As my loyal readers know, I am currently participating in graduate program. When I began said program, I had hoped to use this blogging space to discuss the things I am learning and thinking about, as well as some of the ways I have figured out to read better, write better, or work better (also known as the gradhacking posts). After recent events in my journey to the Phd, I thought it would be good to have a subset of those gradhacking posts to tackle what I am dubbing “The Festival of Awkward.”
Why the Festival of Awkward? I am glad you asked. So far in my first year of graduate school I have been required to complete a variety of tasks that each and of themselves are incredibly awkward social situations, especially when a person is also trying to navigate the culture and nuances of the institution, school, and department. Some of these requirements involved the following skill set:
- the ability to talk to strangers
- the ability to be judged by strangers
- the ability to not care when strangers don’t want to work with you
- when that happens, the ability to talk to even more strangers
- the ability to locate forms that are not in obvious locations on websites
- the ability to read and understand how one is to fill out said forms.
- the ability to return to people who are barely more than strangers, take up their time to help you fill out said forms, and to have them sign them (actually, I might need a whole separate gradhack category JUST for forms).
- the ability to navigate complex social networks with very little understanding of most of the context of those social networks
While this is not a completely comprehensive list, it is illustrative enough for you to get my point. All of these things are awkward as hell. At first I thought it was just me, but after informally and unscientifically polling my peers both in and out of my program, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not, in fact, just me. I am pretty convinced that the good subset of student/faculty interactions are a festival of awkward from the perspective of the student. I want to reiterate that I am describing my own view of tiny moments in the grand scheme, and the awkward title is in no way a reflection of the kind, brilliant, and generous people who take crazy amounts of time to mentor and teach me. It is a reflection of, in my opinion, how weird any type of social interaction that is mandated by a handbook will inevitably be, especially when all parties in said interaction are not equal in status.
To that end, I will be blogging about some of these milestone moments as I experience them in my own program in the hopes that they can be of help to others. I would love to hear about your own as well, along with how my experience has differed from yours. I also like to think of this series as the baby book of my graduate program. First words, favorite foods, learning to use the SPSS, etc.
My first post will roll out tomorrow: my first meeting with my program committee.