Grad School Nomads

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 by Rachel

Grades were due at 9 this morning, and almost everyone is gone. When first applying for my MA, I wasn’t just picking a school. I was picking a town where I thought I could LIVE. I didn’t pick a town like Phoenix with raging heat and stressful highways. I picked a mountain town, a train town with lots of nice little restaurants and bars—lots of stuff for us to DO. The same thing applied to my MFA selection. Of course, the main thing was for us to return to the South, but we also picked smaller towns with personality.


Milledgeville might be a little too small for Derrick’s taste (and even I think we’re too far from an airport for regular Vegas getaways), but I like this town and I’m glad that we’ve made our home here. I like our comfy house. I like my regular weekend shopping routine of Walmart, Big Lots, and Dollar Tree. When we’ve wanted to do something a little different, we’re in reasonable driving distance away from tons of cool museums, my two favorites so far being the Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem and the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins. We’ve spent weekends away in Chattanooga and at Jekyll Island. A 6 hour driving radius around Milledgeville has TONS of opportunity.


Here’s your backstory: After my sophomore year of college, I moved out of the dorms and into a house. From that point on, I either took summer school classes or worked at the gym during the summer. I would go home for like a week, but that was it. Only about half of my friends went home for the summer—most of them still dorm-livers. Summer was still filled with lots of parties and movie nights.


So my personal college experience combined with my ideas about making a home in a grad school town is what shapes my perception about these “grad school nomads.” I’d like to add in the “Derrick-factor”. Derrick has a job here, and I’m not going to run away without him, so he is an additional anchor to Milledgeville. Bogie the cat holds a smaller anchor. I cannot ditch my furry baby.


Still, I think it is so bizarre as I’ve watched through my MA and MFA that people just leave town for the winter and summer. People go off to get jobs. People go home with their parents. Though I’m definitely looking forward to a Christmas visit with my parents, I couldn’t imagine spending the whole month with them. I don’t think my parents would want me there either. I think they’d think I was a little weird. Even from a social aspect, there’s not much appeal. I don’t have many high school friends who still live in that town (as we’ve grown apart or they’ve moved away for school or work). I would spend nights at home.


The job thing I can get. Though I think part of being in grad school is rationing out money so you can enjoy these breaks, I understand needing/wanting more money. But I can’t get the going home thing. Most importantly, I can’t work at home. I can’t write. I consider breaks to be an essential part of the grad school experience. I am in this program to write! I’ve got a thesis draft due in a month, and I hope to be productive over the next few weeks. If I was at my parents’ house right now, I would be helping plan last minute party stuff, wrapping Christmas gifts, helping cook, cleaning, etc. This is not conducive to poetry revision or writing. I can’t imagine that others who go home to stay with their parents would be productive either.


And socially, the nomads throw things off too. People complain “Oh Rachel, where have you been? I’ve never see you.” I’ve been here all year! You’re the one who disappeared for the 3 months of summer, then 1 more month of winter. I’m not one for weekday outings, but this is the time of year when I can make it work. During school, I’m too busy with the housekeeping type stuff, the grading. But now, in my precious breaks, after writing all day, I can go out or host in.


I don’t mean any of this as an insult to the grad school nomads. I just couldn’t imagine living that way, packing up and going twice a year once grades were posted. Maybe I’m just not built to be a migrating species. Plus, Milledgeville is so wonderful in the winter, with its mild weather, decorated downtown and now-empty streets. I’m so glad to be here.


  1. Everything about this — yes. I’m almost twenty-eight, and I haven’t spent summers or whatever at my parents since I was twenty-one. Even though I very much appreciate their standing offer that I can come back home if I need it, I still feel more a push to be a grownup and go out on my own than the pull to go back to them full time.

  2. Thanks for the comment & agreeing, Amy!

  3. I’m a total nomad, while at MTSU, simply because I can’t stand to be in Murfreesboro more than necessary and MY anchor is in Memphis :)

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