Friday, October 16, 2015

The Graduate School Experience

Hello everyone, I hope you're all having a wonderful day full of rainbows and cheer and coffee (which is what I am 99% powered by right now, the other 1% is coffee fumes).

Well I have now been a graduate student for a little over two months now. The number one question I have received during that time is, "What is it like?"

So here, to answer your questions, is what graduate school is like.

Imagine you're floating down a river on a log. Why you chose to put yourself in the middle of the river on a log is anyone's guess, but there you are.

Luckily, you have learned a little about how to stay balanced on a log in a previous water-bound adventure, but this time the river is flowing a bit faster and you're noticing a lot more rocks in your path.

As you float along you begin to realize that your simple log is going to be insufficient to transport you safely, which is what the river guides/professors walking along the banks are for. From the safe tenured banks of the body of water, the professors throw you tools while shouting helpful hints like, "Build a canoe, it will be easier to steer and stay on!"

"But I've never built a canoe!"

In response they lug a five hundred page canoe building manual at you and say, "I think if you pay really close attention to every single page you should be able to manage building a canoe just fine!"

So, while balanced on the log, rushing down a never slowing river, you read the manual. Only to find that the information you needed on how to build the canoe is on page 489 of 500. The first 488 pages were actually a history of canoes. With this new knowledge you start to carve out the inside of your canoe, a bit exhausted at this point from trying to stay balanced, continuing to avoid the rocks and reading and retaining information you did not actually need.

You somehow manage to dig out a little divot inside the log to sit in, and you start feeling more confident about your little river adventure. Then another voice from the banks says, "Oh no, that's not going to work, you need at least one paddle..."

More tools and another manual, this time 600 pages in length is lobbed at you as the water surrounding you becomes even more choppy.

"Is there a simpler manual or any hints you can give me!?"

"Nope, that is the only manual in existence that will teach you how to make a paddle the right way. As for advice, just don't let the alligators eat you!"

Now you not only have to make a paddle, but you have to keep your eyes open for a new threat to your existence that you, up until this moment, had no idea even existed.

You furiously read the manual, which spends approximately 500 pages talking about how many different uses for paddles exist in both the first and third worlds, and finally reach a chapter about making a paddle. Using some of the wood from your dugout canoe you start to make a paddle, only to nearly get hit in the head by a chunk of wood thrown at you from the bank.

Yet another voice calls, "You can't use THAT wood, use the stuff I threw you instead."

"But I only know how to carve this type of wood..." you say with a sigh, "Can't I just use the wood I've been using all along?"

"Nope! But don't worry, there's a manual on how to work with the wood I just tossed you, don't worry it's only 800 pages long. And the part about how many trees that wood is related to is really fascinating stuff, make sure you don't skip that! Hey, did you notice the leech on your arm? Don't worry, there's a manual for that too..."

This is pretty much what graduate school is like, folks.

Feel free to follow my continued adventures, and see if I fall off the log, on Facebook and Twitter and don't forget to check out my books!

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