The spring/summer semester is well underway and that means nice weather and lots of free time. I mean…. lots of unstructured time with plenty of work to do, but way less stress (for now, at least).
I made it through two challenging semesters, read more than 250 academic papers (I have the paper cuts to prove it), and am still looking forward to next fall when I continue on as a PhD student.
What else have I noticed since my last post on grad school? Well, here are a few insights:
1. Research doesn’t always work the way you want it to. In fact, it hardly ever works as you expected it to. It’s initially very exciting to run a study or experiment, and then is promptly followed up by a deep sense of disappointment when you start running the data through SPSS.
2. Without a schedule, without focus. I thought I’d want more freedom to my daily routine, but it seems that I really prefer my early wake-up time followed by getting to the office at a reasonable time. I put in my time and by mid to late afternoon I bugger off to others things, feeling better that I’ve at the very least tried to do something productive. As they say, there’s always tomorrow.
3. It’s a ghost town as soon as the undergrads leave. Better watch out for your advisor, as they might become scarce as soon as the undergrads depart. I’m pretty luck in the sense that my advisor is clear about his schedule and is pretty good at making time several times a week, but sometimes they vanish into the night just as the students seem to do.
4. You have no excuses not to be productive. This is the hardest part; you have no reason not to be as effective as possible because you’ve been given the gift of time and freedom to complete your research. There really are no excuses for not completing (your project/degree/program etc) on time.
5. Vacation / Stat holidays quickly lose their meaning. I remember getting so excited for a long weekend when I was a full-time professional – it was the best reward to know you had a four-day week ahead of you. But, in the world of academia where holidays can be taken as you please (you can interpret this in a variety of ways), every day can either feel like a vacation day or a work day or some nasty hybrid of the two. Setting goals and sticking to a schedule helps. As does having a bf/gf that lives in the “real” world with a “real” job. At the very least they’ll remind you when it’s time to take a break!
For previous “grad school” posts, see 1, 2, 3, and 4.