“A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.”
A sense of community is something that many people associate with being a university student; that collective sense of studying for a brighter future, of long nights cramming under exam stress, of juggling various commitments and still trying to make time for yourself. A sense of community is clear on sunny days during semesters when campus is thriving with life, coffee chats, lunch dates, line-ups for free BBQs. As someone who completed their undergrad at Ourimbah, this sense of community was in many ways stronger, but presented so differently. There was less buzz on campus, with events much less frequent, less food options, and hang out spots. However, the cohorts were much smaller so when you were coming towards the end of your degree you knew everyone in your cohort.
Going into a PhD immediately following the completion of undergrad, I was thrilled at the thought of creating a new community with fellow PhD students both within and outside of my field of psychology. Unfortunately, I realised pretty early on that there was not a very strong sense of community to join. With no classes with peers, working from home, and very busy schedules, there are few opportunities for us to cross paths in the same field, let alone with other students outside of psychology. Even today, two and a half years through my PhD, I still don’t know all of the Psychology PhD students at UoN. I had heard in the time before commencing my degree, that being a PhD student can be quite an isolating experience and I think the reality of the degree and lack of community really influences this.
As the postgraduate representative at UNSA I’ve also received insights into the sense of community within other postgraduate degrees and groups, including masters, graduate certificates, online and offshore students. Senses of isolation seem to also be rife in comparison to undergraduate degrees, but this can vary quite a lot.
However, it is not all doom and gloom in the postgraduate space. I have made some fantastic friends in this time already and have found some great avenues to develop community:
- Working on campus: this may sound silly but honestly, the times when I work on campus, I always seem to run into someone throughout the day. Even if it is just a brief hello, this is far more you can ever expect at home.
- Postgraduate specific events: events aimed at postgraduate students are not super frequent, but they do pop up from time to time. During O-week, there some postgrad events like speed friending which are great to foster community. Graduate Research also runs events throughout the year, often focused on specific festivities such as the HDR festival, HDR careers week, and Doctoral wellbeing week.
- Other events: there are many other events that run on campus that are open to all UoN students, with many of them being run by UNSA, such as the upcoming colour scramble. You can even consider training opportunities at UoN like first aid training or mental health first aid training; you get to upskill and meet new people!
- UNSA Clubs: on the topic of events, there are so many different clubs at UNSA that hold events and have their own lovely communities. There are some great postgraduate specific ones including Women in STEMM, Biology HDR society, HMRI PhD student association, and many broader ones for various interests and degree. Being an executive member on a club is another great way to foster community; the Women in STEMM club is a fairly recent club that fosters community between STEMM females and I have personally met some fantastic people in in my time as club secretary.
- UNSA SRC: if you are really passionate about a community of your own, being integrally involved, making change, and connections for broader communities, consider nominating yourself to be an SRC member in 2024. I have thoroughly enjoyed this role as the postgraduate rep over the past couple years.
- Academia: this is one that’s a little specific and more relevant to PhDs but there are great opportunities to work as an academic at UoN whilst you study and work closely with other academics and fellow students.
- Social media: there are many avenues to connect with peers on socials. UoN has a Discord Hub with multiple servers that students have made for various topics (you can check out my UoN Postgraduate server there too)! Of course, there are various Facebook groups and pages on Instagram that also foster community.
Hello! My name is Tegan and I joined the Opus team in 2021 as an outlet to escape my PhD writing. I am yet to find my niche category, but you can probably expect pieces about postgraduate life, creativity, psychology, literature and all things cute and fuzzy. Outside of Opus and my PhD, I am also a peer mentor, team leader, tutor, and sessional academic (so you might just see me in class sometime!).