1.5 months into PhD and I'm really struggling. How long to give it before considering quitting?


So this may come across as a bit of a rant, but I feel like I need to get it out.

I recently quit my graduate job I had been at for a year to do an Engineering PhD, I'm 23.

I moved back to the University I was an undergraduate at in the North, though everyone I graduated with has left. The majority of my friends are in London (including my long term girlfriend of 6 years or so) so I'm getting a lot of FOMO about that which is hard to get past.

I started at the end of September and I am finding it very difficult to settle in, I keep procrastinating on the PhD because I don't feel settled or have any friends here and haven't really got going with any work yet, I feel like this is a loop and that I'm rapidly falling behind on the PhD.

There's a lot of tension between me and my girlfriend and I'm worried it won't work out. And if it doesn't, then I don't really have a support network of friends up here to help me get through, and to top it off because I feel so unsettled I can't work out if the PhD is right for me or not. But I don't want to pass up this opportunity as I think I'd always regret not trying it in the future.

I am worried about joining University sports clubs as I don't want to feel like the old guy who is clinging on to Uni Life, plus its november and think I have left it too late already.

Does anyone have any advice for me?

Avatar for rewt

I am sorry for the delayed response.

I am in a very similar position to you; 23, engineering, north of England, FOMO, procrastinating but unfortunately no girlfriend. The only thing I can recommend is to decide what you want to do with your life. We can't do/have everything and sacrifices need to be made to achieve bigger things. To me it sounds like you want everything and failing at everything.

Seriously, I would sit down and decide if you want the PhD. You wanted a PhD enough to apply but now you know more about what it will actually require. Determine your priorities and stick to them.

Also about sports clubs, it is only awkward if you make it awkward. Just join and go about normally, there will be an element of you being the older guy but most people won't care that much.


Hi, YorkFuller,

1.5 months is too early to judge if you should or shouldn't continue your PhD. Give yourself another 2 months to try it out. Aside from sports club, you can join postgrad clubs. Try to sort out your personal life too. If after a total of 3 months you still have not settled or if you feel strongly that PhD is not for you, then you may go at that stage knowing that you have tried.


This is the first time I have ever heard of a 23 year old describing themselves as "old" :-D
Every single PhD student will be at least 23 years old and many of them will take part in all sorts of sporting activities within the uni.

I think your FOMO comment is very revealing.
It's preventing you remembering why you gave up a graduate job to go back to uni in the first place. What were your reasons for doing that?

I'm a bit confused. You've barely started the PhD having voluntarily moved away from girlfriend and friends but you are talking about how you can't get through it without them. You must have surely realised this is the situation you'd be in before you started.What has changed?

either way, 2 months is way too short a timeframe to be talking about falling behind in anything. You should set your expectations at somewhere around 12 months before worrying about that.


Everyone feels like they're falling behind on their PhD in the first few months. My supervisor spent the first four months saying to me every time I saw her "It's ok to just do background reading".

For most of my first year I was in a very large office pretty much on my own. The others who were there hardly ever came in because of long commutes. I found this particularly difficult considering I had come from a very busy, huge open plan office. I had to jump at opportunities to socialise with other people in the department in order to get to know them and make friends. Recently I moved to a smaller office with two great office mates which is more in the middle of where everything goes on - That has really helped and I'm enjoying things more. The moral of this is think abut your surroundings and make sure they work for you.

Join clubs - You're really not old, and even if you're with undergrads, those in their final year are going to be 21/22 (23 if they took a gap year) anyway so it's hardly a huge age gap. Organise social events with your department. See what PhD social events are going on. There's plenty you can do to get more involved and make friends.

You've really not been there long and it's ok to feel out of sorts and take a while to settle in. Just cut yourself some slack and give yourself time.

A final point, long distance relationships are hard (I did one throughout my undergrad - we're still together), but you get into a routine and they get easier. Once you're more settled and find your feet you can probably find that you don't need to work from the office so much and can spend more time in London.


With regards to sport, I've also just started a PhD and faced the same issue with being the veteran. In my case, it was actually the same team I played for as an undergraduate and I knew a couple of the guys. I missed the first couple of months through injury and like you, was a bit worried that I'd left it too late but I just asked if I could come to training and they were more than happy to oblige. I did feel a bit older but I feel that every time I step on campus now, haha. Hope that's some comfort for you!