I am going through a personal issue and would like to help my family with part of the PhD scholarship I receive. However, to do this, I would need to return to my hometown (where my family lives) and change my research project. I haven't started data collection yet, so I would need data to develop my thesis. I know it's not the ideal way, but this way I could dedicate more attention to my doctoral studies without worrying so much about my family, as I could provide financial support. I would like to know if this is reasonable, or if I will have serious problems with the department and my supervisor, as we had international collaboration, and my project was part of another large funded project, in addition to her frustration in expecting me to develop an interesting part. I would like to hear sincere opinions and advice from other supervisors.

I come from a developing country that struggles with social inequality, and we don't always have government support. I would like to finish my doctorate because being a researcher is a dream for me, and I believe that knowledge can bring about transformation. However, the reality where I come from is challenging, and sometimes we have to be a person who provides support.

ps: It's okay, in my country, to live and work in different places."

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    It's not often reasonable to expect to live and work in a different place than your employer because this requires them to comply with a whole new set of legal and tax issues.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 4 at 23:38
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    Only your advisor can answer this question. Perhaps she can make it possible despite her disappointment. Jan 5 at 1:00
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    Will there be issues "sharing" money with your family? I guess no-one is going to complain about what you do with your salary, but if it's a scholarship/grant there might be limits. At least in the US there are technically rules about how you use financial aid funds. Usually it's never an issue, but if you are leaving the project and using that money for family support, someone might raise an eyebrow.
    – sErISaNo
    Jan 5 at 2:20

2 Answers 2


Excluding the reasons behind your choices, I see two issues at work here:

  • you would like to reduce your expenses by living with your family;
  • you would like to change your project because the original project cannot be done if you move back to live with your family.

The answer is: it depends on how easy would be for your supervisor to change your project while mantaining your funds. It has less to do with results'frustration and more to do with your supervisor having their hands tied regarding the money they receive and manage. Research money is not their own money, although sometimes it may look and they may behave like that...

If it turns out to be difficult, please consider doing temporarily private tutoring in your free time (which as a PhD will be very limited, as we all know) to increase your income instead of reducing your expenses.

Since you are based in a country that "struggles with social inequality" I am quite sure you can get paid well by tutoring people from the top 5% families (not surprisingly, in the US this is something which brings in a lot of money).

A final, cautionary, note: I see a lot of disadvantages in moving back/away with your family while being a PhD, some of them being removed from an academic environment and its structures (libraries, informal exchanges with peers) and some about time/emotion managements (very crude: your family having a say in how you spend your time) but your mileage may vary.


Based on my experience, there are also payroll-based legal issues to move out of the host country (I am assuming the US) to different countries. For example, HR may not approve to pay you if your project doesn’t demand you to specifically live outside the host country. Unfortunately, family issues will not be considered as enough reason for you to live outside the host country for research. Not trying to make you hopeless here, but I suggest talking with your advisor if possible. Sometimes finding alternative sources of income such as applying for external/internal fellowships, scholarships, TAing, tutoring, or working in a local shop could help. There are lots of external fellowships (outside universities) that support students financially.

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