Life through a PhD program can, at times, be stranger than fiction, just like life in general (Part-1)

I have made up my mind today about telling you a story, except for the fact that it is not a story but actually happened in real life. The story revolves around two women – Emily and Kim. Both of them were fellow PhD students. I met them in grad school. Emily is a friend and Kim, more of an acquaintance.

Before I go any further with the story, I want to devote some time describing my two leading ladies. Emily was incredibly intelligent and extremely knowledgeable. When we would go to catch a movie, Emily would understand and laugh at a brainy joke in the movie theater much faster than anyone else. You name a cuisine from any corner of the world – she knew it. You pick a bird or animal that most people would have never heard about – Emily knew it. She also knew an astonishing amount of detail about movies – both old and new. She was very well informed about art, literature and politics. Emily was one of those people, when you hang out with them – just doing that would raise your knowledge level significantly. Emily’s beauty was not just restricted to her intelligence or her knowledge level. She had great leadership qualities. She volunteered to organize various events for our department and did such a great job, it was unbelievable. In almost my six years at the university, I had not come across anybody who being a full time PhD student, did such a wonderful job of setting up events.

My other protagonist – Kim was from South Korea. She came to USA to pursue a PhD in biology. When I first met Kim, I noticed she was not comfortable conversing in English, in fact I could barely comprehend what she was trying to say. Kim came across as a meek and shy person. Someone who is innocent to a fault and would never even hurt a fly. I couldn’t help feeling sympathetic towards Kim and often wondered how she would even finish a PhD especially since I knew her mentor, who had a reputation of being very difficult to get along with, in our department. And needless to say pursuing a PhD involves an awful lot of reading research articles, protocols and writing research articles – all of which require a good command of English.

By the end of my story, you will find out that one of these women goes on to successfully finish a PhD while the other will spend six years trying to struggle through her PhD and later give up on it all together. Life through a PhD program can, at times, be stranger than fiction, just like life in general.

Story to be continued in my next blog…..

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