One semester down, 11(+/-3) to go…

On the day the first snow arrived this winter, I wiggled into a glove box for the first time since my sophomore year. I was 19 then and 22 now. I am 2300 miles from home in a very, very cold place where I pay my own rent and car insurance.

I will finally finish my first semester of grad school in a week. It’s weird to think that I had just driven cross country to this cluster of red brick buildings in the middle of a corn field not too long ago. Today I did my first synthesis in grad school, which earned today a blog post of its own.

Here are some of my random thoughts and lesson learned from my first couple of months of grad school:

  1. The midwest: I was and probably always will be a Cali girl. But so far, the lack of a coastline, mountains,  or any civilization beyond the city limit really haven’t bothered me yet. I love the humidity in the summer and watching the leaves turn color.
  2. Classes: This semester, I took advanced group theory and a matsci class. I find these interesting but not very difficult (probably true: MS = More of the Same). Taking graduate-level courses in my senior year definitely helped. I probably didn’t spend nearly as much time on these as…
  3. Teaching! I teach an honors genchem course. I love my students (all 80 of them!… ok, most of them)  and it’s a ton of fun to teach. I like that I can be a teacher and a mentor, since most of them aspire to do something relating to chemistry. I also learned that I should never have children of my own. Why bother when I can have college-aged ones that I can return to their respective parents when I get sick of them?
  4. Research: We spent a lot of our first semester getting tours and meetings to decide whose research group we will be married to for the foreseeable future. I haven’t gotten to do a lot of work in lab yet, but so far I think what I saw in undergrad and a little bit of the post-bac life about grad school is rather accurate.
  5. Stipend: If I haven’t griped to you about this already, here it is– many of you know that I took a pretty significant pay cut (I get paid about 2/3 less now than my previous job) to go to grad school. The thing about not living in California though… I live very comfortably on my paycheck. If anyone is thinking about grad school, that should be a major consideration to make (cost of living vs stipend).

Take home lesson to those of you who are thinking about graduate school: observe grad students and ask questions. Do the math on your budget. There is more to it than the ranking. After all, you are putting 6 years of your early 20s on the table, wouldn’t you expect a little more from yourself in return?

Happy first synthesis day to myself. A glass of Livermore Valley merlot for the many more reactions to come and fires to put out.

Noel

3 Comments

  1. yay! i’m going to have my first column day here very shortly X(

  2. Before you start graduate school, you need to read A Novel And Efficient Synthesis of Cadaverine

    http://tinyurl.com/y9dglnf

  3. 6 years in USA vs 3 years in Australia. I know which one I would pick particularly considering the ridiculously small amounts of money earned in this period of time. Keep chugging along!

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