Summer reflections

How would you like the NSF to fund an all-expenses-paid* eight-week trip to India, where you can work on research similar to what you’d be doing at home this summer anyway?

Yeah, that’s pretty much how I felt when I saw this opportunity existed.

(OK, so this is only for US astronomy graduate students. How convenient – that’s me!)

As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I was lucky enough to have my husband along for this adventure, which we embarked on quite soon after getting married. We did of course have to pay out-of-pocket for his plane ticket and other expenses.

But can I just say what an awesome summer it was?? My particular research project wasn’t as relevant as I’d hoped, but the list of potential projects for next summer looks quite good. And research notwithstanding, just the experience of visiting India was outstanding.

So, have a look at what it was like last summer. Read my cultural essay. And if you’re an astronomy grad student, seriously consider applying for this program! I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

*Technically, our food wasn’t paid for. But food is much cheaper in India than the US, unless your grad school diet is 100% top ramen.

Edit: since originally publishing this post, there has been some discussion via email among the astronomy grads at NMSU as to the merit of this program from a research perspective. I readily admit that there are better ways to spend your summer if your sole pursuit in life is accomplishing research. I further concede that as a graduate student, my main priority is research toward a PhD. However, I like to think there are other important things in life, and that one of those things is gaining a wider perspective by stepping outside of your comfort zone. Perhaps I am deluding myself, but I don’t want to live in a world where we isolate ourselves in favor of grinding out as much work as humanly possible. We are too easily divided when one individual cannot comprehend another’s perspective, and I believe experiencing wildly different cultures firsthand can help. For me, a summer in India was a beautiful way to combine three things close to my heart: exploring the world, having my husband along for the journey, and yes, continuing to study astronomy. Other, “better,” more research-heavy programs in other countries may well exist. Whatever your goals and priorities, I encourage you to seek out ways to broaden your horizons through travel.

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