Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why I'm in Grad School (Part II)

So I encouraged Beorn to go back to school, more for the moral boost I knew it would give him than for any financial reasons. When I finally got up the courage to apply to grad school I realized I could make as much working 20 hrs a week than I had been making full time at my non-profit job. The university also gives us better health insurance (and some minimal dental) whereas Beorn had been completely uninsured while I was working full time.

Unfortunately the department I work for doesn't seem to value it's grad students at all. My adviser, the department head, and the MFO don't seem to care that I haven't been paid. They regularly wait until the first week of the quarter to hire their TAs. Much of my mental energy goes to how to find enough work for the next quarter.

Currently I'm working 3o hrs a week at two different jobs because I know that one job will be running out of funding after this quarter. I have no promise that the other job will employ me over the summer although the staff seems to be working under that impression. My jobs pay the rent and utilities, Beorn's 1o-15 hrs a week as an undergrad tech support monkey pays for our groceries. All our other expenses are covered by student loans. I know we shouldn't be taking out loans for grad school, but it's preferable to the credit card debit we would be running up if we weren't in school.

The problem is that it's difficult for me to get any of my own research done while working 30 hrs a week and wondering how I will pay my rent in a couple of months. This really hit home for me last month when I went to that big conference. My poverty in comparison to most of the people there really hit me. While many attendees were enjoying their stay at the Hilton and touring one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I was commuting to my mom's studio apartment.

Although I have been in grad school for three years now, this is the first year I have attended any conferences and that is just because they happen to be coming to nearby cities. I don't have money for hotels, airfare, but even without those things I spent several hundred on gas, train tickets, and food out.

At the end of this month I'm supposed to be giving my first presentation. This week I expressed my nervousness to my adviser as my presentation is the first one of a panel on the first day of the conference, so their might be big names there. She informs me that everyone dresses up the first day. Great, so now I have to figure out how to get money for a fancy outfit and a haircut.

Scraping up money for books and conferences wouldn't bother me much, it seems to be a normal part of grad school. I'm pretty used to being poor; we have been struggling for several years. What bothers me is that no one in my department cares whether I get paid for the work I do. So that's why I'm looking at programs elsewhere, because I can't see writing a dissertation while searching for a new job every three months, especially since I can't seem to get anyone in my department to actually read any of my writing.


Anonymous said...
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Breena Ronan said...

Sorry, had to delete the previous comment. I seem to have attracted the attention of someone interested in ranting about the second coming of Christ. I wouldn't mind a short rant, but this post was ridiculously long and at that point I think they should get their own blog.