This time of year often beckons a flurry of excitement and anticipation for those finding out they’ve been accepted to study at University and the #TeamUofG campaign seeks to welcome those arriving here with open arms! Whether you are about to be an undergraduate, postgrad or researcher at UofG, there are always piling uncertainties about beginning a new chapter in your life and we want to ease some of those uncertainties away. Of course, this isn’t the only time of year researchers may find out where they are studying next but we thought what better time to offer some advice to anyone about to take that step into the unknown through the power of hindsight! Here, some of the bloggers reminisce over earlier academic experiences to answer the question:
What advice would you give yourself when you were first starting out on your research as a PGR?
A piece of advice that many “older” students gave me when I started was that “nothing you do in first year will be useful”. That seemed rather depressing at the time, and I was determined to prove them wrong! But now, in third year, I understand better what they meant. Getting acquainted with your field, learning techniques, how to design your research, asking the right questions, and optimising your approaches will take time. Use this time to diversify and learn as much as possible to develop yourself into a well-rounded professional. Second, don’t feel inadequate that you’re still learning: nobody expects you to know everything as a PGR starting out. Once you progress into second year, you’ll notice that you have a much better idea of what you are doing and will naturally start to produce useful data for your thesis and papers. It’s okay that this takes time – you may feel like you need to “hurry up” and are “running out of time”, but everyone feels like that at different points, so you might as well disregard the sentiment!
Other tips are to get to know as many people as possible, as they’ll form an invaluable support system and help you with the “play hard” that should accompany the “work hard”! Finally, try to make the best of what your place of work offers and join for seminars, events, clubs, volunteering, etc. Hugely beneficial in terms of integrating, networking, and opening up your view of the field & world. Have fun, and enjoy!
This is not your life. That is what I would tell new PGRs.
When you start PG study it is easy to become consumed by it. Evenings, weekends, holidays… all get lost in the need to “keep up”. However, while work may be one of the most important relationships you will have in your life (sad thought, eh?) it is far from the only one. Also, let’s face it; most of us are not going to end up as professors.
Opportunities to explore new passions and career avenues abound at the UofG. During my time as an evolutionary biology PhD student I have run seminar series, blogged, podcasted and spent time in the British Parliament working on the circular economy… I am even writing a textbook chapter on that last one. So, when something cool gets emailed to you, don’t just discard it.
It is also important to maintain your personal relationships. We talk a lot about PGR self care on the blog, because it is important! Get outdoors and spend time with friends and family, it will make those hours in front of a computer screen more bearable… I also got a cat for stress relieving kitty cuddles.
Your PGR is going to be life changing, but keep it in perspective: it is not your whole life
This is difficult! I had the luxury of already having completed my undergrad and PGT degrees at UofG, so I started my PGR career at a slight advantage and by marauding around campus as a Freshers’ Helper.
I’d say: remember you aren’t Hermione Granger and you don’t have a TimeTurner. You don’t have to do everything all at once, and you absolutely shouldn’t compare yourself to other PGRs. Be realistic about what you can do and when, and always make time for your pals. You’ll be valuable sources of calm and hilarity whenever deadlines loom, or if there’s a little hashtag drama on Twitter to follow (there will be plenty- get that popcorn gif ready!)
Oh, and stock up on the Stepsils and vitamin C tablets. And coffee shop loyalty cards. You’ll inevitably get Freshers’ Flu, and you might as well just lean in to the coffee addiction you develop in the first semester.
What’s your advice to researchers just starting out? Or if you are just starting out what are you most excited or worried about? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @UofG_PGRBlog with #TeamUofG!