November 29, 2006

On the Being of a Grad Student (Part 1)

Being a grad student is weird. Really, ones experience as a grad student is primarily affected by his or her perspective. That...and whether or not their advisor sucks. I'll elaborate.

Today I was remarking to a colleague that I quite enjoy the outlook most grad students have. Many of us come and go as we please. For example, I usually don't get in to work until 10 or 11 most days (though I try to balance it by staying until 6 or 7). On days (like today for me) that we are feeling sick...we go home and take a three hour nap. On days when work is actually needing to be done, we may suck it up and pull a 10 or 12 hour day. But we rarely - if ever - pull all-nighters any more. We leave that nonsense to undergrads who still think grades matter. Speaking of undergrads - we tend to loathe them, or at least disregard them. This cracks me up considering most of us were at one time undergraduates. How quickly we forget.

Really, the primary challenge as a grad student is embracing this truth: this one problem I'm researching will take me 4 years to finish. That's as long as I spent as an undergrad doing hundreds and thousands of problems which I have already forgotten! With this in mind, it's easier to not feel guilty for slacking now and again. After all, if it's going to take 4 years anyway, what difference will it make if you take an afternoon off to have coffee and go to the gym.

Anyway, you can see that with the right perspective, grad school can be a sweet gig. I mean...I get paid to take one class and do "research". There's plenty of crap that we have to deal with (about which I'll be sure to complain more in the future) but we also have a more flexible life than those suckers with "jobs". One last thing I feel I should point out though was a point made to me by Tin Roof. When you consider both our stipend and tuition, we're actually being paid quite a lot. So hopefully in all our slacking, we'll still remember how blessed we are and be motivated to perform our responsibilities to the fullest of our potential.

I should get to bed. Somehow I agreed to ride with my advisor to Virginia Tech tomorrow for a conference. He's picking me up at 5:30 in the am. (Who knew 5:30 came twice a day?!)


Irish McJew said...

Right on. Grad school rules.

Hal said...

I'm going to be as polite about this as I can possibly be:

Screw you, Slacker McLazypants.

(Just kidding, of course)

My advisor at NU said it like this: Putting in less than 60 hrs/wk only tells me that you're not serious about finishing in 5 years.

Come in at 10-11? Leave by 6-7? What you describe was utterly unheard of when I was actually doing research.

You non-scientists don't really get this whole "grad school" thing at all. (Again, just messin' with ya)

JayRodNU said...

You're clearly not just messing with me or you wouldn't have had to qualify your joke twice. Besides - how much of those 60 hours did you spend blogging? :-)

Hal said...

Um . . . just because all 60 of those hours were in the lab doesn't mean they were productive.

Heh heh. Heh.