Grad school is like…

Now that I’ve survived my first full week of classes in grad school, I am clearly a grad school expert.


But I have been spending quite a lot of mental energy trying to figure it out – noticing how it’s similar to, and especially different from, undergrad; working to figure out what’s expected of me, by others and myself; and trying to articulate what exactly my goal(s) is/are.

This look is pretty consistently on my face. Image:
This look is pretty consistently on my face.

I’ve also been a bit preoccupied with metaphors, as I’m working on a metaphor-based research proposal for a fellowship application. I guess the two have become intertwined in my subconscious, because my first (coherent) thought upon waking up this morning was, “grad school isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon!” Not long after I began giving myself credit for this clever analogy, I was racking my brain for more. As a firm believer that concrete metaphors help us make sense of complicated abstract concepts, I was determined to uncover more metaphors for grad school as a means of better understanding what exactly it is I’m doing with my life.

Naturally, I turned to Google, querying, “Grad school is like “. Here’s what I found:

According to Ronald Azuma:

“Being a graduate student is like becoming all of the Seven Dwarves. In the beginning you’re Dopey and Bashful. In the middle, you are usually sick (Sneezy), tired (Sleepy), and irritable (Grumpy). But at the end, they call you Doc, and then you’re Happy.”


Another way to think about it might be the Dorothy’s saga in The Wizard of Oz. So far this aspect of her story feels most parallel to mine:

A huge weather event occurs, dramatic enough to lift the whole house and deposit it in a parallel universe, bursting with plastic flowers and a phalanx of Little People dressed in outfits vaguely reminiscent of lederhosen.  


This is true: perplexing undergraduate creatures are everywhere!

 Another metaphor I found intriguing is that grad school is like kindergarten:


After this exercise in metaphor collection, I feel much more confident that I’ve got a solid mental conceptualization of grad school. I’ve got it dialed in now, and I’m ready for week 2 🙂