Ángela Castro's picture

Being A Ph.D. Student at the U of M Part I

To talk about something while you are still in it can be a little bit problematic. But I, a second year Ph.D. student, want to give you some insights using simple words and not the jargon that we tend to write when we describe our field or what we do. I decided to write about this topic because I have faced some situations that I now understand, which I was not previously familiar with before becoming a grad student. The articles I found online written by academics tended to be informative, although subjective because not every single experience of a grad student will end up with the same story. I read things such as why not to go to grad school. The first thing I read about is the precarious amount of money grad students make while being in grad school and so forth. I also heard and read comments about how the students look like zombies, lack sleep, have no extra peaceful time, no decent social life and.. not to mention, a tough job market they're getting into.

Photo by Vee O. Unsplash.com


Today I will reflect upon the first issue: the monetary precariousness. A lot of people ask me how to survive economically during the years that it takes to get a Ph.D. All I can say is that we get paid a stipend that might not be the salary of a banker, economist or engineer, but will help you to get through the school year. In conclusion: yes, you can survive. The income will come in the future, even though, some of us won't immediately get the tenure track position in Harvard University, Columbia or Princeton (to mention some Ivy League universities) as some of us want, but we will find a job. I’m positive about that. According to Brain Track, the US has over 7,000 higher education institutions. So how could every single institution reject your C.V? Of course, being a good student is not enough to get a job; personality counts, teaching counts and a bit of luck is part of the big step.

For those who decide to work in something different, I think it is a unique choice because I imagine they enjoy it. They might have an enviable and a better income than a grad student. I also believe that grad students decide to go to graduate school because they also love being there (at least I do). I believe that even if my colleagues and I complain occasionally about the issues I mentioned before, we also laugh and see the great opportunity that we’re in. It feels splendid going to conferences in remote places that have different cultures, people, and even flavors. We enjoy the free theory talk that we can generate every day, the readings that we can do (some hard but enriching) and the endless conversations with your colleagues, the daily learning process, the teaching opportunities, the writing and so on. This is our life, so I do defend it. I’m a proud Ph.D. student.




                                    Angela https://twitter.com/AngelaPCastro