Massive Problem- Telling a Supervisor that I can not start a PhD-One that is meant to start at the beginning of October


Let me start this off by saying that I am a person of the nervous disposition but at the same time impulsive. When I was younger I actually made myself ill through anxiety and worry. The University is in a large city, and as I have come from a rural location, I can not normally go into cities for a day let alone three years. Here is the problem, it is likely that starting at this place will probably make me ill again, in fact I have been physically sick over the last few weeks worrying about starting my PhD and I will being going down a route that will make me extremely ill again, and of course there is the worry about crime.

To some people this may seem a bit silly, how can living in a large city make you feel ill, well it may be in the head, but if I am this stressed up before I start the PhD, then it will not be a success as I will not be able to concentrate. I still can believe that I was stupid enough to take the offer, as it was the first one to be made to me, when I accepted, deep down I knew I was making a mistake.

My question is how do I tell my potential supervisor about this, after all I have accepted a place where someone else could have, and he will be left without a PG student for a year, add to that the fact that he may not be able to get funding for the project, and the fact that he was a first time supervisor. I feel really guilty and a bit upset that I have wasted his time
Sorry if this makes no sense


Avatar for sneaks

Can you not commute from somewhere more rural? I have about a 2hr journey (2.5 door to door) because I prefer living in the country - I grew up in a village and prefer the freedom. I only go in once a week to catch up with people as I have set up my home office so I am relatively self sufficient in terms of resources and I am a bit of an introvert so much prefer sitting on my own lol - how sad but true!

If you can't cope with a commute - then you will have to go to speak to him. It's worse to quit half a year in than at the beginning. The sooner you tell him, the sooner he can get someone else in.


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I suppose it depends on the place, but are there no quiet hidey-holes in/around the city? I understand exactly what you mean being a country bumpkin myself, the busyness, the constant noise, the aggression of big places can be overpowering. But I worked late yesterday and it was nice all on my own in the department, but walking home at four o' clock on Sunday morning was lovely. I saw four cars (one of them twice!) on my hour-long walk across town and heard... nothing! Well, I heard one one alarm briefly, but saw no people at all. I may sound a bit sad, but I was smiling all the way home, having forgotten how nice the world should be without all the fuss.

Anyway, maybe only working on Sunday evenings is a bit extreme, but I think what I'm trying to say is that if you know what gets to you about cities, is it at all possible to avoid those things?

On stress, I often/always get stressed about things but I almost always feel like a dickhead later for worrying about it (You'd think I'd learn....:p). Sometimes it's right to be nervous about things, but whether or not, I find that your imagination is always worse than how it actually turns out when you do it.

I think maybe tell your supervisor about your exact worries, he will hopefully be well placed to help with possible solutions, and he won't want anything t stop you suceeding either.:-)


I wouldn't give up before you've even started. As the saying goes, it's better to have tried and failed than not tried at all.

Ask your supervisor and the right IT person about setting you up on the university's VPN (virtual private network) and to enable Remote Desktop. Put in english, you can dial into the university network from home and can use Remote Desktop to operate and view your department PC (which may contain specialist software) from the comfort of your own home. It also gives you a univeristy IP address allowing you to access their online journal subscriptions. Get yourself a mid-market laptop and fast broadband (if such a thing actually exists in the UK) and you'll be well-sorted. Then just into the department when you need books, paper journals, meetings etc. A bit of time management and you can group these activities into one day here and there. Good luck.


Hi there!

First off, hang in there and please realize that you need to take your decisions for yourself, though its great u r considering your supervisors feelings! That said, take just a moment off, and ask yourself a couple of questions: why did u want a phd in the first place? what would u lose if u didnt do one? Sometimes, in our most irrational of mindsets, the most "rational" of tasks actually work..

My story now: I was accepted this year for 7 phds with full fundings, including 2 fellowships across the UK and the US. I accepted one in a small town in the US, visited, almost fell sick and came back (there were intellectual reasons too, not just city town things)...and then took up a fantastic offer, half funding at the city where I did my masters. For me, I hated a small town as I was always a big city person..

My point is, do that little pen and paper thingy and ask urself some whys, what ifs, what if nots, and try to think clear a little bit. if after that you still feel you dont wanna do this, come out with your chin up!!!




i would go see a counsellor if i were you, OP. it sounds like you might have a problem which should be addressed professionally. extreme anxiety could ruin a lot of things for you (not just your phd).


First off, you need to go see your GP and get a referral to a psychologist. They should be able to help you.

Next, tell your supervisor what's going on. Even if you're not making a decision yet about whether or not to start in October, they need to know what is going on. You might be able to postpone the start of the PhD, or your supervisor could suggest some other way to accomodate you.

Personally I think it is better to postpone for a year or re-apply somewhere else than to start and risk your mental health. Everyone gets worried and anxious from time to time, but what you're describing sounds more like an anxiety disorder to me - a good psychologist can really do a lot to help you with this so I would urge you to see one. Hope everything works out for you!


First of all, remember that it is ok to be worried and nervous. There are many people like you who are nervous about taking up a new challenge so please dont think that this is some sort of failing. I think the previous posters have given some good tips. I would just like to add one more. Try easing yourself into it. Go in for an hour or two one day, and then again the next or later in the week. After a while you may be able to become accustomed to your new circumstances. I know it is an old cliche but take one day at a time and dont expect too much of yourself too soon.

Best of luck