Posted in the New Orleans Forum


Slidell, LA

#1 Feb 18, 2013

Unemployment Stories, Vol. 27:‘We Eat a Lot of Soup and Crackers’
Hamilton Nolan

Unemployment Stories, Vol. 27:'We Eat a Lot of Soup and Crackers'The real unemployment rate in southwest Detroit is almost 50%. Seventeen rural South Carolina counties just closed their unemployment offices due to budget cuts, despite high unemployment. In New York, unemployed people say they're being discriminated against in job searches. The life of the unemployed American is not easy. Each week, we bring you true stories of unemployment, from those who have lived it. This is what's happening out there.

The unfunded grad student

I graduated from a top ten engineering school in 2010 in three and a half years with a bachelor's in civil engineering, a minor in math, and a GPA that's better than 70% of my graduating class. I didn't have a job lined up when I graduated, and I was worried. My parents didn't help my case by guilting me into admitting that it was a mistake that I didn't major in accounting and am currently not in law school. Thankfully, the professor I did research with agreed to take me on as a part time research assistant back at the university. So I went back, feeling very guilty about my future and hating my life for not getting a job when everyone else seem to land a job without any trouble, even those who didn't work as hard as I did and got worse grades.

I worked with my professor for a year, making barely above minimum wage salary with no benefit. But I worked hard, and I finished writing a paper that eventually got accepted to two conferences, with one of them being a very big deal. My professor told me that I should apply for grad school and he would take me and give me funding. I thought I found a life line, since my life was going no where fast at that time and everyone said, "go to grad school". So I applied....and promptly got rejected a few weeks later. The professor, bless his heart, pulled strings and got me admitted. But he was also very blunt in telling me that funding is hard to come by, and I might not get it the first semester since he had 12 grad students under his wings. But he's trying, and I'm the first one in line before two other guys, and one of them was a long-time PhD student. I accepted that fact, and decided to stay anyway.

I have one thing to say about grad school: it sucks. Not because of the coursework or the load, for the most part, a lot of us like the classes we take and the research we are doing. There's a reason why MS also stands for "more of the same" or "more shit", because for the most part, graduate program is quite like undergrad: classes, homework, exam, adviser meeting, your usual bitching about certain classes and certain assignments, and then plus your own research. No, I don't hate grad school for the work, I hate it because of the way of life: I was poor as hell. I didn't get funding, so I had to pick up miscellaneous jobs to make ends meet. I felt really, really ashamed because everyone else was getting funded and focusing on their own research, and here I am, tutoring undergrads and getting very little pay for it. I felt so ashamed that I had no funding that I didn't want to take any minimum wage job because I was afraid someone might find out. So I pretended that I was funded just like everyone else. I was so worried about my financial situation that I could barely focus on my own research, barely pay any attention in my classes because I was worried what I was going to eat for dinner (forget lunch or breakfast, I had to skip them during some weeks because I couldn't afford it).

fatuous1 is MARK TRAINA an outspoken Civil Rights Activist from South Louisiana. Some describe him as a Racist; however, he describes himself as a Realist. Mr. Traina worked as a School Psychologist for the Jefferson Parish Public School System for nearly 30-years.

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