Academic life — especially if you are doing postgraduate studies — is stressful. That much most of us can agree on. The stress is caused mainly by the research itself. From trial and errors during the dawn of it all and securing working materials and equipment, to lab protocols that we can follow — and get positive results from! — up to completing that much needed first chapter. Stressful! Other stressors may be funding. Coming up with a research idea is one thing but securing funding for that specific idea is another. Colleagues, supervisors and university administration…well, these fall in the league of their own.
Once or twice all of us go through such tremendous stress that we feel the world has turned its back on us. Often, we resort to spending our nights in the laboratory, office or field trying, by all means, to make it work. The problem, however, is the more we don’t find answers we are looking for, the more we get trapped in the corner of depression and the desire to quit. The top ten reasons for depression in postgraduate students can often be avoided — but we often don’t realise that we’re heading towards them in time to change our ways.
There is, however, in the midst of it all, a reminder I would like to make to every postgraduate student out there. Just in time to save everyone’s sanity, I hope (laughs). There are a few people we should never forget while traveling in this journey of academia. I know from personal experience that I would rather talk to my fellow student about my problems because they understand better. They understand all my struggles, the terminology and some are going through the same rough patch as I am, probably. It is understandable.
However, we lose friends along the way and alienate family members at the sight of the ‘bigger picture’. Fortunately, most of them make an effort to stay in our lives. We should, I believe, make an effort to get away from it all and spend time with these people. They may not get what we do or even understand why we’re doing it but they will make sure that we can forget, even if it’s just for a minute, about the stressful research journey and often remind us why we started. They hold us dearly in their hearts and spending time with them may help make our journey a little bit enjoyable.
Remember, research will make you travel the world, see places and meet new people. Everything surely changes; but when the world stops making the noise, the smell of the laboratory coat fades away and you have had enough sleep, when you open your eyes you will see that those who may be research-illiterate surely do matter.