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Home » Discover Rackham » A Ph.D. Fireside Chat

The following is a transcript of a Gmail chat between Mike, a student blogger and Ph.D. Student in Kinesiology and Natalie Bartolacci, Academic Program Officer at Rackham Graduate School.

For the record, the Gmail chat was not conducted fireside, but the warm imagery sounds nice given our current weather in Ann Arbor!

Natalie: Hi Mike! This is your first year as a Ph.D. student at U-M. Earlier this year, you wrote a great post about how you are trying to juggle everything academically. I thought we could take a few moments to talk about how life is going outside of graduate school.

Mike: Ok, sounds good!

Natalie: You, like many of our graduate students, made the move across the country from California to come to grad school in Michigan. You said that you were looking forward to having “real seasons.” So what do you think?

Mike: Hahahahaha!!

Well, I remember fall lasting a little longer when I lived in NJ. It really has been nice having fall and having snow for winter. But I think right around February is when we all start to really look forward to spring coming.

Natalie: Yes, it really couldn’t come soon enough!

Mike: Yeah, spring would be nice.

Natalie: Speaking of winter, you used to be able to surf in sunny California, so have you tried out any winter sports here in Michigan? Or do you have plans to?

Mike: So yeah I used to love to surf in CA. I was never really the hardcore, big wave shred guy. I liked the 4-5 foot waves that would roll in nice and slow. I do miss that a little.

I also did some snowboarding in CA as well. I would love to get some time for that, but it hasn’t happened just yet.

My wife, who has lived in CA all her life has experienced her first full winter. One of our favorite things to do before it dropped below 20 degrees was to go out for walks at night when it was snowing and watch the flakes come down.

Natalie: That is really one of the best parts of winter. That’s a nice transition to my next question for you, which is, how is your wife doing with the adjustment to a new town and a partner who is a busy graduate student?

Mike: She’s doing really well. Kind of surprisingly well. I sometimes feel like it’s too good to be true and at some point she’s going to go crazy on me. But she likes the greenery of the area. We don’t get trees and greenery like this in San Diego.

Natalie: And don’t forget, we have great summers here. This will be your first full summer here, since you moved in August, right?

Mike: Yeah, we moved here in August, so this will be the first summer. I’m actually looking forward to finding some nice hiking trails and possibly some biking. I also promised Jess, my wife, that once I get a little time for a long weekend that we can try and get out to see some of Chicago.

Natalie: Chicago is a great place to visit and definitely doable in a weekend.

Mike: I’ve only heard great things. And for me, I’m a huge Chicago Bears fan. I’ve been a Bears fan all my life, but never been able to actually go see the stadium, so that is very high on the list of things to do.
And if we can fit in a music concert also, I think that would make for a great weekend.

Natalie: Nice! I hope you make it over there when the weather gets warmer. Do things slow down for you academically over the summer? That is, will you have a bit more time to do things outside of school?

Mike: That’s kind of a “yet to be determined” sort of situation. Not having gone through a summer in the program yet, I’m not sure what to expect.

In terms of teaching and taking classes, I will have off from both. However, the summer is when the research and data collection kicks in to high gear. Most of my time will be spent in the lab or researching literature.

Natalie: A different kind of busy…

Mike: Exactly!

Natalie: But still busy!

Mike: You got it. 100%. I have a few friends who completed Ph.D. programs in different areas. The one common thread among all of them is, there’s always something you need to be doing!

Natalie: Ah yes, there always seems to be something you could be/should be doing.

So, have you had a chance to explore Ann Arbor outside of the campus realm? Have you and your wife found any favorite things to do/places to go?

Mike: A little bit, but probably not as much as we would like.

We of course went to Zingerman’s which is a must for everyone.

My wife was really excited to go to the U-M Museum of Art. They sent out a special invite for Halloween and Jess and I made sure to go. That was a great time.

We’ve been to a football game and a basketball game. All wins by the way, which means people should probably be giving us free tickets since we are obviously good luck.

Natalie: Nice to see winning games, right? If you like art, you should definitely check out the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts)! And speaking of Detroit, any Detroit trips planned?

Mike: Yes, absolutely. Jess has made me promise to take her to the DIA. There is one artist in particular who she loves that is on exhibit there. I’m honestly mostly in it to get dinner in Greek Town. I love spanakopita and gyros.

I would also love to see a Red Wings game. I’ve heard great things about the arena and the crowd there.

Natalie: A Red Wings game is a must. You should come to one of our Rackham/RSG sponsored trips in the fall. Keep an eye out for it!

Mike: I definitely will!

Natalie: Now onto our last (very serious) question…You mentioned that your SoCal friends told you that you wouldn’t be able to find good Mexican food around here. Have you been able to find good Mexican food in the area?

Mike: Hahahahha!!!

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy. But yes, I found a place that has really good Mexican street tacos. And thankfully it happens to be really close by.

Natalie: Are you going to reveal your secret place? 🙂

Mike: I want to do the right thing and spread the word, but then lines start forming and they raise prices, and it’s all about me getting tacos right? Lol

Tmaz Taqueria on Packard! It’s a really good spot. And one of the few places I’ve found with authentic Mexican.

Natalie: Thanks for letting us in on the insider info. (And now a giant line forms at Tmaz…)

Thanks so much for your time today! It was fun chatting with you!

Mike: Thank you so much. I had a good time chatting with you also.