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Don't Attack The Grad Students

The Daily Illini maybe should have thought twice before pushing this article through.


The college SBN sites in the network tend to be a slightly different beast than the ones for the professional teams. Writing about the White Sox is fun and all, but it's not like I was ever actually part of the organization further than just being a fan. Illinois? I went there. I put in four of the happiest years of my life at the school before ultimately winding up out here in Kansas for graduate school. Ideally, I would have stayed in Champaign for vet school but life deals you strange hands and you wind up trading corn for wheat sometimes.

I do still have grad student friends in my beloved twin cities though and one of them (here's your hat tip, Chelsea) directed my eyes towards an article in the Daily Illini this week. And I've got to say, I'm not just underwhelmed. I'm annoyed.

I know it’s the middle of the semester; you’re tired, behind and overworked. I know you probably have a pile of readings you never even started, a mountain of research you’re attempting to avoid and a calendar so packed you avoid looking at it. It’s questionable when was the last time you had a decent meal, a shower or a full night’s sleep.

I don't like relying on cliched tropes, even when they're somewhat true. Being a grad student does suck quite a bit at times. You don't forget to eat though. Sleep when you're dead. So far it's just a meh article.

I’m there myself, and it’s not very pretty. But I’m here to remind you of one more thing that you should be doing with your life. Did you know that there is a gigantic campus outside of the four walls you’re confined in every day? Or that there are quads and fields and tennis courts? Or that you can attend sporting events at all these locations for free or reduced prices?

Uh oh. We're veering rapidly into what appears to be a nerd-bashing.

It’s OK to step out of that graduate student bubble and show a little school spirit once in a while. Attend a football game — and not just a tailgate. Or take a moment to read about the sporting events on campus. You could go to a swim meet, a cross country meet, even a tennis match. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could even join Illini Pride, the student fan organization for Illini athletics.

I'm sorry, but how many of those events does even the average undergrad student attend? I swam competitively my entire childhood and lifeguarded at every pool the university owned during undergrad. I lived in the same dorm as the swimmers (and was secretly in love with a handful). And I never once went to a swim meet. Didn't care for cross country or tennis either.

I know you have an excuse list a mile long: There are a million other things you could be doing. (But really, how much time do you spend on NetFlix a day?) You just don’t care. (That doesn’t mean it can’t help to enter the sunlight every once in a while.) Your loyalty is with your undergraduate University. (You live in the cornfields now, get over it.) You’ve never been a sports person. (It’s never too late to give something a try.) You’re too old for this. (I’m not saying you have to start tailgating at six in the morning, though cheers if you do.) Undergraduates scare you. (It’s OK, you don’t have to sit by them.)

And here's the main part that bothered me. Not everyone likes sports. Some people go to grad school to, you know, go to grad school. Maybe they have other hobbies that don't involve paying money or dedicating time to attend something they don't care for. I've been to a whopping two Kansas State Wildcats football games since moving out here a few years ago. It doesn't matter that they're a better program than the Illini were when I was young and drunk. I just don't have the same feelings towards their teams as I do for Illinois. I honestly never will.

I'm someone who when the camera panned to them at football games just kind of stood there motionless staring back at the camera with dead baby doll eyes. I don't fake enthusiasm. I don't proclaim my terrible team to be number one when they're more like number eighty. I don't feel bad about that. I don't like being more or less told that I should.

Graduate school may only be one, or two or five years of your life. Don’t let it be a time where you missed out on every opportunity to see the outside world because you spent every hour of every weekend holed up in your lab.

I don't spend every night and many of my weekends sitting at my tiny lab desk in Trotter Hall because it's inherently fun and enjoyable and what I'd like to be doing at that moment more than anything else in the world. I do it because grad school is just that: school. It's a grind. It's not undergrad where you had entire days off and living was easy. I know my experience isn't necessarily that of every grad student, but I'm willing to bet it's pretty danged similar. I don't hate where I'm at. I've made peace with living in a town I initially didn't care for. I'm happier for it. But the holing up for weekends has a purpose. School spirit is great and all, but you don't go to grad school to foster school spirit. You go to grad school to become an expert in your field and make the Girl Scouts who show up at your door call you doctor. Don't try to make people feel bad for having different priorities and hobbies than you.

Junior high was a long time ago.

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