Educated Woman: The Grad School Adventures of Micella Phoenix DeWhyseChapter 2: What a Difference a Day Makes


I’m sure you’ve heard that song “What a difference a day makes, twenty-four little hours. …” I can’t tell you how true that song is. Fall semester was rough. Not always because the demands of those five classes got me down (which they did occasionally)–but mostly because my social life SUCKS.

There are so many things to figure out while in graduate school. One of them I discovered while chatting with the chair of another department. “Your department is your life.” At the time, truer words had never been spoken. There was no social life within my department, and I had none outside the department. I wasn’t having nearly as much fun as I had anticipated I would have.

Unlike our undergraduate years, where friends and associates came from all walks of life and disciplines and, more often than not, you’ve lived around these random people for a year or two, graduate studies seem to require a special kind of isolation. In this new isolated state, one engages in departmental gossip (because no one has anything better to talk about than the first years) and lives in the lab (because you want to get out into the real world one day and your advisor is itching for results). And so, graduate student life seems relegated to a kind of nonlife, a half-existence, shall we say, on the edge of the scientific earth.

Can you identify with me here?

So, I made a friend, Larry, in the electrical engineering department, and found that his department has fun parties. (I’m not kidding!)

So, I joined a gym. Free doughnuts and pizza are not helping my figure (or my arteries). I’ve also learned that exercise in the morning, before classes and lab, wakes up my brain.

So, I joined a church. It has become my Sunday morning comfort zone, nourishing my spiritual needs. Going to church also connects me to something other than school. Next on my community engagement list is finding a theatre group in which I might participate.

And last fall, I planned a shopping excursion to the outlet malls (girls only, of course). I followed up this winter with a bowling night (although I can barely break 50 without bumpers) and weekly dessert feasts (okay that’s nearly as bad as drinking but you don’t wake up embarrassed and with a hangover). Oh, and I went dancing with some guys in my class. Some of the other students in the department are catching on slowly. One organized a snowboarding outing, so snowboarding here I come. (Imagine that–a Black woman on a snowboard! Almost as good as a Black woman winning bobsled Gold!)

I’m still working on that last option–finding someone who’ll understand. But as the new semester starts, the pressure mounts to get working in the lab, and my qualifying/cumulative exams approach, I’m not sure how successful that will be.

So, off I go, creating my new life. Wish me luck. …

Micella Phoenix DeWhyse welcomes your comments and letters of support. You can write her at .

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