One does not simply get bored at Stanford

one does not simply get bored at stanford saad bhamla

.. or any grad school for that matter.

I was chatting with a friend from India who needed some advice. Her choices were either to go to an IIM (to get an MBA). Or go to a top-rated grad school for a PhD. Amongst one of the questions she asked me was, What if I get bored during my PhD?

Now, granted that I have been at Stanford for just two years. And yes, there have been times when I have been bored out of my mind (I would be lying if I said otherwise). But for me, that is just an intermediate phase – after I accomplish a goal and before I find some new interesting to do.

Strangely, this was also one of my main concerns when applying to grad school – What if I get bored during my PhD? It didn’t help that almost everyone around me was getting into McKinsey’s, I-banks or going to IIM for an MBA. Their lives seemed to be so fast-paced and interesting – money, glamour, traveling across the country, projects that focussed on breadth and not on depth. And on the other hand, a PhD seemed like such a boring option. Five to six-year commitment. Pretty much isolated. In a foreign country. Measly stipend. Sitting in a lab with no windows and reading research papers.

But that is one way of looking at it.

The way I look at it is that Stanford is an exceptional place even as universities go, where things are interesting and people are interested, where you have courses on esoteric things you cannot imagine and more, brimming with optimistic people who come from all over the world – if I couldn’t find something to keep me busy and excited here, I told myself, then I don’t know what would.

And so for the past two years, I have rarely been bored. I continuously find something or the other that fascinates me. Sometimes it finds me sitting on a desk reading in an office with no windows. And sometimes I go at it with a club.

But then, your mileage may vary.

Like every Stanford student, I believe I am unique.

And the standard deviation on 1 is infinity.


The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. ~ Ellen Parr


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7 Responses to “One does not simply get bored at Stanford”

  1. ramblingperfectionist April 3, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    What if it’s not Stanford, though? What if it’s some large but mediocre grad school that maybe has a prof who does interesting work in the field you think might be interesting right now but don’t see as the all-consuming passion of your life?

    • Saad Bhamla April 3, 2012 at 11:24 am #

      Well. My argument was that if one gets bored at Stanford, then there is no place on earth that can keep you excited. Now, if you’re bored at some other university, sure I can see that, but that’s not the topic I was addressing.
      Either way, personally, I feel that there is nothing worse than being miserable and bored in your own company.

  2. naive optimist April 3, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Perhaps it’s like what Ellen Parr seems to say: it’s not so much where you are as how curious you are. There is something to think about and fight for in even the most remote corners of the world. Stanford makes it easy to feel alive and challenged, but it’s up to each person to make the most of the world around them. So your research is not the all-consuming passion of your life. Something else will be, and there is no one but you that can “go at [that other passion] with a club.” 

    • Saad Bhamla April 3, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

      Exactly. Not to say that if you’re not at Stanford, you’re doomed. How many world leaders does Stanford produce after all? Many a nation have gotten along well without a Stanford and produced great visionaries. 

  3. kenny April 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    I don’t think I have ever been bored in my life! Irritated, sleep deprived, stressed out, yes, but bored? Never! I don’t think you’d be bored anywhere either, btw. 

    • Saad Bhamla April 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      I know. I’m slowly realizing that about myself 🙂

  4. Santosh Sali May 15, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    Resonates with my experience, of stretched goals ,keeps on reading journal papers , you keep on reading piles-n-piles of boring (?) stuff and then find some interesting, useful piece , windowless rooms, guides , publication pressures and that all….  Good to read your blog posts…