University of Pittsburgh

Day in the Life of a Pitt Graduate Student

Patrick Hughes, Religious Studies Grad Student

Photo of Child Walking

5:04 a.m. - Awakened by my 21-month-old daughter who is in her crib in next room. Try to ignore her repeated calls of “Daddy, up!” Realize it is futile and that she will continue until I come in and get her. Get her out of her crib, go down to the kitchen, and fumble in the fridge for the bottle of milk I (thankfully) prepared last night. Put her on the couch with bottle. Fleetingly consider all of the great studying I could be doing at this tender hour of the morning. Instead, I fall back asleep on the couch next to my daughter, until about 7 a.m.

9:30 a.m. - Take the kid to daycare at the University childcare center.

Photo of Pittsburgh Central Catholic

9:35 a.m. - Walk into Pitt, past Central Catholic High School, my alma mater. Wonder what has happened to all of the knuckleheads I knew back when I was a teenager. Realize in horror that I have been out of high school for 20 years—I think I’ll skip the reunion.

Photo of Bellefield pool

9:45 a.m. - Take a dip in the Bellefield pool for about 45 minutes of lap swimming. The Bellfield pool is smaller than the pool in Trees Hall, but you don’t have to schlep up Cardiac Hill to get there. The gym in Bellefield Hall has also been recently renovated to glowing reviews.

10:30 a.m. - Go to either Hillman Library to do a bit of studying or Carnegie Library (Pittsburgh’s public library) to see what DVDs might be good to watch over the weekend (last weekend was The Beastmaster, just for the sheer cheesyness of it)

11:30 a.m. - Get some lunch at the Original Hotdog Shop (on Forbes Ave.)—better known as “The Dirty O” or just “The O.” Their hotdogs are good, but it is their fries that are divine (WARNING: the “small” size is enough for 2 people; and don’t forget the cheese sauce.) It should be a requirement of all Pitt students that they cannot graduate or get their degree unless they have had O fries at least once.

Noon - Put in some hours at my job as a Graduate Student Assistant in the Asian Studies Center. Do my boss’ bidding, which usually entails sending some emails, doing some paperwork, and making some phone calls. At some point during the day, roam the building looking to see which other departments might have candy or other goodies that I can help myself to.

5 p.m. - Go to class. Attempt, in the words of James Joyce, to “encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”

7 p.m. - Hop on a bus and get home in time to spend some time with the kid—reading books to/with her, wrestling, giving her a bath—before she goes to bed.

8–11 p.m. - Get as much reading and writing done as possible. This is often complicated by a number of factors, such as whether or not PBS (channel 13, WQED) has a good documentary on, or whether CSI is a new episode this week. Of course, when it comes to being distracted from studying, both the ridiculous and the sublime will suffice. Tonight, for example, Mormon missionaries came to the door and I spent about an hour and a half talking to them. Nice, clean-cut young fellows, but I think they were a bit taken aback when I bluntly asked them, “So remind me now, was your prophet Joseph Smith shot or hung by an angry mob back in 1844?” Turns out he was shot. That’s the beauty of being a PhD student in Religious Studies. You learn enough to ask embarrassing questions of missionaries.

What Makes Pittsburgh Distinctive?

  1. The different neighborhoods, each with its own character and reputation. The shopping districts in Shadyside and Squirrel Hill are great (and they're great places to live, as well).
  2. The awesome theater community. There are a number of amateur, semi-professional, and professional companies that are doing some interesting and really great quality theater. Being a volunteer usher for the larger companies (Pittsburgh Public Theater, City Theater, Quantum Theater, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theater) is a great way to see the shows for free.
  3. Steelers mania. It is pervasive in the fall, even in years when they stink. Pittsburgh has been called “A drinking town with a football problem.” If you want to try to pass yourself off as a native, call them the “Stillers.”