Lost in Limbo

Do you want to be a baker/rockstar/writer?  I’m pretty sure most of you have at least thought of some crazy job alternative at some point in your academic career.  I know I have…more than once.  For a lot of us, grad school is a sort of limbo. We’re no longer undergrads but we aren’t exactly in the workforce either. It’s somewhere between school and the rest of our lives.

Grad school is a time when a lot of us aren’t too sure if what we’re doing is something we want to pursue for the rest of our lives. Personally, though I am enjoying almost every moment of it, I often ask myself:  “Is this what I want to do for the next x number of years?  Do I really want a career in academia?  What else is out there?” I’m sure these are questions other grad students are familiar with. It’s interesting to hear why people decided on grad school, because answers range anywhere from: “I love what I’m studying” to “couldn’t think of anything else to do”.  Regardless of why we’re here, the one commonality is the uncertainty when it comes to life after grad school. What will I do? Get a ‘real’ job? Travel?  Keep doing the research thing?

I’d have to say, the best thing about grad school is the vast quantities of interesting people you meet. Unlike undergrad, there are people across a huge range of ages and backgrounds. There are people who came right out of undergrad, but there are also many people who have travelled, worked, or done something completely different before deciding to come back to school.  So although it can often feel like the vast, empty, space in the middle of nowhere, at least we don’t need to face it alone.

Grad school can be a time full of uncertainty – from that of whether we’ll get “significant” results to what we’ll be doing 5 years from now.  But there is one thing for certain – this is one of the places where you’ll meet some of the most interesting people around.  The best advice I could give is to go out and meet people.  There are some great resources that you can take to your advantage – meetup.com has a Graduate Student Meetup Group, the PGSS often holds social events, and your respective faculties are likely to provide a number of these opportunities as well.  One of the first events I attended was a karaoke night with MeetUp.  It was a hilarious experience (beer + grad students + old school music) and I met some really interesting people – a physics student from the UK, a DJ who’s travelled the world, law student who used to be a flight attendant, and even some fellow Queen’s alumni!  These outings have given me a great chance to explore some really cool spots around Montreal and make friends outside my faculty that I probably would not have had a chance to meet otherwise.

Montreal is a big city, and it can be tough to meet people on your own.  It’s too easy to get engrossed in your research and isolate yourself without ever meeting anyone outside of your immediate surroundings.  But there is so much to be learned from other people.  And those conversations might help you get one step closer to figuring your place in this world.

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