The University I joined as a new grad student treats grad students as both students and employees. So I am confused whether I should behave as a professional colleague or a fellow student with other grad students? I have noticed informal atmosphere within the department(people even use curses in general while talking to professors) but again, sometimes they become very formal and rather act stiff. I am confused.

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    You should use first names when speaking with fellow grad students. You should be friendly but not overly familiar with new acquaintances. As you and a new friend warm up with each other, you'll be able to take your cues from your new friend(s). – aparente001 Dec 2 '17 at 2:04
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    How is the treatment to professional colleagues and to fellow students significantly different? I'd argue you should behave the same way with fellow students in a new class/program you just started than you would do with colleagues at a job you just started. – Anna SdTC Dec 2 '17 at 2:57
  • We call each others by their first names always. Some PhD students don't even greet when we meet in the corridor, but they sometimes talk during lunch/coffee, or over online chat. Since I keep my behavior same online and in person, it becomes difficult to see if they are being friendly or act according to their whim. If it's the problem of their whim, I don't have much to do. – tachyon Dec 2 '17 at 10:11
  • @Anna SdTC, I also don't know that clearly but maybe I would have not spoke anything other than work with them in a professional setting. Among fellow students, I think we can explore more options like places and diversity, as the department has people from different parts of the World. – tachyon Dec 2 '17 at 10:14
  • Just like in any other work setting, you start by being cordial and polite, and maybe some of the relationships evolve into friendships, while some other won't. You also have to take into account the cultural differences between people from different parts of the world, as well as the specific personality of everyone. – Anna SdTC Dec 4 '17 at 6:32

When in Rome, do as the Roman's do. Observe how your peers interact with their peers, superiors, and subordinates. Emulate them and you'll do fine. Note in what circumstances they are formal and when they are not. For instance, I addressed my professor by his first name in private but by his title in public. Also, don't be too shy to ask someone!

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  • Thanks chessofnerd, I am trying to do so. What I think is, I have a consistent behavior, but I don't find the fellow PhD students' behavior consistent. That's when I am puzzled. Sometimes they are accessible, but mostly they are not. – tachyon Dec 2 '17 at 10:16
  • Time will probably solve this as you get more familiar with the department. – chessofnerd Dec 2 '17 at 20:52

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