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First semester blues

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Tall Chai Latte


The first semester as a grad student has come and gone. Seeing another round of application season coming upon us just made me realize how fast time flies, I was just in these applicants' shoes last year!

Honestly, I didn't like my experience this semester at all. I followed the recommendation of our program director to sign up for 3 courses, without knowing that how much more work one graduate level course is compared to undergrad. Assignments are endless, literature reviews, discussions... These courses are tedious. Just yesterday I found out from my fellow classmates that they all know not to take two certain classes together (which are two of the three I was taking), apparently I didn't get the memo...

Classes aside, the main killer is the rotation experience itself. Coming into academia as a young grasshopper (compared to the profs, who have been in this business for the past 30 years), I was eager to make good impressions and demonstrate that I have what it takes to succeed, also very eager to meet the expectations of my rotation advisor. Just one week into the rotation, I realized I made a wrong decision -- and things didn't get better afterwards. I felt I was being used, and there was no mentoring at all. Although I was in research for a while prior to grad school, I was expected to perform at the level of postdocs as a rotation student, and good results were the only thing that mattered. Maybe this is all grad students are to their advisors? Just producing good results fast and help the advisors advancing their career? The politics behind science overwhelmed me, as course work took up a big portion of my week, I felt so burnt out and unmotivated. It was like a big reality check.

I'm writing this to vent, so I apologize if I complained too much. It seems ironic, I wanted to get in somewhere so bad last year around this time, now I feel like a quitter.

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Knowing what you do now, your second semester will be far smoother. Enjoy the break, don't worry too much about school and come back refreshed and ready to do well.

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Michigan is tough! But keep your chin up. Things DO get better as you go along, even if each semester is different in terms of workload. I really suggest that you try to take advantage of the support around the campus as all the resources are truly excellent and helpful.

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