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Starting PhD...in 30s?

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Hi, been lurking in this forum for a few months now and am wondering if anybody can share their experiences starting a PhD in their mid-30s, specifically the social aspects, dating? I am unattached without kids, which is really the only reason I can embark on this four-year academic journey and switch careers. I'm aware that my age is not a unique case although I am likely the oldest in my cohort. On recruitment weekend I noted that I had at least a decade-plus on most of the people. Since I will be moving to a college town, my social options will be pretty much restricted to the school. 

When I got my Master's from a university in a large city, I obviously had more social options. But I was 25 at the time, so not too far in age from people who went into the program straight out of undergrad. I still drank. So it wasn't as much of an issue.

Thoughts? Thanks.

Edited by FoodDoc

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One of the best options in that case is attending as many mixers and events as you can. I live in a place with several colleges and universities so I cannot completely relate. Yet, I was in my early 30s when I started grad school and I met my bf in a grad school event (he was a postdoc in another department, nothing to do with my discipline so it was the only way our paths could have crossed). Also, getting a campus job that has high interaction with people may also help! :)

Edit: I realized you were not looking for suggestions, but these are the thoughts I've got right now... 

Edited by AP

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If students are too young for you, you might try to find events that target postdocs and junior faculty, who are more likely to be in the right age-range for you. Not all events will be open to grad students, but some social events might be. 

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If you are looking for ways to meet people, there are also online apps/websites. There are some that are for just making new friends or connections and many for dating of course. The majority of academics I know who went into grad school without a partner and now have a partner had met their partner through online dating. In a college town, there are still many people of all ages, but I find that college towns can sometimes have quite a large separation between the student population and the "real town population". So the events that run might not allow the two groups to meet each other very often. Online dating could help people in these two groups meet.

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I did exactly this, started my PhD in my mid-30s as a single childless woman in a cohort where most other students are about a decade younger.  What helped me the most was going in knowing that my cohort or even my department wouldn't meet all of my social needs.  I do sometimes socialize with my cohort because they are nice people and can actually be fun, but after spending so many hours with them each week I really don't desire to hang with them all the time outside of that.  I figured being at a large public university I'd be able to connect with grad students in other departments that might be older, so I gave that a whirl.  Unfortunately most of the people I came across were still either much younger or just living a completely different life being married with kids.  

I then chose to take my social life completely off campus and am happy I did.  I signed up for every things to do in this city list I could find, picked up all the free local papers, volunteered, and joined meetup groups to force myself to attend a few things each week whether I felt like it or not.  I did things I knew I like, tried things I'd never heard of, and gave things I previously felt hohum about another shot.  I wouldn't say I have close friends yet and that's ok.  But I do have people that when I see them out I can hang with them and it isn't weird or we can and do text each other to exchange invites.  The best part is most of the people I've met are not in school so I'm not constantly sucked into school stuff.  After having been in the working world I definitely appreciate the variety in my social life and don't want to feel like I can't ever get a break from school.  I also head out of town during school breaks to visit family and friends I haven't seen awhile because there is nothing like being surrounded by people who know you well.

As for dating, this too I've taken completely off campus because I just don't want that kind of drama in what I consider my workplace.  Depending on the type of person (LGBT, other race/ethnicity, specific religion, etc) you wish to date there may be limited choices based on the region of the world your program is in.  Also if you wish to date someone your age or older they may have assumptions about grad students that make dating harder such as you must have bad finances, you'll struggle to get a job when you graduate, your degree will take 10 years, you lack direction or something is wrong with you if you're this old and doing this, you don't have time to date, etc.  I personally just mention the general industry I'm in until it seems like I may want to get to know a guy better, then he can have more specific details.  Otherwise its just like dating when you work full time.  Sometimes its fun and other times it really sucks lol.   

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On ‎7‎/‎16‎/‎2017 at 7:13 PM, MarineBluePsy said:

I did exactly this, started my PhD in my mid-30s as a single childless woman in a cohort where most other students are about a decade younger.  What helped me the most was going in knowing that my cohort or even my department wouldn't meet all of my social needs.  I do sometimes socialize with my cohort because they are nice people and can actually be fun, but after spending so many hours with them each week I really don't desire to hang with them all the time outside of that.  I figured being at a large public university I'd be able to connect with grad students in other departments that might be older, so I gave that a whirl.  Unfortunately most of the people I came across were still either much younger or just living a completely different life being married with kids.  

I then chose to take my social life completely off campus and am happy I did.  I signed up for every things to do in this city list I could find, picked up all the free local papers, volunteered, and joined meetup groups to force myself to attend a few things each week whether I felt like it or not.  I did things I knew I like, tried things I'd never heard of, and gave things I previously felt hohum about another shot.  I wouldn't say I have close friends yet and that's ok.  But I do have people that when I see them out I can hang with them and it isn't weird or we can and do text each other to exchange invites.  The best part is most of the people I've met are not in school so I'm not constantly sucked into school stuff.  After having been in the working world I definitely appreciate the variety in my social life and don't want to feel like I can't ever get a break from school.  I also head out of town during school breaks to visit family and friends I haven't seen awhile because there is nothing like being surrounded by people who know you well.

As for dating, this too I've taken completely off campus because I just don't want that kind of drama in what I consider my workplace.  Depending on the type of person (LGBT, other race/ethnicity, specific religion, etc) you wish to date there may be limited choices based on the region of the world your program is in.  Also if you wish to date someone your age or older they may have assumptions about grad students that make dating harder such as you must have bad finances, you'll struggle to get a job when you graduate, your degree will take 10 years, you lack direction or something is wrong with you if you're this old and doing this, you don't have time to date, etc.  I personally just mention the general industry I'm in until it seems like I may want to get to know a guy better, then he can have more specific details.  Otherwise its just like dating when you work full time.  Sometimes its fun and other times it really sucks lol.   

I'm also thinking of taking my social life off campus.

Being in a small school where everybody is significantly younger than me makes it difficult to find people near my age.

It has been one month since I started my PhD. Actually, making friends with younger students isn't as hard as I expected. I still remember my undergraduate years, and people haven't really changed. The undergraduates today face the same problems I did ten years ago. Many of them don't seem to notice that I'm very old, or they just don't care.

Just like other old men, I'm attracted to younger females but I don't think they find me attractive, lol.

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27 minutes ago, BunnyN said:

Just like other old men, I'm attracted to younger females but I don't think they find me attractive, lol.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/tracyclayton/stop-calling-women-females?utm_term=.dvW7DZ2vz#.wszZdPxe9

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The younger members of my cohort were awesome people, passionate, and picked perfectly for the program. They were just in a different life stage (i.e. emerging adulthood) and had different behaviors- such as occasional drunk parties, going through traditional 'yikes I don't know how to job search'. and really intense about some disparate perspectives.

I found myself connecting with my co-workers and faculty/assistant faculty more. I had a few members of my cohort that I spoke with regularly, but they were also non-traditional grad students for that program (commuters from another state and/or closer to my age).  I'm looking forward to the DrPH cohort down the road. The program only takes mid-advanced professionals who work in the program. I think that might help with the personality differences I've experienced in the past.

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On ‎7‎/‎11‎/‎2017 at 9:30 PM, FoodDoc said:

Hi, been lurking in this forum for a few months now and am wondering if anybody can share their experiences starting a PhD in their mid-30s, specifically the social aspects, dating? I am unattached without kids, which is really the only reason I can embark on this four-year academic journey and switch careers. I'm aware that my age is not a unique case although I am likely the oldest in my cohort. On recruitment weekend I noted that I had at least a decade-plus on most of the people. Since I will be moving to a college town, my social options will be pretty much restricted to the school. 

When I got my Master's from a university in a large city, I obviously had more social options. But I was 25 at the time, so not too far in age from people who went into the program straight out of undergrad. I still drank. So it wasn't as much of an issue.

Thoughts? Thanks.

I'm an older PhD student in my first semester at a very large state university. I have found there are many opportunities to socialize with other adults here. In fact, I have to make decisions about which ones I really want to attend, because I am here to finish my education and I also teach. Other than the various grad student organizations, individuals at my university seem to mingle some outside of their own departments. I'm going to a "house concert" this weekend put on by a math instructor and her husband/partner. Someone is always putting some kind of get together/event on one of the list-servs. While I am something of an introvert (as are most humanities peeps), I find the open invitations a good way to mingle and meet new people without a lot of pressure. The university is located in a city of approximately 100,000 people, which isn't a large city. Although ideal living conditions, it does lack a lot of amenities as far as cultural events are concerned. Perhaps that is one reason why faculty and staff at the university mingle as they do.

Edited by cowgirlsdontcry

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10 minutes ago, BunnyN said:

I didn't know that. But seriously?

You might want to educate yourself about respecting women, yes. Why is it surprising that women want to be treated as human beings that have value beyond their reproductive organs? 

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3 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

You might want to educate yourself about respecting women, yes. Why is it surprising that women want to be treated as human beings that have value beyond their reproductive organs? 

The term male is often used as a noun as well to refer to men and boys. I don't feel uncomfortable with the usage at all. Most students in my school are undergraduate kids, I am not sure whether I should call them girls/boys or women/men.

Actually, even the far left NYT uses the term "male" all the time.https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/07/fashion/mens-style/hillary-clinton-white-male-supporters.html?mcubz=0

Anyway, if you find it offensive. I won't use the term female to refer to you.

 

 

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28 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

You might want to educate yourself about respecting women, yes. Why is it surprising that women want to be treated as human beings that have value beyond their reproductive organs? 

I mean, to be quite honest, I didn't think the term female was offensive either, mainly because I never looked at the term that way. (honestly I can say I have never even heard of this). I can also state many females really don't care about being called female over women, so this is more a case by case opinion on the matter. There are many words used interchangeably in our language, female and women being one of them (I can think of a million in science), that do not mean the same thing (textbook) but are used to mean the same thing (in talk). [This is not used to justify the action, but explain I don't think any offense was meant here]. 

Anyways, on to the post itself. In my lab we had a grad student that was in his early 40s, and he used to complain about this problem often as well. Initially he tried for people on campus (e.g. faculty members and older grad students), but that didn't work out too well (mixing relationships with work). Then he tried for maybe someone a bit younger, but he didn't really like their personalities (I guess not mature enough). He found his best success off campus, using Tinder at the time (older women use it too!), and various other dating sites. He ended up leaving a while back, but the last time we talked, he said he was much happier and having much greater success looking off campus than he did ever looking on campus. 

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1 minute ago, BunnyN said:

The term male is often used as a noun as well to refer to men and boys. I don't feel uncomfortable with the usage at all. Most students in my school are undergraduate kids, I am not sure whether I should call them girls/boys or women/men.

Actually, even the far left NYT uses the term "male" all the time.https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/07/fashion/mens-style/hillary-clinton-white-male-supporters.html?mcubz=0

Anyway, if you find it offensive. I won't use the term female to refer to you.

 

 

The truth is the terms male/female could refer to any animal. Although I don't find it offensive, I do prefer to be called by a human term. Simply saying female instead of woman/women infers a lower order animal, that has been used in the past to relegate women to lower positions of power. It becomes a bullying tactic some men use in grad school towards women. I call my undergrad students men and women, because they are adults, albeit young ones.

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This is my last post on this particular point because it seems like a waste of time and I didn't mean to derail the conversation. If you didn't know there was an issue and didn't mean offense, educate yourself, accept that there was something you didn't know, and don't try and defend it. All you had to say was "thank you, I didn't know that." I was giving you the benefit of the doubt that you didn't mean anything by the original post, but your latest replies, @BunnyN and @samman1994, using a term I just told you some women find offensive and mansplaining why you think it's not? Please. I find it very telling that the original post in question had the poster referring to himself as an "old man" and his potential love interests as "younger females". 

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You're free to use 'male' and 'female' as an adjective. (Although don't do the thing where there are doctors and female doctors; or on the other hand nurses and male nurses. If gender isn't relevant enough to mention it for the majority category for the noun—e.g. male doctors have a 8% chance of having run a marathon while 5% of female doctors have done so—it isn't relevant enough to mention for the minority gender.) Please don't use 'female(s)' as a noun to mean 'women'. You may mean nothing by it, but some people have taken it up on purpose to be offensive, so gosh, yes, for those of us who've encountered people who use it so that they will offend others, yes, we tend to hear it as offensive.

I see this is going to be a cross-post, but I have written it anyway and it was the one aspect I thought the Buzzfeed article left unclear.

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2 minutes ago, samman1994 said:

I mean, to be quite honest, I didn't think the term female was offensive either, mainly because I never looked at the term that way. (honestly I can say I have never even heard of this). I can also state many females really don't care about being called female over women, so this is more a case by case opinion on the matter. There are many words used interchangeably in our language, female and women being one of them (I can think of a million in science), that do not mean the same thing (textbook) but are used to mean the same thing (in talk). [This is not used to justify the action, but explain I don't think any offense was meant here]. 

Anyways, on to the post itself. In my lab we had a grad student that was in his early 40s, and he used to complain about this problem often as well. Initially he tried for people on campus (e.g. faculty members and older grad students), but that didn't work out too well (mixing relationships with work). Then he tried for maybe someone a bit younger, but he didn't really like their personalities (I guess not mature enough). He found his best success off campus, using Tinder at the time (older women use it too!), and various other dating sites. He ended up leaving a while back, but the last time we talked, he said he was much happier and having much greater success looking off campus than he did ever looking on campus. 

I just turned 30 this year. I often find myself the oldest student in the classroom. Admittedly it's a little bit embarrassing, sometimes I feel that it's not ethical to date 20 something girls.

Is it ethical to date faculty members? conflict of interests?

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7 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

This is my last post on this particular point because it seems like a waste of time and I didn't mean to derail the conversation. If you didn't know there was an issue and didn't mean offense, educate yourself, accept that there was something you didn't know, and don't try and defend it. All you had to say was "thank you, I didn't know that." I was giving you the benefit of the doubt that you didn't mean anything by the original post, but your latest replies, @BunnyN and @samman1994, using a term I just told you some women find offensive and mansplaining why you think it's not? Please. I find it very telling that the original post in question had the poster referring to himself as an "old man" and his potential love interests as "younger females". 

Hi, I'm an old male who is interested in young women.

Am I a pervert?

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10 minutes ago, BunnyN said:

Hi, I'm an old male who is interested in young women.

Am I a pervert?

If you were a colleague, I'd take you out to coffee and have a serious conversation with you about implicit bias and the obstacles I've encountered in my career that you probably don't even see. Since you're not, I'm going to simply hope that someone else will perform that service. 

 

8 minutes ago, samman1994 said:

@BunnyN if you want to continue this discussion, you can message fuzzy, or make your own post on the matter. This applies to everyone else commenting on this as well, regarding the female issue. 

Edit: Don't message me about this. I have exactly zero interest in having private conversations with oblivious men. I posted my comments for the silent majority that reads these posts, in the hopes that some of them will actually learn something, and for the women who might not feel empowered enough to interject themselves.

Edited by fuzzylogician

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19 minutes ago, cowgirlsdontcry said:

The truth is the terms male/female could refer to any animal. Although I don't find it offensive, I do prefer to be called by a human term. Simply saying female instead of woman/women infers a lower order animal, that has been used in the past to relegate women to lower positions of power. It becomes a bullying tactic some men use in grad school towards women. I call my undergrad students men and women, because they are adults, albeit young ones.

So it's a superset!

Thanks for letting me know. I'm not always aware of the latest trends in linguistics.

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4 minutes ago, BunnyN said:

I just turned 30 this year. I often find myself the oldest student in the classroom. Admittedly it's a little bit embarrassing, sometimes I feel that it's not ethical to date 20 something girls.

Is it ethical to date faculty members? conflict of interests?

I can't speak in regards to the ethics of it, however in regards to the guy I was talking about, he started dating one of the faculty members in our department. I won't go into too much detail, but it caused conflicts within our department with other professors. (There was a jealousy issue with one of the other professors, sometimes he would talk to her for hours preventing her research lab students from reaching her, etc.). Overall, it became too much drama for both of them, and decided it would be easier if they split. 

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Just now, samman1994 said:

I can't speak in regards to the ethics of it, however in regards to the guy I was talking about, he started dating one of the faculty members in our department. I won't go into too much detail, but it caused conflicts within our department with other professors. (There was a jealousy issue with one of the other professors, sometimes he would talk to her for hours preventing her research lab students from reaching her, etc.). Overall, it became too much drama for both of them, and decided it would be easier if they split. 

As a TA, I know I am not supposed to date students in my class. I don't think it's appropriate for faculty members to date students in their department.

Luckily, I'm not attracted to any faculty member in my school.

It's clear to me that going off campus is the best route, I just haven't figured out how. I'll  join my local cycling club to find like minded adults, hopefully it's going to work.

 

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