9 Ways I Know that I’m in Grad School [OPINION]

Every week, Guru publishes an opinion article: rants, personal stories, reviews or art/photos. Today, it is new graduate student Kyle Pastor to share some insight on the student life. Want to share your opinion? All are welcome! Please leave your comments for Kyle at the end of the article. So it finally happened! I completed my undergrad in Physics and now I am off to the wonderful world of graduate school. What is this mystical adventure like you ask? Come with me as I guide you through a typical day in my new and exciting life! #1. I have my own place. I wake up in my own bed, in my own apartment and brew my own coffee. Man, this is the sweet life. No constraints and no rules – living totally independent is awesome. I take a shower, open my dresser and realize that I have no clean clothes. But that’s ok, independence means doing my own laundry and groceries… and bills… but not today because I have more important work to do…

Image from Premshree via flickr
Image from Premshree via flickr

#2. I have building keys. After a short walk I arrive at my building. Looks like it’s locked and all these people can’t get in. Well guess what? I’m the boss, and I got my own keys for this baby. I have the power to let you in, but I probably shouldn’t because some of these people look kind of dicey and off-putting. You know what this means: hide the keys from sight till you get next to the door and very discretely open and close it leaving no room for the others, then quickly scurry away under their looks of resentment…OHHH YEAAA! I feel tired now. #3. I have my own coffee machine in my office. If the keys didn’t make you believe in your elevated status, a coffee machine in your office does. Oh sure, any old goon can have an office, but only the cream of the crop have appliances. Except for microwaves – because that would be a fire hazard. Let’s fire this baby up. Next step? Take the pot and fill it with water from the nearest bathroom. Danktastic! #4. I am not special. Mmmmmmm, that was some good coffee, but now it’s time for class. So here I am, top of my undergrad class listening to the lecture with my fellow grad students. Professor Bilson asks a particularly difficult question. Obviously not meant to really be answered, but I see many a hand go up. By the end of the lecture I have learned only one thing. #5. My supervisor is never in the country. The Pizza EquationWow that was a depressing realization. Time to check the email. Oh, it looks like my supervisor rescheduled our meeting because they are… “Going to be doing a five country tour workshop about advanced methods for blah blah (but you should know all this by now ;D). I’ll be gone for about 6 months but we will figure something out when I pop in. Sent from my iPhone.” So… that’s cool I guess, I am a good independent learner, and they gave me some papers to read. What’s this? Looks like I got a new email from my supervisor: “Hey, just got back for the day and I’m in my office for 20 minutes so we can go over everything you have done this year. Thanks. Sent from my iPhone”. #6. I nod constantly when I talk to my supervisor. I dash to meet with my supervisor and discuss those papers I was supposed to read. What ensues I would call a somewhat “Charlie Brown” like reality. The only saving grace is my constant head nodding in which I am really saying:

    a) I do not understand anything you have said.
    b) I will look up every term you have said on Wikipedia after this meeting.
    c) Yes, I regret some very important life decisions I have made.

#7. Nobody understands what I am doing (including me). A wild grad student appears. I use “talk about research”. It’s super-effective. The other grad student walks away scratching their neck beard. I now feel smug, then realize I should buckle down and get onto understanding my research. #8. Appearing as a Demi-God to undergraduates. As I sit down I hear a faint knock on the door. What could that be? Other graduate students have keys, as do the janitors and staff. Such a whimper of a knock could only come from an undergraduate that I teach. I open the door with a commanding swing. The undergrad says “Is Mr. So-and-So here?” “Mr”…. That. Is. Power. I reply “I am HE, what is it you want!?” They describe a problem so simple, so laughable, so benign that even a fairly evolved high school teacher could solve it…until I realize I forgot everything I learned in first year and cannot give this man-child an answer. There is only ONE option. I reply, “Well you see boy, I cannot just hand you the answer, re-read the chapter and I am sure you will find the path to enlightenment.” *Shuts Door* Well – would you look at the time! It’s nearly the end of the day and what have I accomplished? In short, nothing. In long, nothing really. I mean, sure, I could go home and work on some of my project outside of the office, however what I would rather do is… #9. Procrastinate. And write this article…

Article by Kyle Pastor

March 16, 2012

I received my bachelors in Physics from McMaster University and am currently working toward my Master's in theoretical polymer physics. I have always been interested in writing but never had a good forum to do so until Guru. Follow me on twitter @KAPastor and check out my website: kylepastor.com.

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