PhD JJourney Part 3 – The biggest disappointment of my life [at that time]

The University of Sydney logo
The University of Sydney logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part 1 – Why PhD? and Why Marketing?

Part 2 – When did I decide to do my PhD?

Part 3 – The biggest disappointment of myself

Part 4 – Getting over the first few challenges [upcoming]

Part 5 – More exciting stuff on the go [upcoming]


It takes me apparently 3 months to write the next part of my PhD journey – part 3. I was caught up with assignments, having so much good food, etc… or basically I have seemed to adapt with life in Sydney and had too much fun that I’m a bit out of focus :D, and not in a good mood to write this depressing part of the whole series.

Not that now I’m stressed and be able to write something depressing. I’m still in a good mood and enjoying my PhD student life [com’ on, it’s holidays season!] but I should update my blog and clean some dust, haha

To briefly review what I said previously, University of Sydney Business School invited me to fly over there from Melbourne, and have an informal interview with my prospective supervisor. I had a great impression with the school and that eventually made me choose it for the next 3 years of my study. The interview, not really an interview, went really good. A student of my supposed-to-be supervisor took me around for the campus tour and gave me some of his insights about doing PhD in Australia. He enrolled at UNSW and then transferred to USyd in his last year so I now know a bit of both. Then I met the professor, had lunch with his other colleagues and mostly talked about my broad research interests (branding and tourism) as well as previous education in Melbourne Uni (Marketing degree with honours thesis about Cause-related Marketing). At that time, I was open to any interesting topic because I know I know too little to be stubborn in what I want to research, and I should be keen on showing my interests in the university. The next day I met the post-graduate co-ordinator at the marketing discipline. We, again, had a nice cosy lunch and talk about other experiences while doing PhD here at USyd (teaching, going to conferences, life in Sydney, etc.) as well as the application process. I sensed a good care for students from people who I’ve met and talked to. I am keen. And gladly they said they will proceed with paperwork to get it ready for my PhD candidature starting next year (i.e. 2012, Semester 1)

I am told to be applicable for International PhD scholarship from the school. Usually it is secured to get the Business school’s scholarship and candidates are considered for university’s scholarship [a bit more value]. I was told in the way that I’m secured to receive the school’s scholarship. That was August 2011, before I even finish my Honours year. I was extremely happy, like in heaven, to know that at least my next 3 years in Australia is secured. I feel ‘a little bit’ proud of myself. I am simply happy

I thought next steps were just paperwork and would do whatever the school told me to do. So I put in the formal application and waited for the scholarship offer…

… Late September, I received a copy of the faculty’s nomination for the scholarship

nothing happened since then

… I had to keep chasing up for my PhD offer letter (not even the scholarship letter)

… I received the offer letter in February 2013 when I’m supposed to start in March, with NO scholarship offer letter.

… I was shocked. My supervisor was shocked… The coordinator was trying to get the answer from the school’s research unit… It was back and forth… Confusing emails but what I could remember is either I was late for the last round submission then not been considered for the scholarship. I had to re-submit my application for the next round and this time I’m not guaranteed for the scholarship [and I end up not receiving the scholarship from them]…. The grey area is the way they talked or the way I interpreted as if I’m already offered the scholarship (and next steps were just paperwork processes)… I didn’t understand they said I’m not qualified for the scholarship with no clear explanation

… I was mostly disappointed of myself for losing something that was too close. I was losing my face and feel ashamed to my family and friends. I was hopeless in getting the scholarship USyd and thinking of staying back in Vietnam to start my career. That disappointment was so big that I thought I have to prove to myself that I can do research, and to keep follow my dream.

To increase the extreme of my disappointment:

– I went to ANZMAC Conference (Australia and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference) with my prospective supervisor under the funding from USyd Business School even though I’m not their student yet. I know they try to attract me, and I know they’re keen on accepting me as their student. Why on earth I thought the school will not give me scholarship later on?

– I went to Summer course in Heron Island (Great Barrier Reef) with my prospective supervisor, to learn about Complexity system. While it has nothing to do with my research area but I think he provides good sources contacts and networks. Plus, the place is heavenly beautiful. Why on earth I thought the school will not give me scholarship after all these initiatives?

– I also tried to look for opportunities at Melbourne Uni and had an interview with a professor at Melbourne Business School. He was also keen but took him so long to respond whether he will take me on board with him. He planned to accept me as his supervisor but as an Associate Dean, and a new Dean coming in the following year required him to do keep his leadership role and hence, did not have sufficient time to do any research or supervise PhD student. I thought USyd is better after all?

I’m sure no one has never failed in their life, and that feeling wasn’t easy at all. The period of 5 months from February to July was the most depressing period of my 2012. I do have understandings from family and friends but the self-disappointment was so much that I could not let go. When I set the expectation too high, I know it was so painful to accept the fact

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4 thoughts on “PhD JJourney Part 3 – The biggest disappointment of my life [at that time]

  1. Hey, I enjoyed reading this post, even though I can tell it had sad depressing moments. I am a marketing student, and just finished honours. Luckily I am a domestic student so I can take some time off before I start a PhD. I can relate to you feeling extremely let down, both by the uni and yourself. I have yet to apply for PhD scholarships, but I understand they are quite hard to get. But one really confusing this about studying (which I found in my honours) is the paperwork. You might think, oh ok, they said yes so it will go ahead. But until you have a fancy letter actually in your hand, it is not real. It wasn’t until about 7 months into my honours (I did it part time) that I got the “confirmation of dissertation” letter in the mail lol. Also, I went to ANZMAC last year, and this year also. I wrote about last year here ( and I am going to write a multi-part series about this years ANZAMC conference also – here is part 1 ( Would love to get your feedback and perhaps we could collaborate on a future post on conferences?


    1. Hi Sarah,

      I’m glad to find another marketing blogger here. My honours experience at Uni of Melbourne was good. Things at Uni Sydney are Ok too. I can only take it easy when looking back things but it was so disappointing at that time. The thing annoys me is that domestic students pay zero tuition fee while international students pay (at Uni Sydney) 33k per year…


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