Grad students don't really get "paid" a lot (I would say an average of $18k a year that actually goes to our pocket might be already an overestimate), and I had always seen it as a good amount of money. A student can typically survive with $1,000 or so a month, and because it's our choice to go to grad school I considered it a privilege, a prize.
Well, not anymore. I have found that the amount of stress a grad student has to carry on his/her shoulders is way too much for the money we get. As an undergrad I didn't have a lot of money in my pockets either (I had about a third of the money I get now), but somehow the way to survive college is way easier than that of grad school.
As an undergrad, I didn't hesitate to go to the movies, or a hiking weekend, or to spend hours at the field playing some kind of sport. Now, in grad school, I am always questioning myself about doing these activities. Can I really afford going to the movies? You at least spend 2 hours there, plus ~$20 (including ticket) per person if you happened to stop by the snacks. Maybe if I stay those 2 extra hours in the lab I can graduate earlier (or at least not later than planned). A movie is easy to give up, but there are other things that are not easy or good to give up. Exercise, for example, is recommended at least 3 times a week. You have to either do it very early in the morning, or late afternoon (maybe even at night). At least experimentalists don't want to stop their experiment when it's working nor waste time on something else when it's not working (once again, the longer it doesn't work the longer we are staying in school). And there are several problems with exercising in the morning or at night, 1) you get less hours of sleep, which are probably already running low, 2) there is nobody to exercise with you, unless you like running long distances by yourself (not me, I find that boring) you won't have a tennis, basketball, etc. partner, much less to play soccer, volleyball or any other sport that requires more than 2 people.
Having no pleasure activities builds stress, in many cases way too much stress. Now, add to that the physical stress that comes with operating a piece of equipment, preparing a sample or sitting at your desk or computer carrying out a calculation and we are fucked!
And I am not considering the food quality, the bed quality, the foreign students that miss home or feel out of place in a new society, married students, lack of future security, etc.
If the levels of stress are that high, we need more money. That way we could at least afford a massage one or two times a month (or semester?), or to take a one week vacation once a year in a nice place (but most likely expensive) and with no advisor or lab duties. Unless you are an assistant professor, you cannot complain: you either make a lot of money in the industry or are tenured and have job security.
4 days ago