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Life of a PhD student: how to find your place at University

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The dilemma

Postgraduate students often find themselves in a complex situation where they feel too old to join societies yet too young to sip tea and discuss staff affairs. As this point one wonders where they fit in this student/staff social circle. Do they just wonder aimlessly? Do they fall into self-pity and despair? Of course not, I found myself facing this problem when I first started as a postgraduate and through trial and error found ways to overcome this tricky predicament. So let me cut right to the chase and provide you with a few important tips.

“Thou aren’t tied to thy school or faculty”

This is really important to remember as I personally fell into this trap. As a new postgraduate student, I believed this meant that my postgraduate school was the only exclusive group I belonged to and trying to socialise elsewhere would be me forcing it or simply just a waste of time. Think of it in terms of simple math, The University of Manchester has so many divisions and schools so chances are you are way more likely to meet people from different areas as opposed to limiting yourself to one division.

Anxiety is the route of all evil

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE overcome the voice in your head that says you will make a fool of yourself by mingling with people of different ages. Trust me you will be surprised how positively people respond when you are willing to approach and engage with them. I can almost guarantee you that things will always go a lot smoother than perceived in your mind.

Societies! Societies! Societies!

Having missed induction week, I was unaware of the societies that university had to offer. Luckily, I was informed by a gentleman that there is a vast range of societies on the Students’ Union website. This is my personal favourite recommendation because regardless of your age or field of study, interests are interests. Hence, joining a society is an instant icebreaker as it gets rid of all the barriers to socialising and allows you met people easily.

Embrace being the wildcard

The common expression “Is the glass half empty or half full?” couldn’t apply better to this situation. I think embracing my position of not being an undergrad or staff (seeing me as a wildcard) was an absolute game changer from me. Being in this unique position means you can mix-n-match (no this isn’t a Tesco food product) by joining undergraduate and staff activities that suit you best. Feeling ecstatic? Mingle with the undergraduates. Feeling more laid back? Put on your glasses, read a book and play the mature student game. Basically, the ball is in your court.

Take home message

Being a postgraduate puts you in a tricky situation with regards to social life; however, striking the balance means you could get the best of both worlds.


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