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Hello, I am a first-year PhD student. I want to ask about input on thriving. As background: in undergrad, I consistently had leadership roles in extra-curriculars, which helped balanced the necessary classroom focus. During Master's studies, I was also engaged (more participatory) in social and recreational groups. Now, as a PhD student , I would like to be able to connect better - it is strange, since more opportunities seem available than ever before, at my current institution. There is certainly a difference in rigor, but I have also never had so much time to focus exclusively on my studies (no need to work externally, for example). I would love any feedback you can share on growing as a healthy individual, and developing ties within the community.

Edited by k0ff33
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Taking time each day to pursue hobbies is one thing that I have noticed ALL "successful" PhD students doing. I've found that taking an hour or two each day to devote to extra-curriculars not only makes me a more "well-rounded" person (which has its own benefits), but the time cost gives itself back in the form of increased energy for studies. At the end of the day, when I still have some more work to do but am mentally drained, I can play piano for an hour and get some energy back to go for homework/research round 2.


That being said, depending on the structure of your PhD program it might be wise to carefully consider options before accepting a leadership role. Having to make a time commitment to a hobby is a whole other ballgame - my first semester I signed up for an extracurricular which was somewhat organized (i.e., met weekly), but the nature of my research (which sometimes requires doing things like working all night) made me resent not having that little bit of flexibility in the schedule. 

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i agree. it's definitely a balance. pick one thing and go far with it, instead of taking on multiple roles that might land you decent connections, but they mostly end up being huge time sucks. 

when I started out like 6 months ago, I was faced with deciding between various activities like RAS, FSAE, university cycling team, and occasional pickup games of ultimate, all of which are either great skill builders outside research or good ways to unwind. I ended up doing none of these because they all require a lot of time/week to even get the foot in the door. RAS: lots of learning involved, lots of hands on tinkering before anything starts to work, lots of time required for projects and $$ for competitions. FSAE: same thing, you have to slave away for a couple of years and show commitment before you can move up. university cycling team: only one strong rider who can compete nationally, kind of disorganized, races are all far away, more of a social club. meh.. ultimate frisbee: I would pick this up again, if I'm not already committed to my current hobby.

I know people who appear to be doing well don't have hobbies. they just go out or something. one guy i think is getting involved in outreach events related to the graduate student body. there's church too. these are just a few that comes to mind. the main point is to be active outside research, but also invest time wisely.

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