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? 😉