"The Department allowed me to conduct meaningful, practical and independent research, while adjusting to the unexpected twists and turns of my PhD."

Sociological Studies PhD graduate Hyacinth Blake
Hyacinth Blake
PhD graduate
Sociological Studies
Hyacinth was attracted to PhD study at the University of Sheffield because of its international reputation for excellence in research on ageing. Studying as part of a joint location PhD programme, Hyacinth conducted research on family care for older people in her home country, Trinidad and Tobago.
Sociological Studies PhD graduate Hyacinth Blake

What was the best or most useful thing about the course you studied in the Department of Sociological Studies?

The Department afforded me the opportunity to conduct meaningful, practical and independent research, while obtaining guidance from an outstanding faculty that helped me to expand my knowledge and adjust to the various unexpected twists and turns that my PhD studies took. I appreciated how down-to-earth and approachable my supervisors were, which was very important in helping me to adjust to life in a country I’d never lived in before. I also felt that my supervisors were eager to learn about my country, which was the centre of my research.

Why did you decide to study at the University of Sheffield?

At the time that I registered, the University of Sheffield offered a Joint Location PhD Programme. I was interested in conducting research on family care for older persons in my country, the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), while obtaining international experience at a UK university that excelled at studies on ageing. The University of Sheffield fit the bill. 

What is your fondest memory from your time in Sheffield?

Cycling through the parks, and exploring the city and countryside. I decided to purchase a fold-up bike and take a course on cycling safely that was provided at no cost by the local council. The practical training built my confidence to cycle through the outskirts of the city and take in the fresh air and beautiful views. 

Sociological Studies PhD graduate Hyacinth Blake

What is Sheffield like to live in? Do you like the city?

Sheffield is a wonderful city to live in. If you are like me and love nature and being in a city that is not too large and just a few minutes from the countryside, then Sheffield is the place to be. It is one of the greenest, safest cities in the UK with many beautiful spaces and shops that are in walking distance of the University. There are great transportation options if you don’t own a vehicle, beautiful parks and accessible cycling routes.  

Sociological Studies PhD graduate Hyacinth Blake

What has your career path been since graduation?

Shortly after I qualified for my degree, I obtained the position of Director – Division of Ageing in the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services in Trinidad (West Indies). I also continue to work part-time as a senior lecturer with the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies (UWI) - St. Augustine campus. 

Tell us a little about your current role?

As Director of the Division of Ageing, I coordinate the development and implementation of policies, programmes, projects and other initiatives on ageing in T&T, including monitoring the operations of Homes for Older Persons and Senior Activity Centres, and developing standards of care for older persons in T&T. As an adjunct faculty member of UWI, I lecture the Policy Analysis and Management Course for the Masters in Development Statistics at SALISES. 

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I would like to continue to contribute to social policy and development in my nation, the Caribbean region and globally through social policy formulation, the management and administration of social services, social research and other initiatives.

What piece of advice would you offer new students to the Department of Sociological Studies at Sheffield?

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique situation for students at the University of Sheffield and all over the world, but there are some things that will still apply during the pandemic and when it is over. Focus on your studies, that is the main reason you are at university, whether you access your classes online or in-person. Create a study timetable that works for you and, if you are a research student, set a target for how many words you plan to write every day and keep track of your progress using a suitable method such as an Excel spreadsheet.

Take advantage of the writing workshops and retreats offered by the Department and through programmes such as ‘Think Ahead’, which allow you to connect with students in other Departments. If you are an international student, this will give you a chance to make friends and build a good support network, whether it is finding study buddies or friends to hang out with in your free time. 

Early on, be sure to learn all the ins-and outs of using the libraries and the various services available to you on campus: if you can attend orientation sessions, please be sure to do that so you can learn the ropes quickly. Know the Postgraduate Research Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes: don’t just skim through it but give it a thorough read, and refer to it to obtain guidance on critical administrative issues that impact on how you progress with your degree. Participate in planning and presenting at the PhD Student conference at the University of Sheffield, if you are a first year PhD student. Visit the Boston Spa Library when the opportunity arises, and don’t be afraid to seek support from your student representatives at the Students’ Union. 

Be sure to find somewhere comfortable, affordable and safe to live so that you can have a space to relax and study, especially when you are unable to go out to other locations. And please make time to have fun and regroup. The Give-It-A-Go programmes are AWESOME. Also, do be sure to participate in the student tours where you can safely explore the entire country. 

Sociological Studies PhD graduate Hyacinth Blake
Hyacinth (far right), pictured on a Student Tour at Yorkshire Wildlife Park with two other students.

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