What making friends in grad school is really like
What has your experience been so far with making friends? Are they mostly within your cohort, or do you socialize with people from all stages of the program? Do you have friends outside of your lab? Your department? Your program?
My grad program is pretty social, but my actual cohort is not. I am one of 6 students in my year, and I only really hang out with one person regularly. It’s not that anyone doesn’t like the other (as far as I know), but I found that besides this one girl I hang out with, the other 4 are not “initiators.” So, if she or I don’t organize an event or text the group, I don’t see the others for months at a time!
In the beginning, it wasn’t as apparent. We had classes and seminars together… things that kept us on a regular schedule. When we finished classes, the difference was really obvious to me. Suddenly it was weeks/months since I’d seen them! At first, I was really adamant about texting the group and initiating beers after work, or getting together for dinner or a movie. But over time, it just felt kind of sad to me that it’s not reciprocated. There’s nothing wrong with these people, but their “fair-weather friend” attitude toward keeping in touch makes me feel frustrated and down, if I think about it too much.
Are they really satisfied with just being friends with the people in their lab?
Do they really not care about maintaining the friendships we built going through this process together?
I’m friends with my lab-mates too, and a few people in other labs, but most of my friends actually aren’t in my program at all, or aren’t even in graduate school. In some ways, that’s nice, because I don’t have to worry about all of them graduating and leaving me behind. In other ways, it’s lonely because there are so many program-specific experiences (like our annual program retreat) that would be more fun if I had them to share it with!
Anyway, this year I’m definitely feeling the loneliness a bit. I think it’s because one of my closest friends (who’s also my lab-mate) is graduating this spring. She’ll be sticking around for a bit as a post-doc after, but it still gets me thinking about what life will be like when she’s moved on. I can’t picture it! She makes lab so fun and welcoming, and it’s nice having someone who knows what I’m going through so well.
But, I’m trying to think of it as a growing experience to prompt me to make some new friends/connections within my program. Retreat is coming up soon, which is always a fun time. Everyone is super friendly and it’s a blast… it’s just one of those things that’s like summer camp because everyone’s always saying:
“Oh my gosh, this was so fun! We should make it a point to get together more often!”
But then we all just fall back into our old ways.
Maybe this year I will be a bit more determined in maintaining those connections!
But I’m curious…. what has your experience been? Feel free to comment!
Queen of the Bench is a PhD candidate in Cell and Molecular Biology. This story was published on October 31, 2018, on the blog Queen of the Bench (available here) and has been republished here with permission