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Regret! Was (this) grad school the right decision?


kjc

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I am a bit over 2 months into my PhD program and I can't seem to squash the feeling that this was the wrong decision. While my research topic is still exciting to me, and my advisor still seems like a decent fit, I am really not enjoying this school/program. 

The students are apathetic and not interested in forging new friendships (the new students are not apathetic but don't seem to want any new friends either). The program is scattered and unclear (and there is usually no one to answer questions, there is always someone to pass the buck to). Lastly, the graduate course offerings are very scant, so this quarter I took a class that I thought would be marginally relevant to my research, and it is not whatsoever. 

I'm not really sure what to think or do. Does anyone have any insight? 

 

 

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I think you should give it some more time before you do anything. I think a lot of people have some regrets when they choose one school over another, plus living in a new place and being in a new program can take time to get used to. Plus making friends isn't always easy as adults, and two months isn't a very long time!

I can also relate to scant graduate offerings. My masters program was a general biology program, so course offerings could be all over the board, from neuroscience to ecology, and there were typically about 5 courses offered each semester. Some semesters I got lucky and all the courses were awesome, during others I was glad I only had to take 6 credits, because the course offerings were terrible.

Your PhD program sounds a lot like mine! I'm in an interdisciplinary program that isn't really its own department... it's more like professors from a variety of departments advise students and we take courses in a bunch of other departments. It doesn't really have a home and there's no space set aside for us, unlike the majority of programs that have whole buildings devoted to them. At least I have a mailbox, but it's in a weird place. It's also a bit scattered at times... our director quit in October and no one will step up to be the interim director while the dean searches for a replacement, and our requirements are so loose. We have track sheets with appropriate coursework to take to meet graduation requirements, but it's not considered an exhaustive list and basically any courses within the partner departments will work. There's a lot of uncertainty, but also a lot of freedom and flexibility. I guess you need to have a certain personality to really be comfortable with it.

So I don't have a lot of advice. You might just be experiencing the graduate school version of buyer's remorse and you'll be ok in a little while. I recommend trying to find friends outside of your program if you can. You can't force you peers to be friends, but there are lots of people on campus who would probably love to get to know you. Join an intramural team, go to campus events, check out the local music scene... just get out there where there are people! I'm in a similar boat as you... I haven't made friends in my program yet because we haven't had any core courses so far this year and since we're interdisciplinary, everyone is taking classes all over the place and working with advisors in different departments. We do have an email list set up though! Maybe I'll make friends with them, maybe not. But there are lots of other people in my classes that I could befriend, plus a ton of other people I might meet just doing different things.

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On November 9, 2015 at 10:09:36 PM, shadowclaw said:

I think you should give it some more time before you do anything. I think a lot of people have some regrets when they choose one school over another, plus living in a new place and being in a new program can take time to get used to. 

I can also relate to scant graduate offerings. My masters program was a general biology program, so course offerings could be all over the board, from neuroscience to ecology, and there were typically about 5 courses offered each semester. Some semesters I got lucky and all the courses were awesome, during others I was glad I only had to take 6 credits, because the course offerings were terrible.

Yeah, it seems that this initial bit of regret is fairly common. It is just unfortunate that friendships within my cohort seem unlikely because I don't have a ton of time for extramural activities. I suppose I will adjust. 

On November 9, 2015 at 10:09:36 PM, shadowclaw said:

Your PhD program sounds a lot like mine! I'm in an interdisciplinary program that isn't really its own department... it's more like professors from a variety of departments advise students and we take courses in a bunch of other departments. It doesn't really have a home and there's no space set aside for us, unlike the majority of programs that have whole buildings devoted to them.

There's a lot of uncertainty, but also a lot of freedom and flexibility. I guess you need to have a certain personality to really be comfortable with it.

Yeah this is a small school with a program that is a few of the natural sciences combined instead of just biology (also in the PNW). I like your point of how I could consider this an opportunity for flexibility, I will just have to work on changing my mindset for that. 

 

On November 9, 2015 at 10:09:36 PM, shadowclaw said:

So I don't have a lot of advice. You might just be experiencing the graduate school version of buyer's remorse and you'll be ok in a little while. I recommend trying to find friends outside of your program if you can. You can't force you peers to be friends, but there are lots of people on campus who would probably love to get to know you. Join an intramural team, go to campus events, check out the local music scene... just get out there where there are people! I'm in a similar boat as you... I haven't made friends in my program yet because we haven't had any core courses so far this year and since we're interdisciplinary, everyone is taking classes all over the place and working with advisors in different departments. We do have an email list set up though! Maybe I'll make friends with them, maybe not. But there are lots of other people in my classes that I could befriend, plus a ton of other people I might meet just doing different things.

I think you are right, I need to make more of an effort to find friends elsewhere. I just need to find the time for it! Ha! The PNW is beautiful and I can't pass up my opportunity to explore it just because none of my fellow students want to do so with me! Ha! I will just think of it as a waiting game- things will get better eventually, right? Two months is not very long. 

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2 hours ago, kjc said:

I think you are right, I need to make more of an effort to find friends elsewhere. I just need to find the time for it! Ha! The PNW is beautiful and I can't pass up my opportunity to explore it just because none of my fellow students want to do so with me! Ha! I will just think of it as a waiting game- things will get better eventually, right? Two months is not very long. 

Have you checked to see if there are any Meetup groups or university clubs that are interested in outdoors stuff? I actually joined a club that had a mix of undergrad and grad students while a PhD student (martial arts club) and loved it. I still train that martial art. Though it was sometimes weird to be around a bunch of 19 year old macho boys, I never let them ruin my experience. You can definitely find someone out there who shares your interests and wants to explore PNW with you!

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2 hours ago, kjc said:

I think you are right, I need to make more of an effort to find friends elsewhere. I just need to find the time for it! Ha! The PNW is beautiful and I can't pass up my opportunity to explore it just because none of my fellow students want to do so with me! Ha! I will just think of it as a waiting game- things will get better eventually, right? Two months is not very long. 

The PNW is beautiful! I haven't had as much time as I'd like to go out hiking and exploring, but when I do, there are always a ton of people out and about (and a lot of people wearing outerwear with their school's name on it). If you're outgoing, you could strike up a conversation with a stranger on the trail, at a waterfall, etc., especially if they are wearing your school's name (great ice breaker) or doing something you're really into (maybe you like nature photography and you could strike up a conversation about where some great spots are). I also recommend looking for Facebook groups. If you like rocks, there are a few rockhounding groups devoted to the PNW and its states. The people in the groups seem to like going out on group outings to different places. I imagine there are groups for lots of hobbies in the region.

And remember... nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain. Sorry. I had to. It's November, it's rainy, it's getting cold, and that song is awesome. Plus it's true - this will pass and it will get better! 

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