PG life: How did you settle in and what are your tips for new postgrads

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    Hey everyone :wavey:

    We're pulling together an article for new postgrads on the site and we're also teaming up with the Guardian to publish so some helpful content nationally

    Would you be happy to help us by answering these questions and posting them below?

    How did you keep your head as a postgrad?

    What was the first week like for you as a post grad student?

    What kind of welcome activities were open to you?

    How did the experience compare to freshers week as an undergrad?

    How did you combat any feelings of isolation that intensestudy can bring? (if you felt that way)

    Do you work part-time?

    Did you act as a student ambassador for any of the opendays? Were you more involved as a post grad?
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    Nirgilis Slowbro93 The_Lonely_Goatherd Craghyrax Pixsoul beautifulbigmacs

    would you mind helping with this please :awesome:

    If you can tag in anyone else that you think might like to help us that would be ace
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    How did you keep your head as a postgrad?

    Life as a postgrad is remarkably different to life as an Undergrad, especially in the area of Science. These differences suddenly become very obvious upon starting the PhD. The unique challenges associated with a postgraduate project, ranging from providing your own hypotheses to having to delve deep into the literature to find relevant techniques, are all part of the growing up process and the move towards further and better independent research.

    One of the key processes I found to keeping your head is learning very quickly having confidence in your own ability. You're not expected to produce Nature worthy results straight off the bat, and so taking the time to develop core skills properly and confidently will pay-off plenty in the long-run. A lot of institutions will also have a post-grad society, where it's possible to go and chat to other PhD students in the same boat as you. Listening to everybody's journey and having a place to vent and chat is also a great place to reality-check, and realise that better things will come as your progress.

    What was the first week like for you as a post grad student?

    The first week was a blur of introductory lectures, safety talks, lab introductions, moving into new accommodation and becoming familiar with a new city. It wasn't the same as the first week of undergrad ("Freshers Week"), in that work started straight away. Time is of the essence!

    What kind of welcome activities were open to you?

    All the usual welcome activities were open to me. Freshers fairs, society fairs, volunteering fairs etc. were all as open to me as a postgrad as they were undergrad. There were additional graduate-only talks put on by departments and safety offices.

    How did the experience compare to freshers week as an undergrad?

    Completely different. But then, for me, the expectation was completely different. I didn't feel I needed to experience everything as I did when I was an undergrad since I knew exactly what I wanted out of my time as a postgrad. The same pressures to make friends and fit-in were also non-existent, since everyone else in the same boat are also much more mature and knew exactly what they wanted out of their time at University as well. I was much more confident in myself and knowing my place as a student, and so I went and got involved in exactly what I wanted to, without any problems.

    That's not to say that postgraduates don't do the whole Freshers things alongside the undergrads, but they are more scarce and few-and-far between.


    How did you combat any feelings of isolation that intensestudy can bring? (if you felt that way)

    Being in Science means that there's an entire lab group to feel part of. Therefore, seeing the same people in the lab and office everyday means isolation was never a problem. Everyone in the lab group is either working towards, or have completed postgraduate studies, so there's a self-made support group that's right there to get involved in.

    Do you work part-time?

    No, but I volunteer. The stipend, whilst not particularly generous, is more than Student Loans paid out per-year. So I don't feel the need to work.

    Did you act as a student ambassador for any of the opendays? Were you more involved as a post grad?

    No, and I was much more involved as an Undergrad.

    She-Ra
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    (Original post by She-Ra)
    Hey everyone :wavey:
    :hi:

    We're pulling together an article for new postgrads on the site and we're also teaming up with the Guardian to publish so some helpful content nationally
    What a great idea!

    Would you be happy to help us by answering these questions and posting them below?

    How did you keep your head as a postgrad?
    A very good question! I'm not too good at keeping my head in general, due to my severe mental health issues So I rely on others to help me do that, e.g. the disability office, the chaplaincy, and my supervisor.

    I think the main thing to keep in mind (though this is hard thing to learn and even harder to remember) is that you're not the only one having an up-and-down PhD journey. No one's PhD journey goes completely smoothly. There are always going to be bumps, sharp unexpected curves, and sometimes you may even have to do a U-turn :headfire: But you're not alone - you're not the only one struggling to see how things will ever materialise

    What was the first week like for you as a post grad student?
    Not gonna lie, it was somewhat of a baptism of fire :headfire: One of the biggest problems with my particular uni is that there is no induction for postgrads in the way that there is for undergrads. No one offers to show you where the department, libraries, or eating places are. I still don't know where the music department specialist computer room is, coz no one's ever told me or shown me. There were people a few years above me who had no idea where the arts and humanities library on campus was, because no one had ever told or shown them. Granted, we do have other computer rooms on campus and as a UoL campus, many people living in London just go to Senate House Library rather than to campus, but still - I think it's pretty shoddy when your postgrad research students have no idea where these basic things are

    I was lucky in that I had somehow found out that the disability office were running a pre-Freshers' orientation day for disabled incoming undergrad students. There was no postgrad one, so I wrote and said could I tag along and they said yes :king1: Obviously a lot of the talks weren't relevant to me but it helped me get familiar with campus without there being thousands of students milling around, so it was completely worth it. As a result of my attending, my uni now does postgrad disabled orientation days as well

    Another way to keep one's head at postgrad level if a PhD student, is to be as honest as you can be with your supervisor about how you are feeling. Not all supervisors are good, sadly, but many of them will want to know if you are struggling or feeling rough or having writer's block :yes:


    What kind of welcome activities were open to you?
    There was a departmental induction which was a bit bloody intense and terrifying tbh. The person leading it was explaining the course structure and kept going: "at the end of first year... IF YOU'RE STILL HERE... at the start of second year... IF YOU'RE STILL HERE..." and continued on and on like that. It was kinda like she expected half the room to drop out or fail a year or something

    Not in Freshers' Week but shortly after there was a uni-wide postgrad research welcome day too :yes:

    How did the experience compare to freshers week as an undergrad?
    The only similarity was the overload of info and things to take in. It was much more subdued and boring than my undergrad Freshers' Week (which admittedly was at a different uni in a different city, and I was living out, not living at home) :nopity:

    How did you combat any feelings of isolation that intense study can bring? (if you felt that way)
    It's important to have good friends (preferably also PhD students, so they can understand your pain ) and to take regular breaks from work by having coffee breaks with them. This year is gonna be a hard year for me in terms of what I have to achieve, so I plan on going to campus twice a week if possible. Working in a room with others (even if I'm not talking to them and am listening to my iPod) tends to be better for me than trying to work at home

    I think it's also really important to have hobbies/interests outside of the PhD. It can often feel like the PhD is THE most important thing and needs to be prioritised 100% of the time but the reality is very different. It's OK to do things that are not your PhD! In fact, it's hugely important that you DO do things that are not your PhD! So like, in my case, I do lots of volunteering (including on TSR :awesome: ). It's not paid but it helps me to structure my week and feel some purpose. It also keeps my CV ticking over without gaps

    Do you work part-time?
    As mentioned above, I do lots of volunteering. I have one very sporadic part-time job that I do once a month for about 8 months of the year, give or take. It's quite good money for not a lot of work :banana:

    Most of the time, I just float about at home being ill, though


    Did you act as a student ambassador for any of the opendays? Were you more involved as a post grad?
    During my Masters, I had no involvement in the student campus life, and that is something I kinda regret now. As I see it, this is my last chance to be a student and live the academic life (not planning on going into academia afterwards). So I've decided to make the most of it by getting involved. Actually, tomorrow I am volunteering for Welcome Week on a petting farm at my uni, wearing a disability office T-shirt, so that people know they can ask me questions about the disability office :awesome:

    :smartass:
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    I'll be really interested to read this when it is put together! As a PG student currently settling in, what I'm trying to do and would probably advise others to do as well is not assume that freshers events, societies, volunteering etc. are solely for undergraduates! Even if something isn't specifically aimed at PG students, find out about it anyway. I didn't take advantage of this enough as an undergrad so I'm making up for it now.
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    (Original post by She-Ra)
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    How did you keep your head as a postgrad?

    Taking diary-keeping and time management seriously. Consciously making myself keep talking to my peers about how things were going and how we were feeling. Trying to identify academics who shared my interests quickly, and then getting to know them.

    Also keeping a sense of perspective as much as possible, even to the point of mechanically carving out a short time each day to remind myself that I was a human being and more than just a postgraduate. That might sound forced or artificial but it worked for me.

    What was the first week like for you as a post grad student?

    Busy: a lot of new places and faces. I was a postgrad at a different university in a different city to my undergrad institution, and I'd also taken a year out after my BA, so I was dealing with a lot of unfamiliar things while worrying about whether I had 'gone rusty'. It turned out that I needn't have worried as I quickly found my way back into academic thought patterns, and I also found that my time working a normal job before returning to study had actually given me a bit of a different viewpoint from which was valuable in itself.

    What kind of welcome activities were open to you?

    Loads—probably more than I could have fitted in—practical inductions into the library system and the department, meeting a more advanced postgraduate who was assigned as a mentor, several large meals.

    How did the experience compare to freshers week as an undergrad?

    Believe it or not, I spent a lot more time socialising during my postgrad fresher's week than I did at the start of my undergrad degree! I was a very shy undergraduate and I had become a little bit more socially confident over time. So I think for me my postgrad fresher's week was a little bit like a second chance to experience some of that excitement and get out and meet people—I didn't get drunk or go to any wild parties but I did spend a lot of time talking to strangers.

    How did you combat any feelings of isolation that intensestudy can bring? (if you felt that way)

    I became very strict about doing a couple of things which were non-academic and involved other people every single week. Neither took more than a couple of hours, so they weren't big time sinks, and I made sure I committed to them: I was still turning up the week before I submitted my doctoral thesis. These meant that I was seeing friends who weren't all academics or other postgrads. It's great to have good relationships with fellow postgraduates but it's also really useful to have other people in your life—it really helps you keep the sense of perspective I mentioned above.

    When I talk to starting postgrads now I always suggest doing something like this. It can be volunteer work, taking part in some kind of club or society, anything so long as it takes you outside the academic bubble.

    Do you work part-time?

    I didn't work part-time during my master's or my doctorate, apart from bits and pieces of teaching.

    Did you act as a student ambassador for any of the opendays? Were you more involved as a post grad?

    I never acted as a student ambassador but I did get involved in a bunch of other things. Again, as with socialising, I was more involved and outgoing as a postgraduate than as an undergraduate.

    But my impression—and several postgrad friends have said the same—is that you have to be a bit more programmatic and organised about your commitments as a postgrad. You can't just drift into and out of things like an undergraduate: you have greater pressures on your time, and so while you absolutely should set aside some time for seeing people and helping out with stuff, you should do so in a controlled and conscious way.
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    (Original post by She-Ra)
    How did you keep your head as a postgrad?
    It was pretty easy. Having worked for a few years after my undergrad studies (as you're supposed to before doing a postgrad degree), coming back to university was simply fantastic - it's such a low-pressure, casual environment compared to the cut-throat industry of management consulting that I entered after my Bachelors.

    Going back from a good income to zero -and the associated drop/shift in accommodation, dining out, nights out, travel, gadgets, fashion, etc.- was not easy but the perks of student life, and living for basically nothing in central London, made more than up for it.

    Academically, many tools, skills, techniques, and habits I acquired during my first job proved very useful and helped me to excel in my studies. Examples are rigorous planning of my day, week, and semester (often using Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook), capturing and organising of notes and documents digitally, and professional-grade PowerPoint skills.

    What was the first week like for you as a post grad student?

    I don't remember too well to be honest. It was for sure exciting, meeting co-students (including later girlfriend, haha) and lecturers for the first time, seeing what postgrad study -and studying in the UK- is like, etc.

    What kind of welcome activities were open to you?

    Not many, to be honest. Most activities were aimed at freshers (read: 18 year olds out to party) so they weren't very interesting to me.

    How did you combat any feelings of isolation that intensestudy can bring? (if you felt that way)

    I did not feel that way. I enjoyed deep-diving into topics that I am interested in and that are relevant to my career.

    Do you work part-time?

    During semester breaks I did some work for my old employer, but not during other times.

    Did you act as a student ambassador for any of the opendays? Were you more involved as a post grad?

    No.
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    How did you keep your head as a postgrad?*

    Keep your eye on the prize. Start coursework as soon as possible.

    What was the first week like for you as a post grad student?

    The first week can be misleading because there's not much work to do. Don't be fooled, it will get rolling like an avalanche so it's important to budget time for it so that you can keep on top of it.

    What kind of welcome activities were open to you?

    Trips to become familiar with the campus and the city. A social with course mates and members of staff to provide an opportunity to chat casually. Food and drink included.

    How did the experience compare to freshers week as an undergrad?

    Freshers week as an undergraduate is overrated due to the emphasis on alcohol. It is both under and over whelming. As a postgraduate it feels kind of how it does when you return to uni at the start of undergraduate second year; you'll still be meeting new people and situations but there is more of a sense of what to expect.

    How did you combat any feelings of isolation that intensestudy can bring? (if you felt that way)

    Talk to course mates. It brings a much needed sense of solidarity sometimes.

    Do you work part-time?

    I worked part time throughout my MA because attendance was generally one afternoon and one evening per week both on the same day. It was very stressful at times. The attendance required for my MSc was a minimum of three days per week. Working would not have realistically been an option considering the study and coursework that needed to be done outside of uni.

    Did you act as a student ambassador for any of the opendays? Were you more involved as a post grad?

    I didn't do any extra curricular stuff within the uni. I was too busy and as a mature student wasn't sure if I'd be able to best relate to the undergraduate population as a whole. Also I didn't live on or near campus.

    I was much more involved with my studies as a postgraduate but in terms of the uni lifestyle, I kept that fairly low key as a result of the latter.
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    Should I reply fully? I did my postgrad in Sweden so I think my experience was quite different to the UK
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    (Original post by Perfectly_Imperfect)
    Should I reply fully? I did my postgrad in Sweden so I think my experience was quite different to the UK
    Of course! Would love to hear how it compares/the differences
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    How did you keep your head as a postgrad?

    For me, it was essential to focus on my goals, I wanted an MLitt, and I wanted a distinction and a funded PhD. As I did my MLitt by Distance and continued working freelance during it, I had to structure my work very strictly from the beginning and that certainly helped when deadlines approached. Probably, being able to switch between uni work and other work whenever I reached a dead end in my thinking was a big advantage, too.

    What was the first week like for you as a post grad student?

    I my course, we were thrown in pretty much at the deep end, there was a huge amount of reading and right from the first lecture it was clear that the level was entirely different than during undergraduate studies. However, weirdly enough this more challenging course motivated me to work much harder than I ever did during my BA.

    What kind of welcome activities were open to you?

    There were inductions, staff introductions, meetings with personal tutors, seminars about using the library and e-ressources, about research and about essay writing. The SU also offered a lot of welcome activities but I didn't participate in them.

    How did the experience compare to freshers week as an undergrad?

    I didn't do any fresher's activities, mainly because I didn't live near the university but also because I couldn't take time off my breadwinning work too much for non-essential things at uni.

    How did you combat any feelings of isolation that intensestudy can bring? (if you felt that way)

    Luckily, I never felt isolated even during the most intense period before submitting my MLitt dissertation. I guess it helped that I live with my partner of five years and our cat, and my partner always supported me during this time. I also kept contact with my fellow students who were going through the same difficulties. It's good to remember you're not the only one going through dissertation crises or spending days on end reading papers which turn out to be no help for your research topic at all.

    Do you work part-time?

    I actually worked almost full-time, but as a freelancer, so I scheduled my work comitments around submission dates for assignments and could also attend all lectures and seminars. On the one hand, it's great to be able to study without any money worries or getting further into student debt, on the other hand I usually had at least a 60 - 70 hours week, no free weekends and basically no hobbies or social life for the entire year.

    Did you act as a student ambassador for any of the opendays? Were you more involved as a post grad?

    Due to my MLitt being a distance course, I didn't get involved in any of these activities. However, I'm about to start a PhD on campus and plan to support new postgraduate students there who are starting the MLitt I have just finished.
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    (Original post by She-Ra)
    Nirgilis Slowbro93 The_Lonely_Goatherd Craghyrax Pixsoul beautifulbigmacs

    would you mind helping with this please :awesome:

    If you can tag in anyone else that you think might like to help us that would be ace
    When do you need it by? Wrote a reply and then lost it when my laptop restarted :sad:
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    (Original post by Craghyrax)
    When do you need it by? Wrote a reply and then lost it when my laptop restarted :sad:
    Hi,

    I'm writing up the article tomorrow so it would be AMAZING if you could pop something down this eve if possible.

    I'll be finishing it up on Monday but ideally would like the content before then as it will probably be more a case of sprucing up on Monday

    Thank you
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    How did you keep your head as a postgrad?

    By getting into a routine. I would wake up at the same time every day and usually arrive at the library at the same time every day and that helped a lot

    What was the first week like for you as a post grad student?

    Quite lonely and isolating for the most part tbh. I stayed on at the same uni I was at for my undergraduate degree, however almost all my friends left. My housemates were continuing undergraduates. who although friendly, had solid friendship groups and I little in common with them. I think most of my new coursemates came to campus for the induction events however they then disappeared again before I could even think about suggesting a coffee.

    What kind of welcome activities were open to you?

    My course had an induction week timetable with introductory sessions like welcome to the department, welcome to the course e.c.t

    The postgrad team put on some activities too, I went to the quiz and thankfully found some faces I recognised to join, didn't pluck up the courage to go to any of the other stuff due to being on my own.

    Then there was the usual freshers fair, society fair, sports fair.

    How did the experience compare to freshers week as an undergrad?

    A lot lot quieter, freshers week for me as an undergrad was very stereotypical- every night involved drinking and clubbing. Apart from the evening I went to the quiz, most evenings as a postgrad were spent in my room.

    How did you combat any feelings of isolation that intensestudy can bring? (if you felt that way)


    I found studying in the library helped- that way I was always surrounded by people rather than in my room on my own.


    Do you work part-time?


    No I didn't, thankfully didn't need to.

    Did you act as a student ambassador for any of the opendays? Were you more involved as a post grad?

    Didn't act as a student ambassador, was a course rep though as a postgrad which I hadn't been at undergrad level. And I kept my position on the society commitee which I'd had in 3rd year.
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    Edited to add: To clarify, my comments below refer to my Masters. I went on to attempt a PhD which was a different set of experiences again.

    *
    (Original post by She-Ra)
    How did you keep your head as a postgrad?
    Firstly, by reminding myself that however awful it might get, it's only a year. Based on how fast my last undergrad year flew by, that was a comfort.

    Secondly, I didn't look at the total workload - which was terrifying when added to the dissertation. I just concentrated on each individual bit of coursework as it arrived.

    What was the first week like for you as a post grad student?
    Induction Week was a shambles. Half of the timetabled welcome events didn't happen. Our official welcome lecture from the Head of Department was half an hour late starting, as they'd forgotten it was on (and had no problem admitting that with a cheery grin, to a full lecture theatre of unimpressed postgrads). Also, nobody had twigged that postgrads started a week before undergrads - ongoing decorating work meant that all the room numbers had been taken off the doors in our main buildings. Finding your way round an unfamiliar department was a nightmare (especially when we realised the room numbers were duplicated in each of the three associated buildings). We had to move in herds because if you lost your subject group, you'd probably not find them again in a hurry.

    What kind of welcome activities were open to you?
    Very few. There was no Student Union presence or social events. The only formal activities were things like Intro to the Library and department tours. The first clashed with my subject's Welcome lecture and the second didn't happen at all. The tour was supposed to be given by one of the previous year's postgrads (who'd since started a PhD) so we had a chance to have an informal chat as we went. But apparently nobody had volunteered to do it.

    How did the experience compare to freshers week as an undergrad?
    Undergrad Freshers' Week seemed mainly organised by the Student Union. It was a noisy whirl of social events, student-led introductory activities and a drop-in pop-up advice centre on top of the uni's own formal one. By comparison, my postgrad one (at a different uni) was a total non-event. The existing student body didn't seem to care that we were there and the uni (in the wider sense) appeared to lose interest once we'd enrolled and paid our fees (which was very carefully organised).

    How did you combat any feelings of isolation that intensestudy can bring? (if you felt that way)
    My subject group was small and we stuck together as a mutual support group. Whilst we didn't have time to socialise ourside uni, we always made sure we went to lunch or had coffee together, as often as possible. Until we got to the diss, there were usually at least one or two others who could be persuaded to hit the student caff for cake! Cake is a great morale booster. Top tip: It's only a year, so stop counting calories and prioritise your mental health! You can lose the weight afterwards.

    Do you work part-time?
    One of my group did, but they had to give up when their shifts clashed with seminars and their employer refused to allow any flexibility.

    Did you act as a student ambassador for any of the opendays? Were you more involved as a post grad?
    There were no postgrad open days at my Masters uni. I'd asked to attend an undergrad one but was told that wasn't appropriate. If there had been a postgrad open day, I'm not sure we would have made great ambassadors as we always had plenty to complain about. I did once catch my course leader showing a prospective student around, and she nearly wet herself when she walked in and found me working in a lab. She steered the visitor away at high speed without introducing me.
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    (Original post by Klix88)
    Firstly, by reminding myself that however awful it might get, it's only a year. Based on how fast my last undergrad year flew by, that was a comfort.

    Secondly, I didn't look at the total workload - which was terrifying when added to the dissertation. I just concentrated on each individual bit of coursework as it arrived.


    Induction Week was a shambles. Half of the timetabled welcome events didn't happen. Our official welcome lecture from the Head of Department was half an hour late starting, as they'd forgotten it was on (and had no problem admitting that with a cheery grin, to a full lecture theatre of unimpressed postgrads). Also, nobody had twigged that postgrads started a week before undergrads - ongoing decorating work meant that all the room numbers had been taken off the doors in our main buildings. Finding your way round an unfamiliar department was a nightmare (especially when we realised the room numbers were duplicated in each of the three associated buildings). We had to move in herds because if you lost your subject group, you'd probably not find them again in a hurry.


    Very few. There was no Student Union presence or social events. The only formal activities were things like Intro to the Library and department tours. The first clashed with my subject's Welcome lecture and the second didn't happen at all. The tour was supposed to be given by one of the previous year's postgrads (who'd since started a PhD) so we had a chance to have an informal chat as we went. But apparently nobody had volunteered to do it.


    Undergrad Freshers' Week seemed mainly organised by the Student Union. It was a noisy whirl of social events, student-led introductory activities and a drop-in pop-up advice centre on top of the uni's own formal one. By comparison, my postgrad one (at a different uni) was a total non-event. The existing student body didn't seem to care that we were there and the uni (in the wider sense) appeared to lose interest once we'd enrolled and paid our fees (which was very carefully organised).


    My subject group was small and we stuck together as a mutual support group. Whilst we didn't have time to socialise ourside uni, we always made sure we went to lunch or had coffee together, as often as possible. Until we got to the diss, there were usually at least one or two others who could be persuaded to hit the student caff for cake! Cake is a great morale booster. Top tip: It's only a year, so stop counting calories and prioritise your mental health! You can lose the weight afterwards.


    One of my group did, but they had to give up when their shifts clashed with seminars and their employer refused to allow any flexibility.


    There were no postgrad open days at my Masters uni. I'd asked to attend an undergrad one but was told that wasn't appropriate. If there had been a postgrad open day, I'm not sure we would have made great ambassadors as we always had plenty to complain about. I did once catch my course leader showing a prospective student around, and she nearly wet herself when she walked in and found me working in a lab. She steered the visitor away at high speed without introducing me.
    Which Uni was this?
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    This thread is brilliant So helpful :yep:

    Klix88 jelly1000 Nirgilis Anndee The_Lonely_Goatherd beautifulbigmacs TitanicTeutonicPhil

    (Original post by Perfectly_Imperfect)
    Should I reply fully? I did my postgrad in Sweden so I think my experience was quite different to the UK
    Yes that would be fab The more variation and breadth of experience the better
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    (Original post by Klix88)
    Firstly, by reminding myself that however awful it might get, it's only a year. Based on how fast my last undergrad year flew by, that was a comfort.

    Secondly, I didn't look at the total workload - which was terrifying when added to the dissertation. I just concentrated on each individual bit of coursework as it arrived.


    Induction Week was a shambles. Half of the timetabled welcome events didn't happen. Our official welcome lecture from the Head of Department was half an hour late starting, as they'd forgotten it was on (and had no problem admitting that with a cheery grin, to a full lecture theatre of unimpressed postgrads). Also, nobody had twigged that postgrads started a week before undergrads - ongoing decorating work meant that all the room numbers had been taken off the doors in our main buildings. Finding your way round an unfamiliar department was a nightmare (especially when we realised the room numbers were duplicated in each of the three associated buildings). We had to move in herds because if you lost your subject group, you'd probably not find them again in a hurry.


    Very few. There was no Student Union presence or social events. The only formal activities were things like Intro to the Library and department tours. The first clashed with my subject's Welcome lecture and the second didn't happen at all. The tour was supposed to be given by one of the previous year's postgrads (who'd since started a PhD) so we had a chance to have an informal chat as we went. But apparently nobody had volunteered to do it.


    Undergrad Freshers' Week seemed mainly organised by the Student Union. It was a noisy whirl of social events, student-led introductory activities and a drop-in pop-up advice centre on top of the uni's own formal one. By comparison, my postgrad one (at a different uni) was a total non-event. The existing student body didn't seem to care that we were there and the uni (in the wider sense) appeared to lose interest once we'd enrolled and paid our fees (which was very carefully organised).


    My subject group was small and we stuck together as a mutual support group. Whilst we didn't have time to socialise ourside uni, we always made sure we went to lunch or had coffee together, as often as possible. Until we got to the diss, there were usually at least one or two others who could be persuaded to hit the student caff for cake! Cake is a great morale booster. Top tip: It's only a year, so stop counting calories and prioritise your mental health! You can lose the weight afterwards.


    One of my group did, but they had to give up when their shifts clashed with seminars and their employer refused to allow any flexibility.


    There were no postgrad open days at my Masters uni. I'd asked to attend an undergrad one but was told that wasn't appropriate. If there had been a postgrad open day, I'm not sure we would have made great ambassadors as we always had plenty to complain about. I did once catch my course leader showing a prospective student around, and she nearly wet herself when she walked in and found me working in a lab. She steered the visitor away at high speed without introducing me.
    Wow Klix88. That's quite extreme!

    I agree about the not calorie counting. I've always gained weight on masters degrees, especially around dissertation time. I think it's important to get the work done and, should you want to, lose the weight later.

    It's cynical but I do believe that unis appreciate the extra cash that postgrads bring in. In this regard I think people worry unduly about whether or not they will get a place on a masters degree because ultimately there's probably a range of unis out there that will accept them.*
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    Might be late with my responses, but I haven't been keeping up with TSR lately.

    (Original post by She-Ra)
    How did you keep your head as a postgrad?

    I grew up in a family heavily focused on lab work/medical research. A supportive environment at home, and at work is always beneficial (although it can also turn into a negative when family members keep pushing for more experiments to be performed, or providing ideas outside the scope of study).

    I had similar interests to some of my labmates, which meant that we could take a little bit of time off between experiments to talk about these things.

    Being mentally resilient is a key aspect of undergoing a PhD in biological sciences that many people fail to understand. The ability to persist in the pursuit of knowledge even though experiment after experiment fails is one of the hallmarks of being a scientist. As such, it is important to be aware of the prize at the end, or view the project in how it can help others. Setting short term goals also helped when experiments constantly failed in unexplainable ways.

    Also, similar to what Nirgilis has said previously, knowing your own ability, and how to compare what you are working on relative to others helps a lot, especially as smaller research group is unable to compete with much larger, or better funded labs. A one person, or two person group, cannot be expected to publish as frequently in prestigious journals as a 6 man group.

    What was the first week like for you as a post grad student?
    What kind of welcome activities were open to you?
    How did the experience compare to freshers week as an undergrad?

    In theory, there was an opening meet and greet along with Q&A session with senior faculty (Dean of Research, head of postgraduate studies etc). The Department also had an introductory event for all new postgraduates. My official enrollment date occurred 2 months after those all occurred due to internal system issues, so I didn't have the option to attend any of them.

    My first week as a postgrad involved the usual things with lab based research - meeting the supervisor, discussing potential topics for research, lab safety, and signing NDAs.

    Drastically different from an undergrad where we received a campus tour and had a welcoming party.

    How did you combat any feelings of isolation that intense study can bring?

    My experiment schedule required me to be at the lab on weekends, coincidentally when very few people were around. That time was spent either browsing Youtube, reading papers, or doing the occasional, incredibly stupid thing. Another option I had was to go read incredibly odd papers, such as BMC's Christmas issue or the IgNobels. Having something to laugh at, or decompress with is good.

    During the regular working week, it always was possible to find someone not doing an experiment to have a chat about random stuff, like movies or sports.

    Do you work part-time?
    I did not. Part of is that as being on a PhD stipend, I was contractually obligated to not work on a part time job for more than 20hrs per month. Also, being in medical research with the irregular lab hours, made it difficult to have an outside job to begin with. That being said, some of my lab mates were able to find some work as private tutors. One is currently teaching 1-2 classes per week at a gym.

    Did you act as a student ambassador for any of the open days? Were you more involved as a post grad?
    I did not act as a student ambassador as an undergraduate, but was required to do so as a PhD student. These events were for undergraduate open days (I don't think my university has PG open days). Most of it was showing prospective undergraduates the fancy toys available for research in the core facilities. Potential undergraduates would ask about potential careers after their B.Sc. There were occasional secondary students who would ask about enrolling in a PhD after they finished their Bachelor's.
 
 
 
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