Grad School: Initial Scepticism

I’m a graduate student, studying for my PhD in Earth Sciences, and a few weeks ago I enrolled for ‘Grad School’, as suggested by my supervisor, put it in my diary, and forgot all about it. A few weeks later, I received the timing and location and a pre-course booklet, complete with a (very vague) timetable, and a pre-course questionnaire.

I was sceptical. What was ‘Grad School’ going to teach me? Hopefully how to finish my PhD without having a(nother) mental breakdown. Probably some jargon about the corporate world and how to enter it after I finished, or how to stay in academia if thats what I chose instead. I asked a friend who had been before, how was it? What should I expected?

“Oh, it was good. You should go.”


An email came through addressed to me and 6 others, from Jen Allanson, our Grad School ‘tutor’

Good morning,

I just wanted to take a moment to say hello! and to introduce myself. I’m Jen and I’m going to be your group tutor at GRADSchool next week.

I’m really looking forward to meeting and working with you.

See you Monday.

Have a great weekend

Best wishes


Short. Concise. How I like most things. How I am, standing 5ft 3 tall and only chipping into conversation when I feel I have something to add.

The pre-course booklet asked us to agree to 3 things:

  • to come with an open mind
  • to be prepared to be involved throughout the course
  • to respect each others differences

So Monday morning, I walked the 30 minutes to Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where our grad school was to be held, with a (fairly) open mind, prepared to feel awkward in all inevitable small talk that I was about to be involved in, and ready to respect the fact that people are different and I do not have to like everyone and not everyone (/anyone depending on how anxious I am feeling on a particular day and what cruel tricks my mind is playing on me) will like me either.

So what is ‘Grad School’? And what did I learn?


Amazing. It was amazing.


And I learn a lot.


A fuckton.



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