All the PhDs went home from SMPosium on Sunday. I was definitely a little bit sad to see them leave. The number of people living in this dorm was cut in half, so it feels empty.
On Friday, I remember meeting some of the PhDs for the first time and none of us knew what to say! We had been given an “assignment” to meet at least three new people. The interactions were kind of awkward. What was I going to talk with these adults about for three days?!
That changed quickly. I had some serious conversations with SMP alums about graduate school and careers, some conversations about traveling and families, and also had adventures involving getting “lost” on the way to dinner with a few of them conveniently in the Dairy Queen drive through!
I met a lot of wonderful people in a very short amount of time. Even though all of the activity and scheduled events was certainly very overwhelming at times, SMPosium was absolutely worth it.
Yesterday we had another visiting colloquium speaker, Alyssa. She echoed what everyone else has told me about the math world being small:
One thing about growing up in the MAA location that I now work in is that when I was an undergrad, there was a professor I thought was really amazing. Like, the Lady Gaga of math. I kept thinking how cool it would be if he just knew my name!… Now… that same professor sends me emails– I know where he lives!
After dinner, I ended up talking to her one-on-one about my grad school fears. The longer I’m here at SMP the more sure I feel that I do not want to go to graduate school in pure mathematics. It doesn’t seem to fit my personality. At school last semester, my advisor expressed the same sentiments about me, actually– he told me of course I would be successful at it, but there might be something I would like better. I didn’t really know enough then to be able to agree or disagree, but SMP has helped me a lot with that.
I still feel like I want to and will go to graduate school. Maybe in something like Operations Research– I just learned about it last weekend from a PhD, and it seems like it fits me better. Maybe. But I am afraid. I am afraid of being burnt out from doing school ages 5-25+ nonstop, and I am afraid of missing out on “real life” by being in school instead. I also realized while talking to her that I have this image in my head that graduate school in math means sitting in a dark room by yourself, with all these numbers on a giant chalkboard over your head, trying to prove some huge scary theorem. And I’m afraid I will never be able to prove anything.
Talking to Alyssa really helped me put a name to some of these fears. She told me that whatever I choose out do, just make sure I’m doing it because I want to and not because I think other people want me to. So, I don’t actually know what I want, but if I figure it out I’ll try to take the advice.