When I started my PhD there was limited opportunity to socialise with a wider circle than my lab, and little participation in events. It seemed that you needed to attend these events with your friends, rather than for integrating students that might not normally meet. I was a divisional rep for a year and we held small events like a pizza and beer seminar series and a Christmas party quiz. The following year I volunteered to be a part of the Doctoral Academy Graduate Society (DAGS) because I saw an opportunity to offer more individuals the sense of inclusivity. DAGS is a social society that includes all PGR students in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health. We are a committee of students that plan, hold and attend social events throughout the year. Annually, we hold a welcome BBQ for the new intake of students at the beginning of the academic year, a formal Ball in February, and an academic conference in the spring. We hope that students can join in with the events that appeal to them and benefit from meeting other students in the faculty, presenting their work and developing academic skills, or just having a fun event to look forward to. Personally, DAGS gives me something else to work on and take my mind of my PhD for a bit, I love the annual events (and the stress of making them happen) and knowing that it is worth for other students.
Developing a society like DAGS wasn’t too difficult, the University want to invest in social activities as well as academic ones, and there is a framework of student support in the Faculty of Biology Medicine and Health to make this happen. There might not be a social society for your faculty, but there are divisional reps (or perhaps you could be one) that can take on the responsibility of organising social events too. You can contact your divisional reps and tell them what you need, or if you think bigger, you could start something up for the wider community of PGRs in your faculty. Contacts for professional support staff are on the intranet pages for Faculty of Science and Engineering and Faculty of Humanities to help improve the student experience. Coffee mornings, pizza and beer seminars, research showcases are all some achievable, simple ideas to connect with other PGRs.