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I am passionate about research, I believe in science and I get excited about it. For this reason, I have decided to start a PhD. Last year I started a PhD in a foreign country but it turned out to be unsatisfactory from different points of view - the work was poorly organized. The supervisor was not providing guidance and knowdlege and I decide to try to change the situation. I won other 2 position in Europe and this was a surprise for me, it means that people really see that this is what I really want to do. Having 2 options was not easy and in the end I decided to go in a very good university in Sweden with a very good project and a lot of industrial connections. My boyfriend is currently living there and he told me how well the PhD are structured in Sweden. I am very very sure that on the working aspect I will have absolutely no problems. I have a lot of fears when it comes to the weather. I have lived in central Europe and it was not sunny everyday and for me it did not matter. Soon I will have to leave my country for Sweden and I started to not sleep at night, to abuse a little bit of alcohol (I am ashamed of it, but yes) and sometimes I cry all the time saying that I do not want to spend my years there. When I think about the project and the university I am very very happy, when I think about the country less, because when I was there, I had not really a good feeling. I do not want to quit my second PhD. I want to start a new PhD being sure of what I am doing.

What should I do? It would probably mean that I will not have a possibility anymore and so I have to give up the idea of getting a PhD. I don't know why I changed my mind, if it is just fear or I really do not want to go.

Please, do not close the topic, I really need an advice. How much social life and location can make a difference in your life? I would like to hear some experiences.

Thank you!

  • Your health and private life is much more important than getting a phd. I have seen students/postdocs who "lived only for their research" and fell into big holes when there was a problem in their reseach life (no funding/big change in department structure/unclear job situation). – user111388 Sep 27 '20 at 16:29
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    I'm sorry that you feel conflicted about your situation but this question isn't suitable for Academia SE as it is entirely down to your own personal preferences; we cannot tell you whether you'll enjoy living in Sweden or not. I voted to close for that reason. Anyway, try not to judge a book by it's cover. I know many people who studied in Sweden and all really enjoyed it (even an Italian friend who thought the weather would be a challenge -- in fact, he loved the really long, light summers). I expect if you give it a chance, you will too. – astronat Sep 27 '20 at 16:35
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    Very off-topic advice before this is closed: Sweden is not that different from Central Europe. While the customs may be somewhat different, there are enough similarities in history, architecture, economy, even languages, that you won't feel alienated after moving. In addition, with your boyfriend there, it'll be much less of a problem to create your social circle, so you are in a very good position to try. And if you don't like it - not the end of the world. Good luck. – juod Sep 27 '20 at 20:24
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    You should discuss this with a mental health professional. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 28 '20 at 4:45
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Last year I started a PhD in a foreign country but it turned out to be unsatisfactory from different points of view - the work was poorly organized. The supervisor was not providing guidance and knowdlege and I decide to try to change the situation.

I'm sorry to hear that, but this can happen in any country!

I won other 2 position in Europe and this was a surprise for me, it means that people really see that this is what I really want to do.

It could mean that, but it's hard to know exactly what something like this means. Maybe the reason you got in was because your grades were excellent and the admissions committee found their interactions with you to be very professional.

I am very very sure that on the working aspect I will have absolutely no problems.

I appreciate this, but please be careful. I've heard about too many PhD projects go sour, even when the student thought the lab they were entering was a perfect fit. To be "very very sure" that there will be "absolutely no problems" seems naive to me, just be careful not to expect "absolutely no problems": there's always some problems in a PhD journey.

I have a lot of fears when it comes to the weather.

10 million people live in Sweden every day, and 20 million live in Scandinavia.

That being said, some people can absolutely not be comfortable in hot/humid weather, and some people can absolutely not tolerate the cold. Stockholm, Uppsala, Gothenburg and Malmo are really not too different from a lot of other cities in UK, Northern Europe, Toronto, New York City, Montreal, etc. Nights may be longer and days shorter, but for millions of people this is reality. I have friends at UmeƄ University, and that is far enough North that weather may start to become more of a concern. Is your university going to be all the way up there, or further South like the other cities I mentioned (you don't have to say the exact city if you don't want)?

I have lived in central Europe and it was not sunny everyday and for me it did not matter. Soon I will have to leave my country for Sweden and I started to not sleep at night, to abuse a little bit of alcohol (I am ashamed of it, but yes) and sometimes I cry all the time saying that I do not want to spend my years there.

I think there's something more going on than just the "weather". Your boyfriend is there, you have spoken of the Swedish research group with utmost high regard, and Sweden is considered one of the best countries in the world to live in, and most universities are in the South which isn't too different weather-wise from Canada, northern USA, northern Europe, and UK (hundreds of millions of people's homes!). But feel free to say if the university is Umea University or in a similar location.

There's not enough information to know what underlying causes might be causing you to abuse alcohol, but universities in Sweden also have world-class health care and mental health care (counseling, therapy, psychotherapy, etc.).

When I think about the project and the university I am very very happy, when I think about the country less, because when I was there, I had not really a good feeling.

You say "very very happy" for the university and project, but "less happy" for the country. It sounds like the pros outweigh the cons. You did not say "very very unhappy" for the country and "less unhappy" for the university and project.

I do not want to quit my second PhD. I want to start a new PhD being sure of what I am doing. What should I do?

What is the other option?

It would probably mean that I will not have a possibility anymore and so I have to give up the idea of getting a PhD.

Also, there's nothing wrong with not getting a PhD either. I know people that quit their PhD programs and hate themselves for it, but they are further along in their careers than I am, and I'm jealous of them for it. Scientific American has this article called "The Emotional Toll of Grad School" which is another reason why I feel that doing a PhD can sometimes be over-rated.

I don't know why I changed my mind, if it is just fear or I really do not want to go.

It seems like there's something more than just the weather, that's bothering you :)

Please, do not close the topic, I really need an advice. How much social life and location can make a difference in your life? I would like to hear some experiences.

I lived in the following countries:

Age 0-21: Canada
Age 21-25: UK (PhD)
Age 25-26: Japan (postdoc)
Age 26-27: Singapore (postdoc)
Age 27-28: Japan (postdoc)
Age 28-29: Canada (postdoc)
Age 30-31: USA (postdoc)
Age 31-Now: Canada

During those years I also spent several months as a "visiting researcher" in Germany, Hong Kong, Mainland China, and other countries.

Every country has it's differences, and in some of those countries I sometimes literally felt like I was living in Hell because I could speak the language, plus the culture and expectations of me were completely different from what I was used to. But I don't regret a single one of those experiences. All the ups and downs made me what I am today, and I'm smarter and wiser than I would have been if I stayed in one country my whole life. If you can speak English, language won't be a big problem in Sweden, and the culture won't be too different from what you're used to in Central Europe. I know people that had terrible experiences in some countries, but I've never heard of it happening in Sweden (that doesn't mean it can't happen, and I appreciate that everyone is different and that you have specific concerns about the weather).

  • The city is further South like the other cities you mentioned, it is not so in the north like Umeå. I do not have a lot of space to write, but I would like to thank you for your words. It really helped. for the PhD, quitting comes with a high emotional price if you are a sensitive person (and I am one of them). I guess that I have to give a chance to the place and people there, the other option is giving up without trying. I feel better today, even if I think that I have to speak with a professional as someone in a previous comment pointed out. thank you again! :) – Arnold Sep 28 '20 at 9:55
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I do not want to quit my second PhD.

It would be unfortunate if you needed to quit -- but not the end of the world.

I want to start a new PhD being sure of what I am doing.

In my experience, it is rare to ever be completely sure of what you are doing.

How much social life and location can make a difference in your life?

A lot.

What should I do?

Ultimately, only you can say.

That said, you've already accepted an offer in Sweden. You're very happy with the university, and apparently your boyfriend is there. In your shoes, personally, I would go and try to make the best of the situation. It won't be for the rest of your life, and if things go badly then you can reevaluate later.

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Sweden consistently ranks in the top-ten happiest countries in the world. See, for instance, this ranking from 2019: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report#2019_report

It is natural to feel anxious when considering moving to a new, foreign country. It is a big step to make. If you feel like you occasionally need to indulge in a socially-accepted drink of your choice to quench that anxiety, that is fine, as long as it remains within reasonable limits. So don't beat yourself up about it, and make sure it is limited to a phase that passes.

The project, the university, and your boyfriend all seem to be factors pointing towards a non-zero probability that you will have a good time. The negative factors you outline, read a lot more confused to me:

I have a lot of fears when it comes to the weather. I have lived in central Europe and it was not sunny everyday and for me it did not matter.

You have fears when it comes to the weather, but your previous negative experience did not matter to you?

I know people who did their PhD in Finland, who were not necessarily happy about the short days in Winter, but as a converse you also get loads of long sunny days in Summer, which can be nice.

when I was there, I had not really a good feeling

Can you formulate why? I've been to Sweden three times, and it appealed to me. This needs not be anyone's experience, but you also don't provide us with a compelling reason on what's wrong with Sweden.

I see many factors that would allow you to succeed in Sweden. You provide us with a general feeling of anxiety, which is not to be discarded! It is important to address those feelings, and writing about it on StackExchange might help you already. However, it is also not really a good reason to reject a good opportunity. Your original post does not provide us with reasons why you would not succeed in Sweden. Culturally, Sweden and Central Europe are quite far apart. So why not try? Even if it doesn't work out, that won't trap you in Sweden forever.

  • Just in case: Scandinavia does always rank super high in happiness, and thats great! However cultural differences between OP (or someone like OP) and Sweeden can make the stay very unhappy (e.g. an Italia or Spaniard from a big city may find living in Scandinavia very boring), so I would not use that as an argument in any direction. – Ander Biguri Sep 28 '20 at 9:10
  • Let's say that I think I will not feel really at home. People act colder outside university, the are very indoor people because of the weather and even if the city where I should go is big, I do not perceive all that energy. Like someone in the comment said, I am afraid I will find it a little bit boring. I like seeing life around me, it makes me feel alive. I accepted the offer because I felt that i was judging without really knowing and I was not so being open to the cultural diversity, but I do not know if I did the right choice. I guess I will have to see. – Arnold Sep 28 '20 at 10:07
  • Those are all quite valid concerns. The thing is: you will never know for sure, unless you try. The few experiences I had of Scandinavian countries, including Sweden, also include that when the weather does have a warm turn, people immediately flock outside to grab their chance to enjoy outdoor life. But it's up to you to determine whether this is enough for you. – Wetenschaap Sep 30 '20 at 18:25
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We can't really answer this question because it's about your preferences. It's obvious you are expecting to suffer in your new program. Is that worth quitting your program? That depends on the severity of what you are experiencing and how treatable your problems are. Based on what you wrote, you don't really have the experience of living there yet and are suffering from anticipation anxiety. It's quite strange to judge Sweden harshly without having given it a fair shot. Moreover, things that you don't like about a country are frequently treatable (sun lamps, for example).

Even if it is difficult to live there, is it worth quitting the program? If it were me, no. You are only going there for a few years, not the rest of your life. If it were me I'd bear down and get it done without complaining. In fact, I did not like the location where I got my Ph.D. at all, but I never thought of quitting.

But I may have very different preferences than you do. You say you are passionate about research, but I think maybe you need to take stock of your true preferences and see if that is really the case. Based on what you read here, I don't see research as your primary motivation. Quite frankly, if the location of your Ph.D. is that major a consideration for you, you may be happier with a different life than the one you will get by pursuing a Ph.D.

Good luck, whatever you choose.

  • Hi, thank you! I love research, but I think that no one should suffer or should get depression in order to do a PhD. This is the reason why I changed program. I saw myself very unhappy in the long term. Of course this may happen also in the new program, because I do not know , but I wanted to give me a second chance. – Arnold Sep 28 '20 at 10:01

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