It is apparent that it has been more than a month since my last post, for this I apologize, but also, not to state the obvious (but obviously to state the obvious), graduate school is hard, hence why it has taken me more than a month to write about it.
Graduate school is a culture all its own. I am finding this out the hard way. Upon my first week of classes, I had the idea that graduate school would be a lot like undergraduate, only with more intense studies and slightly more adulting involved. I couldn’t be more wrong.
These are the things that I am slowly learning about graduate school and graduate school life:
1. In terms of a social life, it is nothing like undergraduate school.
Not living on campus means that I’m far away from other students, which means that my social life is already reduced significantly. Add to that my busy schedule and you have a recipe for loneliness. I spend most of my time on campus in my office, working on lesson plans, grading, or doing my own homework for my own classes. I have friends, but my friends are other TAs that are just as busy as I am. I’m also poor, which means that I don’t really go out that much. Being a broke college student has never been more real than now, since I’m living on my own and paying for all of my own bills.
2. Sleep is a necessity, but it will also be your ultimate downfall.
Everyone knows that we need sleep to function (duh), however, graduate school doesn’t care that you need sleep to function. In fact, graduate school definitely tells me every day “Stay awake. Sleep is for suckers.” I simply have to sacrifice sleep in order to stay on top of my work, both for the classes that I teach and for my own classes that I’m taking. Unfortunately, though, my body tends to reject my pursuits of staying up later, as I usually fall asleep on the couch with book in hand. I’m constantly playing catch-up, constantly trying to keep my head above the water. I’m still actively trying to train my body to function on 6 hours of sleep. I’m a month into graduate school, and I’m still struggling with achieving this goal (obviously).
3. Despite my attempts to stay up later and get more work done, I realized that graduate school is about what work you can get away with not doing.
There are about 50 billion things to do with each and every one of my classes. As I teach two classes and am taking three of my own, my plate is full, actually it’s rather overflowing. I’ve taken to understand that in graduate school, when you realize that you really don’t have all the time in the world, you kind of decide which bites are the most important for eating so as not to make the entire plate go over the edges. I’m sure I’ll eventually get to the other bites….at some point….maybe. In short, you become really good at winging it in graduate school.
4. Teaching undergraduates makes you realize how much of an old lady you are.
When you ask your students what they did over the weekend, and they tell you that they hung out with friends or went to a party and you realize that you spent your entire weekend studying, lesson planning, and sleeping, you feel like a thousand years old and start to ask yourself: ”When did I stop being fun? Do I even know how to have fun anymore? When did I start willingly choosing sleep and staying in, rocking it out in my pjs with my cat rather than going out?” Also, when they ask me stupid, obvious questions, when they ask questions about what I just went over, or when they fail an assignment even though you spent half the class going over that particular part of grammar, internally I’m facepalming the hardest, and it makes me feel like pulling my hair out. There’s definitely a gap there, an emotionally and mentally mature gap. It doesn’t even matter that I’m only at most 6 years older than them. I forgotten how much they’re like children, those undergraduates.
5. Coffee is a necessity. Even if you don’t want it to be your best friend, it will be.
I’ve always been a coffee drinker. I’ve always been a one cup in the morning kind of gal. However, graduate school has taught me that this girl needs two maybe even three cups of coffee a day. It hits about 3:30 in the afternoon, and I’m ready to take the world’s longest nap. I will be surprised if it hasn’t reached four cups a day by the end of the semester.
6. Always take advantage of free food. If you don’t, your (mostly) empty fridge will continue to scream at you.
It should be no surprise that being a graduate teaching assistant doesn’t pay that well, and given that I have barely any time as it is, I’ve been having trouble finding a second job and wondering how I’ll even function when I do. So, needless to say, the struggle to find food is always completely real. My diet is starting to consist of beans, rice, and eggs. At least there’s protein in eggs and beans, right?
7. People always ask if you have a boyfriend, and then you realize that even if you wanted one, it’s just not possible.
I barely have enough time to finish all of my homework and grading on time. What makes you think that I have the time or the mental energy to spend trying to impress and learn about someone else? You also realize that in the spare time I do have, I’m watching Netflix or sleeping. Let’s be honest.
Overall though, despite how stressful and time consuming it is and despite how much it makes me question my entire life, I am very blessed and very thankful to be here. I feel like I’m learning an immense amount about myself and the subject areas that I’m interested. At the end of the day, I know that I made the right decision coming here, and that I will have opportunities that not everyone comes in contact with. In the meantime though, I’ll just be over here, learning how to juggle with 50 balls.