The Postgraduate Network is recruiting PGR Ambassadors, apply now

A group of men and women standing in bright sunshine and smiling at one another.

The Network is a postgraduate community organised by the Students’ Union at Sussex, an initiative for all postgraduates, research and taught, to get together.

Weekly Network events will be held online from September, providing a safe informal space for postgraduates to connect with their peers, and with scope for in-person events depending on government and university guidelines.

They’re currently recruiting Network Ambassadors and it would be fantastic to have some PhD representation to ensure events and activities cater to the doctoral community.

The role involves organising, promoting and hosting online events, becoming the ‘face’ of the Postgraduate Network and raising awareness in your School and across campus. See the Students’ Union volunteering opportunities page for further details and how to apply.

The Students’ Union have also created a feed-in form to gather ideas of what the postgraduate community wants to see from the Network, and from the Buddy Up scheme. Give your views online and help USSU develop a truly great offering for doctoral researchers.

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Looking for volunteering opportunities? Join the Language Café or Buddy mentoring scheme

Looking for volunteering opportunities? Join the Language Café or Buddy mentoring scheme

A promotional image for the Buddy Scheme. The text reads, "Make connections, build your network and create new friendships, become a buddy."

The Students’ Union are recruiting PGR volunteers for their Buddy Scheme and Language Cafés this autumn.

The Buddy Scheme is a peer-to-peer mentoring scheme that helps new students and researchers settle into life at Sussex by matching them with current students or PGRs (Buddy Volunteers). They’re looking for current researchers to become Buddy Volunteers and provide new PGRs with informal support by regularly communicating with them and sharing their experiences and tips.

Volunteering with the Buddy Scheme can be one of the most rewarding opportunities on campus, making new connections, acting as a mentor, and truly making a difference to someone arriving in a new place and setting out on their own PhD journey. It’s also a great way to look after your own wellbeing and mental health, reduce isolation, and improve your confidence, communication and leadership skills.

If you’re starting your PhD at Sussex this autumn you can also join the Buddy Scheme to be connected to a current researcher and learn from their experiences.

Signing up is quick and easy on the Buddy Scheme website.

Two young women sit on a bench and talk to each other.

The Language Café takes place online weekly during term time and provides a social space for language learners to practice their chosen language, meet other students and exchange cultural information.

You can become a Language Café volunteer and facilitate language learning by delivering activities and games in small groups in different language rooms. At the moment, virtual Language Cafés are taking place weekly over Zoom.

For further details of the role and to sign up, see the Students’ Union volunteering webpage.

RLI Projects: Looking back at the Way-Back Weekender (3-5 July)

Poster for Zooming in on Nostalgia: The Way-Back Weekender, supported by the Researcher Development Programme. The image shows a cassette tape, with the tape spooled out in the shape of a heart.

The aim of this RLI project was to create a community of people in these oddly uncertain times to think creatively and critically about ‘looking back’ while also indulging in some nostalgic ‘throwback’ fun. We had a film night, a musical evening, and a book discussion, before Dr. Pamela Thurschwell from the School of English gave her closing remarks in the form of a talk titled ‘Brushing Nostalgia Against the Grain’.

The event gave us an excuse to watch some of our favourite old-timey films and listen to some music that gives us hope – the Weekender playlist is still collaborative and accessible for all and contains music added by our attendees. We then got together on Zoom to discuss how or why we feel nostalgic about these films/music/books and the ethics of such longing. As a host, I found these conversations immensely rejuvenating – it was fantastic to hear people talk about the difference between personal and political nostalgias, what it means to long for a time that didn’t exist, colonial/postcolonial nostalgias, and more.

Dr. Thurschwell’s talk was a lovely way to close the event on a relaxed Sunday evening. She talked about the film Pretty Woman and the song Sun City, and briefly about BoJack Horseman. Her talk sparked ideas about the politics of nostalgia, and also located it within the ongoing discourse of Black Lives Matter and our role as academics (and non-academics) in the critique of nostalgia. Overall, it was a vibrant event, attended by people from different parts of the world – an upside to the otherwise bleak Zoom business!

I am currently working with a video editor to explore the curation of a short video that captures the essence of the event.

Aanchal Vij, doctoral researcher in English

Take some time out with the Research Hive fortnightly Quaran-Time Tea & Talk

Lockdown has been a real challenge for many researchers, and socialising and self-care may be proving difficult. Join the Hive Scholars for an online Tea & Talk, bringing the doctoral community together to chat and connect over a cuppa / coffee / lemonade (delete as appropriate).

Sign up using this Doodle and the Scholars will be in touch with more details. These sessions will continue fortnightly until campus reopens, so there’s plenty of opportunity to connect with your fellow researchers. The next two dates are Wednesday 8th and Wednesday 22nd July.

The Tea & Talks and accompanying PGR self-care packages are part and parcel of the Hive’s Researcher-Led Initiative, supported by the Researcher Development Programme. The first batch of packages were scooped up in record time, but join the waiting list to be first in line when the scheme reopens in the Autumn term.

For more information see the Hive’s Quaran-Time Tea & Talk blogpost, and keep an eye on their @SussexResHive Twitter feed for regular updates.

This great initiative is another example of how the Hive Scholars continue to support researchers and foster an (online) doctoral community. They know the risk that social isolation brings for researchers, and have worked hard to focus on wellbeing and support. Visit the Hive Scholars website for more PGR-related fun, or join their Slack channels to chat with or work alongside your fellow PhDers.

RLIs: This weekend, zoom in on some pure nostalgia at the Way-Back Weekender

Poster for the Way-Back Weekender: Zooming in on Nostalgia, supported by the Researcher Development Programme. The main image shows a cassette tape, the tape spooled out into the shape of a heart.

Given the uncertainty that haunts our everyday right now (hello Covid-19), why not give in to the pull of nostalgia just for a weekend?

Sign up (it’s free!) for a movie night, music evening, and more. The schedule is as follows.

Friday, 3rd July: (Throw)back to the Future

This Friday evening, pick a film of your preferred culture/language that makes you feel nostalgic and watch it with your family or lockdown company. The idea is for all participants to watch a film that reminds them of a bittersweet, feel-good time, before we all come together at 20.30 BST on Zoom. We then have a relaxed evening chat over popcorn (and your choice of beverage) about what film we saw, how it made us feel, why it made us feel that way, and more.

Movie suggestions (but not restricted to): Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, When Harry Met Sally, Lord of the Rings, E.T, Lion King, Forrest Gump, and of course, Back to the Future.

Saturday, 4th July: The Recollection Collection

For 19.30, dress up (or don’t!) in your choice of themed costume (80s bandanas, fun disco sunglasses, Britney-inspired outfit, etc.) and get on a Zoom call with the others to listen to the music that takes you way, way back. Here is a collaborative Spotify playlist to which you can add the songs that make you feel most nostalgic and you can view other participants’ songs as well. Wine, pets and succulents are encouraged to be a part of this little party. Feel free to accompany the listening with activities that typically make you feel nostalgic too — knitting, painting, doing a puzzle?

Those who are still in the mood can join us for a short chat at 20.30 to talk about their choice of music, era, that particular beat that really tugs at your nostalgic chord, and more.

Sunday, 5th July

11.00 – 12.00: Lattes and Literature

Why is it that we are drawn to certain kind of books from our past? Or why is it that we avoid certain books from our childhood? Over a nice cup of tea or coffee, we’ll have a laid-back and relaxed Sunday morning chat about the books that make us feel nostalgic.

18.00: Short talk by Dr. Pamela Thurschwell (University of Sussex)

Dr. Thurschwell writes about music, TV shows and lots more, and is currently working on her book on adolescence. She is a reader in the School of English at Sussex and her full bio can be found on the university website.

Will she speak about Watchmen? BoJack Horseman? Music? Come find out!

Creating a PhD support network – sign up for the webinar this Thursday

Brightly coloured Ludo game pieces  stand on a board, connected by straight lines in a non-uniform pattern.

The Doctoral School is launching a scheme to connect researchers together to create Online Peer Support Groups

This initiative is inspired by Claire Durrant (ESW), who set up a monthly online support group with three other doctoral researchers when she started her PhD. Claire will be hosting a webinar on Thursday 25th June to share her own experiences and show you how to set up your own group, based on the guide she created for the U-DOC Project.

Support groups can guard against isolation, provide on-going support and increase your wellbeing during your PhD. These factors are especially important to address amid the current pandemic.

Many researchers don’t have a ready network of peers to connect with, and opportunities for meeting others in the community are harder to come by in lockdown. That is where the Doctoral School can help, facilitating groups that best meet your research interests and doctoral progress. 

Sign up for the webinar at 13.30 this Thursday to learn more.

Festival Daily Check-Ins: Creativity at home (Friday)

The Festival Daily Check-ins are signing off with a bang as we hear about the creative things the Crafternoon team (Katharina Hendrickx, Kate Meakin, and Manuela Salazar) have been up to during lockdown

three people sat on a pebbly beach smiling and wearing sunglasses.
socially distanced fun!
  1. What creative activities have you got (back) into throughout lockdown?

Some of the hobbies we’ve really got really into are collaging and drawing, baking (banana bread and apple cakes especially), reading fiction and joining/ starting a reading group, meditating, online yoga classes and weightlifting. We also found it so important to keep in touch with friends and fellow researchers online with fun activities such as quiz nights and online Pictionary. Once lockdown rules were relaxed a bit, we enjoyed planning small (socially distanced) get-togethers. 

2. How have these helped you throughout lockdown/Covid-19?

These activities allow us to break up the day, unwind and relax, and to feel like we have achieved something even when we are struggling to focus on work. They also help to create some sense of routine during the day and week.

3. What would you recommend for people interested in finding out more about creative activities, and where can they access resources?

We’d recommend integrating fun tasks into your day to alleviate stress. Here are some tips and resources that we’ve found really useful: 

  • Baking: super easy recipes for banana bread and apple cake 
  • Online Pictionary to play with friends
  • Crafting suggestions and ideas: Join us at 3pm today for the PhD Crafternoon! Here are some ideas to get you started
  • Weightlifting routines: YouTube has many free workouts at the moment – all you need is a mat and some dumbbells (if you can find them in store – otherwise you can use wine bottles or cans). If you want to be more serious about an exercise routine, you could follow personal trainers on Instagram such as Mari Fitness. She posts a lot of free workouts on her Instagram and has great, reduced PDF Home Workout Guides, which you don’t need much equipment for. 
  • Online Yoga Classes: There are many free yoga sessions online, but we found that Yoga by Adriene is a great place to start. 
  • Meditation apps: Headspace is currently free with the Spotify Student Membership and has many guided mediation classes for different goals such as anxiety relief and going to sleep more easily. 
  • Joining/ starting a reading group: Katharina set up a monthly crime fiction reading group together with Brighton and Hove Libraries that is now online – feel free to get in touch in you want to join. But you could also set up your own group online with friends/ colleagues or join other established online book groups. For ideas see the Scribendi Book-club website

Festival Daily Check-Ins: Media and Entertainment (Thursday)

In the fourth instalment of the Festival Daily Check-ins we caught up with Aanchal Vij from the Research Hive about how she has been keeping herself entertained throughout lockdown.

A woman smiling and holding a guitar and reading device.
  1. What media/entertainment have you got (back) into throughout lockdown?

I’ve started reading fiction before going to bed – this is a habit I have had to inculcate in order to sleep better! The thing that keeps me absorbed for most part of the day is podcasts — there’s really something for everyone. I’ve also gone back to learning to play my ukulele! Before lockdown, it was gathering dust in a corner of my room but getting back to it has been really calming.

2. How have these helped you throughout lockdown/Covid-19?

Keeping my kindle next to my pillow rather than my laptop has been shockingly transformational in resetting my sleep pattern. Both reading as well as absorbing myself in learning new songs on the ukulele have been my go-to activities in lockdown simply because they both enable full immersion and help me feel less anxious. Podcasts are a great companion for when you’re doing the dishes, tidying or cooking (and we all know these activities together miraculously take over 60% of our day). 

3. What would you recommend for people interested in finding out more about media/entertainment, and where can they access resources?

I’d highly recommend enforcing a healthy wind-down routine before bed. I know from the Hive Slack group (join us if you aren’t there already!) that a lot of PhD students are having trouble managing their sleep cycle, so reading or meditating (or even journalling about the infuriating time we live in right now) could be helpful in maintaining a routine. Apps like Headspace are great for this. For podcasts or audio books, I think Audible, Apple Podcasts and Spotify work best and are easily accessible.

Join Aanchal for some light-hearted factual entertainment today in the Hive Scholars Quiz Evening starting at 17.00.

Festival Daily Check-Ins: Exercise and Physical Activities (Wednesday)

We spoke to Adam Kreimeia from the Doctoral School, who shares some tips on staying active throughout lockdown for our third Festival Daily Check-in of the week

Countryside scenary, with people on boats in a river.
On a cycle to Arundel
  1. What exercise/physical activities have you got (back) into throughout lockdown?

I’m quite an active person generally, but by far the most enjoyable activity I’ve got into in this period has been cycling. I had always used my bike around town and for commuting to campus, but I rarely went on any longer rides before lockdown. One Sunday, I went to Worthing when I was bored and since then I have been out most weekends, increasing the distance each time. It’s been so much fun visiting beautiful nearby towns and villages (e.g. Bramber, Arundel, and Lewes), being outside (especially with the great weather we’ve had), and listening to music and podcasts.

I usually go to the gym and do a lot of bodyweight exercises, so I was quite prepared for lockdown in this respect. I have been taking flexibility work a bit more seriously, though, from a few morning stretches to now doing an hour in the evening, really focusing on specific areas. I’ve also been swimming (I avoided putting myself through Wimhof/cold showers and just bought a wetsuit), going on long walks, and have got back into skateboarding.

2. How have these helped you throughout lockdown/Covid-19?

Beyond all the usual feel good benefits of exercise, it’s been particularly vital for me to disconnect from work and other aspects of life. Like most people, I now work, socialise, and eat in my bedroom. A lot of different areas can easily merge, which can have negative consequences for me (e.g. less productive, less sociable). As I often do exercise right before/after work and change my location, exercise helps provide a separation between work and leisure time, which has really made a big difference. We have been really fortunate in the UK to be allowed outside to exercise throughout lockdown, so the fresh air really helps too.

I’ve also found it enjoyable to set and work towards targets. I find certain exercise a bit boring otherwise, so this has been a really factor important in giving me that extra push to get out and start moving. Whether it is cycling an extra 10 miles, or trying to hold a longer handstand, I’ve found it really motivating to set goals.

3. What would you recommend for people interested in finding out more about exercise/physical activities, and where can they access resources?

The easiest method is to do something with a friend, that way it’s MUCH funner and you have greater accountability to each other. Doing exercise alone is about making habits, which is a lot easier for me when I set a specific day/time/place. For instance, doing HIIT exercises in the morning, working out at 19.00 on weekdays, or cycling on Sundays. I find I NEED to set these routines, otherwise I start listening to the voice inside telling me to grab some magdalena cakes, sit on the sofa, and watch TV!

Exercise can be a really difficult thing to get into regularly. Some people may be motivated by having accountability (e.g. telling friends and family they are going to run a marathon), but others might be more likely to do things if they keep their goals to themselves. It’s important to understand how you are motivated, and also how and when you’re likely to break habits.

There are tons of Youtube advice and tutorials on pretty much any physical activity:

  • If you’re interested in bodyweight exercise/calisthenics, then I would recommend Tom Merrick’s channel as he provides useful progressions and exercises, and provides a focus on flexibility and mobility work as well.
  • A good and quick way to get moving is to do a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. They can be tough, but they are often short and can over in 10 minutes! If you are concerned about making too much noise in your home, quiet home workouts are an option.
  • For stretching and greater flexibility, check out yoga and mobility videos.

Festival Daily Check-Ins: Games and Hobbies (Tuesday)

For Tuesday’s Festival Daily Check-Ins and Lockdown Tips, we chatted to Abigail Rieley, who co-organises the PhD Games Night

1.What games/hobbies have you got (back) into throughout lockdown?

I’ve been crocheting loads, I’ve taken up embroidery for the first time since I was a kid, and games have been a huge part of it as well. We have regular games nights with friends of ours which usually consists of us playing Trivial Pursuit as it’s the one game both households have. I’ve been after a copy of the game Gloom for ages and we used lockdown as an excuse to get one. It’s like Happy Families but you have to have the most miserable family and make sure everyone dies a suitably mournful death. An odd choice for a pandemic perhaps but there’s a lot of story-telling as part of the game and it’s actually very funny.

I’ve also been exploring the world of journalism board games (I used to be a journalist). Yes, it is a thing. So far I’ve got a 1950s set of Scoop and a 1970s set of Newsdesk. Lockdown is not going stop being geeky, in fact it’s made me worse!

2. How have these helped you throughout lockdown/Covid-19?

Playing games has definitely helped with the domestic harmony. It gives us a focus and something to talk about that isn’t the world around us. Gloom, with its gallows humour might be a little too on the nose for some, but the dark tone has really suited our mood at times and it really is very funny. Playing with friends gives a much needed excuse to socialise and spend time with people, again without too much examination of what’s going on outside. They are a release and a refuge.

3. What would you recommend for people interested in finding out more about Games and Hobbies they can get into, and where can they access resources?

If you are living with housemates or family then you can play games the old fashioned way – face to face. Even a standard pack of cards can while away the hours and with Google at your fingertips there’s never going to be the problem of not everyone remembering the rules. Ebay is a good place to pick up copies of games and you can support small UK businesses while you’re doing so.

If you’re on your own or want to explore further afield then online is the place to go. Just doing a search for free multiplayer online games will throw up thousands of possibilities. The gaming community sometimes has a reputation for being very geeky and quite clannish but this isn’t the case with board games. When I asked for help bringing the games night online on Twitter I was getting advice and links from all over the world. 

  • Board Game Arena is a good place to start with loads of free games available.
  • If you want to try online games then downloading Steam is a good place to start. Steam is a games shop and playing environment that has loads of different options. You can get both computer games and virtual versions of board games there and the choice is vast.
  • The best option for board games is to download Tabletop Simulator. $20 gets you access to hundreds of board games even including old classics like Monopoly and four of you can play on the one $20 licence. We’ll be using Tabletop Simulator at the games night.
  • Cards Against Humanity is a perennial favourite and there are several great online versions. We’ve used this one at the game night and it worked brilliantly – it comes with all the add on decks and works almost like the physical game. You don’t even need a laptop to play games online.
  • Psych is a mobile app which allows you to play with a group of friends. The idea is that you try to bluff an answer to a question and fool your friends. It can be played on a smartphone or a computer and does need a good internet connection but it’s definitely worth a try.

We started the game night because we know from first-hand experience how isolating doing a PhD can be. You get tunnel-visioned and stressed about matching impossible ideals and it can be very hard to keep any kind of perspective. Sometimes you just need a night off to be silly and laugh for a while. That’s never been more important than in lockdown so join us tomorrow night!