Hi everyone. I am in a rough situation and need some advice.
I have had a very unconventional journey to grad school. Let me begin by explaining that I am an older student (not over 35, but older than the undergrad crowd), before coming to grad school I lived with my fiancé in a wonderful city on the West Coast. I was accepted to grad school with a year left in my undergrad program (accepted in April 2015, graduated undergrad the following March 2016). My PIs had another student who dropped out at the last minute; they freaked and sent emails to all of their colleagues trying to get a new student. One of my professors received the email, forwarded it to me, and on a whim (completely without thought, I might add. I believe why attitude was “why not?”) I applied just to see what would happen. Well, they accepted me as a PhD student with full funding. The plan is that I spend the academic years at University of X (a state school, not prestigious or rigorous in any way) working with PI1, and the summers conducting research at Institute X (not a university, but a prestigious research institution) with PI2. I accepted for three reasons 1.) full funding is hard to turn down, 2.) I didn’t want to take the GRE (still haven’t, it was waived), and 3.) I was scared I wouldn’t get in anywhere else (this is irrational, I know).
I am also interested in the research project that I am on. Or at least I thought I was. I’ve been working on this project for 4 months now (I started in May) and I am already growing weary. I’m learning that what I thought I was coming here to study is not in fact what I’m supposed to be studying. In addition, I am the only student studying subject Z in a school for studying UVXY(and sometimes Z), which is very lonely. All of my peers are studying U, V, X, and Y; their offices are close by and they seem to get along. Many of them also went to undergrad together. I am isolated to a different building. I have no friends here and am isolated in my studies.
My PIs never mislead me, I think I misinterpreted the situation, and now I think I’m at the wrong grad school.
School has only been in session for three weeks, but I am finding myself falling into a depression. My friends/family keep telling me it’s homesickness or culture shock (grew up on the West Coast, now on the East Coast), but I’m not convinced.
I am normally a top student. I had a 3.9 in my undergrad, I have the NSF, etc, etc, the usual list of accolades for top students… Because of this funk I’m in, I’ve started to become academically destructive. I haven’t been turning in homework, I’ve been cutting classes, not doing the reading, not participating in discussions/demonstrations. In addition, I have no interested at all in conducting my research. I can’t even remember what excited me about this field in the first place. I have never felt more lost or depressed in my life.
I have been secretly looking at other programs that might be a better fit for me. The Z community is very small, and I don’t want to email any other potential PIs because I’m worried that it might get back to my current PIs. I know I need to talk to my PI at some point, but she’s so kind and generous; I really don’t want to disappoint her, but if I stay here I don’t think that I’ll be the stellar student that I use to be.
What should I do? Should I just tell my PI about my unhappiness and continue with my exit strategy?