I've heard way too many people say that life in graduate school is dull. PhD students don't have a "life", goes the refrain. Given that I'm now a wise old sage in graduate school, and know a thing or two about the PhD process, I think I can confidently say "Not true".
It's hard to define "life", but I can with confidence say that people still in an University setting have plenty of opportunities to have a fulfilling life. I'll even go out on a limb and say that most (NOT ALL) of my friends who have "settled down" with jobs lead pretty dull lives. And it almost seems as if the longer they have been immersed in their work, the duller their lives get. Their routine revolves around work, work, work, trips to the grocery store, work, a movie or two, work, meeting friends on a weekend, more work. There are the intrepid few who involve themselves with other interests, pursue their hobbies, write beautiful essays/poems/stories, hike in the mountains, or just lead damn interesting lives. But overall, I'd have to say that the grass is certainly brown on the other side.
Grad school can be refreshingly enjoyable. George Cham's probably made himself a small fortune with his brilliantly hilarious Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD). That's mostly because he's been extremely accurate in his portrayal of graduate school life. But here are the top 10 things I get to do in graduate school, and many of these will be missed once I leave (I say top 10, because there's a top 10 for everything, but not this. So this glaring deficiency needs to be corrected). So my top 10 things in grad school (not necessarily in order) are:
1) I hike in the Cascades and the Olympic rainforest. Granted, this is unique to the Pacific northwest, and certainly not to Graduate school :-), but it's still top of my list. It's something students at the UW love to do anyway.
2) I read splendid weblogs every day. Graduate school allows you the freedom to goof off whenever you want to. That way I get to read some of your brilliant blogs. On super high-speed internet to boot!
3) I am always amongst a very tolerant and broad minded set of people (sometimes there are strong opinions though). The sheer diversity of people and opinions on campus is exhilarating. I've had a Japanese roommate, a Chinese roommate, a Czech roommate, watched Iranian films with other friends, and learnt about Africa from others. And these are people in very diverse fields.
4) I can have an intelligent conversation on a variety of topics with just about anyone. Related to point (3).
5) If I take the trouble of leaving the Medical center (where I work) and go up to upper campus (where the "Liberal Arts" departments are) I can attend some brilliantly informative seminars on language, economics, social science, anthropology....
6) I can go for brilliantly informative seminars in my own department and in the Engineering school, and learn more that I otherwise ever could about the latest and best in science and technology. I am also surrounded by Professors who are legends in their chosen areas, and this is an inspirational and humbling feeling.
7) I can take courses in anything I want to. From Sanskrit to Scandinavian studies, Philosophy to Finance, Biochemistry to Badminton, your desire is the limit. The facilities of a large (American) campus are astounding.
8) There are a lot of beautiful people on campus (my wife will kill me for this, but I only speak as a sage here).
9) I learnt about, and got involved in wonderful organizations like Asha and AID while in Grad school. Some of my most fulfilling moments are spent with friends in Asha.
10) I have the freedom to do my own research, and work on the problems of my choice. Science is great.
Now, tell me Grad students don't have a life.