help! I feel isolated from my department...

Avatar for Eska

Hi everyone,

As some of you will know I am a part-time student living a 2 hour train journey (plus buses either side) away from my department. I'm very ambitious, and keen to get involved, and get things like funding applications and conference organising under my belt, but I feel so out of it here in my home town. I haven't seen my supervisor since mid-August, mostly because our next scheduled meeting is to discuss something I am still working on - I'd love to be able to just drop in and see him and the other staff. My department is excellent, it's new and full of academics I really admire, there's a drop in culture there whereby PhD students are around members of staff much of the time. I know if I were living near by I would see my sup at least once every two weeks. I know how luck I am to be part of a department like that, but I don't feel I can truly be part of it, living where I am, and I feel much of this opportunity is wasted.

I work at a university which is half way between my home town and my university, but the money is so low(about 170.00 pweek before tax , I'm afraid to up sticks on that income: I have a beautiful housing association flat here, which costs £80.00 per week, a bargain for what it is, but very expensive in terms of student living - I know I could find a beautiful room for that price and not have to pay bills or council tax, or internet charges. I've been looking for work in York - where my department is - for about a year with no luck. I'm loath to up sticks for a bar job or similar incase it falls through. I have thought about living in the city in which I work, but I really don't like the place, and again, I think having to give up this beautiful flat, and all my lovely friends here haults me. I'm not sure I'd be able to support myself entirely there either,and I woudl still bea 1 hours and 20 minute jouney away from my department (getting to and from the station included), my dad flashes cash at me now and again to help with bills (that's another thing I'm not happy about as otherwise he's a nightmare), but I'm not sure how easy that would be if I were living in my uni town, and not here.

I'd really appreciate your thoughts as I feel I'm in a rut and I just want to get to my uni town and be part of things. Thanks in advance.


Hi, I know you live a long way from the uni but how often do you go in? some people have 2hr commutes to work everyday -it's not unheard of. I can't see that there's anything stopping you from seeing your supervisor at regular meetings even if you have nothing specific to talk about - if you have a meeting scheduled with them you'll think of things to ask them, so maybe try to have some regular meetings and also if they have group meetings at your depatment maybe try and go to a few. Also try and make friends with other people in the department, get their emails and then you can talk to them without going in and they can keep you up to date on all the department gossip.

Avatar for Eska

Hi Tasha, yeah, I see what you are saying. One of the things stopping me going to see my supervisor more often in the expense, money is s tight for me at the moment and it costs me about £20.00 to get there and back., if I book in advance I just feel that if I were able to drop in every couple of weeks I'd be more a part of things, and my career would progress more quickly. Like at the moment I'm due to arrange a meeting with him, but don't have the emoney for the fare: I've been looking for part-time work in my home town too.


Hi Eska

This is going to sound odd - but what do you live on!? Do you have some form of funding in addition to the small amount of cash you get from working? Honestly, being in the situation where you cannot physically afford to go and see your supervisor is unacceptable (in every sense). I am not in any way encouraging you to drop out of your PhD, but you need to make some fairly harsh decisions about what your priorities are. I know its hard to move away from friends, and I would be very reluctant to do so, as you are. But if it 1) saves money and 2) means you see your supervisor you have to do it.
In addition, from your description, it sounds as though your dept is lovely and you'll make friends quickly there. They may also be able to find work for you if you were more 'available' to them... but you'd know about that better than anyone here!

Avatar for Eska

Hi Sleepyhead, yeah, that's a very good question, my dad has been helpng me a lot lately, and I live off brown rice and beans and walk everywhere- no joke, probably very healthy though! I used to teach at a uni in my home town too, but the work dried up. I just don't want to give uo the PhD, and yes, you're right, I have to move closer to my department, and to my work. I've been looking at a small town which is in between the two and living there would cut my expenses right down. I am absolutely determined to keep going with the Phd, so I think the time has come to leave my pad and do the right thing. When I first started at my new department I wanted to be sure moving would be worth it, that things would work out, and now I feel more certain about that. Thanks folks.


Hi Eska,
I too feel separated from my dept. and I am in the office everyday!
My office is in a different building to the rest of the department and my research interests are different so there isn't much common ground
Just wanted to let you know you are not alone

Avatar for Eska

======= Date Modified 31 Oct 2009 14:07:12 =======
THERE HAS BEEN A MIRACLE! Not only am I going to see what looks to be a very economically viable, and very nice room to rent near the uni I teach at on Monday, but I've got another teaching job in that town too!! HURRAH! It's marking this term: 66 essays; and makring plus teaching next term. It means I'll get 23 hours worth of pay in my bank account soon, sooon, sooooooooooon. That's so much better than waitressing, and I'm sure I'd get sacked pronto as a waitress; I'm crap at it.

Oh Leanne, thank you, it's nice to know I'm not alone, I've given you a star.