Graduate school. What a hilarious idea. How about I push myself to the very brink of insanity for five straight years, graduate, and then, instead of reclaiming my social life, enjoying my paycheck and pursuing other hobbies that have been on the back burner for years, I just jump right back in and tackle even harder material!?
Why?? Why would anyone do that!?
And yet I’ve been approached about it by numerous professors over the years. I feel like I have a “great grad school candidate” sign taped to my back and I don’t know about it. And when I say “over the years,” I mean even when I was in art school. My photography professor, with whom I am still friends, told me regularly that I was well suited for grad school. He still tells me that. As I was turning in my final exam in Thermodynamics and quietly slipping out of the room my professor stopped me and whispered, “If you are ever interested in grad school, let me know.” The professor with whom I’m working on the conduction research asked if I was considering grad school. My vibrations professor saw me in the hallway several weeks ago and asked if I was planning to go to grad school. I laughed at the absurdity of the suggestion and said, “No…way too burnt out for that!” He then told me I should stop by his office if I changed my mind…in fact, I should stop by his office anyway. I did that last week and he told me a little bit about what grad school involves, what funding is available and said I should keep in touch if I decide to go down that path someday.
Am I missing something? Is this my calling and I’m just blowing past it with barely a thought? I mean, there’s been a thought. Before I decided to pursue engineering I considered getting a graduate degree in some area of the social sciences or liberal arts. I have considered the possibility of doing engineering research too. But the further I’ve gotten into my education, the more I’ve looked forward to going back to having a “normal” life with a paycheck and the ability to make fun plans more than 24 hours in advance. I’m pretty sure my friends and family are looking forward to that as well.
That said, I love l immersing myself in a topic and getting lost in it. I love the feeling that comes in the transition from knowing nothing to knowing something. It’s extremely satisfying. I do worry a bit about losing that when I go off into my career. Surely being an engineer will be challenging in many ways, but the process of academic learning and immersing myself in some obscure topic will probably go away. Will I miss that?
I say that school stresses me out, and it does, but why does it stress me out? Mostly group projects. Math and science don’t stress me out. Digging into a topic and getting buried doesn’t stress me out. And that’s what grad students spend a lot of their time doing.
Part of the reason I went back to school in the first place is because I felt, in a way, that I was selling myself short. As a female with strong math and science ability, it seemed a shame to “waste” that ability. Will I feel that way again if I don’t pursue further education? Several professors obviously think I have what it takes to do research and pursue engineering topics more deeply. I have an interest in coming up with new ideas and solving the “big” problems. I’d love to say I made some contribution in that regard.
Of course I’ve already made a choice. I’ve accepted a job and I’m really excited about gaining the hands-on experience I’ll get during my four rotations. I have no regrets about that choice. But after? Several years down the road? I just don’t know. I wish I could split myself in two and do both. So much life to live and so little time to live it! I guess after I see the Sydney Opera House, learn to play the fiddle, finish constructing my bar and get sick of making pottery, grad school will still be there, waiting to see if I forget that school is not a good choice for people who value their sanity. I forgot once. Will I forget again?