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How do PhD students usually spend their summers?

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I'm on a 9 month stipend in a Developmental Psychology PhD program which means I'm technically not paid in the summer. How have others in similar situations spent their summers? Is it typically a more relaxed time? Will I have an opportunity to go home and visit family?

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I'm in my 1st summer of a clinical program. I think it may depend on your research lab. My advisor is having us work remotely on individual summer goals we've discussed with her. We will mostly have check ins via email but may have an occasional in person lab meeting if necessary and we have some in person data collection dates. A few people I know got summer jobs to be able to make some extra cash.

TLDR: it seems to be less intense than the normal semesters but you may still have a few responsibilities. 

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Posted (edited)

I'm planning on using my first summer to improve my foreign languages, do a bit of relaxing with family visits, and planning research trips for year 2 and 3. Luckily, I have summer funding in addition to my stipend so I can afford to do a bit more my first summer. I think it comes down your workload and what you want to accomplish outside of the chaos of the semester.

Edited by Tigla

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The first few years, they don't usually end up doing much, although they talk a good game. The last few years, they're working frantically but not very productively on the dissertation. The last summer, they're working frantically and productively to meet the final deadline.

Things are a little different--and a little more productive--if you in disciplines with labwork and fieldwork. Summers are for fieldwork, and watching the algae bloom in the lab.

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I'm about to head into my first year and this will be the first summer I've had in years (co-oped in the summer for undergrad). Probably going to start reading a couple papers a week and just stashing the bibliography somewhere with notes. Other than that, probably going to spend more time in the gym and play video games. If I were you, I would take some time to relax since who knows when you'll be able to have the summer to yourself again. 

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Okay good, these replies are making me feel a lot better because I read on some other question and answer sites that professors got mad when grad students took off a few days (!) in the summer to see family, and I was really counting on summer to be able to see my family and participate in family vacation. I completely expect to have to work independently on research stuff during the summer, but it seems like a bit much to expect grad students to be in the lab 24/7 when they're not even getting paid...

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18 hours ago, ResilientDreams said:

Okay good, these replies are making me feel a lot better because I read on some other question and answer sites that professors got mad when grad students took off a few days (!) in the summer to see family, and I was really counting on summer to be able to see my family and participate in family vacation. I completely expect to have to work independently on research stuff during the summer, but it seems like a bit much to expect grad students to be in the lab 24/7 when they're not even getting paid...

Haha absolutely not. I am getting married this summer and going on a 10 day honeymoon. Professors (for the most part), understand. I guess there may be some who are against free time, but I think those are the extremes. 

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If one is going to take time off, maybe figure out ways to square the circle--a mix of days of doing what ever one wants with zero studying and days of spending less than x hours of studying and thinking. Even casual conversations provide opportunities for critical thinking -- can you find ways to answer the question "How's school?" that would neither bore the asker nor disappoint a professor?

If one has concerns about how the Powers That Be will regard one's plans for the summer, I would ask professors questions along the lines of "Here's my plan to work my butt off during the summer...do you have any suggestions on how I might improve it?" 

If Professor Xavier says "Make sure you take some time off for yourself" then consider taking time off for yourself. If Professor Logan shreds your plan (see what I did there?) and/or goes on and on about how hard he worked, then amend your plans accordingly.

FWIW, I would advise against the frame of mind that you're not getting paid during the summer. If the terms of your stipend/fellowship include summer library use, tuition remission, and other benefits/amenities of your school, you are being compensated. And even if you're not, you are likely being held to a constellation of expectations centered around your professional development. Yes, many of these expectations are based upon gendered, cultural, and social assumptions that are unsustainable. However, until one's in a position to change the rules of the road, one should do one's best to drive by those rules.

MOO, we're all competing against two people. The first competitor is the person we see in the mirror. What are we willing to do to maximize our potential? 

The second competitor is the person who gets the fellowships, grants, and jobs we want. What is that person doing right now?  How does she balance the trade offs between her personal life and her intellectual growth? How does your best version of you stack up to her?

 

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On 5/16/2019 at 7:48 PM, ResilientDreams said:

I'm on a 9 month stipend in a Developmental Psychology PhD program which means I'm technically not paid in the summer. How have others in similar situations spent their summers? Is it typically a more relaxed time? Will I have an opportunity to go home and visit family?

Different programs have different expectations. In my program, I wasn't paid summers but was expected to do archival research. That meant that I needed to apply for research grants all over the place. (Of course, I planned a vacay with the family in between...)

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