Sunday, October 25, 2015

Friends...How Many Of Us Have Them?

I am working on an assignment for my qualitative methods class that is part of my professor's research. She is looking at the socialization of grad students at the beginning of their PhD program. Our assignment was to interview a first semester PhD student and transcribe the interview for coding. Although this is my first semester as a matriculated student, I had a couple of semesters under my belt, so I didn't qualify as a subject. No matter, I just went about the task of interviewing a first semester PhD student from one of my courses.

One of the questions that we were to include in the interview was whether or not the subject had interactions with other grad students outside of class. Memories of my grad student days came flooding back, and they were not good. My master's degree program was very cut-throat. If you were not a native speaker of the language or a TA, you were excluded. Needless to say, despite my near-fluency in the language and experience as a secondary teacher, but not a TA did not count. The two years I spent working on my master's degree were very lonely. I can honestly I did not have a single friend. Law school was better, which is odd, because that is where one would expect people to ostracize others. In fact, I had some great friendships that started in class and are still in place to this day. It seemed that everyone felt like we were in this thing together, so we might as well work together. That is not to say that there were some ass-hats, believe me, there were. But, law school was actually a great experience and nothing like what was depicted in the Paper Chase!

Fast forward some 20 years, and the friendship issue comes up again. It's werid because although, I have friends in my classes, I have not engaged in anything beyond class with anyone. It's not for lack of trying or because there is a cut-throat, ostracizing environment. My program consists mainly of people who work full-time and take classes part time. Many have families. Some are full-time, but they have research positions and may also adjunct at other colleges. I just don't think anyone has any time for friends. I thought that maybe this was an non-traditional student issue. But, my subject, who began her PhD work right after her master's and bachelor's degree, indicated that she does not have much interaction with other grad students outside of class. With working as a research assistant and taking a full load of courses, she doesn't have time.

There's that word again. Time.

Friendships take time. Time to develop. Time to nurture. As I think about the friendships that I don't have in grad school, I think about my current friendships that I have neglected because I have been so consumed with the PhD and HBCU. And, I am really behind on reading blog-friend posts. That makes me sad. I have put a couple of friendships aside because they are draining me and causing me stress. That makes me even more sad. And now, knowing that even younger grad students do not feel they have interactions, or friendships, with other grad get the idea. many of us have time for them?

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