Always Take Vacations in Grad School

Selective Focus Photography of Yellow School Bus Die-cast

I’m writing this because I am in desperate need of a vacation, and you probably are too. I am finishing my qualifying exams next week. The exam consisted of writing a proposal, defending the proposal, and taking 5 written exams, one from each committee member. I will have a post on how to pass (hopefully not fail) your qualifying exam very soon. I wrote about preparing for your qualifying exam. Check it out here.

Anyway, let’s get back to why we are here, vacations. Now, school just started for many individuals this week. But for the majority of grad students, this week is just the same as any other week. There is an influx of students but that’s the only difference. Summer is the time to get work done for many grad students. In fact, it could be the only time of the year where you get research done at all (looking at you people who teach each semester). With the constant stress and pressure of having to do a lot of work at once, it can really lead to burnout, or worse…getting kicked out!!!

This is why taking a vacation is so important. This also pertains to those who work for a living too. I’ve been in your shoes and know that about half the day is day dreaming about being somewhere else. So this post is for all of you. Vacations are a time where you can relax and not be bogged down with the stressed of work. We live in a society that thrives off of telling people how busy they are? Why is this a thing? Anyway, this is extremely toxic and can really cause problems mentally. A vacation is a good time to get away from this.

Look into vacation days for grad students. Usually, they allow 5 days of paid vacation each semester, sometimes more. These days are separate from holidays so I would suggest taking time off around holidays so you can spend more time away from work. I tend to go places or take time off around Christmas and at the end of summer. My spring semester tends to be really chill towards the end so I may take a few days off then, but more-so during winter break.

The main reason to take vacations is so you do not burn out. I believe I wrote a very long time ago that attrition rates for PhDs was roughly 50%. Like holy cow. Many of these students leave for various reasons, but a great deal of them leave due to burnout. Here’s a good article to read about burnout and drop outs (here). It’s sad that some professors don’t see that this is a problem. I had one professor tell me that, because they had to work all the time, their student had to as well. This is flat out wrong. One needs time to rest, because if they are constantly working 1) they will not be productive and 2) they will snap.

When you start grad school, remember that it is a very long process. In fact, it can be much longer than your undergrad. I am finishing up year 4 and could potentially go well into year 5 without finishing. 5 years is a long time to just continuously work and be miserable. Plan to go one trip. Go see friends that you haven’t seen in a while. Go to a new country and explore all of the food places there. But most importantly, just go do something that is not work. Life is so much more than spending your day working on something you probably hate. Life is a gift that was given to you and you need to go out and make the most of it. Grad school is a great way to make your life better, but the journey through grad school needs to also be good.

Most of your best ideas that you will have will come when you are not working. In fact, all of the ideas that I have come up with have been while walking, going to Miami to see my girlfriend, or on a boat, fishing. You give your brain to actually focus on problems subconsciously, and you get the best ideas this way. If you are struggling with a problem, I would suggest you go on a miniature trip somewhere and try and forget about school and that problem. I will bet money that some form of solution will arise. Just make sure to write it down when it does pop up lol.

It’s a great time to start planning your next vacation. First, get vaccinated for covid so you don’t risk spreading that to places you go. Next, plan your trip wisely. It’s not a good time to travel to other countries, but going to see your family, that can be an awesome vacation, as well as a cheap one. My next vacation will hopefully be to Canada. I absolutely love going up there during winter and it isn’t that expensive either. Whatever you do, make sure that you commit to it. It is so easy to work all of the time, but that’s not healthy. Live life and I guarantee that you will not regret it.

Vacations When Doing A Doctorate

It’s the best time of the year, VACATION!!!! Actually it’s one of the two best times of the years since I take two vacations each year. This year, my family and I will be going to the beautiful Florida Keys. We mostly fish, snorkel, drink heavily, and hang around, spending quality time with each other. We leave Saturday, which is making this week extra long.

Vacations are so important for you and you may not even know it. First off, it takes you away from work that is potentially killing you O.o. Also, it gives you time to relax and get back to a state of equilibrium. Vacations allow you to visit places, get away from stress, enjoy the simple or extravagant things in life, and most importantly, it brings joy into your life.

Grad school is tough. People assume that it’s just classes and studying all of the time, but it’s actually much more than that. It’s living on a very small stipend, doing experiments at extremely odd hours, running around the lab, trying to find the pipette that an undergrad was using and didn’t put away, as well as try and function as a human being. Social lives usually suffer, overall health suffers (especially mental health), and things become overwhelming. It’s tough to see people you graduated undergrad with go off and start their careers, making a ton of money, and you are left here, doing mentally taxing things, not believing that you will be successful too. It’s hard and that’s why vacations are so important.

Getting away from the hustle and bustle of lab work and school allows your brain to take a break. You will come back with more motivation, clarity, as well as possibly a tan. From my experience and about 99.99% of people I know, taking time off has given them the motivation and strive to accomplish tasks that take them weeks usually, in maybe a few days. You just feel overall better about life.

Also, your adviser will probably push for you to take a break to prevent “burn out”. Every grad student will get burnt out at one point. This is a great opportunity to just leave for a week and come back refreshed. In a doctoral program, burn out is a real thing that can lead to mental illness. No wonder 50% of PhD students do not finish, it’s insane.

Please, Please, Please just go on vacation or even just take time off for yourself. Go to a movie each day for a week, go see a friend that lives in a different town/state/country, or just chill in bed, playing video games for a week. There is more to life than work. Vacations show you just that.

Let me know where you are going for your vacation and what you are doing? That may help me choose my next trip :p. Thanks for reading my blog. I love all of you.