Hey there! Soon about your reblog about grad school, particularly in English lit....how have you gone about making real connections with other people in your department?
On a practical level, it was a lot of pausing outside a class or a meeting and being like, “who wants to grab a burger?” or similar. I also am a habitual social planner—because I have an anxiety level about socializing that is helped by being in control of the situation, hence, I plan the weekly cohort drinks or make a monthly movie night or whatever.
On a less practical level, it’s important to remember that all new grad students are in the same anxiety boat, so to speak. They’re most likely new to the town/city/whatever as well, they’re also unsure whether their admission was a fluke, they also fear deep down that someone is going to realize they’re not grad school material. You all need connections, however you might express it. I always found people really up for community building. Even people who were turning their anxiety into anger or to posturing really actually wanted to connect and find support.
Also, I really recommend finding the one conference in your area that really is The Conference and start going as soon as possible. Dr. Karen has advice on how to work a conference in her book, The Professor Is In, if you need help figuring out how to network. But the six-to-ten years you might be in your PhD program are going to be with a specific group of scholars you are not going to have all that much contact with in the rest of your career. It’s really worthwhile to build a professional/friendly community in your niche as well. I’m a Victorianist, so my conference is the North American Victorian Studies Association (NAVSA for short). I go to that one every year and work on friendships with other Victorianists because those are my *actual* peers professionally. And they have perspective that sometimes is invaluable because we know the same general sphere or knowledge.