How grad school is like roller derby

I’m finishing out my first year as a PhD student in Foreign Language Education at the University of Texas at Austin. It’s been a wild ride so far, and I’ve come to realize that my grad school experience in the US is actually a lot like roller derby. I’ll briefly explain and let my alter ego, Culture Shock Her, illustrate.

Photo: Lisa Ahrens

First, you need to make sure your learning tools and research equipment are working.

But in the case of equipment failure, you learn to improvise and keep going.

Photo: Peter Voyvodic

Then you get started on group projects. Collaboration with other scholars can be fun and rewarding when everyone has clear expectations, works together, and fulfills their rolls.

Sometimes projects hit snags, but then you renegotiate roles and priorities.

It’s exciting to go to conferences and meet experts in the field.

Left Turn Coaching boot camp in Dallas, TX with trainers Juke Boxx and Demanda Riot

At your best, you succeed at finding a work-life balance while also fulfilling your goals and objectives as a student, researcher, and instructor.

And sometimes you just have to keep pushing and power through a semester without taking a break.

Photo: Peter Voyvodic

This presents the danger of burn out. When everything seems overwhelming, you may feel you lack the ability to succeed.

Sometimes you take on more than is realistically possible. Or you run into institutional snags that seem impossible overcome. For example, it was just announced that my program in Foreign Language Education will be closed. Because of my work commitments, I might actually be the last PhD student this program graduates.

But you learn to take setbacks in stride. You learn to get back up again. You learn to keep going. Because that’s what it takes.


4 thoughts on “How grad school is like roller derby

  1. great pics!
    my daughter the LAST of the foreign language doctor hard ass!

  2. Good to read about u Devon,
    this post says it all 😉
    Yes you can ;).

    Best regards from Portugal.

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