Friday, February 7, 2014

Adventures with Grad Studies

"Back to school, Back to school, To prove to my Dad that I'm not a fool"
~Billy Madison                

While I have different reasons than Billy Madison, I am nonetheless back in school.  Specifically, a M.Sc. program at the U of A.  I have been there for just over a month now, and am finally getting used to it. I was working for a consulting company over the last 4.5 years, and the switch back to academia has been a little strange.

First off, I had to move to Edmonton which is a big change on its own.  But I found a nice place, in a quiet neighbourhood that is conveniently close to the LRT (train system).  So I can get to an from without driving, and paying for parking, and all that hassle.  I am also close to most other essentials (grocery store, bank, coffee shops, etc.).

School itself has been mostly good.  It is weird going back to classes, and lab work, and lab reports, and tutorials.  Normally I would probably be on or around a drill rig, logging samples, in rougher, colder conditions.  Don't get me wrong, field work can be fun, it is just very different than being in a classroom.  

It is also a different experience from my undergrad.  In undergrad there was a lot more structure.  You had x number of classes; for each one the prof would show up an talk about one specific thing, and at the end of the week you would have an assignment about that stuff; crunch the numbers and hand in.  And there were labs thrown in there too.  

In the grad program it feels more open.  You have less classes, but a heavier workload, as you are responsible for more.  Professors do still lecture about specific stuff, but I find that there is a lot more from them just talking about experiences and how stuff really works and all the fun, cool, little things in between. And there is also discussion.  And there are papers!  So when it comes time to do a tutorial, or lab report, you need to do some research and really think about stuff.  Information is rarely spoon fed to you.  Part of this is probably also due to the fact that I have been out of school for years, and a lot of the theory is not fresh in my mind.  

Classes are generally interesting, and I have actually had eureka moments, and whispered things like "woah", and "that's cool".  To clarify, this never happened in undergrad (or at least I don't remember it).  I do have one class that I am still unsure about, as it is very heavy on theory, and I don't have a strong background in it.  But I think I am slowly putting it all together, and it actually is interesting, just very heavy (as in writing equations for 1.5 hours during class).  

So to summarize, grad school so far is mostly good.  It is busy, but mostly interesting.  I am sure there is more to tell, and probably a clearer way to tell it, but, I have school work to do, and no time to revise this.

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