“Brown guys are hot” is indeed the title of this post.
Does it actually talk about brown guys? No.
Today, I randomly talked about my blogging career with a good friend of mine, Abhijeet Sarkar. A writer and engineer himself, he decided to take on the quest of being a guest blogger for iMech blog — he likes to talk about his opinions of most random things thinking people actually care, jkjk. Anyway, here is what a non-academician has to say to newly starting graduate students.
If you like this post, and kind of dig his writing style, check out his latest short story published on Amazon.
Why are you here?
I do enjoy writing for newbies. Why? Well because my few years of experience makes me feel that I am not only qualified, but also obliged to do so. But I would take that with a grain of salt were I you.
The other reason why I write this article is because, having firmly decided NOT to pursue graduate studies, it gives me an outsider’s look in on what grad life is like. Think back to high school, when the University reps came to visit you and preach on and on about how amazing their school was. Trying to convince YOU to apply. Trying to tell you that your university years will be the BEST years of your life.
And then you got to Engineering undergrad, and had something else entirely. Countless late nights spent in the lab. Studying endlessly for quizzes and assignments that were maybe 10% of your grade. Dealing with the unique mosaic of social abilities that were picked from all corners of the country and placed in one room, ranging from suave and savvy, to just downright idiotic. And once the dust and sand had settled and you were sitting in the plastic chairs of the Physical Activities Complex, your parents cheering you on from the bleachers while some dignitary you never met gives a speech, you stop and wonder – where did my University experience go?
So I ask you again – why are you here? Is it for UBC’s state of the art labs? Is it for scenery and the lifestyle of Vancouver? Is it because you’re here for a second chance?
The smart answer would be all three, but the foolish answer would be any that left out the last. I know a few grad students. And by few I mean it to be an understatement. I know grad students who came to Vancouver for a fresh start and with an open mind, completely turning their lives around. Grad students who found themselves, their TRUE selves, here in Vancouver. I’ve met grad students who pushed their boundaries, who reached beyond their limits, who had done more in their first summer here than in five years of engineering undergrad. It seems that they wanted so much to escape their engineering undergrad experience, that they did anything and everything that surprised not only those around them, but suprised themselves as well. And then I’ve met students who did the opposite.
There are grad students who go into research because they are afraid of the real world. Who don’t know what to do once school is over. There are students who have no passion, no drive, and no energy when pursuing their research. Grad students who want nothing more than to have a do-over of their undergrad which, quite frankly, epic sucked. And then there are those who truly LOVE their work. Who wake up thinking about it. Who eat breakfast, lunch and dinner running data analyses over in their mind, and who fall asleep with their MATLAB script running in the background.
But in the end it doesn’t matter which of these categories you fall under. There is something my father told me which has stuck with me a long time. He said, “Time is the great equalizer.” Coming from someone who grew up with only one shirt and no money, who went on to graduate from IIT engineering and IIM MBA (schools more elite and difficult to gain entrance into than MIT or Harvard), that is something that makes you sit up in your chair and take heed. At the end of the day it’s not going to matter which school you went to. It’s not going to matter what your grades were. School is not the real world. There are things waiting for you out there that you are just not going to learn being in a lab, running metrics and analyses. The wonderful thing about school is that it lets you come up with a lot of theories on life. The bad thing is that a lot of those theories aren’t going to stick when you get out into the real world.
It’s a staging ground for what’s coming. It’s the perfect sandbox for doing something you have never done before. If you want the university experience you didn’t get in your previous school, it’s entirely under your control. The world works by the laws of attraction. And you cannot spell Attraction without “action”. If you want something you have never had, you must do something you have never done. I can go on throwing reused platitudes at you, but I think you get the point.
When it comes down to it, you made your choice to be at UBC for many reasons. You made your decision to do grad studies for many reasons. Some of which had to do with the University, some of which had to do with the lab, and some had to do with the city. Whatever your reason, you can’t help but have a slight giddiness in the pit of your stomach. A little nervous spark as you embark on a new place.
Capture that feeling. Hold on to it. And fuel it. You’re going to need it if you want to get through the next two years (give or take a few months) with a pHD potentially on the horizon. Because that slight bit of nervousness, that little bit of apprehension means you’re doing something right. There is a skill to be learned from this, a small nugget of knowledge buried here, which I hope you picked up on. And if you didn’t then I’ll just say it outright for you.
The ability to take risk is one skill they will NEVER teach you in school. It’s a lesson for the real world, learned in the real world. You’ve already taken a risk by coming this far, don’t be foolish and stop. You’re clearly here as a decision for your future. But I think that you know from that Bachelor’s on your wall (or in your drawer like mine is) that the degree isn’t enough. It’s what you do, with what you have, that determines where you go, and who you will become.
So start small. Go to socials. Take classes you normally would not. Find enjoyment in things you’ve never tried. Push yourself to do something outside your comfort zone. Learn to take bigger and bigger risks. Learn to stand out in a crowd. And do it now before you settle into a routine. At the end we only come as far as we do by learning to take risks. Not stupid risks. Calculated risks. Measured risks. Facing failure head-on unflinchingly. And, more importantly, getting back up after we do fail. Otherwise time really will level the playing field, and in thirty years no one’s going to know or care where your degree came from if you never learn to leverage it against a wager in life.
To have never risked is to have never lived.