4 Tips for First-year International PGR Students
This is a guest post from Rui He (@Elin_RuiHE), a second year international PGR in the School of Education. In this post, Rui shares some top tips for international PGRs at the beginning of their PGR journeys.
Starting a PGR journey is more than exciting, especially when it is in a foreign country. However, when the excitement dwindles off and the euphoria of finding yourself in a new country slows down a bit, international PGR students might find themselves more likely to feel lost, and struggle with the fresh start in an unfamiliar environment. I know, I’ve been there. Now, in the second year of my PhD, I feel like I’ve gathered a set of tips to help me with easing into the PhD life - hopefully you will find these useful as well!
1. Get yourself ready for a fresh start
A PGR journey is a long and challenging one. You’ll be required to read an uncountable number of articles and books, build up your knowledge base, design and complete your research, and let’s not forget the thesis - up to 100,000 words! - all within 3 to 4 years (or 6 to 8 years for part-time students). To top it all off, you have to do all of this in a foreign language, while living in a foreign country. You might start to panic and doubt your decision to do a PhD - most of us do at one point or another. The Programme Director had an excellent piece of advice for us during our induction: don’t panic, it is really challenging but if you’re here, it means you’ve been accepted for a reason and you’re more than capable to do it. So, let’s all take a deep breath, and when we feel lost we can go back to our initial reasons for doing a postgraduate degree, calm down and get on with our research.
2. Enjoy the academic environment and places of unexpected beauty
My supervisor encouraged me to attend as many different lectures, workshops and seminars as I could, especially in the first year of my PhD. This turned out to be great, as now in my second year I spend a lot more time at my desk, focussing a lot more on my own study. But guess what, I miss the break the courses were giving me! In my opinion, one of the most attractive things about studying in a different country are the different styles of teaching and courses that you are exposed to. The graduate school courses are great for meeting new people and making friends, as well as developing those much sought-after critical thinking skills. Trust me, there will also be some unexpected beautiful gifts from this wonderful city that make your classes even more valuable.
3. Develop a new sustainable daily schedule
Being an international student, you’re probably living alone in a foreign country and find yourself without the familiar routines you’ve had before. Not to mention that, as a PGR student, you’ve got all those tasks I mentioned before, all to be done within a strict timeline. That means that a new, sustainable daily schedule will be crucial for your new research life. Yes, there will be a large amount of words to be read and sentences to be written, but imagine how sad it would be if your life consisted of nothing but reading and writing. Life's for living, and you need to have good rest, look after your health, friendships and maintain all the personal interests that are enriching your life. You will need to develop ways to balance all these important elements of your life for the following few years.
4. Just because you’re working alone doesn’t mean you should always be alone
You might find yourself being the only person in your group researching your given topic. As an international student, the addition of being away from your home country might add to the feelings of loneliness you’re having. You will quite likely have regular meetings with your supervisors, but that hardly seems like enough collaboration and communication most of the time. But even if you do find yourself alone in a foreign country with no one doing exactly what you are, please don’t spend all your time at your desk thinking, reading and writing. Try to make new friends here, but also don’t forget your family and friends from back home. Share your thoughts, feelings and experiences with them. Someone is bound to experience the same things you are, and you can always get support from them!
Doing a postgraduate degree in a foreign country will be an unforgettable experience in your life, and both the joy and the hardships will contribute to making this a great journey, Now, let’s smile and embrace our new research life. Wish you all the best!
Have you got any additional tips for international PGRs? Let us know via the comments, or tweet to us @UofG_PGRblog.