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Posts Tagged ‘grad school problems’

I really hate how graduate school work requires ridiculously long hours. I was warned about this before I went in, but listening to a warning about something and actually experiencing something are totally different things.

This line of thought is made worse when you consider why graduate school requires such long hours. It’s a restriction applied based on money. Well, money and the convention that a Master of Science degree is supposed to take 2 years, and a PhD is supposed to take 5-6 years. My particular money restriction is just the contract I signed before I got here – I get 2 academic years on a TA. My tuition is waivered because I’m working for the university. But once those two years are up, even if I still have a summer of thesis research/writing to do (and let’s face, I have at least a summer), they stop paying me, and I have to start chipping in for tuition. Nevermind the fact that the methods I’m using are extremely time consuming. Nevermind the fact that I did a summer internship and lost a lot of time I could have been researching. It’s not like they’ll chuck me out (at least, I hope my advisor will let me stay until I’m finished, as does every graduate student), but they won’t help me pay my way anymore.

So here I am, working at least 12 hours a day, socializing minimally, if at all, throwing my hobbies (writing, reading, blogging, hiking, exploring the city, relaxing) into storage until my graduate school prison sentence is up. Yeah, that’s what it feels like to me. I go for weeks having forgotten what fun and happiness feel like. I’m not saying it’s like this for everyone, but it is for me. I hope I’ll look back on this experience and remember the good times. But right now they are much too few and far between for me to appreciate.

However, the only way out for me is through, and so I must persevere. I am confident, at least, that I’ll be finished in time for the holidays (hopefully sooner). But the tedium and endless to-do lists that seem to grow on a daily basis are really getting to me right now. I suppose I am in the home stretch, or very close to it at least. But there is still much to do.

In the interest of finishing as fast as possible and retaining a small fraction of my sanity, I need to go on a hiatus from blogging so I can make more time for doing thesis-related things, and so the things I do for fun don’t feel so much like chores that are only there to distract me (much as I enjoy doing them). Removing the need to blog will remove one of my weekly obligations, and theoretically lighten my stress load, which has reached critical mass. When I do anything fun (and I’m sure many graduate students can attest to feeling this way as well), it comes with an unfortunate feeling of guilt for taking a break from the thesis.

This article sums it up perfectly. So in a further attempt to remove distractions, the blog needs to go into storage with the rest of my happiness until I’m finished with this nightmare that is graduate school.

These feelings of misery were also spurred by the realization of a very stupid mistake I made while collecting my data. It’s not the end of the world, but it is a small setback, and I created a bunch more work for myself to re-do, while I should be moving on to something else.

Hopefully I shall return to you by the end of the summer, but for now – farewell. If you need a new blog to read, I highly recommend any and all of the blogs linked on my blog roll on the sidebar. Enjoy!

P.S. – If I think of anything that absolutely MUST be blogged about, you may see some bonus blog posts in the months to come before I graduate. But don’t expect to see anything until the end of August.

P.P.S. – If you are like me and you struggle with stress and anxiety, and you’re thinking about going to graduate school, think very carefully about how you feel about research versus taking classes. There are programs out there with non-thesis options, they just generally require you to pay for them. Consider this a warning from someone who is experiencing this right now – graduate school with research is a very high-stress environment. Make sure it’s what you want to do.

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Let me tell you a story.

On a dark and stormy night back in my sophomore year of college, a horrible thing happened.

My hard drive crashed.

It was epic. It was the kind of crash where your computer makes weird noises, and instead of a nice, clean, apple logo, I got a frowning folder telling me everything was gone. And I mean everything. Photos, documents, manuscripts, class assignments (luckily nothing I was currently working on), a few applications… The loss of the photos (even though my dad had some of them, and facebook had the best ones) and my novel manuscripts was the most devastating. The crying-in-the-bathroom-alone kind of devastating (it was an on-campus apartment, so I didn’t have my own room). I was pathetic. AND it was during NaNoWriMo, so I was doubly upset that I’d lost that particular manuscript. I wasn’t anywhere near finishing, but I liked the story enough to want to pick it up later. There was a really great scene about pancakes… Ok, maybe it wasn’t that great, but it was NaNoWriMo, and it seemed like a great idea at the time.

“Why is this so devastating if she backs things up like a sensible person?” you might be asking right about now.

Yeah, I, uh, didn’t.

I was in a more naive phase of being an Apple user where I thought this sort of thing could never happen. It’s Apple after all, they don’t get viruses, blah blah blah. Don’t worry, I’m still in love with Apple products, despite the expense, but that’s a discussion for another day. The point is, I was an idiot, and didn’t have anything backed up. I might have had a few things in dropbox by that point, but not my manuscripts, and not my photos. To me, this was the end of the world.

I have since obtained an external backup hard drive that I use with Apple’s Time Machine, backed up everything important in Dropbox, and even put all my thesis stuff (and a few other things) on another portable hard drive. Oh, and I also backed up my thesis stuff to the department’s servers. I have a multitude of redundancies when it comes to backing up my data.

Which is why last night’s computer troubles were not nearly so terrifying as my hard drive crashing all those years ago. This time, I was prepared. Though, I hadn’t ever needed to reformat or restore my system before, so it was terrifying in that sense. But at least this time I knew everything important was safe. Theoretically. I still don’t totally trust technology. It may have taken a million hours, but I’m right back where I left off yesterday before I had to perform a brain reboot operation on my computer.

Point of the story: back up your stuff. Hopefully this is not a message most people need to hear anymore, as there are enough horror stories out there to scare people into being redundant. But just in case, here’s my story, and my advice is to BACK UP YOUR SHIT. Often, and in several different places.

Don’t be stupid-sophomore-me. It’s not worth it.

Now, back to the microscope!

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