Grad School Calm

Sundays are good days. I get to resume my Coffeeshop Hobo persona, breathe in some fresh air and drip a bit of sunlight onto my body.

[Domestic Stability]

I renewed my current apartment lease for another 12 months. I know that I wanted to get off campus and find a 1 bedroom place to really call my own, but at the same time I also really wanted to just stay put for more than 12 damn months at a time. I’m tired of moving my stuff about. I will probably keep saving and try to get into my own place next year, but for now I intend to focus on configuring my personal space to minimise the beige. At present that means tacking up cheap colourful scarves onto my walls, and cutting out beautiful photographs from old calendars as arty decoration.

[Professional Calm]

In the UK it is fairly common for science undergraduates to gain full-time professional industrial experience before they graduate. The penultimate year of studies often involves a 1-2 semester exchange, or else the “Year In Industry”. In the USA I think it is a lot less common: there is more fixation on Grade Point Average (GPA) and fulfilment of a greater number of major/minor/dual major class requirements to complete, so science students slave away on campus for the duration of their degrees. Not all universities are like that – I can think of one example of a newer, more “vocational-orientated” university that had a really thorough internship program for its scientists – but most of them are.

I would strongly endorse any prospective science PhD students to get their asses out of academia for a bit and work in an industrial R&D setting. Even for a single 3 month summer internship. Recently I’ve found myself witnessing a variety of problematic scenarios in the grad school settings and thinking to myself – “Man, that whole situation could have been avoided or mitigated if they’d just had a bit more real world experience.” If the only semi-professional experience a person has is as an undergraduate researcher in an academic lab, then it is hard to bring a more balanced-perspective or alternative approaches to common academic problems. Do an exchange to a foreign country, work in an environment more professional/skilled than your local Starbucks, take up a hobby that gets you off campus – life experience one of the best survival tools you can ever own.

[Academic Calm]

Things aren’t as crazy or as scary as they were.

Last semester I got nervous before teaching. I would pace around the classroom waiting for the session to start. This semester I’ve experienced none of that: I’ve become familiar with the lessons and I know what is coming and what can go wrong. The marking goes quicker. I make fewer screw-ups.

This semester I only have 1 class. The added time difference is significance. Maybe I’m less stressed about course-work too – I’ve got a good idea of what constitutes solid B-level work.

This semester my research project is working. In fact I’m not far off getting a publication out of it. I’m applying to conferences, travel awards and keeping on top of deadlines. I feel like a legitimate academic scholar.

 

It is still hectic and crazy…but in a more manageable way. 

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