Signup date: 12 Apr 2010 at 12:30am
Last login: 23 Jan 2014 at 2:10am
Post count: 105
I'm in my third year and have hardly any paper at all, just a few books, my lab books and some course booklets, everything else is digital. Instead of photocopying I use the scan function and save everything as pdfs. I'm quite happy reading off the screen though, and making notes in a word document. Of course then you have to worry about hard drive space, backing up and computer death all the more.
It's quite natural to blame the people and culture around you in this kind of situation, because the other option is that it is your own fault that you are not getting on well, not making friends etc. Am I right? Well it may not be their fault OR your fault, if you ask me there is a huge component of luck in these things. From my own experience, I have moved around quite a few times for short-term jobs, in a number of different countries, and mostly I have made friends quickly and had a generally good time, but on a couple of occassions I didn't seem to gel with anyone, didn't make friends despite joining groups etc, and it was a lonely and miserable time. And sometimes it can just take longer than you'd like to settle into a new culture and find people who you connect with. Maybe you are just unlucky in that you haven't found the right people yet. As I'm sure you know, a PhD can be a long and tiring journey, and having a few supportive friends around is essential to most people, I think.
As others have already said, you could try joining in some groups and activities, and consider visiting your university counseling service or a GP to see if they can help you. If those things really do not help, or if you don't want to continue with the PhD anyway, then I'd advise against staying in a situation that for what ever reason makes you so miserable if you can possibly help it. It will affect your physical and mental health, if it hasn't already. Take care, and try not to be too hard on yourself or the British ;-).
I also quit a PhD after 1 year, then later started another that I have now almost finished. I too was up front about the first "failed" PhD, and was easily accepted and got full funding the second time. I did have a good academic record from before that, so that might have helped. Usually the first year of a PhD is somewhat "probationary" anyway, it's expected that the drop out rate will be quite high, so there's unlikely to be penalties to you or the university if you leave early on. Just make sure you are certain about this new PhD, I don't know if you get endless chances to try again!
There's nothing wrong with getting out of a situation that's not right for you, and moving on to something else. Yours won't be the first application they've seen from someone who started then left a previous PhD. I don't think you need to explain everything that went wrong in detail, just tell them that it didn't work out for a variety of reasons, maybe give some general examples, but don't dwell on it. Rather emphasise why you want this new PhD, what you like about the topic, etc, and that you are committed to seeing it through. Your previous attempt has also taught you a bit about what you're getting in to with a PhD, and it hasn't put you off, so that's another positive you could mention. And if you can get a good reference from someone at your old institution, that will help you a lot.
For me it was thinking of all the different living things on the planet, how they sprung into being all on their own, and how I am related to them all! I did a school holiday activity where we extracted DNA from some leaves, and when I saw all the silvery threads appear like magic I thought wow, this is what life is made from. I study life sciences obviously :-)
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