Being a Graduate Student

So thanks to this person, I got to see this movie about being a graduate student. As a recent PhD grad, my eight years in graduate school have become the subject of my thoughts of late. While watching that movie I could identify with all of the grad students. I also saw the PhD comics movie, but I must say that this documentary captured the ups and downs of the PhD process quite well. The theme that stuck out to me was failure. The grad students in the documentary worked in the laboratory sciences and they seemed to experience failure on a very regular, even daily, basis. I couldn’t relate to daily failure as a social scientist because we’re not doing those kinds of experiments. The failures I felt were probably more intermittent, but they felt like huge failure nonetheless. For example, when I did not receive a large grant for my research funding I was crushed. I still look back on that and see it as a deficiency in my CV, even though I got outside grants for dissertation writing. But some of the quotes from the students really sum up grad school, at least for me, in very succinct ways. One of them said, “You learn so much from failure. You learn almost nothing from success.” When they were talking about their relationship with their adviser, the conversation went something like: “You want them to pat you on the head. It’s kind of sick – you’re like a singer that needs that applause.” I can definitely identify with the need for affirmation from my adviser. It seemed like the more I progressed the more detached from me she became. I will blog more about that later. I have become obsessed with this PhD process and really understanding it and what happened to me.

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