Dispatches from the Grad Interviews Abyss

The only reason I’m ever happy to fly with United: access to Fraiche’s froyo in the airport terminal.

… I went a little MIA there. I’m now a little less than halfway through my grad school interview circuit. Two down, three (and potentially more) to go!

I’ll confess that I’d approached this whole “visiting weekend” thing with a total opportunist/cheap Asian/aspiring jetsetter’s enthusiasm. An expenses-paid trip across the country? Sign me up! The reality, however, is that:

I am not flying to glamorous places. My god, why can’t these graduate programs be in more appealing locations? Who wants to live in a college town in Middle-of-Fucking-Nowhere, USA? Don’t even get me started on how I’m feeling about leaving San Francisco. I’ve now basically seen the rest of America and it blows. I’ve been so very spoiled by California. I say this with complete honesty: the thought of moving makes me question how badly I want this Ph.D.

Being in transit for 8+ hours at a time is so exhausting and uncomfortable. During my last trip, I was seated between between two very beefy men, one of whom I’m 99% sure was a juggalo trying to pass as a normal human being. I was clued in by the Insane Clown Posse tattoos.

It is super disruptive to be traveling every weekend. Next month, I’m spoken for every Thursday through Saturday/Sunday. When I am home, I’m working like a dog and trying to squeeze in time with family and friends. It’s been difficult to maintain healthy habits, like eating well and exercising and not being stressed.

It is very expensive. Although most of these programs are reimbursing me for (at least some of) my travel expenses and food costs, I’m inevitably spending gobs of money throughout the course of these trips. I’m also losing income since I’m not working and using paid leave while I’m out of the office.

The food is not that great. I wanted to sample different regional cuisines, but program catering is usually limited to Costco finger sandwiches and potato chips. I usually don’t even get the chance to explore cities (restaurants and otherwise) on my own, since my schedule is usually packed with recruitment activities.

Yup… these are definitely not the fabulous vacations I’d envisioned at the beginning of the year.

Nonetheless, having complained a whole lot, I’ll acknowledge this is a really crazy exciting time for me. It is absolutely insane and flattering to think that schools want me. What’s more, they’re giving me money to make myself smarter. What a position to be in! I get to study what I want (for free), add three letters after my name, and become the Boss Lady I’ve always wanted to be. God help me if my parents aren’t proud of me at the end of it all.

A Ph.D., however, is not without its downsides. I’ll have to sacrifice a number of things for a few years: living in an amazing city, having a disposable income, being around family and friends… And, as has been well-documented, academia often doesn’t pay off. I’ve been doing plenty of thinking — both assessing/reassessing my goals and gaining perspective from other people who’ve trodden this same road. I’m trying to pay close attention to my motives and emotions in this process. This article was particularly helpful in elucidating the need for achievement; I’d recommend it to anyone considering graduate education or, really, any type of professional development. This is all part of a continuing conversation I’m having with myself.

In any case… onward I go. I’m off to the East Coast for the third weekend in a row. This time, I’m making sure I’ll be eating well.


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