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    Hi all,

    I'm just finishing up the first (masters) year of a four year program at Cambridge (MRes+PhD). However, I've been really struggling with settling into Cambridge way of life and found myself to be quite isolated and unhappy for most of the year, despite my best efforts to like the place (and people). I am considering to graduate with the masters and take a year out, in order to apply for PhD in some of the London unis (ie. Imperial) for 2017 entry. I really fear, though, that I will be giving up something that could potentially pay off well in the future, be that in academia or in industry. Basically what this ultimately comes down to is prestige + amazing PhD VS general happiness.

    I know this is a highly personal dilemma but I'd appreciate any words of advise, or if you could share your own relevant experiences

    Thanks!
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    Prestige doesn't mean much tbh. You really do need to be happy and be in an environment that will make you productive. Unless Cambridge is the only place you can do your research at which I highly doubt then I think your best bet is to leave with that masters and look for PhD opportunities elsewhere.
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    (Original post by dazzzzle)
    I'm just finishing up the first (masters) year of a four year program at Cambridge (MRes+PhD). However, I've been really struggling with settling into Cambridge way of life and found myself to be quite isolated and unhappy for most of the year, despite my best efforts to like the place (and people). I am considering to graduate with the masters and take a year out, in order to apply for PhD in some of the London unis (ie. Imperial) for 2017 entry. I really fear, though, that I will be giving up something that could potentially pay off well in the future, be that in academia or in industry. Basically what this ultimately comes down to is prestige + amazing PhD VS general happiness.
    Benig seriously unhappy can impede or outright torpedo a doctorate, and if that happens you won't have happiness or a PhD. And as alleycat393 says, in most disciplines, most of the time, institutional prestige matters a lot less than students sometimes think—and the gradation in prestige between Cambridge and somehwere like Imperial is in any case a pretty fine one. Plus the point between the master's and the PhD is a decent moment to take a break, probably better than during the PhD. (Do check whether it's easy to enter another institution at the PhD stage if four-year master's plus PhD programmes are the norm in your discipline. They aren't in mine so I don't know.) So on the face of it it sounds to me like it might be wise for you to move.

    That said—and I apologise if you've thought through all this already, but in case you haven't—are you clear on what's making you unhappy, and have you worked out how much control do you have over those factors? Are you, for example, confident that you can enjoy or at least tolerate the day-to-day grind of research? Because that's unlikely to be very different at a different institution. If 'the Cambridge way of life' is definitely what's making you unhappy, is that, for example, because you've been living in college accommodation and haven't gelled with the college community, and if so is there any prospect of living out of college and building a social circle that's a bit more removed from the claustrophobic atmosphere of the university? I did a DPhil at Oxford and while I liked my college and didn't mind my graduate student peers, I didn't find much to like in the round of social engagements that some of them loved and I discovered that needed times away from that environment.

    But that may be irrelevant to you or not feasible—I raise these thoughts not necessarily because they're strong objections, but just in case they're useful. It's your decision but it sounds to me like you have a good case for leaving and applying elsewhere, if you're seriously unhappy.
 
 
 
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