Been there, done that.

After six years of grad school, there are a few things I've picked up from personal experience and a whole lot of time talking with other female grad students (AKA procrastinating). I've always wished there had been some kind of handbook about how to handle the whole world of graduate school, so I figured I'd start a friendly place to discuss what it's like to be female in grad school, and maybe pass on some wisdom too!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Guest Post: Highlighting the Good Stuff

Today I have a most excellent treat for you all, my fellow cohort Miss Katie Demps, offered to write a post for the Girl's Guide! This is something I've wanted to do (so you don't have to read my complaining all the time :) and if you're interested in doing a post, please let me know!

The soon-to-be Dr. Demps is reminding us today that being a grad student isn't all bad/frustrating/as-insanely-horrible-as-I-may-have-accidentally-implied. There is definitely a silver-lining, and the trick really is in taking a moment to think about it. I think Katie's got a great point, so please enjoy:

I took my lunch break out on the lawn today.  Went and bought an organic sandwich, laid in the sun, listened to some lovely acoustic guitar music playing nearby - and I was STRESSED.  All I could think about were the Things that needed to Get Done.  But despite the negative aspects of grad school, there are so many good things that I have experienced as well.  So I thought as therapy this afternoon, I would dwell on the positive.

Why it’s worth the journey (in no particular order)-

  • Flexible schedule:  You can go home and take naps in the afternoon if you want.  You’ll probably have to work that evening, or maybe on the weekend, but it’s your choice.  You can also work wherever you want (even though I end up spending most of my time in 6 square feet of inadequate lighting).
  • Job security: Huh?  Yep.  Several years of pretty much guaranteed funding and health insurance.  I didn’t realize how much I took for granted until I went on the job market this year.  Grad school has been like a cocoon for me through these tough economic times.
  • Free Travel:  That’s right, even though work is always involved, grad school has paid for me to spend a year in India, five weeks living in the Bolivian Amazon, a month on a tropical Pacific island, and a week in Berlin.  On all of those trips I’ve met wonderful people who have changed my life.
  • Things I Never Thought I would Do:  Like ride a motorcycle.  Or collect wild honey with real hunter-gatherers.  Travel the most dangerous road in the World.  Swim in every ocean and dance on every continent (still working a little on that last one).  Write a book.  Circumnavigate the globe.  Have five friends living in Ohio.
  • Not worry about the pay:  Don’t get me wrong, I am Poor.  The IRS tells me so every year.  But unlike working retail jobs, I’m not constantly thinking about how much I get paid and what I want to buy with it.  I like this freedom from consumerism (even when I whine about not being able to afford cute boots).
  • Good stories:  You’ll always have something to amaze and amuse people with at cocktail hour.  Remember that time I had to keep my typhoid in your parents refrigerator? Remember that time we all sat around drinking beer on Friday afternoon and laughing at stupid undergraduate responses to test questions?
  • New skills:  I’ve learned a lot of things besides theory and statistical analysis while I’ve been in grad school.  Maybe I would have learned to cook or ballroom dance or speak Spanish if I hadn’t gone to grad school, but the opportunities and environment have definitely led me to these things one way or another.
  • Met the man of my dreams:  I know grad school can be really, really hard on relationships.  A lot of divorces, very little dating prospects, even less time to keep yourself well maintained.  If it wasn’t for grad school though I wouldn’t have met my better half, and that for sure makes it worth it for me.

So yeah, the pay sucks, and there are times when you will feel overwhelmed by stress/inferiority complex/grading/family pressure; but I would totally do it again.  In fact, my sister the accountant is convinced that because I like my job it's not really work at all and I just sit around enjoying myself all day.  Ha ha.

Okay, so I'll admit I would love some new boots that didn't come from the SPCA thrift store. Not having my washing machine in my kitchen would also be a bonus. But there are some great things about being a grad student. For me, I really got to experience how much I adore teaching. It may be tons of work, but it is so worth it. Here's the question for you: what things have you found to be a silver-lining to your grad experience? Please share--we all could use a little more positive outlook in life!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Katie, thanks for the comments... I am sitting in Jakarta, waiting for my permits to be done (going on week number 2), frustrated that I might never go to the field... however, you reminded me that it is not all stress... and I am doing something few people get to do. Thanks.