I’m a fourth-year PhD student. Due to a long list of personal events, I haven’t made good friends in my university. Also I am shy around new people but once I get over myself, I think I am a fun person to hang out with.
I have become friendly with a few students from my department but again due to circumstances, our relationships have been superficial. Recently, several large get-togethers have been organised as we have more students now. These involve around 15 people.
Naturally, I get on with some students better than others. Generally speaking, my university attracts hyper-competitive, ambitious students, and I find it very stressful dealing with these types as I feel like I am constantly being interrogated or ‘networked’. Even with the nicer students, there is still sometimes a sense of competition (“Oh you don’t speak fluent French? I thought everyone spoke French.”, “How have you not read that work?? I thought you were a fourth-year!!” etc.). After socialising, I feel very anxious, not relaxed as with non-PhD friends. I don’t mind having a moan about academia but 'shop talk' is 90% of the conversation.
Since some of these people may well be my peers for several years, I don’t want to just avoid everyone completely. My field is very small so I don’t want to get a reputation for being aloof or unfriendly. I could organise smaller get-togethers that exclude certain people but I worry that I will look like the ‘bad guy’. I would feel hurt if that were me being excluded. I could gently bring it up with some of the nicer people but I don't know how they'll react. It’s more than likely that if I invite 2-3 people for coffee, each of those people will tell other people, and then suddenly it’s a 10-person lunch.
I’d be grateful for any suggestions on how to navigate this! Thanks :)
I know what you mean by those type of comments! There's lots of people in my department that say things like that to me, or they talk to each other about things that I have no knowledge of, and I just end up feeling inadequate and like I don't belong there...
I just formed a small social circle with other people that I felt I had more in common with, and just socialised with the others occasionally. Enough to be on good terms with them at work, but not so much that I would hang out on weekends. I think people naturally form smaller groups so I think it's fine for you to do that with some of the group and not others. I would chat to some others in the group and see what they think.
I'm glad to know I'm not alone :) It also makes me feel inadequate even though I think I have toughened up considerably since starting a PhD! I was a ball of nerves before...
Maybe I will try to see what some of the others think, as you suggested.
Urgh can't stand shop talk. I encountered it early on in my PhD and felt bad lots of times after interacting with certain peers. It seems to be something some people need to do to make themselves seem more competent/better than the next person. If a person needs to do that, then they are probably doing it because secretly or even subconsciously they are very insecure about themselves. If a person knows their own abilities and feels happy about themselves, then they don't need to bring others down to lift themselves up all the time.
I now avoid those who do it. And if I do happen to be stuck in a room with them, I don't let myself get drawn into it. It is harder in your situation, since, as you've explained, social events always seems to be a big group thing. Could you just invite just ONE person for coffee, and try doing that with a few different people individually over a period of time? You could pick those who don't seem to have their heads stuck somewhere (cough). And if you realise that they are still doing it, even in a one to one situation, you can simply cross them off your list of people you want to get to know better. There is probably at least one other person in the group who feels exactly the same way you do.
Thanks for your response. I actually had a similar problem to this when I first started my PhD (same dept, different group of students) and I think I took it too far which is partially why I ended up as Billy-no-mates...but who wants to hang around people who are trying to undercut you or show off anyway?
I think inviting one person for coffee could be a solution. I'm sure there are others who feel this way. Or, I was thinking I could try and do 'last-minute' invites so the event doesn't have time to build up in a big group thing! But I guess I run of risk of busy students never being free.
Anyway, if nothing else, I have my school friends who couldn't care less (in a good way) about my obscure academic achievements :)
I know what you mean! My non-PhD friends have even stopped asking me about what I'm doing - we stick to non-academic topics generally! I am just this perpetual student to them, who also acts like a lecturer at times (teaching) but isn't really one. It is generally OK, but can feel a bit isolating at times...
I hope the one person coffee/last minute invite ideas work, as it's good to have a PhD social network (in addition to this great forum).
Thanks for your input. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of large crowds or networking either. Networking feels kinda creepy to me. I'm definitely stop worrying about it so much and just spend time with people I like! Life's too short to hang around with hyper-competitive weirdos :)
Masters DegreesSearch For Masters Degrees
An active and supportive community.
Support and advice from your peers.
Your postgraduate questions answered.
Use your experience to help others.
Enter your email address below to get started with your forum account
Enter your username below to login to your account
An email has been sent to your email account along with instructions on how to reset your password. If you do not recieve your email, or have any futher problems accessing your account, then please contact our customer support.
or continue as guest