PhDing amid COVID-19 in North-East India (Dipjyoti Goswami)

Image by Isiah Gibson | Unsplash.com

RED Alert is running a series of posts where we hear from La Trobe graduate researchers who are (for lots of reasons) outside of Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Next up, I invited Dipjyoti Goswami to share his thoughts on how COVID-19 has impacted his doctoral research in North-East India. 

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COVID 19, has caused immense ripple effects and significant disruption to students in general, and more specifically to international students worldwide. My case is no different. I am a student of the Linguistics department at La Trobe University pursuing my PhD and am currently overseas in North East India conducting my field research.

Both of the following photos are from Arunachal Pradesh, North East India where I went for my field trip. In the first picture I am sitting with one of my language informants. And in the second picture I was with my principal Supervisor Associate Professor Stephen Morey, and Kellen Parker who recently completed his PhD from La Trobe, along with other community members.




Image provided by Dipjyoti 

Image provided by Dipjyoti

However, due to the global pandemic, my research has been interrupted. I have made several trips to Arunachal Pradesh (my field site) which shares borders with my home province of Assam.

Nevertheless, in my most recent field trip, I got stuck in a village due to a nationwide lock-down in India. I had to stay there for over a month in a very unusual situation. The first few days went smoothly, but at some point, rumours began spreading that since I was an outsider I may have the virus.  Some villagers also worried about my travel history after coming from Australia. Aside from all that, I was not able to do much work during my one month stay because of the outbreak. Finally, after 31 days, with the help of local authorities and government officials, I was able to come back home to Assam where I was put in home quarantine for 14 days.

Life in Australia and in India is very different. During my stay in Australia, I was spending most of my time on research activities. Similarly, in India also the first few months were quite good. I was doing my field work, visited Gauhati University and spent time there, attended the 11th North East Indian Linguistics Society conference and presented, and the rest spent time with my family. However, after February 2020, when COVID19 hit India and the whole country was under lock down, things changed. I have no access to my field site, and so I am continuing my work from home. It is not easy to continue work during the pandemic. Everyone is afraid of the virus. There is lots of pressure and anxiety, which does make it difficult to concentrate on my academic work.

While writing this blog post my laptop also stopped functioning, which makes getting work done even more difficult – and there are no repair shops open at the moment. Although, we all are going through a very tough time, I am trying to seek positive vibes by doing small things such as reading a book, playing video games, talking to friends and colleagues, and helping my wife, etc.

As an international student, I must say that La Trobe University has provided us with all kinds of information related to the current situation and has extended my study away period up until October. Furthermore, I am attending various departmental seminars, supervisor meetings, etc., via Zoom, which is a nice way to experience being in an academic environment while being far away from Australia.

Finally, I would like to conclude by thanking our paramedics, teachers, and to all of you who are working hard to sustain life on this planet. May we overcome this situation soon together.

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Dipjyoti Goswami is a graduate researcher in the Department of Languages and Linguistics at La Trobe University. You can find our more about Deep's research here and follow him on Twitter @MDareDeep

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