When PhD English Literature student Georgie Rowe began their journey at the University, they’d just moved out of their parents’ home in rural Norfolk, so moving to Birmingham and beginning their degree was an incredibly daunting task. How could they possibly feel at home in a big city, full of new people and new experiences?

Even as a postgraduate student, as opposed to an eighteen-year-old starting their undergraduate studies, moving to a new institution after time at another, or perhaps time away from academia altogether, can be challenging. But from my experience, there are a few things you can do to ease the transition.

Join a club or society

While the Guild of Students and Sports & Fitness have a plethora of great options, you have probably heard all about those in your induction events. I’d like to suggest casting your net further, and looking into groups outside of the University.

Personally, the best change I’ve made to my lifestyle during my PhD was joining a local hockey club. I played growing up, but had taken a decade out of the sport when school started getting busy, so it was honestly fantastic getting back into it.

The way I see it, there were three main benefits to this change: firstly, the general fitness angle, and that moving our bodies can do us a world of good; secondly, returning to an interest from my youth has really helped me heal my inner child, and reconnect with my roots; and thirdly, the social aspect. It’s been lovely meeting so many new people from such a variety of backgrounds, outside of the bubble of academia.

Explore the local area

As an undergraduate, I rarely left the area around the university and the student village in which I lived, fearful of getting lost in a city I barely knew. A big shift in how I’ve approached Birmingham as a postgraduate is visiting different neighbourhoods, and experiencing the great things they have to offer.

For example, the Kings Heath Artisanal Market is a monthly market not far from the Edgbaston and Selly Oak campuses, selling goods that range from funky art prints to experimental jams. There are similar markets in Edgbaston Village and Harborne, also not far from the university, as well as Redbrick Market, a more permanent fixture in Digbeth.

But it’s not all craft markets and vintage shopping – there’s also plenty of green spaces in Birmingham if you fancy a hike or picnic. Close to the Edgbaston campus is Cannon Hill Park, considered one of Birmingham’s prettiest green spaces, which is also home to the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) where you can grab lunch and a coffee.

Exploring your area and spending your weekends being immersed in the city is a great way to feel at home here, and it gives you a sense of belonging through rooting yourself in the place itself.

Discover events that suit your tastes

Nothing makes me homesick like spending an evening at home without plans, languishing in my own melancholia. Instead, I love to attend gigs and comedy shows, or go see films, all within my budget thanks to the independent venues Birmingham has on offer.

If you’re interested in seeing more live music, I highly recommend Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, one of BBC 6 Music’s Independent Venues of 2023: tickets are fairly cheap, and they regularly host a massive range of up-and-coming bands across a variety of genres.

Outside of music, there’s also the iconic Mockingbird Cinema, a Birmingham landmark, and the fantastic Gay Village, where I attend the yearly Eurovision parties hosted at The Loft. And not all of these require a buzzing social life: I’ve gone to most of these events solo, and had the time of my life immersing myself in Birmingham and its culture.