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Surviving Grad School: Grad School Made Me Puke

Posted in First Person,Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on March 6, 2010
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Got your attention, didn’t I? Here’s the kicker: Grad school did indeed make me puke. I was never sicker than when I was in grad school, and it seemed like nearly everyone I encountered had some form of cold, fever, cough, or stomach virus. We may as well have attended the University of Cough Drop, Irvine.

Why is this? I actually liked grad school. I liked reading. I liked teaching. But I went to urgent care twice and the emergency room once. Perhaps this was due to an ill-advised trip to a wannabe Benihana in Huntington Beach, but still.

I thought about my trip through Southern California’s finest healthcare facilities and came to the conclusion that people don’t take care of themselves in graduate school, especially in the humanities. It is a badge of honor to be stressed out, so devoted to your work that you can’t see straight.

Factor in the part-time jobs you have just to get by, and you won’t sleep enough to recover when you do get sick. Why was I so sick? I didn’t give myself enough of a chance to heal after catching a stomach virus. Instead, I had classes to teach, classes to take, and part-time work to conquer. I could have slacked off and given the students some group work or skipped reading a book or two, but I didn’t because I thought I was supposed to do it all.

One day, a student named “Beef” (that’s what he wanted to be called), told me to cut class short before I got them sick. And that is the only time in my life I took advice from a man named “Beef.”

Here’s the lesson: If you are in grad school, take care of yourself.

The hamster world can take over your life, too, but in shorter bursts. Projects in the hamster world don’t take quite as long as a full semester. But you have to take a break. If you are sick, stay in bed. If you are really sick, do what I did. Take a year off, assess the situation, and then decide if you can balance grad school and your health.

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3 Responses to 'Surviving Grad School: Grad School Made Me Puke'

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  1. […] health, puke, status, class anxiety Or at least make you sick? I probably reference the fact that grad school made me puke too much. But it did. I never went to the doctor (or the ER, for that matter) more in my life. At […]

  2. Ann said,

    I agree that grad school makes you sick. I developed stomach pains during grad school that left me doubled up at my desk and essentially nonfunctional. When I arrived at the campus medical center, the doctor asked if I was under any stressful conditions. I said I was in grad school, which was followed by the doctor, “What year are you in grad school?” When I said I was in my third year, she said, “Well, you are right on schedule! Most grad students develop ulcers or an ulcer condition by their third year in grad school.”

    THANK SOMEBODY for Tagamet (in the early 90’s) as it provided almost immediate relief to my painful condition, but no caffiene for a year. This brings up a larger, very well-known condition within the academic medical centers that care for students…grad school makes you sick, and in a very predictable fashion!

    And I won’t even talk about the internal hemmorhaging from an ovarian cyst rupturing 2 weeks before my dissertation defense that put me in the hospital for 2 days…but the show went on even though I could not stand for my presentation, and I (physically) survived grad school, but just barely.

  3. Erin said,

    Ugh. Grad School is no fun, and I’m not even in classrooms with people. It’s hard work, and right now it’s almost a liability, because you’ll be “too qualified” or “over qualified” for so many jobs…


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