PhD Chats: (re)connecting with the PGR community

Faith Van Horne, a PGR in the Department of Theology and Religion and Diana Cruz de Oliveira, a PGR in Mechanical Engineering introduce PhD Chats, informal, guided conversations reconnecting PGRs.

When Faith started her PhD program, one of the first events she attended was a PhD Chat, an informal guided conversation to discuss some of the challenges associated with the often-lonely PGR journey. As Westmere Scholars, Diana and Faith are part of the team leading the current PhD Chat series. All of the sessions fit the theme of (Re)Connection. As pandemic restrictions lift, many of us are curious about how we will connect again with the PGR community (or for the first time, if we’ve had trouble establishing those connections already). Last week was the initial chat in the series. This was a very informal check-in, just to see how PGRs were doing, and their hopes and fears about (re)connecting with the larger community.

Diana (left) and Faith (right), Westmere Scholars

Faith writes

Two things stood out to me. First, the typical concerns around work-life balance and a PhD seemed to be reversed for most people. Rather than dealing with the stress of fitting research work into a busy schedule, a number of PGRs discussed how focusing on the work often felt like an escape from other life stressors caused by the pandemic. That was my experience as well. My second observation was how much of our ‘work’ was done while we were away from notes and computers. Going for walks, cooking, and ‘sleeping on it’ are just as important for bringing ideas together as those hours in front of the screen.

Diana writes

Our first PhD chat gave PGRs an opportunity to reconnect and understand that they are not alone in this journey, especially after many challenges associated with the pandemic. Everyone was able to express their experiences through these times and open up about their feelings and concerns in a safe environment, while being listened to and supported by fellow PGRs. Moreover, some PGRs shared that, despite difficulties faced during the pandemic, they were still able to succeed regarding their PhD work. This resilience was truly inspiring for everyone present. I do believe this first session was a success, and I am happy to be part of the team bringing the PhD Chats back.

Attend a PhD Chat

Indeed, the PhD chat (Re)connection series aims at bringing PGRs together. There are currently sessions planned for June, every Friday at noon (BST) via Zoom, with different topics for discussion, and future sessions are underway for July. To register, simply find the PhD Chat events on the Postgraduate events webpage. Upcoming topics include mental health, finding your tribe and creative visualisation.

Are you excited to meet other fellow PGRs? Then feel free to join us for a chat! Comment below to add your thoughts on PhD Chat sessions and what topics you would like to see tackled in the future!

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