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Katesuda Sitthisuntikul

PhD candidate
Faculty of Computing, Health & Science

Obstacles along my research journey

When I was younger, I had no thought of becoming a researcher. I felt that research had been the most difficult unit in both my undergraduate study and in and my masters degree program. After seven years of working as program officer at Thailand Research Fund (TRF), assisting local communities to do research to strengthen their capacity for self-management, my feelings about research changed.

Back then, my job was monitoring projects and disseminating research stories of local people. This experience of working with communities inspired me to extend my knowledge through undertaking academic research. To fulfil that dream, I began to seek out opportunities at overseas universities and kept practicing my English skills. My dream finally came true, when Edith Cowan University offered me a place as a PhD student. In October 2009, I left my home country, Thailand, to attend an English course before beginning my PhD program.

In Perth, everything was new to me: the language, the people, the houses, the food, the lifestyle, the climate and the transport systems. At first, I did find it difficult to study and to live in this new environment. I could not find any Thai food. My efforts to communicate in English usually led to misunderstandings. I had no family and friends staying with me and no access to familiar places. Despite this, I always stayed focused on my goal.

I now think that both studying at ECU and living in Perth are wonderful experiences and good opportunities for learning. While I am now becoming better adapted to my new environment, I still feel that becoming accustomed to thinking and writing in the English language is the hardest aspect of adapting to this environment. It may take considerable time and effort to acquire all the language skills, especially the writing skills, that I need for academic success.

After finishing my English course in February 2010, I began my PhD program at School of Natural Science, within the Faculty of Computing, Health and Science. My major is environmental management and my research efforts are focused on water. While water may be an ordinary word, water is essential for survival. No-one can survive without drinking water. Also, everyone needs water for everyday life and activities, such as washing, cleaning and planting.

As a result of my experience of working with local communities, I am curious about meanings of water, that go beyond the everyday and the survival issues. Some Thai communities stage ceremonies to worship streams or rivers, and some local people devote their life to ensuring long-term protection of water sources. These activities highlight special meanings assigned to water. Wondering why local people care about Thailand’s water has forced me to explore the real meaning of water in local communities. My specific interest lies in understanding the attitudes of local people to water, what water means to them, what inspires them to protect water and how they respond to water.

As a starting point, I am doing a literature review to help me better focus my research questions. I realize that the endpoint of my research is still far way and that there are a lot of obstacles along my research journey. Nevertheless, I am willing to take the journey and learn what I need to ensure its success.

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