Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Grad School? Woot!

I saw this tweet and it got me thinking:
On the one hand, grad school is about diving deeply to learn a lot about one thing (PhD) or to develop a set of skills beyond what I learned in college (MA).  So, it should not be much fun.

On the other hand, for Phds especially, grad school is about pursuing one's curiosity and that can be tremendously fun.  Engaging one's brain in the direction of one's interests should make one happy.

On the third hand, being introduced to academia means drinking deeply and repeatedly from the cup of rejection, and that is not so very happy.

On the fourth hand (invoking General Grevious here), it greatly depends on where you go.  I know people who went to PhD programs that were snakepits, where they had to compete with each other for funding.  I went to a place where I was quite happy to spend five years: San Diego.  Not only was the weather great and the introduction to Mexican food quite delightful, but we had a great deal of fun playing soccer, basketball and softball, more than a couple of bachelor parties and many other festivities, and heaps of friendly teasing. 
Once I beat Dave into submission, he agreed to co-author our book about twenty years later.

So, as a prof, I see the advantages of making grad students unhappy--so that they work hard and then leave.  But the reality is that it can be a great time.  It depends on who you are with and what you make of it.  I was quite lucky, but given how many folks I meet who remain friends with their former classmates, I cannot help but think that they had some happy times in grad school, too.

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