Half of the week, she works and the other half she works on her PhD project. Here, she writes a typical week of an international and external PhD candidate.



As an international and external candidate, I need both to work and to study. Monday starts with a lab meeting of the group that I work with, followed by a meeting with my PhD supervisor. After the meeting, I start working on a paper that my colleagues and I are writing. Last year this time, I was collecting the data and now the paper is near its end. I remember that I have to go to the In’to languages (the language institute at Radboud University) so to ask whether I can register for a Dutch course starting from March, since I have a research budget that I would like to spend on learning/improving my Dutch. Fortunately, they say it is possible to register for level B1 since I have passed level A2. But I’m highly recommended to do an intake because I attended the last course two and a half years ago. “Will you do the intake tomorrow?” asks the reception. “Tomorrow”, I think…, “yes, I’ll do it”. “14.40 or 14.00?”, she asks; “14.00” I reply. It is now about 4.00 pm and the appointment is made for 2.00 pm tomorrow. The intake is added to the list of works already in my schedule. Back to the office, I continue working on the paper.



I start Tuesday working on the paper. I have to send it to my work (not PhD) supervisor by tonight. In the beginning of the day, our work supervisor enters the office with interesting presents for the group! There is not much time. I have to be quick. The intake is at 14.00 and I have read nothing. I go to the 6th floor to borrow my friend’s Dutch textbook. As I enter the office, I see the Sinterklaas present from my PhD supervisor; well, working in two groups has extra benefits;). It is a Jip & Janneke book to encourage me practice my Dutch! Which has worked! I was busy reading the stories more than I was doing my work last weekend!


I skip reading Dutch stories for now, and start reviewing Dutch lessons. It’s 11.30 and there are 12 lessons. I take a look at some pages, those with explanation of the grammar and I think about few words I may need during the interview. “This seems to be an interesting week”, I think with myself and I send an email: “I’ll write a blog about this week […]”. I am at In’to languages at 13.56. The reception knows me from yesterday and asks me to take a seat in the corridor. The idea that I’ll take a language course makes me feel so excited. And of course the idea that I may not be good enough for B1 makes me not feel good. “If they want me to re-do A2, I won’t do that. I will not spend that much money to re-do a course. In that case, I’ll go and practice that level again by myself” and I search for some words while I’m waiting for the interviewer: “compare? vergelijken, painting? Schilderij”, I review in my mind. The interviewer invites me in and starts the interview and after 10 minutes she tells me that she thinks I can skip B1 and go to B2! I’m so excited and she sees that in my smile. Now, I have to register for the course.

Back to the office I have to work on the paper. It’s now a bit difficult to focus. I send the paper and go out with friends. At night, I talk to my mother and sister. I have to tell them this ‘Dutch news’!



On Wednesday, as always, I move to the sixth floor. I continue working: analysing Dutch texts and compare them to Farsi texts when needed. This part of the work needs careful attention since it’s all about working on Dutch texts. In the middle of the day I receive an email from a colleague who is so kind to inform me about a place available for rent. I take a look at the ad and send an email. I need to do two other works: registering for the CogLing7 conference and buying three books I’ve found relevant to my research which are not available at the library. These will be paid from the research budget. I continue working on Dutch texts and at the end of the day I receive an email with a request to comment on a paper. I decide to do it. And after working on a few more texts, I leave the university.



Thursday early in the morning I start reading the paper. “I start now, at 6.20 am, and I’ll finish at 9.30 at the latest, and then I go to work”, I tell myself. I finish it at about 11 and send it to colleagues. I go to the lab meeting of our group and listen to an interesting research topic. Back to the office I have to declare the rest of expenses from the book store, and finally I continue to work on the Dutch texts.



On Friday, I work on the files I have to send tonight. I clean excel sheets including Dutch texts and prepare a summary of some findings. After getting back to the office from lunch, I look at a picture of my parents and I feel that I miss them and our home so much. In the afternoon, I attend a gathering on the fourth floor to say goodbye to a colleague. I also receive a very nice card from another colleague. I still have to send my file, so I can’t go to the Christmas gathering with the group. I make a call to my colleague to inform her that I won’t be there. I feel sad but I must do my work. I send what I have been supposed to, and go home. At home, I have a cup of Iranian tea with some Iranian cookies while reading a book translated to Farsi: The Gambler by Dostoyevsky. And I end the day by talking to Ali, a very dear friend of mine and one of the most knowledgeable people I know!



I should meet a friend at the city centre. It’s difficult to ride the bike today. I feel not fresh. At the market I buy some eggplants and tomato with fresh garlic, and fresh mint to make an Iranian dish. On my way to where I’ve parked my bike, I meet an Iranian colleague. We chat and decide to meet in the coming week. I take my bike and see another Spanish friend and again decide to meet as soon as we find some time. Back home, I think with myself: “I have to work” but I’m not feeling fresh enough. “Am I really getting sick?, no, please, not today! I need to work!” I tell myself while staying in bed. I take a look at some rooms advertised on websites and make a phone call to make an appointment for visiting one of these places.


Sunday: sick and work

Yes, unfortunately it was true, I’m sick, although it’s not the best time to get sick. I have to stay in bed since getting out is almost impossible. In the afternoon I cook the Iranian dish. And I sit at my laptop to work. I can’t work the way I like. “I will work better next week, I will compensate this!” I plan, and I know that I will do it!