Congratulations! You’re starting your PhD and that’s a huge deal! Sometimes, however, that includes moving to a new place and it can be hard to feel at home right away.  While I don’t know too much about PhD life yet as a first year, I do know a thing or two about settling in to a new town- I’ve moved to seven new cities in the past seven years! Here are five tips I’ve picked up along the way that I hope will help you with your move:

  1. Attend seminars offered by your department

This is important on both a professional and personal level.  Showing up and speaking up in seminars will demonstrate to your department that you want to be involved – plus, attending the same seminar regularly will make you feel like part of a cohort.  Feeling like you belong in a group on campus is the first step to making your temporary location feel a bit more like home.

  1. Get involved in a hobby that has nothing to do with your academic work

This tip has been incredibly helpful to me through multiple moves for school and work.  It’s great to be involved in academic events at your university (that’s why you’re getting your PhD after all), but it’s also important to have an escape from the stress of researching.  For me, that means joining dance clubs wherever I move, but anything that gets you out of the library occasionally will make you feel more connected to your new community.  Speaking of offices…

  1. Get an office (if possible) and get to know your officemates

One of the most comforting things I’ve found in my new PhD is my office and the friendly faces that have come along with it.  If it’s possible at your university ask for an office! This will immediately give you a designated work space and a group of people who will be your biggest cheerleaders in the hurdles to come.  Often, there will be people from different stages of their PhDs in the same office so you can see what your path will look like down the road and get some great advice on what exactly it is you should be doing in those first few months of your PhD.  Getting to know your officemates will pay huge dividends in feeling like you have a support group in your new location.

  1. Decorate your space

It’s hard to feel like your new location is “home” when you know it’s temporary.  Moving in and out of student accommodation or different apartments during your degree on a student budget makes it difficult to always feel comfortable in your new space.  Difficult, but not impossible! For temporary living situations, I’ve found that getting some plants, a framed picture of something or someone you love, and the softest, comfiest blanket you can find (Scottish winters require this!) help to make any space instantly cozier.

  1. Stay in contact with your loved ones back home

Schedule Skype dates with people back home to remember that even when it gets lonely you have people who know and love you.  You may not know that many people in your new place yet, but you aren’t alone in the world!

I hope these tips will help you feel more at home at your new university.  Moving can be hard, but it also unleashes a whole new world to discover.  So, get out there, start writing that dissertation, and remember to have some fun exploring your new home while you’re at it!


Emily Betz is a Modern History PhD student at the University of St Andrews. She is particularly interested in the medical and religious history of Tudor England.

Image by timetrax23, CC-BY-SA