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Charlie Moon

How do you process it

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I just got my offer for a Ph.D program. I will accept.

My life is now "stuck" in a city, in a foreign country, and I will spend 5 years minimum there, on a low stipend. I will come out of there being 30, most likely broke and with a phd that is fascinating but does not guarantee employment at all.

How do you process it ? 

I am deeply in love with the school and the program, but I find all of this very daunting and there are moments when I feel like saying no because I am scared.

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Maybe not the answer you were looking for, but I dealt with it by not going straight into a PhD program out of undergrad. I was terrified by the sacrifices an academic career contained and knew that I would be always thinking about what if I had gone straight to industry. 

Now that I've spent a few years in industry and am a few months into my PhD, I know what's out there and I know that even though a PhD program requires compromise, this is something I am willing to make. 

Something that might help: tons of people change careers in their 20s and 30s, so coming out of school aged 30 won't actually be unusual compared to peers who got jobs straight away. You can usually find other ways to earn money on the side, especially tutoring or proofreading essays (as long as it doesn't impede your PhD). You're not guaranteed employment with a PhD, but you're also not guaranteed employment in five years time in any job - you can be fired at any moment. You're getting the chance to get paid to learn about something you love, which isn't necessarily something you can always ensure in a professional job. 

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Thanks for your answer ! 

I have a masters degree already so I know what I'm going towards and I am sure I will like it. It's just thinking about it as a whole is scary.

You insights on jobs are interesting, you are 100% that getting paid to learn is amazing (even if its low pay and I won't be able to make more because of visa work laws :/)

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First off, congratulations on your admission!  You totally won the waitlist game.  Long distance high-5. :)

 

I'll be coming out with my PhD when I'm either 39 or 40.  38 if I'm very, very lucky/speedy. This is clearly my second career.  I agree with lemma - graduating at 30 is not "old."  You can reasonably expect to live until you're 80.  You spent the first 20 years of your life being a child with little-to-know ability to affect your life.  So of the 60 remaining years, you're spending 10 getting a higher education.  That sounds pretty good to me.


So, you deal with it by living life.  Your PhD is not your entire life - you also will have friends, families, relationships, goals, ambitions, and so forth that have NOTHING to do with your PhD.  Your goal during your program (besides, you know, finishing) is to figure out what it takes to get a job.  You have 5 years to do that.  I think I could do pretty much anything if I put my mind to it for 5 years.  Learn Chinese? Sure.  Figure out a Senate run?  No problem.  Become a professional violinist?  With enough dedication, sure.  All you have to do is figure out how to get a job...and you'll be literally surrounded by people who have already been there, knows what it takes, and it is their job to help you achieve that goal.

You got this!  Use the resources you'll have at your university, make connections at other universities (especially in your home country, if that's where you want to end up), and - most importantly - remember to live your life.

The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself.

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I process it simply by thinking about what I want in life and how my PhD will get me there. Not even career specifics like professor or industry scientist. I just think about the general goals I want in my career; to be somewhat of my own boss, to do something I love, to have new concepts/ideas to work with on a semi-regular basis, and to have time for a significant other/family. All the careers I want that satisfy those criteria require a PhD. So I just look at it the same way I looked at my undergrad; a necessary part in reaching my goals in life.  

I will be completely honest and say that as someone who is finishing up their 1st year in a PhD, the first year is fairly difficult. There is a lot of adjustment, mentally, financially, academically, etc. However, most programs are aware of this and most PIs will check in on you throughout your first year to see how things are going. But you do get used to it and find ways to cope, such as making friends in your cohort or going out with your lab mates.

I'm a first gen/low income student, so I was always poor, and staying poor wasn't a difficult shift for me (albeit frustrating sometimes when you want to do something nice for your significant other). But you aren't actually as poor everyone makes it out to be. I'm somehow slightly better paid in grad school than I was as an undergrad with a nearly full time job at minimum wage. 

My best advice is to be honest with yourself and your reasons for doing the PhD. I've seen graduate students drop out of various programs and almost all of them said something along the lines of "I just did not have it in me to continue BECAUSE it wasn't worth it". Meaning that if there isn't a small part of you, deeeeeeep down inside that just LIVES to be in lab and do the research you love, you won't make it through the PhD. That being said, if you have that small part, you'll be okay. If you can trust yourself and know who you are/what you're about, you'll make everything out of your PhD program and you'll kill it in post-doc/whatever you go on to do afterwards. 

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7 hours ago, E-P said:

  Your goal during your program (besides, you know, finishing) is to figure out what it takes to get a job.  You have 5 years to do that.  I think I could do pretty much anything if I put my mind to it for 5 years.  Learn Chinese? Sure.  Figure out a Senate run?  No problem.  Become a professional violinist?  With enough dedication, sure.  All you have to do is figure out how to get a job...and you'll be literally surrounded by people who have already been there, knows what it takes, and it is their job to help you achieve that goal.

You got this!  Use the resources you'll have at your university, make connections at other universities (especially in your home country, if that's where you want to end up), and - most importantly - remember to live your life.

The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself.

 

This a nice perspective! Thanks

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On 4/8/2018 at 12:15 AM, E-P said:

First off, congratulations on your admission!  You totally won the waitlist game.  Long distance high-5. :)

 

I'll be coming out with my PhD when I'm either 39 or 40.  38 if I'm very, very lucky/speedy. This is clearly my second career.  I agree with lemma - graduating at 30 is not "old."  You can reasonably expect to live until you're 80.  You spent the first 20 years of your life being a child with little-to-know ability to affect your life.  So of the 60 remaining years, you're spending 10 getting a higher education.  That sounds pretty good to me.


So, you deal with it by living life.  Your PhD is not your entire life - you also will have friends, families, relationships, goals, ambitions, and so forth that have NOTHING to do with your PhD.  Your goal during your program (besides, you know, finishing) is to figure out what it takes to get a job.  You have 5 years to do that.  I think I could do pretty much anything if I put my mind to it for 5 years.  Learn Chinese? Sure.  Figure out a Senate run?  No problem.  Become a professional violinist?  With enough dedication, sure.  All you have to do is figure out how to get a job...and you'll be literally surrounded by people who have already been there, knows what it takes, and it is their job to help you achieve that goal.

You got this!  Use the resources you'll have at your university, make connections at other universities (especially in your home country, if that's where you want to end up), and - most importantly - remember to live your life.

The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself.

Literally logged in just to upvote this. Totally agree with E-P as I’ll also be 41, 40 with my PhD if I’m lucky/speedy. ? it is true that lots of people are changing careers in midlife - and many without the opportunity (for various reasons) to chase after what they really are meant to do. So go for it! I think it will actually pass a lot quicker than we all think. 

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