academia, discrimination, stress, Uncategorized

Grad School is Hard

The day I walked into the Cathedral of Learning for the first time I had no idea what I was in for. No one told me that graduate school was this hard. Waking up after half an hour of sleep, studying for months on end for my Comprehensive Examinations, teaching hundreds of Spanish I and Spanish II students, attending professional conferences, reading dozens of books, the list goes on. Did I mention how little you get paid? Did I also mention you’re probably not going to finish all of the work you need to? Lesson 1 about grad school, if you’re a perfectionist you’re going to cry a lot. Lesson 2 about grad school, grad school is NOT like college; it’s really hard and it only gets harder with each coming year. Lesson 3 about grad school, we don’t talk about grad school.

The third lesson is actually the most relevant for this blog. No one talks about how horrible grad school is. No one stopped me on my way to my first class to warn me. I’m sure no one warned you either. Well, now you’re stuck in school, with loans and have a dozen papers to grade. Take a minute and tell me about it. This is one of your first and only free therapy writing sessions.

I’ve been asking friends what they wish someone had warned them about when they first got to grad school. So far, my husband (who quit) wishes someone warned him about the culture shock. In his physics program, there were 50% Southeast Asians, which was obviously very different from his Southeast rural PA upbringing. I, personally, wish someone warned me about the racial discrimination. No one told me that as an Canadian woman of Jamaican descent, people would get lost among the hyphens and just lump me in with a typical “African American” woman, whatever that means. I constantly have to defend myself, which is something distinct, new and unsettling for me. Hopefully it gets better, but I doubt it. The shock still hasn’t worn off and I don’t think it ever will. The one stability that I have in grad school is that it is constantly a challenge, constantly stressful and therefore an accepted part of my crappy student life.