Making friends on your PhD

PhD life has always been understood as a life of solitude. However, it is not necessarily so. Indeed, there is no denying that our research topic could be too specific to be like anyone else’s. Nevertheless, the trajectory of our PhD life bears more resemblances than differences. In this week’s blog, Ivy shares her thoughts on interacting with other PhD students.

By Ivy Zhuo.

As a new PhD student, we have all wondered about opportunities to socialize with other PhD students, to share our research area, to discuss the struggle as an early researcher, or simply to hang around for wellbeing. Where can we meet them and how we could maintain the relationship?

Where can I meet other PhD students?

In fact, we have many more chances to meet other PhD friends than we think. Depending on our purposes, we could easily meet other PhD students from our own department, our university, or from even other universities.

Three people standing and chatting whilst holding cups of tea.
Research Refresh is a great place to meet and chat with other PhD students. Image: University of Warwick.

To meet PhD students from our own department, it is necessary that we attend the departmental welcome event, departmental activities, and peer mentoring programs if there is any. We could also get support and recommendation from our supervisor(s) to meet other PhD students who share similar research topics. Take myself as instance, when I was newly enrolled as a PhD student here, I was introduced to a senior PhD who kindly volunteered to be my mentor through the departmental mentoring scheme and this year in turn I was introduced to a new PhD student who shared the same supervisor as mine to help him adapt to the PhD life here in the UK. Ask your supervisor if there is anything like this in your department.

To meet PhD students from other departments, the easiest way is to attend the Research Refresh in the Wolfson Research Exchange on Floor 3 of the Library on Thursdays, 10:30am-12pm. This is a wonderful opportunity to network with PGRs across Warwick, and also a great chance to take a break chatting over coffee, cakes, snacks and card games! Certainly, there are several PGR networks at Warwick where you can meet people with similar interests, like Language Learning Psychology or of the same identity, like The parent Juggle, which is a great place to meet other PhD students who also have another hat of being a parent.

A group of people sitting round a dining table wearing party hats. It is evening and there are Christmas decorations on the table.
I loved meeting fellow students from across the UK at the International PGR Christmas Conference. Image: Ivy Zhuo.

If you are interested in pursuing a teaching career in higher education institutions in the UK after graduation, it is also advised to be involved in APP PGR programs.

To meet PhD students from other universities, we should do a bit of extra work, like paying attention to PhD news sharing through emails, updates on Doctoral College website and attending some PhD conferences. For example, thanks to the news I found on the Doctoral College website, I applied and successfully got the chance to attend Cumberland Lodge International PGR Christmas Conference this December, fully funded by Doctoral College. This was a fantastic event where I met PhD students from nearly 20 different universities in the UK and have developed friendships with some of them.

How can I maintain the relationship with other PhD students?

As a matter of fact, this is a key point in interacting with other PhD students. Chances are that we meet so many of them but very few of them will finally become our PhD friends due to a lack of communications after the first encounter.

It is true that there is no need to have everyone as a friend, but it is important to develop friendship with some, especially those we could turn to when experiencing down times during PhD journey. My first advice is sincerity and openness. Like attracts like. From this group of new PhD friends, we could choose those we feel comfortable with to devote time socializing after the first meet, having a coffee on campus, taking a walk in the neighbourhood, attending some activities organized by various associations at Warwick, or just going to a movie/concert/show if you find you share interests in these areas. Spending time getting to know them as a person in life not only as a PhD student, if we desire a true friend.

Certainly, there is also a more academic way to interact with your new PhD friends: writing a journal article together, sharing latest publication news, building up a team to apply for a research fund, planning to attend some conferences together, or proofreading each other’s writings, or even simply checking on each other’s progress academically and mental wellbeing.

A group of people walking outside. The sun is behind them.
Look after your wellbeing by going on walks with friends. Image: Ivy Zhuo.

In a nutshell, open yourself and meet other PhD students. If lucky, we could develop a true friendship with some of them. If not, at least, we could maintain the academic networks, which could also be beneficial for us at some time during our PhD journey.

If you’d like to find out more, why not take a look at: Welcome to Warwick: Top Tips for Starting your PhD or PGR Possibilities: The Doctoral College and life beyond your department

What’s your way of meeting other PhD students? Do you have any further ideas for fellow readers? Let us know by tweeting us @researchex, messaging us on Instagram @warwicklibrary, or email us at

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