PhD and the joy of giving

Are PhD students difficult to shop for? No, not if you can give them time, patience and steady job prospects… 

We have asked PhD students and researchers in Rex and on our social media to tell us what would be their perfect present. The answers we got so far include

  • money
  • a job
  • a completed thesis
  • more time (both ‘PhD’ and ‘me’ time)
  • reference writing AI
  • cats
  • chocolate…..


Some of these are more and others less wrappable in shiny paper. (However, if you do have the technology to generate jobs, money or time, do get in touch. Please!) But if you are determined to find the perfect present for your partner, family member or a friend who happens to be doing a PhD, where should you start looking?

Things we might want

An option you might want to consider is choosing something useful, practical that would make your PhD student’s life easier. Thesis Whisperer has some great suggestions, from stationary to that new book which is indispensable for completing Chapter 5. I reckon very few people would object if you wanted to contribute to their thesis proofreading costs (yours truly has a swear jar piggy bank for this one), or offer to pitch in for a new device when their poor laptop is on its last legs. These gifts would be especially appreciated towards the end of the programme, when funding is thin (if available at all), and new employment still not in sight.

Image credits: Laura Bittner / CC BY 2.0


And things we need

Practical gifts are great, and appreciated. But at the end of the day, they are… well, practical. Probably not everyone will agree, but presents I liked the most were not items I strictly needed, but the ones that surprised me, made me laugh, or encouraged me to try something new.

Why? Consider this…

PhD students think about their research every single day, as you might have noticed. We think about writing and reading we need to do, about conferences we should attend, about meetings with supervisors, references, printing… And jobs, do not get me started on those. So, when we open that present, it would be nice if it contained something to remind us that we are not just PhD students but also persons, human, social beings.

The joy of giving

We still have hobbies and interests, even if they are on the back burner; we still like to eat and drink and travel; we like to talk and listen, and create. We like to have fun and relax. Gifts that remind us of that are fantastic. Perhaps you cannot give us guilt-free holidays, but you can take over a part of the guilt and take us somewhere, show us something or do an activity with us. If we have not mentioned the thesis or checked the email in the last couple of hours, well done – your gift worked.

We might grumble (we will grumble!), but be patient with us. From the moment we started PhD, we have continuously been giving, our time, our thoughts, our dedication and energy. We like our research and, in fact, sometimes it is hard for us to tell when we have given too much, and when a break is in order. You might not be able to give us money or secure employment, but you can remind us of how valuable we are, and worthy of receiving.

And that, in my book, is the best present you can give us.

What about your shopping or wish-list? What would make you smile during these holidays? 🙂

Ana Kedveš  (@anakedves)


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