I am a young theoretical physicist who's currently enrolled in his final year of masters studies and I've started searching for doctoral programs.
I've started applying to PhD programs which have a starting date after my graduation date. So far, I've gotten zero positive feedback which is disheartening to say the least - during the entire course of my studies, I've only ever had one grade which wasn't an "A" and I also participated in several workshops and even held two talks at different occasions.
I can't help shake the feeling that it's due to me coming from a relatively poor European country where there's five serious researchers in theoretical physics in total, one of them being my thesis advisor. As much as I love working with him, I am "afraid" that I'll get stuck in this country (not an issue) doing bad and irrelevant work (definitely an issue). I don't see anyone pushing any boundaries. I wouldn't be asking this question if I didn't hear multiple stories of and by people who decided to pursue a PhD here and either abandoned academia or are now just treating it as any old job, with zero interest or motivation. I live for this. I want to pursue, explore and uncover.
Can I hope that if I don't find a PhD within a year or two somewhere else, that I'll be able to do so with a Postdoc some 5 years from now? Are the criteria for post doctoral study even "stricter", or are PhD students "filtered out" and it becomes easier to end up somewhere prestigious?
Please refrain from motivational talk about how I can definitely find a PhD in a prestigious university if I push hard enough - I know this to be not true from almost first hand experience (unless you're an absolute born-once-every-1000-years-genius, but then one wouldn't even be asking this question).
How hard is it to get a "prestigious" Postdoc after a "mediocre" PhD?