Friends in need are friends indeed.
I might have 3,000 something “friends” in my Facebook, but the number of friends who are indeed friends are no more than my fingers. This may come as surprising as people often see me as a very social person, and thus logically I should have many friends, but seriously I’m not the kind of person who likes to show my fragile, vulnerable side in public.
This of course created problems when I relocated to a new place, because I usually didn’t have anybody who could be my shoulder to cry on when I experienced challenges of adjusting to a new place. Also, being a PhD student is often cited as a lonely journey, because the only person whom a PhD student interacts are usually his/her supervisor and the supervisor of course cannot be regarded as a friend as the relationship is mostly very formal and impersonal.
When I moved to Manchester 3 months ago, I experienced acute loneliness, due to the necessity of adjusting to a new place and being a PhD student. Often times, I had to resort to existing friends through online channels, but unfortunately, online channels sometimes cannot replace physical presence.
I have to be grateful, though, that my cohort PhD friends are those who are warm and very supportive to each other. We often hang out after classes and we created many events (coffee, lunches, dinners, trips) to support one another, especially in our struggle as first year PhD students. We discuss our research topics and give each other insights, in an environment that is personal and relaxed.
This situation is very unique indeed, because we had at least two comments from our professors and seniors that other cohorts are not as close as ours. A friend from another department even decided to join our cohort, because she feels that her cohort cannot provide the emotional support that she needs as a first year student.
I also benefit from friends whom I meet physically from mutual acquaintances. Friends of friends. Initially, they’re just friends of a friend, but through spending some considerable times hanging out and going on trips together, they help me alleviate my loneliness here. I can now safely say that they will be my friends indeed for some long time *bowing to Joe, Kitin, and Mario*
In this age of technology, friends can be easily made through social media channels, but I still think and feel that I need that face-to-face interaction where I can experience their presence fully in person in order to evaluate and appreciate their values. Often it is such an eye opening experience to meet and talk with people, and I’m happy that I have so many opportunities of such encounters.
Thank you so very much, You Guys! You have made this lonely girl see a silver lining in the midst of gloomy sky of Manchester (and UK).