The Revolving Door of Grad School

It’s convocation time and I’ve been watching (in a non-creepy way) all the recent graduates running around lower campus in their caps and gowns. They all look so happy and their parents so proud. It was especially meaningful to see pictures of so many of my first batch of students graduating this year. (Congrats guys!) And then there are those in the wizard robes, the PhD graduates. A couple of my friends had their convocation this week and so many people I know are going through the steps to graduate in the next year. And well, it got me thinking of the unique atmosphere of graduate school.

It’s so temporary. By design, you are only expected to be here for a set number of years and then it’s off to the next adventure and likely a physical move. And yes, I suppose that is also true of undergrad, but I think the more structured “work-like” atmosphere of grad school has further entrenched the relationships you form. You simply see these people all the time. And there is no big finality to it, such as final exams and convocation in undergrad. In grad school people just trickle away as they submit, defend and move on. Some stay months or years after they graduate, others are gone almost before it’s done.

I’m coming up to my last year myself, so it makes sense that it seems like my friends and colleagues are all leaving right now. I look around the lab or the Cancer Center and it seems like there are more new faces every day, and fewer people I recognize. New students come in and the old ones leave and every 5-7 years you have an almost totally new lab. A completely different set of people and on and on it goes. It must be really weird for the technicians and other permanent staff in the lab; to watch each new batch of grad students come in and work and move on over the years.

One of my closest friends and labmates submitted her thesis 2 months ago and will be defending in 2 weeks. We started in the same lab, days apart, almost 6 years ago. In a way it seems like yesterday and in others, a lifetime ago. As she prepares to finish and move on and I start to do the same it’s humbling to think of all the time that has past. We’ve been through so much together, departmental seminars, our comprehensives, crazy conferences and we see each other in the lab almost every day. So as happy as I am for her, and all my other friends finishing up this year, it’s a bit sad seeing everyone go.

And so the revolving door of grad school continues and the conveyor belt of science marches on. I have a new student starting in the lab who will take over my project when I leave and who knows what the lab will look like when he is ready to finish up. It’s the nature of grad life, I guess!


Feature image by GradLife McGill Instagrammer @subhobratadas // @gradlifemcgill

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