Graduate Student Spotlight: Graduate Students Dreaming of Comprehensive Exams by 7 Anonymous Graduate Students

In the last edition of the newsletter, we piloted the sneak-attack sample study (see “Happy People,” Spring 2011).  This time there was a little bit less sneaking and a little bit more story-sharing. We (the editresses) are in the midst of comprehensive exams, you see, and so we’ve been talking with others about their experiences. And many people, it seems, have found their comprehensive exams in their dreams – or nightmares. So the graduate student spotlight this go-round shines a beam on deep dark dreams of comps. All contributors remain anonymous.

“Well, I was done with comps and I thought I did really well.  And then [insert name of professor here] called me into his office and I thought he called me in to tell me how great I did.  Instead he said, “In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen anything like this.  This comp was amazing!”  And I was getting more and more excited!  And he said, “We had to invent a new category for this comp …”  And I was getting even more excited!  And then he said, “It was so bad that we had to invent a new category for this comp … A Failure with Distinction.  Hard.”  And then I woke up.  Crying.  And scared.” – Anonymous Graduate Student #1

“I’m not sure if this is directly related to comps, but for about 2 years of graduate school I kept having dream after dream about high school.  The dreams are set on my old high school campus and I’m a high school student in the dreams.  But while some people exist from high school in the dream, like old friends and teachers, a lot of people exist in the dreams from Maryland. Like in one dream Bill Falk was the high school band director and he was in a band hall locker-room telling us highschoolers to get to class.” – Anonymous Graduate Student #2

“I was writing my exam and got thirsty – so thirsty that I felt like I was choking. So I reached out for some water, and then all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe! And I was soaked! And awake. In my sleep, I had reached out and picked up the water glass next to my bed, and instead of drinking from it, as I was trying to do in my dream, I had dumped it on myself. Neither spouse nor cat was happy.” – Anonymous Graduate Student #3

“I kept having these images of this question on research design that I would have no idea how to answer, and I’d look at it, go completely blank, and then offer the wrong procedures.” – Anonymous Graduate Student #4

“Well this will probably clearly give me away, but after reading theories about mass killing for a week straight, I had a nightmare that my apartment complex was being carpet bombed and I had to run to the Art/Socy building for cover.” – Anonymous Graduate Student #5

“In my dream it’s almost go-time, and somehow, I have progressed no further in my study schedule than I had been five months before the exam. So It’s like T- 2 hrs. to go, and I’m thinking [minor sub-field!] – I have to study [minor sub-field]! And of course my study partner is super prepared and he loans me his study materials and I am trying to find a place to go read them. For some reason I don’t look anywhere outside the building for a place to read his notes and copy them. I’m panicking because I can’t find a spot to sit – and then it hits me – I can use a bathroom stall. So I’m all excited feeling hopeful, and then as I am headed into the bathroom, another graduate student tells me all the toilets are clogged and no one can go in. At this point I wake up because I have to pee.” – Anonymous Graduate Student #6

“The week before I took comps I had this really strange dream about a baby I was babysitting.  The baby got really sick while in my care, on the verge of death.  But in the dream I was able to resuscitate the baby back to health.  I was really thrown off by the dream so I told a couple of friends/colleagues in the program.  Right after I finished recounting the dream to them, one friend/colleague exclaimed, “That means you’re going to pass comps!”  Thankfully she was right, at least about passing!” – Anonymous Graduate Student #7

 Thank you, 7 Anonymous Graduate Students!

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