Friday, August 28, 2009

Mistaken For An Undergrad

The curse of the graduate student is the word "student"; most people I meet seem to lump us in with undergraduates, as not having real jobs, or incomes, or being adults at all. If I were a few years older, I would be pleased to be mistaken for a teenager; as it is, I'm usually amused at my ability to blend in.

On Tuesday, the second day of classes, I cut across the dorm lawns on my way to the administrative buildings. I blended in perfectly, just another person wearing jeans, t-shirt and sneakers, carrying a backpack. I doubt anyone thought I was a freshman - I overheard two upperclassmen carrying on the college tradition of being surprised at how young and/or tiny the freshmen looked - but I could certainly pass as a senior. My appearance hasn't changed much in the past four years; if anything, I probably look more like a college student than I used to, thanks to my recent rediscovery of denim.

That same afternoon, I was mistaken for either a high school senior or a college senior, I'm not sure which. I took three manilla envelopes to the post office, each containing the hopes and dreams of a job application. The postal service employee, noting the college addresses on each, asked if I was applying to school. I don't expect USPS personnel to recognize the subtle clues of packages addressed to "search committee", but I am going to assume that he was aware of graduate school, and assumed I was applying instead of trying to get out.

At some point in the next year, I shall have to decide what I should do with my wardrobe if/when I get a job. The faculty dress code is indistinguishable from the graduate students'; our department chair once caused quite a stir by showing up in a suit instead of his usual khaki shorts and socks-with-sandals ensemble. Faculty seem to rely on their extra experience to set them apart from their students, and I won't gain that much gravitas in the next year. I will either have to modify my wardrobe considerably, or decide that I don't care about blurring the faculty-student lines.

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