Submitting my PhD and moving to Singapore

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April 27th 2014
Published: April 27th 2014
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Hamburg - Dubai - Singapore

Katha & her PhD manuscriptKatha & her PhD manuscriptKatha & her PhD manuscript

The picture was taken in the copy shop and I am holding my fresh from the press manuscript in my hands. Could not believe it (and still can't believe it).
Last time I wrote something here I had just returned from a great and very relaxing holiday on the island of Lanzarote. And having recharged my batteries was really important for the months that were to come. I had two and a half months left to write up my PhD, submit it, and prepare for a nine month work secondment to Singapore. Crazyness…

During the next months, my whole world was revolving around the PhD. I made sure I got enough sleep (which was not always easy because I must admit that there were quite a few nights when it was difficult for me to go to sleep), kept a healthy and balanced diet, worked out four times per week, and did not drink any alcohol. No travelling, no visitors. But, most importantly, I worked on my manuscript like crazy. I had already reduced my normal working hours with cut-e to 50 percent, so this meant I was in the office two and a half days per week and spent the rest of the week at home writing and writing. Seven days a week. The last three weeks I spent working on the PhD full time.

The schedule was
Reflections @Keppel BayReflections @Keppel BayReflections @Keppel Bay

... where I live in a shared apartment with two guys on the 15th floor of one of the high rises. In the foreground there is the Keppel Bay Marina.
extremely tight, I can’t even remember how many times I was close to a nervous breakdown. And those of you who know me will know that it takes a lot to get me close to such a state. The pressure was so extreme that I even lost four kg of weight. And again, usually I put on weight when I am stressed out. Now I can say that this was the most extreme and demanding project that I have ever completed. On the 3rd of March I emailed 350 pages of extremely hard work to my copy-editor. I had written the manuscript in English, therefore I wanted someone to go over it and also to double check whether I had applied all the standards correctly.

After having emailed the manuscript, I went back to work because there were some projects that I needed to finish before moving to Singapore. There was a lot of work to do; additionally I needed to organise a lot of stuff for Singapore and my copy-editor emailed me my text back chapter-wise so that I needed to go over these pages once more. There was no room for anything to go wrong. In the
Reflections @Keppel Bay poolReflections @Keppel Bay poolReflections @Keppel Bay pool

One of the two pools, beautifully illuminated at night, and with the club house on the left.
end it worked all out. On the 23rd of March I had seven copies of the manuscript printed, six of them for my university and one for Achim, whom I cannot thank enough for his great support in this huge project that took me four years to complete. I feel so deeply grateful to many people for their support, so here are the acknowledgements that I have on one of the first pages of my PhD manuscript (I deleted all surnames because some people might not want to read their names on the web without being asked):

First and foremost I would like to thank my supervisor Michael and my boss Achim for giving me their support, trust, and patience. Without them, this thesis would not have been possible. During four years they were a source of inspiration, knowledge, and motivation to me.

I worked on this project outside of work and I would like to thank Achim and Andreas, the managing directors of cut-e, the company I work with, for the time and resources they gave me for this thesis. Moreover, a big thank you goes to Dennis, with whom I spent innumerable hours on Skype discussing
Sunset @ ReflectionsSunset @ ReflectionsSunset @ Reflections

View from our living room window towards the harbour.
our PhD studies, for giving me a lot of valuable advice and thoroughly reading and commenting on my results section. I am very grateful to my colleagues Carolin and Mario who helped me tremendously with the editing of the film clips, and, even more importantly, programmed the online experiment for me which worked so extremely well and allowed me to gather the necessary data.

I would like to thank Marie, Mizzi, and Alexander who gave me valuable input on my experiment in the pre-testing phase. A big thank you goes to Fenne, Maike, and Mizzi who thoroughly proof-read chapters of the manuscript and gave me valuable ideas and feedback on these.

Finally, I am very grateful to my colleagues Anabela, Anja, Antje, Diana, Maike, Nadja, Nina, Richard, Susan, and Tobias who made sure I was free of obligations at work during phases that required me to concentrate on my PhD.

I dedicate my PhD thesis to my parents who always supported me. I would not be where I am today without them and I am deeply grateful.

Phew. Okay. So there I was, holding the manuscript in my hands, unable to believe it. Two days later
View from our office windowView from our office windowView from our office window

View of the Marina Bay, with the Singapore Flyer (the Ferris wheel), Helix Bridge (shaped like the DNA double helix), and the Marina Bay Sands (where there is a laser show in the evening).
I went to Berlin and submitted the six manuscripts: one for my supervisor, one for the second referee, three copies for the other three members of my commission, and one for the administration. However, there was not much time left to celebrate. There was work left to do and preparations for Singapore because not even a week after submitting the manuscript I left for Singapore. But, wait a moment, there was time for celebrating. On the Friday night before I left I celebrated with my wonderful colleagues and my friends Mizzi, Rebi, and Kathi. We had a get together in a small bar with a buffet, drinks, and music. I got some wonderful presents from my dear colleagues: a great picture of the entire team, but with everyone’s faces pasted onto the different characters of “South Park”, a tailor-made mouse pad, a tailor-made calendar, a three-day access all attractions pass for Singapore, some chocolate to bribe my colleagues here in Singapore, and a book. Thank you dear colleagues. Thank you also Rebi and Kathi for coming all the way to celebrate with me. Rebi spent several hours in a traffic jam…

On Saturday night Mizzi invited me for a
Sentosa islandSentosa islandSentosa island

The island not far from where I live. Singaporeans come here to spend their leisure time. In the picture you can see the southern most point of continental Asia.
surprise evening. We went for “Dinner in the Dark”, something that we had always wanted to do. As the name says, you have dinner in the dark which gives you an idea of what it is like to be blind. It was great and we enjoyed the evening. Afterwards we went for some cocktails. Thank you Mizzi for a wonderful evening.

So, what is this Singapore secondment? Our company is an international one, with headquarters in Germany, but partners around the globe, including various countries in Europe plus Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, South Africa, Dubai, and the US. Our Irish partner David started the offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and Dubai (apart from running the offices in Ireland and the UK). Some two years ago I had let him know that whenever he would need someone in Singapore or Australia, I would be ready to go. Last year in September he told me that now he would need me in Singapore. It all went back and forth for a while and eventually the deal was that (1) I would have to submit the PhD before going and (2) I would have to dedicate some time for my tasks I do
View from Sentosa island IView from Sentosa island IView from Sentosa island I

... towards the sea. There are so amazingly many ships out there, I just can't believe it.
for headquarters back in Germany. So then we planned that I would start working in Singapore in April – and it turned out that I would have to be here on the 1st of April already. But things worked out alright. My young colleague Nina moved into my apartment in Hamburg, which is great because like this I know everything is in good hands. Mizzi agreed to look after my car while I am away. So everything back in Hamburg was in good hands. And I was ready to go to Singapore for nine months.

Things started off a bit exciting because my working visa had not been approved on the Friday before I was going to leave for Singapore. On a tourist visa you are not allowed to stay in Singapore for longer than 90 days, but my return flight was not until shortly before Christmas. Therefore I was unsure whether they would let me on the flight. I prepared a nice story that I was going to tell if I asked for the purpose of my stay. I was on a sabbatical after finishing my PhD and my friend had invited me to stay with him in
View from Sentosa island IIView from Sentosa island IIView from Sentosa island II

... towards the city, with the Sentosa cable car and Reflections @Keppel Bay in the background.
Singapore and I was going to use Singapore as a base to go and explore Southeast Asia. However, the story was not needed because the visa was approved on the very morning of my departure. And nobody asked for it anyway. Another thing I learned was that excess luggage is really expensive on Emirates. I had been allowed 30 kg, but had three kilograms excess luggage and Emirates charged me 144 Euro for this. Now I know…

I left Hamburg on the afternoon of the 31st March and flew through Dubai to Singapore, where I arrived on Tuesday in the early afternoon. During the flight I familiarised myself with an AC that would take place the day after my arrival. So when arriving in Singapore, I went straight to the office for a briefing for this very AC and only after this I went to my apartment. I live in Reflections @Keppel Bay, a modern condominium designed by architect Daniel Libeskind (who also designed Ground Zero in New York). The condo has a few high rises and a few low rises, two pools, a Jacuzzi, a gym, a club house, several barbeque areas, and a little grocery store. Apparently it is pretty normal for expats to live in condos like this. And I think it is just fair enough to have some luxury, considering the fact that rents here in Singapore are just horrendous. I share an apartment on the 15th floor of one of the high rises with two guys, Andreas from Finland and Adnan from the UK. All of us have their own bathrooms and we share the kitchen and living room.

I did not have much time to hang out in this place though. Right the very next day there were two half-day assessment centres and this was only the beginning of a few crazy weeks. My record of almost four weeks here in Singapore: ten half-day assessment centres, two half-day workshops, one half-day training, two or three client meetings per day. My working days were between ten and 14 hours long and usually there was work left to do on the weekends. However, projects are super interesting and diverse and although workload is high I am glad to be here and I am enjoying the work. There are three of us here in the office, apart from me there are John and Darragh, both of them have been here for a few years already. Several times per year David, the founder of this office here, is in Singapore as well and he was here during my first three weeks. When he is around days are usually extremely busy. He left on Monday to go back to Ireland and will be back in May.

Due to the loads of work I have not seen that much of Singapore yet. However, the nice thing is that our office is in one of the towers in the Central Business District and just around the corner from it there is Boat Quay, a street along the Singapore River with lots of restaurants and bars, that I often go to in the evenings. This has become one of my favourite places already. Moreover, the Keppel Bay Marina, just around the corner from where I live, is pretty nice, and there is also a restaurant where those living in one of the nearby condos get ten percent discount. Also, there is Labrador Park sort of next to our condo, so that’s perfect for running. Although I must confess that I have only been for a run once since getting here. But this is going to change now. Also, last weekend I finally managed to do some sightseeing around Singapore. However, this is going to be a new post. So stay tuned, more stories are about to be posted here.


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