Building a Supportive Network

In this post, Yaru Chen, a new UoB PGR in Corpus Linguistics, tells us about an event on “Building a Supportive Network” she attended in the College of Arts and Law on Wednesday 15 January 2020.

What was “Building a Supportive Network” about?

This event, organised by the Postgraduate Student Experience Officer (a recently graduated PhD from CAL, also a trustworthy person from whom I always seek advice) in the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, was designed to help us improve our networking skills and develop our supportive networks. These supportive networks are not only beneficial in offering us emotional and academic support during our PhD study, but are also helpful for giving us career support once we have graduated.

Yaru's Supportive Network, showing her supervisors in the centre and others (including family, friends and UoB staff) offering different types of social support
Yaru’s Supportive Network

As new PhD students, especially international students from different backgrounds, it is beneficial to have a network to connect us together, especially one that can connect students with staff in CAL (who are more experienced and knowledgeable in bringing us insightful advice).

What happened during this event?

To begin with, Nicola Gale from the College of Social Sciences was invited to give us a presentation about the importance of developing supportive networks for research. After that, the students and staff were asked to join group discussions about different methods of building these networks and maintaining them once established.

What impressed me most are the group chat activities, which gave me the opportunity to have face-to-face communication with lovely people in a cosy and friendly atmosphere. Also, it was quite a fascinating experience to see various ideas bumping into each other when people shared their different opinions.

Why is it useful?


It made me feel relieved to see familiar faces during the activity, like Sadegh Attari (a gentle new PhD student in CAL) who was given the Chinese name ‘安山道’ (English pronunciation: [æn] [ʃæn] [‘daʊ]) by me during the group activities and who taught me how to use communication app WhatsApp for future connections. Another person I often met is Georgina Hardy, a smiling and warm-hearted member of Library Services staff who offers various kinds of workshops and training for PhD students. She had joyful discussions with me sharing her brilliant ideas during Activity 3. In this activity, we were required to place different cards printed with ‘support sources’ on a supportive map and talk about this with students and staff. Friendship was built among us through these relaxing but thought-provoking games.


These activities can be regarded as a form of training/coaching which helps to develop our ideas of building our supportive networks during the early stages of PhD study and for our future careers. The activity was about more than just gaining knowledge of what supportive networks are and how many kinds of supportive networks there should be. Participating in activities was important and cannot be replicated by doing online courses/workshops. Meeting people in person helps to facilitate learning and understanding and it is more memorable.

In the end, it was a valuable chance for early-stage doctoral researchers, especially international students

  • to help us better recognize various ‘support sources’ at UoB and in CAL that are available and how to utilise them. The event helped form our own supportive networks
  • to improve friendship with peer-students and staff who are really friendly and willing to share their insightful ideas with us.

Thank you for reading!

Who is in your supportive network?  How have you nurtured the relationships that are important to you during your research programme?

4 thoughts on “Building a Supportive Network”

  1. It seems these events help you improve your social skills not only for the study but for the future life. From your words, I can find how the four section networks support your academic study in UOB and can also encourage me to communicate more with other students. Hope you can enjoy your postgraduate study at UOB in the rest study.


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