Saturday, July 22
I remember learning years ago that there are two types of people - those who hate graduate school and can't wait to get out, and those who love graduate school and wish they never had to leave. It's only now, having moved 2000 miles for my first job, that I realize I might be one of the latter.

I feel like that curmudgeony old woman who tells those younger than her to appreciate their good looks and nice figures because one day they'll disappear (oh, wait... I am that woman). Seriously, though, for those of you out there, struggling with the gruel of grad school, stop and smell the roses. You could actually wake up one day and realize that these were some of the best years of your life.

I started grad school with 11 other souls who I thought were in the exact same position as me. I am starting my job with one other person, and I know enough to know that he's in a much better position than I am. My job during grad school was to learn as much as I could - to spend time reading, thinking, conversing. My job now is to produce as much as possible. I used to spend Friday nights at happy hour. Now I spend Friday nights working. I used to take leisurely lunches. Now I eat yesterday's leftovers, as fast as I can. In grad school I could walk into faculty members' offices and talk to them about ideas, ask them questions, and share good news with them. Now I only talk business.

Yeah, I know that parts of grad school suck too. I mean, I am pretty excited about seeing that first assistant professor paycheck and it's cool that all my printing and mailing is free and I finally get to send someone else to the library to photocopy.

I just wanted to offer a word of warning. Of course I'm aware that, like my warnings for the thin young women who complain that they're fat, this cautionary tale might fall on deaf ears. Just remember, though, when you're making your own difficult transition, that someone did tell you that you might actually miss graduate school.

6 comments:

atomic tangerine said...

I have to disagree on the two types of people idea. I neither loved nor hated grad school, and my eagerness to get out always depended very much on where I'd be going next...

Turquoise Stuff said...

These are good points. I try to make them to my students or grad student friends. I usually preface the comments by saying that I realize this is incredibly hard to believe, but they have more time now than they will for a long time (if ever).

I am more on AT's wavelength when it comes to feelings about grad school. I wasn't a LOVE case (like you hear about some folks at Berkeley, at least in my field, who never want to leave) and certainly not a case of I HATE IT.

I liked lots of things about it, a lot, but by the end I was ready to move on. Then once it came to moving, I was very anxious and hated leaving even though I was excited about the job I had taken.

Anyway, to the point of your post, I definitely had no clue in grad school how much freedom (in terms of time allocation) I had and part of me wishes I had been more conscious about that. So yes, this is an important message to put out there. That said, I'm not 100% sure how I would have lived grad school days differently if I'd been more clued in.

fraud, in denim said...

I hear what both of you are saying, and think that my views on grad school are more ambivalent than they might come off in the post. Is think that it's right now, in the midst of the transition, that I'm really coming to appreciate what I had in graduate school.

I hope that in time I'm able to reclaim some of those things, or find versions here, but right now I am just noticing the differences in before and after finishing and how good I really had it in grad school.

Clear said...

I also definitely felt it was time to move on from graduate school when it was over. But, I do miss it, regularly. I do miss things like long, nonprofessional lunches with friends. I haven't been able to recreate that here.

thistle said...

I think grad school is wasted on the young in the sense that people I know who attempt doctoral programs in their early or mid-20s seem to have so much finding themselves and personal identity stuff to work out that they don't get everything they could out of grad school.

Chartreuse Circe said...

Totally with you on this one! The amount of time I spent doing other things in grad school (you know, actually talking science over beer?, wandering around thinking, relaxing) was great -- and now there is no time for any of that. I've noticed that, even if I've scheduled time for one of these things, something will come up, and I'll have to fight like a tiger to salvage any time. So, be adamant!

Also, the environment at my institution was amazing -- without a doubt the best place I've ever seen for doing science. I miss that every single day.

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