Today’s Globe and Mail has a special section called “Report on Campus Research” (sadly the section isn’t available on-line)– it’s basically a look at what’s happening at Canadian universities (but of course, the cynic in me can’t help but presume it is an opportunity to sell advertising spots to cash strapped institutions of higher learning). There are some interesting tidbits contained within — but the article I wanted to draw your attention to is one called ‘Cold Pizza, destitution and your dream’ by Jennifer Gardy (apparently known as ‘Nerd Girl’ in the Globe and Mail’s blogosphere — read more here).
Gardy lays out life as a grad student right from the start. “Most people, upon receiving their Bachelors degree, would not rank “earn a pathetic amount of money, ride endlessly alternating crests and troughs of hope and despair, and subsist primarily on pizza, cookies and watery coffee” high on their list of short-term goals. Remarkably, however, tens of thousands of Canadian graduates opt to do this every year and enroll in graduate studies.”
Tah dah! We are not alone! Her article isn’t just a gripe-fest about being a grad student. But what she does do is lay out some nice clean realities about life in grad school. She’s pretty upfront about the fact that one has to go in to graduate school with “reasonable expectations.” “And by reasonable,” writes Gardy, “I, of course, mean drastically lowered.” She talks about how little we grad students earn (average is about $21,000 — less if you’re an M.A), and how it’s about $2K less than you make on Employment Insurance.
She also writes eloquently about the challenges of time-management — about the problem of devoting enough time to your research project, all while juggling teaching and meetings and etc. Gardy stresses the importance of setting a “plan for the day, a plan for the week, and a plan for the month,” which she says is the simplest way for staying on-track. Done! (right?).
But she also writes – rightly – that including time at the pub with friends and colleagues is key to the graduate school experience, too.
The article is worth checking out. She makes some good points about the importance of being able to communicate your ideas and research — and says things I agree with about avoiding “eight levels of bullet points” in your PowerPoint presentations… and reminds us that if your relationship with your supervisor isn’t a great one, it’s ok to move on.
Nice to see ourselves reflected in the mainstream media, no?