At a meeting with my advisor today, she told me that I was one of the easiest graduate students that she had ever had. I did my work on schedule. I don’t tend have to breakdowns. And, I have a fairly good record at winning fellowships. What she doesn’t know is that I am a mess inside. Every time I send out a fellowship application, I am certain that I am going to fail. Before every meeting I have with her or another committee member, I spend hours putting together an outfit and trying on different combinations of clothes. I also worry that every paper I write is a complete and utter piece of crap. What I am trying to say is that I have always struggled with graduate school even though a lot of people assume that I don’t.
The questions that I have about graduate school intensified after I returned from archival research this fall. I felt as though I didn’t belong in the department anymore. Most of my friends were still researching and the people I knew in the younger cohorts were stressed out with studying with prelims and teaching for the first time. I learned a valuable lesson that the students in older cohorts had told me but I had never completely understood: Sometimes grad school sucks!
This series is partially my attempt to self-medicate through blog posts and partially an attempt to create a survival guide for graduate students. How do you survive coursework? The anxiety of prelims? The loneliness of the archives and the frustration of knowing what your dissertation should say but being completely unable to write it? This post is meant to be an introduction to the series and to provide a forum for people to ask questions. What difficulties have you encountered? What would it be useful to discuss? I see myself less as the author or giver of advice and more as a compiler. The posts will feature advice culled from the internet and from professors and graduate students at various universities across the United States. Feel free to also use this as an opportunity to share your memories and reminiscences about that special time that is graduate school.