Ph.D. Madness: Postscriptum

So – after over a month – the aide of the secretary of the Dean finally called (yes, you can see waht kind of priority Ph.D. diplomas have around here. But she was much nicer than the other two, and seemed much smarter, too, so I was content with that).

She asked whether I’d like to pick up my diploma at the office. Or whether they should just mail it over.

Just to recap: my diploma had been misspelled for the second time by the office in charge, so it had to be reordered – a task of five minutes – and then it needed to be signed by two people much much higher up in the academical food chain – apparently a task of over a month – to then make it into my hands.

I was about to say “just mail it, I’m done with all this”, but what if they had managed to misspell “Assyrian” yet again? Also, I still felt somewhat festive about finally, FINALLY being allowed to officially carry my title, so I decided to pick the diploma up in person and made an appointment, or rather, I wanted to make a formal appointment and she just said “Oh, don’t you worry, just drop by during my office hours.”

Yup, very formal and festive.

The day in question, it poured. Since I’m not a grad student any longer now, I had no access to the student season ticket for the bus, so I walked downtown and the rain felt like buckets or bathtubs being upended onto the street.

I arrived with my pants drenched up until my knees, my (freshly polished) boots making squishing water noises and left a trail of waterdrops all the way up to the third floor, where I was still trying to feel festive and proud to finally receive this paper after more than seven years.

 The secretary’s aide attended me in between two calls, with a friendly smile and a “here you go!”. She didn’t know me, but she didn’t want to see any documentation -so theoretically, she would also have handed out my diploma to a complete stranger.

And then I stood in the corridor again, with two simple DINA4 papers in my hand (I didn’t even get a university-issued paper folder with the university logo!).

“Congratulations,” I muttered.

*Squish, squish* applauded my boots.

And then I walked back home. The rain had let up.

Now, the two copies of the diploma are stashed in one of the many, many big folders labeled “Ph.D. research/papers” in my apartment, while I did not get that perfect fit of a post-doc position I had set my sights on (they didn’t find anyone more qualified, either, but someone more mellow whom they knew better already).

Now it is time for the Assistant Supervisor’s favorite slogan, that she tends to tell to Ph.D. candidates in their last year, when they are already seeing the promised land on the horizon: “The really hard years are the ones after you get your Ph.D.” After all, you can’t have your candidates feeling in any way hopeful or – God forbid! – optimistic about the future. I also think she feels the need it to share her own bitterness, since she never made department chair and never got a call, despitel completing the second big thesis that comes after the Ph.D. in Germany, the Habil.

I’m still pondering to try for a Habil/post-doc position and continue towards a career (if you can call it that) in academia – that’s what I want. That’s what I would love to do until I drop dead. But with no positions around and the few that there are going to people with contacts (and not necessarily qualifications), I’m not sure I’ll get the chance and instead wonder what will come first: an empty bank account or bitterness about the academia business.

I see professors who openly say they don’t care about their students and are present 1 1/2 days out of 5 a week, getting a full salary and doing talkshow appearances. I see post-docs who delivered Ph.D.s I would reject in a B.A. candidate. I see people so full of themselves that there is no space left for actual research or – much less – good teaching.

For now, I’ll keep searching – for as long as I can hold on. At least while I am unemployed and have to take a lot of walks, I have time to think about new stories, and to continue editing my novels…

11 thoughts on “Ph.D. Madness: Postscriptum”

  1. What you write touches me and I would like to express you my support. I am sure that you will achieve your goals in the academic field because you seem very determined. It is always a pleasure to read you.


  2. A thousand congratulations, Anik!!!

    What you just described… sigh! And damn the mellow ones! 😦

    Chin up: academic world loses (for now), but eye bags and your novels gain, which is all the better for us, your readers. 😉


  3. Congratulations, Dr. Anik LaChev!! I am so happy for you. You must have had some idea that the final chapter would provide you with yet another adventure. Hanna stated it quite well – while we all wish for your dreams of a career in academia to come true, we your faithful readers are rewarded with your continued dabbling away on eye bags and novels. So thank you for sticking around for us 🙂


  4. “Heiße Doktor gar”…congratulations! In and of and for itself, the work is honorable, worth doing, and you did it.
    You recognize of course the similarity of academics to making a career as a singer, orchestra musician, or actor. Or in publishing or in museums–wherever the essential resources belong to established institutions and their managerial cadre, who can rely on others’ passion and ambition to furnish labor, while perpetuating themselves by rewarding the people best at supporting and exploiting the management system. Some talents achieve stellar success even so–and may you be among those–some continue performing despite lack of the hoped rewards; some turn to other employment. The institutions go on misrepresenting the process: “die Kunst einzig noch zu pflegen.”
    At 40 I had no savings, a tiny income, and the best job of my life. Later came more money, for work I never could respect. Those were my choices–and all I know about this is that I am glad I made my decisions for my own reasons. Whatever you decide, may your efforts bring you the direct pleasure of doing something really well, many more times.


    1. if you had told me that about 8 years agi, I might still be working in opera 😉
      But back then I was under the foolissh impression that academia would be a more stable and reliable field, tethered to the respect of talent and research. Iguess that was my best performance in the ingenue fach, ever.


  5. Congratulations, indeed, Doc. Sincerest wishes for getting that academic position you want and envy in advance of your future students. Alternatively (or even concurrently), write, publish, get rich, travel and see lots of opera. 🙂


  6. Congrats Doc. I really hope things work out for you. Academia needs young blood with fresh eyes like you. I’m a little jaded and tired of teachers who have bloated with long years of tenure….


  7. thank you for your encouraging words.
    I will simply broaden the “trying to get a Ph.D.” category to “Survival in Academia” and hope that my path will lead me towards gainful employment and fulfiling research and teaching eventually (high hopes are okay, aren’t they?). Meanwhile, I will keep writing and blogging and taking your advice to heart.


  8. Well, doesn’t that somehow remind me of the opening chapter in Campus?…

    Congratulations, nonetheless, Anik!! I’m glad you finally got the diploma if not the job. If I had any connections in the acadamic circus, I’d rally for you. Sadly, my studies at the LMU suffered much the same fate as some of your endeavors.

    Should you ever end up being a professor, though (and I sincerely hope that you will) – I’d probably give my right arm to travel back in time and start my studies all over in one of your classes 🙂


  9. Hi there,

    I’ve only recently discovered your blog and am loving reading all the various posts… but it’s taken me a while to find the PhD strand! Take it from a fellow recent completer (who managed to find a bit of employment and is very nice to their students – we have cake and everything): it *does* get better, and in the meantime all the other stuff you’re up to will only count in your favour. Good luck – and looking forward to hearing more!


    1. thank you! It’s always inspiring to see someone hold a light at the end of the tunnel. Also: you have cake? Awesome. I’ll probaly start a post-doc strand now – someplace discreet in the background.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s