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So I just started my Ph.D. program in comp lit, and I've been extremely overwhelmed...

I relocated to my new city only three weeks ago, found an apartment and bought furniture, and before I realized, first week of school has already passed. It seems like I'm one of the very few people in my program who didn't come in already with an MA, and I feel very behind in my classes.

I'm also kind of worried about settling in the new city. My cohort is very friendly, but they seem somewhat distant and tend to just do their own things, so it's been hard to make friends. Another thing is that nobody in my department does what I do, so I feel awkward talking about my research in class. People just seem confused about why I'm here.

So now I'm really struggling with how to balance between finishing all my readings and catching up, and reaching out and making new friends. It seems like grad school just doesn't allow both. I guess I didn't come super prepared for this, so any advice would be really helpful!

Thanks & come hang out if you're also in LA :)

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A. Not having an MA doesn't mean you are behind or belong any less than the other people in your cohort. You got accepted, meaning you belong. Also, if everyone else came in with previous grad school experience and you didn't, I think that shows your innate abilities even more so because you were still clearly able to impress the admissions committee. 

B. You've been in school for a week. Give yourself some more time to make friends. As you said, you're trying to figure things out and adjust to your new surroundings. I would imagine the rest of your cohort is probably in the same boat. Get used to your neighborhood, your classes, your daily workload, etc. Friendships should hopefully develop over time. 

C. Chances are, people don't think you stick out as much as you think. Social anxiety often leads a person to believe that everyone is staring at them when they aren't. As a general rule, you also don't really want to talk about your research in class unless it is directly related to the discussion at hand and moves along the conversation. So if your research is different, you may be able to provide a different incite into the topic at hand. 

Just remember, PhD cohorts are small. If you got in, that's because you are intelligent and bring somerhing unique and special to the program. Also, given that you're in LA (I'm assuming you mean Los Angeles) there was probably pretty stiff competition for your spot. 

It's scary uprooting your life and starting over. Just try to go with the flow and enjoy your new experiences as they come. Get to know the people in your department, as well as grad students in other departments. Making friends in grad school isn't really the same as when you're 18 and a college freshman. Sometimes it takes more time to develop a bond.

Good luck!

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