Author’s note: this was written on September 5th, so information may be slightly out of date. I’m probably still feeling pretty much the same, however, since this is being published a good 6 days before even the first Week of Welcome activity. Eh.
So, for anyone who doesn’t read the author bio on this blog, I’m currently a graduate student.
Oh, wait, what’s that? My author bio doesn’t say anything about that? Well, crap. You’re right. And just to prove how much of a liar I am, I’m not even a graduate student. Good lord, I just keep digging myself deeper into this pit of lies.
Let me make an amendment. I’m not a graduate student YET. Not for another 11 days, when my program starts.
And I haven’t felt this lost in a while.
Ah, you ask, now hanging on my every word (and probably searching for more opportunities to point out my lies), but why are you lost? The program hasn’t even started yet! And you mentioned something about a Welcome Week up there in the italics at the top of this post, so they probably tell you everything you need to know and more!
Yes, oh unseen and mostly imaginary audience, this may be true. And I hope that it’s true, as it would mean that many of my fears are unfounded and can vanish back into my closet. But right now, I know next to nothing, and this makes me fear that I’m forgetting about everything.
Case number one: finances. Now, according to some lovely letters on fancy official school stationary, I have been given a stipend of $26k per year. Woo! That’s more money than I made at my previous job, by lots! I should be able to afford to cover my bed in money and then roll around in it, without the indignity of finding coins lodged in awkward crevices later!
Now, however, I’m not so sure. From what I seem to be seeing online, that money is given to me before tuition. And I have to pay tuition. Not only do I have to pay tuition, but tuition seems to be somewhere between $20,000 and $48,000 per year.
Wait a minute! How can I be getting 26k but paying out 20k or greater? Given that my rent for the year is 500/month (which appears to be one of the cheaper options in my city of college residence), this means that, even in the best case scenario, I barely have enough to pay for my apartment. And I cannot eat my apartment.
(Other issue: apparently I don’t get my financial reimbursements until November. Kind of a long time to wait, don’t you think, university? Don’t you??)
Even if money was my only concern at the moment, that wouldn’t be too bad. Talk to financial office, eat cheap foods, consider second job, consider selling organs, etc. Plenty of solutions. But even that’s not my top problem (although it’s a close second).
No, as a graduate student, my number one priority is finding a lab to do research with. A lab that preferably A) is aligned with my interests, B) that has funding/space for me, and C) that has a professor I get along with. Mostly in that order. Now, I have a decent idea of what I want to research. But finding a lab that seems to match up with this is already proving to be a nightmare, and this is before I’ve even tried contacting them to see if they have funding or space.
On one hand, I’ve been reading online that it’s best to try and set up rotations before school starts. On the other hand, there are also plenty of people who did not set up their rotations before school starts. Now, I’m hearing about them on sites where they are lamenting the fact that they didn’t do this earlier, but they’re still around, right? They made it, didn’t they? It can’t be that bad.
I’d talk to my graduate mentors about this, but they are out of town for the next week. I’d talk to my assigned professor about this, but I don’t have one yet. Internet audience, can you see why I’m stuck?
Right now, I’m just going to try and read as much as I can about graduate school, read up on professors, and hope that some of this gets clearer. Because, sadly, there isn’t much that I can do.
And that drives me crazy.