Meet the New PhD Student

I was at the university’s health service the other day for some test required for all new equipment users. The woman at the reception desk took my details – name, date of birth, etc. Then she asked, "Are you a new PhD student?"

I stifled a laugh, but promptly replied, "No, I’m a visiting scientist." I wished that I didn’t have to say "scientist," for it seems to denote someone important, but that’s the official status I have in the department. "Oh," she said, while she gave me a quick look (as if to make sure) and a polite smile.

I found the incident funny, because it reminded me of the numerous times when other people would ask me about my reason for being in the university. I already lost count of the times when people mistook me for a student instead of ehem, someone older. Staff, postdocs and students alike ask me the same question: "Are you a new PhD student?"

Well, I’m not. I almost wish I were, if only to take another shot at it. I would certainly want to be a grad student again in one of the world’s premiere universities. But then you know – been there, done that. Why torture myself again? Hah!

It amuses me to no end that people would still mistake me for a PhD student. For one, it makes me feel younger. 😀 For another, it’s nice to be around younger people who think you’re just as young as they are. But of course I have to tell the truth, and when I do, it’s just as amusing to see them try to process that bit of information while taking a second good look at me. And when they learn that I’m with my daughter here, they’re just as shocked. I can see it in their faces: "What! You’re a mom?!!"

It must be the way I dress. Or the way I talk. Or maybe I lack that kind of smug self-confidence that experienced and knowledgeable people exude.

Or as someone I know suggested, perhaps Asians tend to look younger than their actual age? Gee, I’m not so sure of that. Or perhaps I took after my mother, who for quite a time was often mistaken for my older sister (especially when I was in high school). Nowadays people are often shocked that she’s past 60 already. I could very well say that she relishes each time when people compliment her and say that she looks much younger than her real age. Well, I guess I would too.

Wouldn’t you? 😉

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6 Responses to Meet the New PhD Student

  1. Karmi says:

    Definitely. You got a good thing going there. You don’t smoke, right?

  2. Dennis T. says:

    Hi Kat,
    You’re in England? Since when? I thought you were still in Tsukuba. Anyway, I find this entry very amusing. As a visiting scholar here at Ritsumeikan, I was also mistaken for a PhD student, not just once but several times (ehem!). It amuses me to think that I also look young at my age, haha! But you are, really. I suppose in a university setting, one is stereotyped as a student or a faculty. Visiting scholars/scientists are in-between and a lot of people do not know about it. Men and women who are thirty-something are in their mid-life. Sometimes, they are confused if they belong to the 20s group or the 40s. Thirty-something exude characteristics of both 20s and 40s age brackets. This is just my opinion. Enjoy your stay there. Regards to Baggy and Aya,

  3. kathy says:

    Karmi – yeah, I don’t smoke. Is there a study which finds a relation between aging and smoking?

  4. kathy says:

    Hi Dennis! Thanks for visiting my blog. :)
    Kochira koso – I didn’t know that you were back in Japan! You probably went there at the same time as I left for Cambridge. We have been here for two months already.

    I like your theory about the thiry-something having characteristics of 20s and 40s. Good thing for us, we won’t have to fret about being identified with the 40s crowd! 😀

    Hanggang kelan ka sa Ritsumeikan? Good luck!

  5. herb says:

    hahahaha! i get you! napagkakalamalan nga akong undergrad… and most peeps are shocked that i’m already in PhD, and in my late twenties. go asians!

  6. Dennis T. says:

    Hi Kat,

    I arrived in September. 10 months lang ako dito. Ingat kayo dyan and God bless,

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