Volume 15, Number 24
April 14, 2009

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The Procrastinator

bilwritePiled Higher and Deeper

I am already in the mood: In a few months I will be a grad student, and while going through the classes that the departments I am applying to offer, their syllabi motivate and excite me. However, I cannot help but pause when I think about the famous line that has even became a title for a Facebook group: "Grad students are not bad people, they just made terrible life choices."

Now before current, past and future grad students object, let me clarify: The path of academia, as we would all agree, is not an easy one. Doing a doctoral degree (usually preceded by a master's degree) requires idealism, sacrifice and a lot of hard work, whatever the field is. More than a decade (together with undergrad education) is spent in the pursuit of a PhD, and it is only the starting point of a possible academic career. It is not only the time that is allocated, but also the full concentration and dedication that is also needed. These factors cause some people to give up their ideals of graduate school, and others to quit in the process. But this hard life choice is actually very good material for humor.

"Piled Higher and Deeper" supposedly stands for PhD (in a context that would not be appropriate for me to explain in this column, but is available on the relevant article in Wikipedia). PhD comics have become a favorite pop culture element for me. The concept is a single, or two, three-panel comic strips depicting the life of a nameless main character and his friends - all grad students. Many issues, from the recent economic recession, to the Facebook ("it's a cause for notworking") phenomenon are mentioned in the series in a funny way. And although the focus is on the lives of the grad students, all phases of academia, from the undergrad to the dean, can be seen in the strips. The author and artist of the strip, Jorge Cham, was a grad student himself when he started drawing over 10 years ago, and since then, PhD comics has released hundreds of stories.

The general theme of the series (now take a deep breath) is failure and procrastination, and there is nothing wrong with this, in my point of view. First of all, it is almost impossible to make good jokes out of success! Secondly, this is human nature to its core: As the name of my column suggests, as we all do, human beings like to delay doing things they don't like, and they delay it as much as they can. No Bilkent student can claim to have not panicked before an exam at least once, or felt like they had waited until the very last minute.

I guess everyone is, by now, eager to see some of these comics, which are all available at http://www.phdcomics.com/comics. But beware: there are so many clever and funny stories that you might actually find yourself in the procrastinating position - or might merely find another excuse to breathe life into the procrastinator already existing within you.

Damla Okay(AMER/IV)

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