By Julia, Postgraduate Research Officer
You reading this likely means you have already made the choice to conduct your PhD research at University of Essex, and are now looking for some information on what to expect in the coming months and years. So, let me tell you about the experiences I have made in my first one and a half years as a PGR student at Essex and in this way prepare you for the weeks ahead.
First of all, let me tell you that you have made an excellent choice. University of Essex, along with its fabulous Students’ Union and its cosy little campus provides an ideal environment for your PhD course. As for myself, Essex has given me with the perfect foundation not only for my studies, but also for my personal growth. Originally rejected from my previous university of choice for “being too young to be a PhD student” Essex has welcomed me as one of their own from day one. In no time I developed a collegial, eye-to-eye relationship with my new supervisor and other senior academics, and formed wonderful, long-lasting friendships with my fellow PGR colleagues and other students.
At Essex, there are a lot of people who really care about you and your wellbeing and will go a long way to ensure you are having the best time you can have. For me, having this strong social network means that I can resolve any issues as they arise and so better focus on my studies. It also means that I can account for any communicative needs I may have. A research degree is truly tough work and it can and will get overwhelming at some point. Especially since you are often working on highly specialized topics in your field, which inevitably means you will be somewhat alone and less able to discuss your problems with anybody else, it is ever so important to have a network to rely on in times of need.
The university campus will, at first sight, strike you as a bit “blocky”, with its large concrete structures encircling the open-spaced Squares. Now, I have come to love the plainness of the structures, which somehow give me a sense of security and familiarity. Within the first couple of weeks I have got quite intimately accustomed to the squares’ labyrinth-like structures – while getting myself very lost several times attempting to find either the closest printer, my supervisor, or even my own office. Once you have mastered the ways of the squares, our little campus will start to feel like your extended home: The beautiful lakes behind Silberad become your annex backyard, the SU kitchen becomes your personal breakfast corner, Blues Café your dining room, and Top Bar your extra living room.
Whenever I’d get stuck on a research task, be it because it is a bit difficult or I am simply low on energy, there are so many different things Essex has on offer to get a different perspective, or to recharge my battery. For a different opinion on a problem, talk to one of the many other PGR students across the different departments at one of the frequently organised community socials, or simply take your laptop down to Zest Café or Silberad for a bit of a change of scenery. If you feel like you are missing out on one of your hobbies, make sure to check out the amazing range of societies and sports clubs the Students’ Union has on offer. Do not think that these opportunities are not for you because you are a more “senior” student – PGRs are most warmly invited to join and actively partake in any of these activities! In fact, over the past year, I have joined over six societies and am currently in the executive committees in four of them.
Essex is amazing as it is, but it can be even greater depending on what you make of it. So be sure to take part in as many opportunities as possible to make the most of your time here!
To stay up to date on all the events coming up, be sure to follow pgr.sco.essex on Instagram and be a member of the Postgraduate Network on Facebook!
Julia is a 2nd year PhD Candidate in Psycholinguistics looking at language attrition under the supervision of Monika Schmid. She has been working for the SU as the PGR Student Community Officer since last year, where she has been an active member of the SU Community.