One of the major downsides to doing a PhD is that you can easily become isolated while conducting your research or writing your dissertation. Since you largely make your own schedule, don’t have many classes, and don’t necessarily need to be on campus often, one can see how this might happen. However, it is important to try to create a community you can be a part of wherever you can. Having a group of people to rely on and support you is vital in innumerable ways, but it is important for your mental health, for solidarity, and to help you complete your dissertation.
1. Bond with your cohort
The people you start the PhD with are known as your “cohort.” If you allow it, they can become your closest allies and friends during your degree. I have been very fortunate to become close friends with everyone in my cohort, which makes managing my PhD so much easier. Before COVID-19, we often met once a week outside of class to chat, catch up, and hang out. It made me feel like I was part of a larger network of people all working toward the same goals, and they have been an amazing source of inspiration, confidence, and help over the past year. This is the place you should start when trying to build your own PhD community. After the pandemic hit, we have been trying to meet over Zoom as much as possible to remind each other we’re still there for support and friendship.
2. Start a reading group
In the Department of International History, we started a Zoom reading group to help us connect with each other and enhance our shared understanding of our discipline. Every two weeks, PhD students from throughout the Department meet to discuss seminal texts in our discipline. Not only is this for an academic purpose, but we more importantly wanted to support each other during this crisis and remind ourselves we have others to help us. It has been a great experience so far, and it is fantastic to be with a group of like-minded people who care about one another. If you are able to, I highly recommend starting a reading group for the same reasons.
3. Use the PhD Academy
The PhD Academy is a wonderful resource that is surprisingly under-utilised by PhD students. If you are interested in meeting PhD students from across LSE, this is a great place to go. Before COVID-19, whenever I was on campus, I used to spend my free time at the PhD Academy, which can be found on the fourth floor of the LSE Library. The other PhD students there are friendly and want to get to know you, so if you are looking to meet people outside your Department, the PhD Academy is a great place to go when we’re allowed back on campus.