The Importance of Friendship in Graduate Studies – University Affairs


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Developing personal relationships with peers can act as a counterbalance to the burden of training graduates.

Imagine that you are at the beginning of a university or doctoral training. You are immersed in a new and exciting environment and begin to mentally prepare yourself for the journey ahead. Before you know it, the familiar routine and unambiguous measures of success you had in your classes are over. Instead, you now struggle to define and shape your project while staying motivated in an unstructured research environment. Inexperienced in navigating these challenges, you focus intensely on a singular goal for years, resulting in an endless pursuit for good life balance and giving up on a personal and social life. It’s a competitive environment, and the chances of achieving your goal of getting a good post-doctorate, and possibly a tenure-track position, are slim. Either way, your interest in the subject, the prestige of getting a PhD, and the prospect of a career change motivate you to be successful no matter what the cost.

The incredibly isolating experience of graduate studies is built into the very structure of the institution and can cause students to leave their program prematurely. Among many other drivers, a healthy social life was seen as an important part of the graduate experience and linked to the general well-being of students. However, challenges unique to graduates’ environment, such as financial limitations, time constraints, and feelings of guilt related to work, can limit engagement and enjoyment of social activities, preventing the establishment of new relationships. . In addition, the time, effort, and uniqueness of the graduates’ environment can also disrupt already existing relationships with old friends.

Emotional difficulties and program attrition are unlikely to be the result of isolation alone. The reality is that the environment for graduates and universities is complex, competitive and fraught with uncertainty. In my experience, healthy friendships and the support they provide are effective ways to cope with these challenges.

The feeling of being part of a supportive community is a crucial side benefit when developing friendships during higher education. From the start and throughout your education, this support can take the form of helpful advice on how to overcome the many challenges unique to the university and graduate environment. Fortunately, it can also be an enlightened helper during times of professional frustration, program disillusionment, personal grief, and deep loss.

I made sure to start making friends early on in my program, at a time when others were just as keen to build relationships and get to know their peers. The relationships I developed were vital in my first attempts to learn more about this new and confusing environment I found myself in. By chatting with friends at the start of my program, we were able to exchange useful information related to things like crucial scholarship deadlines, tips on how to write applications, how to navigate university procedures, and identify useful seminars.

As my acquaintances became good friends, the support we were able to give to each other became more substantial. I have experienced the value of engaging with friends and colleagues during times of loss and grief. I was also fortunate to have this type of support. I believe that this desire to support comes from a place of collegiality and solidarity that can develop as a cohort completes its training and takes up the challenges together.

Reminding myself of the responsibilities I had to close friends and colleagues, this sense of connection I developed with my peers often offset the burden of graduate training and other professional pressures. Of the many lessons I learned, the most important thing this sense of responsibility taught me was that providing support doesn’t have to be complicated. Never underestimate the value of a kind word, a supportive conversation, helping someone with a move, or sharing a meal. I promise you, generously providing support without any wait for this funny way of always generating all kinds of unexpected dividends.

Social exchange is likely to be effective in alleviating some of the mysteries and difficulties you will face in your training and career. While these interactions are important, there are also professional resources specifically designed to help solve common issues in the academic environment. Sometimes these challenges may require sustained career advice, personal guidance, and expert knowledge on how to take advantage of a variety of academic resources. Your friends and peers are unlikely to be adequately equipped to fully assist you in anything you come across. Taking the first step of contacting knowledgeable academic staff, in addition to making the effort to develop a functional support network with them, can be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

Most universities attempt to offset the demands of graduate training by maintaining a culture in which the consequences of failure are natural, expected and often forgiven. The insulating benefits of this culture can sometimes make us forget that we are never completely immune to the inevitable turmoil of modern life. You are more than likely to face frustration, major life events, uncomfortable changes, setbacks, and losses during your graduate studies. Developing strong relationships with your friends and peers will ensure that you don’t have to face these challenges without support.

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