Some people find moving to a new place exciting and exhilarating. I, on the other hand, do not. I graduated from Cardiff University last year with an Integrated Master’s in biomedical science. Like a naïve young scientist, I thought I would be able to get a PhD position within my university no problem. However, due to lack of funding, there were no PhDs in my area of interest on offer at the time. I applied to a multitude of other PhD positions and luckily secured a position at Sheffield Hallam University where I have just entered my second year.
As part of the funding, I would also become a graduate teaching assistant, a role I was very keen on as I would like to be a lecturer in the future. The project and teaching responsibilities sounded perfect for me. The only downside was that I had to move from the familiar area of Cardiff, which I had grown up near and had my family home nearby, three and a half hours away to Sheffield, a city which I had never visited before. This was very daunting to a girl who went home almost every weekend to see her parents!
“It won’t be easy, but it is worth it to expand your prospects, network, and your self-confidence”
Nevertheless, I said goodbye to my family and moved up to Sheffield in September 2022. I soon realised that I had done the transition to PhD backwards as most people leave home for their undergraduate studies and tend to float back for postgraduate study as more of my peers undertook doctorates closer to home. Still, I was determined to have a good go at living in a new city and wanted to give my PhD the best shot I had! There are a few things I wished I had known prior to moving to a new city and department…
It takes time to adapt
The move from your original university to a new institution is strange. It takes a while to become adapted to the new protocols and even learning the names of people within your department. Although there is an upside to this, as you can suggest ideas that worked at your previous institute to your new university and reap the rewards of a ‘great suggestion’. It is also good to see what life is like outside of your previous institution. All universities are different and as an academic it is common to move around to find your next position. Moving to a new institute for my PhD has given me a taste of what it may be like in the future and prepared me for my next move.
Becoming more comfortable within your new city will happen soon. The best way to get more confident with your surroundings is to get out Google Maps and explore the local area. Inviting someone from your new university out for coffee and a walk is a great way to find new places with someone who knows the way!
Take part in departmental or doctoral school activities as this is the best way to meet new people in your department. Although it can feel a bit overwhelming to introduce yourself to multiple people it will be good in the long run as you will see some familiar faces around your university.
If I could go back in time and give myself some advice it would be as follows. Moving to a new place is scary, but you should be very proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone and doing so. Give it time as it gets better and more familiar with each passing day. Finally, stay in contact with family and friends as it’s nice to have a chat with people you already know after introducing yourself to lots of new people.
All in all, I am glad that I took the plunge and moved away for my PhD. I have grown immensely as a person both in confidence but also in independence. Although at times, it can be lonely I have found that surrounding yourself with people you trust and get along with is amazing. Also, facetime is a fantastic invention as it is always great to see my parents’ faces (along with my cat Cleo’s) a few times a week! If you are debating moving to a new university for the PhD project of your dreams, I recommend it. It won’t be easy, but it is worth it to expand your prospects, network, and your self-confidence. Good luck with your move!
About the author:
After completing her biomedical science integrated masters at Cardiff University, Charlotte Boyd left Wales to pursue her PhD at Sheffield Hallam University. She is a first year PhD student and graduate teaching assistant. Her PhD research focuses on the diabetes and colorectal cancer. She enjoys her teaching role along with science communication events.