Nomadic Thoughts is a blog with a mission: “to document the thoughts and experiences of a new graduate student.” And today Will is off on that journey:

The long-awaited weekend has finally arrived. After months of researching, planning, testing, applying, and accepting I’m finally off to graduate school in the morning. I feel now what I think I should have felt before I left for freshman year of undergraduate: anticipation for something bigger coupled with just enough nervousness to keep me excited about the whole thing.

I wish Will the best of luck, and I look forward to following his adventures through grad school. Although not so much the crushing disappointment part…

To be fair, Will seems quite well aware of the realities of post-graduate education. But still, the transition to grad school was tough for me, as it was for most of the people I know (although some now deny it), hopefully having some support from the blogsphere will help!

I’d also like to point out another new anthropology blog, Its All Just A Ride, by John, an anthro undergrad with an interest in “religion and political economy in East Asia” (as he told me by e-mail). John is starting his senior year. Maybe he’ll soon blogging about graduate school as well?

Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you started graduate school? Or when you began applying for graduate schools?

6 thoughts on “Anticipation

  1. Advice for a New Grad Student

    1) Nobody will help you learn how to teach. Take any opportunity you can to get in front of a classroom, an audience, a gang of drunken misfits, whoever.

    2) Get it in writing. Granted, my department fell apart in slow, painful steps over the course of my graduate education, so was probably more traumatic than most people’s will be, but just in case, make sure you get written commitments for anything which, in failing to occur, might stand in the way of you completing your degree.

    3) Write syllabi. They’re going to want to see some when you apply for jobs, and if you haven’t taught yet, you’re going to be asking yourself how to do this. I took an independent study where we decided that my final paper would be a syllabus for a class on my chosen subject — that’s one way to deal with this.

    4) Save everything you ever write. I just managed to save myself a couple day’s work on my dissertation when I found a short essay I had written 5 years ago that I could use, word for word.

    5) This is tough, but… be careful with relationships. Remember, you’re very likely going away for a year after you do your coursework — few relationships can withstand this. Heck, few relationships can handle the 20-hour-a-day work-and-class-and-research fast burn that we need to be in from time to time. If your partner is an academic, s/he may understand — but s/he’ll be under tthe same pressure, which makes it twice as bad.

    6) You will learn more from your fellow students than from your professors.

    7) Learn how to read 20% of a book. This is a lesson I learned when I looked down at the syllabus and realized that we were reading EP Thompson’s “Rise of the English Working Class” for the next session. Plus 4 secondary source articles. The book’s 800+ pages. You can’t read it in a week. Really. You will read roughly a book a week, per class — learn to get at the books’ content without dwelling.

    8) There is no number 8.

    9) Network, network, network. As awful as this is, learn to recognize who can help you and who cannot. I spent 2 years building strong relationships with adjuncts and visiting profs and post-docs — and then had to build a committee. None of those people could be on my committee.

    10) Build ties outside of your department. This should be 9a, actually. But I wanted an even 10 — it looks so Mosaic.

  2. Thanks, Kerim, I always like hearing from those that have been there.

    Oneman, I’m not sure if I should thank you for the advice or drop out of graduate school before I start. Only kidding…like I mentioned in my post, I’m pretty aware of the ups and downs of graduate school and that I’ll be learning quite a bit outside of the classroom as well (the good, the bad, and the ugly). In a way, I am a wide-eyed freshman all over again, anxious to get down and dirty (literally). So I’ll take your advice with much appreciation, except for number five;)

  3. Here’s my advice. Stick to your guns if you’re passionate about your research topic and your initial choice for a supervisor isn’t into it. Either convince them or change supervisors. It’s *your* degree; not theirs.

  4. Well.. I have a piece of advice for everyone who is teaching: Give your undergrad students the opportunity to experience teaching (by making them prepare and then moderate a whole session themselves) as often as your syllables and seminar timetables allow you to. Once having experienced to sit at “the other side of the desk” your students` perception of any future classroom situation will be fundamentally changed.
    This has advantages in at least three regards. First it takes positive impact on students` participation in future seminars: They prepare better in advance and participate more lively in classroom discussions. Second, you are given the chance to check whether teaching is your métier at all in time and not, when others already are dependant on your teaching skills which leads to obvious third advantage: You already have teaching experience you can rely on, when you enter graduate school. You already know, holding a monodirectional lecture might sometimes be much easier than getting a discussion going.

    Congrats, Will & all the best!

  5. You may not need this advice at all, and it’s the kind of thing that applies everywhere, but it sometimes gets short shrift, I think, in grad school. My advice is: be nice to your fellow grad students. People really remember who was consistently fair and kind and who was not, even if grad school doesn’t always seem to inculcate those values. The competitions you have while *in* grad school are not decided by your fellow students: they are decided by faculty, granting agencies, and institutions to which you will eventually apply for jobs and postdocs. This means that in the short run, turning your competitive energies on your fellow grad students does you no good and that in the long run, the colleagues who review your work and support (or don’t) your articles/grant proposals/career moves and, ultimately, your aspirations and your reputation will include many of your former grad school peers.

    Anyway, aside from the strategic value of being nice, it is likely to make you happy in the short and the long term. But like I said, you probably already know this!

  6. I never answered my own question.

    1. The most important person in the department is the administrative assistant. Even your advisor needs to go through him or her to get anything done! Like Ozma said: be nice!

    2. Do preliminary research. Your grant writing will be better for it, and you will also be able to better plan your path through grad school if you know what your field site will be. (And, if you are doing work in another language, start working on those language skills now.)

    3. Publish early and often.

    4. Don’t ever feel locked in. If you think something is wrong (wrong program, wrong advisor, wrong dissertation subject, wrong field, etc.) it is never too late to change!


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