Should you leave your fully funded PhD to a self-funded one because you dislike the place

posted
07-Mar-16, 21:26
edited about 23 seconds later
by TT3
Avatar for TT3
posted about 4 years ago
I'm on my first year of my PhD in a northern european country. It's a fully funded 4-year PhD program, great funding, nice program, the working environment is very supportive and my supervisor has been very nice to me. The only problem I have is that I cannot stand where I live right now. I'm feeling very depressed and I just want to get out of this country. Its a very small city and basically nothing is going on here. Local people are very reserved and basically have no interests in getting to know you, and the expat community is very small. Every foreigner I met here just looking miserable and wanting to leave. I think I'm a very outgoing person, I have been living in other countries before and been making friends everywhere. But I find making friends here is extremely difficult and I'm about to give up. I feel like my social life is over.

Everybody has been telling me how lucky I am and that I should just suck it up and continue coz life ain't easy elsewhere either. I have been very depressed lately and I can barely get any sleep. I have had a few other offers before in other big cosmopolitan cities in Europe, but no fundings (humanity project). I have been thinking to start looking for other scholarship opportunities. Or if I can't find other fundings, should I quit this fully funded program to another self-funded one so I could live in a place that I like. People has also been telling me that being a self-funded phd student could also be very difficult. I'm trying to evaluate the situation but I really don't know what to do now.

I love doing my research. But at this stage of my life, I'm also really looking forward to settling down, having a family, some good friends around and a nice social life. I'm very much a city person and I feel like I just come to this place where I know I would want to leave.

Another reason I haven't quitted yet is because my parents were very proud of me in getting this scholarship. That just made me felt really guilty for not taking it.

Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you so much.
posted
08-Mar-16, 10:14
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 4 years ago
Sorry to you feel this way. I am also living in a flat and a city I don't like, so I can empathise!

In my case, I go home very frequently, so I can just about cope with it, but as a result my interest in my project is very limited, I can't be bothered to attend seminars or read about my topic, and all I think about are my next days off when I can go home. I imagine this could happen to you over the 4 years of a PhD project.

Luckily for me this is a postdoc with a short duration, but I'm not sure whether I will last until the end of my contract. I don't know how I've managed to last 8 months here already.

I can't tell you what to do - it's a personal choice you are going to have to make yourself. I would echo what others are saying though - funding is hard to come by in the humanities and self-funding is very difficult.

Personally, I've had enough and I'm actually looking for another job back in my home city now; some people around me understand this decision and some don't, but ultimately I view it as my decision and I have to live with the consequences. Time will tell if I have made the correct choice.
posted
08-Mar-16, 11:36
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 4 years ago
Google culture shock. You are probably at the worst point in the cycle for hating a new location. If it's N Europe the winter is no doubt also getting you down - might it be worth hanging on a bit longer to see whether it all feels better in sunshine? Also travel - if you're not going to stick it out, there are probably things in this country that you want to see before leaving - make plans to visit. You might find that having weekend plans that don't depend on other people makes you feel better too. If it's by any chance Germany you're in, the locals do warm up but it takes about a year - then they are much more friendly.
Only you can tell whether career or location matters most to you but if it's location then reassess doing a PhD (especially a self-funded one)) - the trouble with a humanities PhD is that you rarely get to choose where you live if you go into academia.
posted
08-Mar-16, 20:53
edited about 26 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 4 years ago
Importantly, if you moved elsewhere, you may not get the supportive atmosphere, nice program or supervisor like you have now. If you can keep persevering things will probably get better on the social/cultural front. You may not believe it now, but it will happen. It took me 2.5 years to finally feel at home when I moved to do my undergraduate (I remember the exact day I started to feel at home) - and that was just a North/South difference in the same country.

My advice is don't stop yet. Tell yourself, I can stop right now if I want to... it is my decision. Then just keep on going. Give yourself a time frame like a year - and review your situation again then.
posted
09-Mar-16, 09:54
edited about 26 seconds later
by Liange
Avatar for Liange
posted about 4 years ago
I feel exactly as you do - it is as if I wrote it myself:) but I'm in a final stage of my PhD. At the beginning I hoped that it will change, that I will meet more people and like the place more, but it did not work. and all the international people whom I know here always complain how they are miserable. I do not regret that I did not quit and move to a new place, because now I have a result - PhD degree. I dont know how would be my life if I move - may be I would be happier, may be not.
What I can advice - keep looking for another funded PhD program in the country/place where you want to live. I dont know your financial status - if you have enough money to support yourself for a few years doing unfunded PhD. I just know that at some other place you may have different problems - bad prof. or unfriendly colleagues, bad financial support, no money for experiments, conferences - and it may be also miserable. In your place you have good Prof., and financial support - you can probably go to other countries to workshops and conferences, and develop a network - these are ideal conditions for a PhD. May be you can travel sometimes to feel happier. Check all the minuses and pluses, think what you can do to make your life happier and then decide if you can stand another 3 years there.
posted
09-Mar-16, 12:02
by TT3
Avatar for TT3
posted about 4 years ago
Thank you so much for all the messages. I think the only thing I can do right now is to look for other funded PhD, but I know the chances are very low since its highly competitive and I don't have a very strong academic background. I have told myself that I would give it one year and I will really try to adapt myself into the life here. But I keep hearing all the other foreigners saying after a few years of trying they still got very few friends and feeling regret about wasting their time here in this country. I know everyone's experience is different and I probably shouldn't let them affect my decisions. But I can't help but thinking what if the same thing will happen to me......

Quote From bewildered:
Also travel - if you're not going to stick it out, there are probably things in this country that you want to see before leaving - make plans to visit. If it's by any chance Germany you're in, the locals do warm up but it takes about a year.


I have thought about this and I love traveling. But the only reason that I feel hesitated about it is because the transportation here is insanely expensive and very slow. There is not much to see at the neighboring cities and if I wanna go abroad I have to take a flight from the capital city which will cost a fortune and almost 4 hours just to travel there. Usually going to a neighboring country for a weekend will cost at least a few hundreds euros on the transportation (budget flights, etc.) and sometimes I just feel like its not worth it. I wish I was in Germany...people here are much more reserved...

Quote From Liange:
I dont know your financial status - if you have enough money to support yourself for a few years doing unfunded PhD. I just know that at some other place you may have different problems - bad prof. or unfriendly colleagues, bad financial support, no money for experiments, conferences


That is another problem I'm facing. The fundings I get here is quite good, but not good enough for me to have savings, due to the high living cost here. But leaving to another country means maybe I will have to do very low paid student jobs, and I will never have much money to live. I know I'm not happy at where I am, but I don't have the courage to leave yet.

Quote From TreeofLife:
In my case, I go home very frequently, so I can just about cope with it, but as a result my interest in my project is very limited.


This is exactly what is happening right now. I don't feel motivated to do anything. I tried to go out to meet people but whenever I go to a student bar, I can only see a bunch of undergrads. And locals only talk to people they know in the pub, if you start talking to them they will think you are very weird and suspicious. And also I cannot go home that often coz I'm from Asia. It will be a very long flight home and I cannot afford to do it very often.
posted
09-Mar-16, 12:23
edited about 24 seconds later
by TT3
Avatar for TT3
posted about 4 years ago
The fears of being unemployed and having unstable income makes me very struggled about making this decision. I know I'm not happy here and I will be turning 30 very soon. I thought Ive made a big step of my life and now I just wish I never had this scholarship so I dont need to choose.......
posted
09-Mar-16, 13:26
by nmss123
Avatar for nmss123
posted about 4 years ago
Hi TT3, I feel exactly the same way as you, I really dislike the place I am living in and regret choosing to do my PhD here instead of some of the other offers I had in different cities, where I would be closer to family and friends.

This quote from TreeofLife in particular sounds very familiar, like I wrote it myself!

Quote From TreeofLife:


In my case, I go home very frequently, so I can just about cope with it, but as a result my interest in my project is very limited, I can't be bothered to attend seminars or read about my topic, and all I think about are my next days off when I can go home. I imagine this could happen to you over the 4 years of a PhD project.



I also feel like you, about the fears of what will happen after I quit (would I even get accepted into another PhD?), and that is the main reason why I am still here now. Anyway I hope it works out for you, people very rarely seem to mention how important it is to choose a country/city you will be happy living in for 3 years when deciding on what PhD to do. Please keep us updated with what you decide. :-)
posted
11-Mar-16, 13:22
by TT3
Avatar for TT3
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From nmss123:
I also feel like you, about the fears of what will happen after I quit (would I even get accepted into another PhD?), and that is the main reason why I am still here now. Anyway I hope it works out for you, people very rarely seem to mention how important it is to choose a country/city you will be happy living in for 3 years when deciding on what PhD to do. Please keep us updated with what you decide. :-)


Thank you so much nmss123. I try to keep myself busy during the day and most of the evenings but once I'm all by myself, that lonely feeling just came back to me. I feel worse and worse everyday and I think I have to do something. Save up money and go self-funded if necessary.
posted
12-Mar-16, 21:43
edited about 29 seconds later
by shinya
Avatar for shinya
posted about 4 years ago
You dont need friends to entertain you. You got to be happy with what you have chosen for yourself. Just remind yourself that no-social-life days will come to an end at the end of your PhD. Read books on positive thinking and practice meditation.
posted
23-Mar-16, 16:25
by TT3
Avatar for TT3
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From shinya:
You dont need friends to entertain you. You got to be happy with what you have chosen for yourself. Just remind yourself that no-social-life days will come to an end at the end of your PhD. Read books on positive thinking and practice meditation.


Thanks for the reply Shinya. What worse is that I just found out there are some problems with the funding, I'm getting MUCH less than I expected and its not enough for me to live at all. I'm very stressed and i dont feel motivated to do anything. I m also not allowed to work outside my contract.
posted
23-Mar-16, 16:32
edited about 12 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 4 years ago
If it is not enough for you to live on maybe this unfortunate fact actually makes your decision for you?

And if it was not as expected perhaps it would be a valid explanation for why you had to leave if you make future applications for PhD funding.

I still think you should persevere if possible, but only you know what is possible...
posted
28-Mar-16, 14:21
edited about 56 seconds later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 4 years ago
I was also several times located in not so interesting locations and what I learned so far is that you have to make an effort. Many people think that it's the job of the natives to include them in activities and make their lives interesting but I think you have to do it yourself. I spent almost a year in northern Sweden and it was in the beginning pretty much like you described it above. Not a big city and almost no other cities around. In addition to that, you had the long and dark winter. If you arrive there and don't know anyone this can depress you. It is of course at least partially an individual thing but I also met many foreigners who adapted fast and were really happy there. The people complaining were often people who hadn't learned the language a little bit even though they were already 2 years in the country. In my opinion, learning the language is THE crucial thing. Everybody speaks English, so people get lazy, but as long as you can't speak their language, people see you as a temporary citizen, like a tourist that will definitely leave after some time so there's no reason to get too close. This is not something they do intentionally. The people who had their circle of Swedish friends were the people who spoke Swedish. The others only hung around colleagues they were working with.
posted
28-Mar-16, 14:21
edited about 12 minutes later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 4 years ago
Get active yourself! If it is a university city, there are almost certainly facebook groups for newly arrived people. Write a few sentences about yourself and join for social things. I did this in several countries and it always worked (I had to find new friends in foreign countries several times). No worries that you might be too old for that. There are always PhDs and PostDocs joining because everyone has the same problems. Do team sports, go to gym classes or do other social things where you have the chance to meet and talk to people. It costs some effort in the beginning, but it's worth it ;) I don't believe in these stereotype country things. It is usually just easier to blame the whole situation on the reserved locals. You can do a PhD in Barcelona and be the loneliest person on the planet. This is not just a country thing. People are not chatting up strangers on the street and ask if you want to be friends. You really have to initiate things yourself and believe me, I know that it sucks in the beginning.

I hope that helped a little bit. Don't give up too easy and don't get yourself caught in that downward spiral. If all your thoughts are negative than all your experiences will be negative and everything looks worse than it is. It is always easier to return to places you are familiar with, where you already know people, but change is part of life and in the end you never know if you will find a job near your family after a PhD.

If it is not working at all, than you have to relocate and find something else. Suffering for four years is of course not and option. However, there are only a few people who really can't adapt to a country and quit a PhD because of that. In the end most people manage to grow a custom to their new location and enjoy it. I am pretty sure you are not alone with these thoughts.

Good luck!

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