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How Lonely is it Out There


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Does anyone get lonely when they're in grad school/ going for their phD?

I think it depends a lot on your department (competitive or collegial), on your character (introvert or extrovert) and on luck :)

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I dont think its anymore lonely than undergrad! It all depends on how outgoing you are. If you put in the work to socialize, then you will get to enjoy yourself. Don't expect any meaningful social interaction if you are not putting the work in! The cohorts I've seen at many schools were very friendly - they treated each other as brothers and sisters. I have heard of the opposite, but those were very rare ( <1%).

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I think it completely depends on (1) how extroverted you are and (2) your department culture.

I've been lucky, in terms of a social life in grad school. I came to a city 10 hours away from home and made instant friends in my department (with whom I constantly hang out). My biggest problem many weekends is balancing work and play. I have a department of friendly people who enjoy socializing—but that being said, I had to make an effort to leave my comfort zone and reach out and meet new people in order to tap into that network.

If it's your goal not to be lonely, my advice would be to push yourself to go out, attend functions, and reach out to your new colleagues as much as possible at the beginning of the term. Remember that blowing off steam a couple nights a week is a very healthy thing to do. One of my undergrad tutors had a very wise saying: Work will always fill the time you give it.

Edited by runonsentence
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  • 2 weeks later...

Can't you try hanging out with some of the undergrads?

What about hanging around with people in different departments? I'm scared myself, since most of the departments I'm into are very small departments. The other thing is that the grad school years are when people start to marry, and when they *really* have less time to talk with you. And that possibility really frightens me.

Other thing, i guess, is - how nerdy are most grad students anyways? I know a fair number of them, but still, none of them are nearly as much into interdisciplinary science as I am. =/ Like, they don't go around posting numerous links to Nature or Science and the various science blogs. As in, something like https://profiles.goo...om/simfish/buzz .

The sad thing is that when I get lonely, I end up posting on "High School Life" on College Confidential. =/ I wish I could find another place, but there isn't. :( People just aren't as responsive anywhere else (somehow, responsiveness is almost a decreasing function of age, and as I lose contact with people who hit the magic age of 18-20 or so, I pretty much find a new cohort of early entrance students to socialize with. I'm not even the only early entrance student here who feels that way). Oh well, maybe I'll just try to recruit some undergrad or HS student to help with research or something. That might turn out to be rewarding.

Edited by InquilineKea
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I'm a very extroverted person and I'm still pretty lonely in grad school. I mean, I have some friends in my cohort. We're all busy with different schedules, and since we've passed our quals there's a lot less hang time together. I still get together with people from my cohort fairly often (1-2 times a month), but meeting people who aren't grad students is difficult and I've tried different things (joining a social sports group, volunteering at community orgs, etc.)

Grad students are varying levels of nerdy, it really just depends. There are some nerdy people in my program; I've bonded over shoe shopping and makeup with others; and we have a group that gets together to play poker and some grad students who started a knitting circule. It just depends. Me personally, when I am winding down from work I don't want to talk about work, so I don't post articles to my academic journals on my blogs. I do come here, though.

I don't think responsiveness is a decreasing function of age. First of all, I think people become more settled into their identities as they age and are less interested in impressing other people. Secondly, I think people who are in their mid to late 20s just have far more social commitments. Some of them already have established groups of friends; many are married and some have children. My cohort are awesome people and I love to be with them, but a lot of them have partners and we're all just busy, so sometimes everyone can't come hang out.

If you want to have friends you can plan ahead and explore your city to see what kind of resources there are, and then hit them up. Volunteer, play a sport, find a community center to hang around, whatever. It is difficult, not going to lie, but grad school is only for so long and IMO it's kind of worth it for a few years.

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it depends. some people in my program are very social and outgoing, and others i have still never actually seen, even though i've been in the program for two years.

if you do archival research abroad (mostly a social sciences thing), then it can get very lonely during those research periods, especially if you're moving to different archives a lot and don't have a chance to make friends with the staff or other researchers (if there are any!).

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I was honestly too damn tired to be lonely. Right after class was done for the day,I'd go right back to my room and fall asleep. My classmates would go out for drinks, but not only did I have no money, but I also don't drink and I just had no desire to talk to people I had next to nothing in common with. They're all nice, but I had no interest in being their friends and going out with them. I would honestly rather sleep.

Then again, I've always been quite a loner and I don't really have many friends to begin with. I don't know how some of my more active classmates found the energy to go for a swim or a jog after class - being torn apart by finicky, meticulous instructors for 7-8 hours wears you out. I felt lonelier in undergrad when I cried myself to sleep for the first half of my first semester. Grad school? I was happy to watch videos on YouTube with a bottle of Diet Coke while chatting with friends, take a hot bath, and attempt to sleep. I cried a lot too and I still do, but it's not due to being lonely. It's just good stress relief since I don't exercise, smoke, drink, take medications or do recreational drugs.

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  • 1 year later...

I'm in my first year of graduate school and I can't remember the last time I felt this lonely. I spent my undergraduate years in many different clubs and teams, so it was easier to make close friends. Luckily I do have a great cohort and we all get together occasionally, but between the craziness of our classes and practicum, it's difficult to find much time to hang out and do something that isn't school related.

Although I have friends in my program, they aren't the same friendships I used to have. We all enjoy each other's company, but I can't say that I have a best friend or someone I can completely confide in. My roommates and I are also not close; we simply cohabitate. I desperately miss having someone near all the time that would bring out the fun in me and help me destress. I think it's just a part of learning to cope with life changes.

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I'm in my first year of graduate school and I can't remember the last time I felt this lonely. I spent my undergraduate years in many different clubs and teams, so it was easier to make close friends. Luckily I do have a great cohort and we all get together occasionally, but between the craziness of our classes and practicum, it's difficult to find much time to hang out and do something that isn't school related.

Although I have friends in my program, they aren't the same friendships I used to have. We all enjoy each other's company, but I can't say that I have a best friend or someone I can completely confide in. My roommates and I are also not close; we simply cohabitate. I desperately miss having someone near all the time that would bring out the fun in me and help me destress. I think it's just a part of learning to cope with life changes.

I feel like you wrote down pretty much everything I'm experiencing and feeling right now...went from being in clubs and stuff in undergrad where I made some good friends to my current situation which involves a friendly-but-busy cohort. And the friends I have made are good but obviously it's nowhere the same. Additionally I left home in a big hurry (LONG story) and didn't get to have any get-togethers with any of my close friends before leaving.

I don't have much advice to give you since I'm honestly still figuring things out myself...thus far I've only tried kind of taking people outside my discipline/in undergrad to see if it helps. I'm just letting you know that you're not alone.

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When I did my Master's I found it pretty lonely at first, but then I met some people who were not in school, and not all were in my age group, and that was great. It helps because it's easier to talk about things and confide in older and more mature people. They pull you out of the study/work all the time that you may find yourself in.

I think you have to put in the effort. Friendships aren't going to just happen, you have to reach out and you'll often have to make the first move. Asking people out to dinners, outings, etc. even if you don't know them all that well. I can honestly say though that it's worth it to put yourself through the initial discomfort and resist the temptation to just tune out and stay home (I'm a bit of an introvert, so I have to fight it sometimes).

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