As Autumn begins to swirl around Manchester, I spot the first leaves that have fallen. They mould into the creases of the cobbles in Albert Square, soaked by the rain and pressed by shoes. In the cycle of the academic year, September is a time for beginning; sharpened pencils, smooth blank notebooks, induction timetables. It is a topsy turvy feeling with the rest of the world. As the nights creep closer, the natural earth around us begins to settle in for a sleep. This September, for me, is a particularly new beginning: I begin my PhD.
I have discovered that whenever you mention ‘PhD’ to anybody that has been near one there is an intake of breath, a glazed look in their eyes and you are regaled with stories of mental wellbeing, seclusion, and feats of perseverance. The actual research rarely gets a mention. It is obviously a very different wellbeing impact to the fragility of a zero hours contract or the physical strains of an A and E Nurse, but it is still evidently an important part of the PhD journey.
In this blog I would like to record all the extras of being a research student. Where do we feel we belong? What are the shared experiences? What spaces do we all share? What small rituals will we all recognise? And how do we look at all these things and realise what impact it has on being well?
In terms of the first question, belonging, I have spent the last year completing an MA in Social Research as part of the White Rose Doctoral Training Programme and so I start my research with an advantage of knowing the spaces and rituals of the university. I am now used to the slightly giddy feelings of the lifts as they swoosh up to the fourth floor, I know the weird angle of my body as I twist to steady my laptop on the Spanish steps. I feel the lightness when the sun occasionally floods the front of the building through the high glass windows and makes everything look golden. By being in this building for the last year I have become to belong, to know the space and to claim it as my own, shared with many others.
To see what wellbeing services are available at MMU have a look here: https://www2.mmu.ac.uk/counselling/
To see what support services are available at the Graduate school have a look here: https://www2.mmu.ac.uk/graduate-school/