I Did The Math, And The Math *SUCKS*: The Threat of the US House Tax Plan

In case you hadn’t heard, graduate students are screwed.

I’m taking a break from the usual diary format of my blog because I’m not just speaking to my experiences this week. All graduate students in the US are on high alert due to the United States House of Representatives tax reform bill, which has just passed in the House. The bill as currently written includes a clause that eliminates Tax Code 117(d), which exempts the taxing of tuition and fee waivers as income.

To show how this tax bill will effect graduate students in concrete terms, I am going to be very honest here about my personal financial situation as a PhD student at a large public institution. I hope that this exercise will convince my readers to take action to support us and contact your representatives. Honestly, we really need your help.

So let’s do the math. Continue reading


Breakdowns and Breakthroughs, AKA Midterms

Dear Grad School Diary,

Midterms is a magical time of the year. One minute you’re fine, plugging along and finding your groove. You know midterms are coming up but you feel more or less ready. You think you can handle it, that it can’t get the drop on you this time. Then, everything inexplicably turns upside down and inside out and reality warps and you are instantaneously sick and exhausted and everything sucks.

Continue reading

Weekend Wellness: Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop and smell the roses! Take a few minutes every so often this weekend to focus on a pleasant sensory aspect of your environment. Give your brain permission to stop analyzing and synthesizing and let it rest on something that brings you joy!

Take deep breaths.

Focus on the smells around you. Today I’m enjoyed the fresh scent of the eucalyptus trees along the walk to my meeting, and I’m loving the warm scent of apples that fills my room coming from my candle.

Look up and around.

Follow the light. See it filter through the trees or your window. Watch the sun set and the stars appear. No, the light from your computer doesn’t count!

Savor the moment.

Sip your coffee or tea. Take in the sweetness and the bitterness. Pretend to be a snob for a minute–what do you taste? Don’t rush through your meals to get back to work.

Feel the rain on your skin.

Or the wind; the sun; the water; the material  of your favorite comfy sweater or swishy skirt/pants. Feel something other than busy.

Just listen.

Listen to the birds; the leaves rustling; the steady thrum of traffic; a song that makes you feel something. Listen to music that isn’t your usual study/work playlist.

It feels good to unplug and slow down for a moment, doesn’t it?


Speak Up and Be Counted: Being a Woman in the Classroom

Dear Grad School Diary,

I used to have a hard time speaking up in class. I was that kid in elementary and middle school whose report card read: “She is very bright and does well in class. But she needs to participate more.” I’ve come a long way since then, especially since I gave myself permission to believe that I can contribute to a discussion without knowing absolutely everything. Still, I feel that anxiety-driven hyperawareness of the flow of discussion in class. This week, I noticed something strange: I wasn’t getting the opportunity to speak.

At first I thought that maybe the professors were purposefully trying to give me time to simply listen and absorb during my first quarter or year as a PhD student. After all, I’m the youngest graduate student (22) in my department. Still, it’s disappointing to work so hard to speak up, then not have the chance, and ruminate for the rest of the day on what you had wanted to say. So I kept my eyes open as I attended a paper workshop and a graduate student conference, and I began to realize that I wasn’t alone. On the whole, female graduate students–particularly young women–were receiving far fewer opportunities to ask questions and give comments.

Here are a few concrete situations that I experience/observed which reinforce casual and often unconscious biases against women in academia: Continue reading

Hello Food!

Dear Grad School Diary,

Cooking for one can be tricky.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but I’ve tended to cook the same way I do back at home: the same handful of recipes meant to feed at least four people. That meant that I was effectively grocery shopping for four and storing a huge amount of leftovers. As much as I love my mom’s meatloaf, I do not love eating the same thing for a week straight. Neither do I feel good about the food waste that goes along with planning for four while only having one stomach and one wallet. Cooking the way I always did just wasn’t cutting it. Continue reading

Breaking the Ice…with Brownies!

Dear Grad School Diary,

I think we’ve established that relocating to a new place where you don’t know anyone for school is hard, even if your destination is a sunny paradise by the sea. Choosing to live in graduate housing (if available and affordable) for the first year or two is a good way to build social connections. I’ve had a lot of different roommate experiences in my boarding school and undergraduate years. I’ve had international roommates, klepto roommates, roommates who blast Drake, and roommates who stay up all night cackling like an evil mastermind at viral videos like “Owls Hate Simon Cowl” and “Narwhals.” I had the most intimate and intense relationship with my three undergrad roommates; we were paired randomly freshman year and grew to be sisters over four years of living together. I figured I’d seen everything roommate-related under the sun at this point. Continue reading

Are You Moving in Too Early?

Dear Grad School Diary,

I moved in way too early.

I have to admit, I picked a move-in date rather arbitrarily. Back in June, I was so excited by the prospect of moving to the paradisiacal Santa Barbara, CA, and I was eager to buy my plane ticket ASAP to get the cheapest price. So I settled on a what seemed like a reasonable date, a Saturday three weeks from the start of classes, I bought a one-way ticket to the West Coast, and I waited for the day to come.

I told myself that a three week grace period would give me plenty of time to get settled into my apartment and get my bearings around town. I could do some sight-seeing in Santa Barbara. I could make some friends before classes start and we all turn into library hermits. Boy, was I wrong. Continue reading

The Little Picture

blog propic 300 pixDear Grad School Diary,

Nice to meet you, I’m Kaitlyn–better known across campus and my department as ‘that Ginger Grad!’ I’ve moved my life from one coast to another to start my PhD in East Asian Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I’m more or less your typical grad student: a night owl, a caffeine addict, an introverted bookworm who occasionally pretends to be a social butterfly.

Like all new grads, I feel a mixture of unbounded excitement and unmitigated dread as I attempt to make a name for myself in the Academy™. We’ve all heard the (very real) horror stories of imposter syndrome, absent advisors, dwindling availability of tenure-track positions, and non-existent work-life balance. Any responsible advisor will warn their hopeful undergrads of the overt hardships of the lengthy grad school process; these honest conversations are crucial for allowing us to make an informed, critical decision for our futures. But there’s a lot more to grad school than the big problems of academic life, things that our professors don’t necessarily remember–or remember to tell us about. I’m finding out that it’s these thousand little unexpected and unnamed things that are affecting me most. Continue reading