Following the success of Jen Doyle’s post about a week in the life of a PhD student, Waterloo English PhD candidate Phil Miletic if he might write a “week in the life” post. Thanks to Phil (and all who participated–see below!) for contributing to Words in Place. –JLH
When I was asked to write about a week in the life of a grad student, I thought of a couple of different approaches to the subject. I thought to map out last week or the week before or the week ahead in some form or another. But it all seemed to me to be solipsistic rambling and kinda boring for people to read (I read a lot one week and only stepped out of my apartment to attend classes or go grocery shopping). I knew I only had to write about a week, so I could’ve written about a very busy and exciting week I had experienced in the past. But that didn’t seem right. I thought to myself, What is a typical week for me like and what may be something nearly consistent each week?
And I remembered what someone had once said to me a while back when I was doing my MA: grad school can be either be done alone or with others. And I fall in the latter camp because I would slightly go crazy and perhaps lapse into insecurity if I didn’t keep up some form of social activity each week. And that’s it: my typical week of being a grad student is always a collaborative process, whether it be discussion in class, small talk before class begins or in the tunnels on the way to grab coffee, conversations over a pint, or long rambling rants in the office or off-campus somewhere. The people around me shape my ideas, arguments, thoughts and experience of grad school each week. And although we may retreat into our apartments/houses at times, it’s still the small interactions that matter, that help us get through the week. As a friend pointed out, I’m all about the small details, the quotidian interactions.
So I asked a couple of fellow grad students (not all from UW) to write a collaborative post by contributing a sentence or two or three (I got lenient near the end) to describe what they feel is a week in the life of a grad student. I then took those sentences and strung them together with a slight editorial hand to give you what a week in the life of a grad student is like. And if you feel like the following feels like more than one week and is contradictory, well that’s how a week in the life of a grad student feels: it’s both short and very long, it’s exciting and anxiety-inducing, it’s fun and frustrating, and sometimes a day feels like a week in itself. Enjoy!
(Thanks Jeremy, Elise, Jesse, Rose, Dan, Eric, Anne, Amna, and everyone else that contributed anonymously, you know who you are. Thanks!)
Monday: Consistently failing to fail better. Tuesday: I try to convince myself to read, and even though I enjoy what I’m reading it takes me a few hours of fiddling around on a computer in the morning before I crack open my notebook (repeat x7 forever). I write 500 or so dissertation words everyday. After I have accomplished that, it’s a combination of learning bizarre French expressions on duolingo, researching, socializing with other grad students, and spending time with family. Wednesday: I will consider sleeping and eating or at least look up the words in the OED. Thursday: Every week feels like a star collapsing into itself and nobody is watching. Spend all daylight hours doing everything but grad student work; wonder about why I am a grad student. Sit down at 10pm and do grad student work until 3am; stumble into bed for a few hours of sleep and remember why I wanted to do grad studies in the first place. Friday: Six and a half days of feigning familiarity with arcane isms and solemnly nodding to pronouncements made by noted representatives of various esoteric disciplines, half a day drinking bad pilsner and watching Netflix. Wonder how I got to into grad school because everybody is so much smarter than me. Then I realize that everybody is probably thinking the same thing and I just spaced out by accident in class. Saturday: Each week is a chance to tackle the giant and ever-expanding to-do list, which requires constant self-pep-talks and happy, frantic sticky notes everywhere: “RETURN LIBRARY BOOKS!” “You can do this.” “printer ink wine potatoes.” Sunday: The double A factor: ambition and anxiety. In classes, I recognize the ambition in the engaging discussions, analyzing intertextual references or the dark circles from lack of sleep due to reading late into the night. But where ambition lurks, so does her friend anxiety. Stress at the graduate level of academia is a given. What remains is how one deals with that stress. The peer community here is a tight knit and supportive bunch, the perfect remedy to keep anxiety from swallowing you whole, contributing both to one’s academic success and personal sanity.