Grad School Chronicles: A scholar’s confession

I’m sorry for the ranty post ahead, but I just need to get this out of my head.

When I first came to Taiwan, the senior scholars told me that I had nothing to worry about because everything was going to be easy. I don’t know if they said that just to make me feel at ease, but I certainly did not find my studies easy. I think that would be the last word I would use to describe what I have gone through. Maybe for them, it’s not as difficult as other experiences, but it certainly has its fair share of challenges.

I got into one of the most rigorous and selective departments in my university1, so professors really expected a lot from us. I exerted a lot of effort into my classes and poured my heart out into everything I did to get good grades and learn what I could. For the most part, I could say I did well, but sometimes I fell short of expectations. There was even a point where I was at the verge of breaking down because I seriously thought I was going to fail a class. I even remember getting together with a classmate from my department, also a scholar, counting and budgeting our leftover money just in case we fail and we don’t get scholarship money ever again. There were also times when it was so difficult to pick myself up and start again after failing, simply because I didn’t feel like it was worth it anymore. I wallowed in self-pity every day.

Not many people will admit this if it happened to them, but yes, it did happen to me. And yes, it was that bad.

To be honest, I contemplated quitting in the middle of all the madness, but in the end I knew I could only keep going. You guys know me and my attitude towards learning: I think it’s a rewarding pursuit, although it can be difficult and frustrating at times. I try my best and work hard every day. It is not always easy though. Sometimes, I still feel pressured by peers who constantly sneer at me for always working hard and studying and caring so much. In fact, when they found out that I was so stressed out because of my studies, they just told me to ignore it and said that I’m probably the first scholar who struggled with academics, while everyone else was getting by just fine without even trying. Hearing comments like that definitely made me question my capabilities because… well, I must be *that* dumb if I was the only one struggling like this!

This is the reason why I don’t share much about my experiences in grad school and in Taiwan. I think that my experiences and opinions don’t matter because all of these comments make me feel like I’m not an outstanding student – just an average student who has to work extra hard just to get to the same level as the others.

I usually try my best to refrain from sharing drama and personal problems on my blog and social media because I personally believe there’s no place for my negativity on the internet. Sadly, social media is mostly a place for posting your achievements and projecting the “ideal” side of your life. Bloggers and influencers post almost every day about how amazing their life is, how sunny and positive they are, how good they are at something, and how they want to give inspiration… With these types of posts being the norm, I dare not write about my struggles. I would end up annoying people instead of “inspiring” them2.

So why am I writing this entry now? Why the sudden “confession”?

Well, first off, I am doing this for myself.

I am tired of being [emotionally] tired. I am tired of sticking it out alone during bad days and pretending that I’m okay. I am tired of keeping my struggles to myself for fear of being judged, for fear of being considered “not good enough”. For once, I want to acknowledge my struggles and emotions, not to wallow in them, but to reassure myself that no matter how difficult things may be, I am doing the right thing by fighting on. There is nothing wrong with what I am feeling, and it’s about time that I accept that so I could stop beating myself up over failures and mistakes. Recently, I’ve been harsh to myself, thinking that work was my priority and that I had no right to self-care as long as I had no significant progress. I have to do this to reflect because I will never be able to move on to better and greater things if I keep on belittling and disregarding myself.

I could have chosen to just keep this rant entry to myself, but I decided to put all these thoughts out in the open because there may be people out there just like me who are feeling overwhelmed, and I don’t want them to feel like they’re so stupid or useless just because they’re having difficulty with something that other people can do so easily or with less effort. I don’t want them to feel what I felt whenever I dealt with those types of comments. They may not know me, but I want them to know that there’s someone out there who understands what they’re going through.

So if a scholar is reading this, or if any student is going through the same thing, please be assured that you’re not alone and that your feelings are totally valid. Being in grad school is quite an adventure and not everyone easily breezes through it. Many would encounter challenges, and that’s perfectly fine. There is nothing wrong with you just because you’re struggling with the workload or the classes or whatever that is. Those hardships will build your character so don’t let them make you feel that you don’t deserve to be where you are right now. I know that sometimes it’s very hard to believe, especially on those days when nothing seems to be going right. I know, I’ve been there too, and these feelings still haunt me from time to time.

Well, I may not be an expert in surviving grad school (or life). I may be suffering from severe self-doubt, just like many other people out there. I may not have gotten over it yet. But you know what? I don’t have to deal with it alone anymore, and neither do you, if you’re going through the same issues.

Let’s conquer this together.

  1. As far as I know, I’m the first scholar (and the first Filipino!) who got into this department, thus the added pressure.
  2. But this is a personal blog, so I’m not after getting followers and inspiring people anyway. That’s too much responsibility.

10 Comments

  1. I hear you, girl.

    Firstly, can I just say? That THIS IS YOUR BLOG. Which means, you can write WHATEVER YOU WANT. If that’s a ranty post (as long as it’s not attacking anyone else) then write to your heart’s content! If you want to write a post that has 100 words or 1,000 words, YOU DO THAT. I’m upset when bloggers think they need to “fit a certain image” for their blog because “other bloggers are doing it” NO YOU BE YOU. As for inspiration, I personally take so much inspiration from failure – from my own stories of failure and struggles to others stories of failure and struggles – IT IS AN INSPIRATION. You’re not annoying anybody because like you said, THIS IS YOUR BLOG and YOU’RE WRITING FOR YOU. If people read it, cool. If people like it, cool. If people don’t like it, cool, they can leave! Personally, I always write for me – because I want to document it, I want to share it but most of the time I’m the one reading MY OWN stuff haha (I WILL HAPPILY SAY THAT!)

    Okay, back to your situation.

    THANK YOU for sharing this with us, I’m sure that students can highly relate to it. I have had so many times in my academic career where I’d talk to my group of friends or classmates about how I’ve been studying a certain module super hard because I find it difficult. They’ve said “wow, you work too hard. wow, you’re such a try hard. But Pauline, this is the simple stuff! You’re stressing yourself out for no reason!” It sucks, I often think not many people think before they speak (because those words really hurt me) from then on, I decided to break away from those people and be with people who appreciate my struggles, offer guidance or simply be there when I need to rant about how difficult R is! LOL.

    I have had so many academic failures and hardships from teachers at school laughing at my University course choice saying “it’s too difficult for me.” and that “I’m too ambitious” but hey, your girl is graduating in 3 months! 😉 Keep going lovely! Your hardships shape you for the better! You can do it!!!

    1. Thanks for being super supportive, Pauline! <3 Yeah, I initially hesitated to share this and my other struggles on my blog for fear of being judged or alienating people but like you said, it's my space and I decided that I can write whatever the hell I want... as long as I'm not putting anybody down of course! I like writing things for documentation too, and I'm sure I'll look back on this post a few years later and think of how far I've gone! 😀

      I'm glad you liked reading this entry and thank you for the encouragement, you don't know how hard it was for me to write this <3

  2. When people say that things are so easy for them, I often question whether that’s the case or if they’re just trying to hide their issues too. I think it’s ok to vent if you need to though! This is your space!

    I think you’re doing amazing for continuining on while dealing with all of that pressure from your peers. I really doubt that no one else is struggling! I also think it’s a good thing to share the reality of it all. It really does help when you find someone you can relate to, and it totally can be inspiring when you see someone in a similar situation and are still pushing through it.

    Thanks for sharing with us, Claudine! I’m wishing you the best in your studies!

    1. Thank you so much Cat <3 I'm still fighting and pushing on, and I'm not about to give up now! I'm just trying to ignore those comments, after all, I'm not doing this master's degree for them haha!

      I'm glad you read everything and thanks for reassuring me that it's perfectly okay to rant about this XD It was really difficult for me to put myself out there but knowing that people will be able to relate to my experiences really helped me and encouraged me to finally post this! 🙂

  3. I think I kind of know how you feel. I’m also in grad school too and in every semester, I always have a module that I think I’m going to fail too. I think the stress will be even higher since you are on scholarship. At least I am working for my school fees so I don’t feel that stressed…

    1. Yeah, I think the fact that I’m on scholarship makes the pressure even worse. The stakes and the expectation of the people around me are so much higher :'(

      How many semesters do you have left? Good luck to us and I know we’re gonna graduate soon! Let’s claim it! 😀

  4. Sometimes it is good to just let the steam off and rant on your own blog like this. I’m glad you finally decide to do it. I can only imagine how much stress and work you are going through with the grad school stuff. I haven’t been in school for such a long time but I remember being tired of it when it was over.

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you do well. ♥

    1. Thank you, Ashley! <3 At first I wasn't sure whether it was right to post this because I sound so negative! Haha! But then again, I figured that other people may be going through the same thing but just couldn't express it. I wanted them to feel that someone could relate to them! <3

  5. Never believe anyone that says things are easy because in reality, they are never easy, and I’m like you. I’m average but working twice if not thrice hard to catch up with others. I went into honors and eventually had to stop because of how much was expected of me.

    It’s good to rant and let it all out. I’m glad you have this blog to do so.

    1. I’m glad someone can relate! It’s really hard when people have high expectations of you, and it makes you feel like you have to have high standards for yourself too.

      Thanks for the support! I usually don’t tell other people about the difficulties I’m facing but sometimes it’s tiring to keep everything to yourself, so here I am!

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