Saturday, January 1, 2022

Empowered: The Grad School Chronicles (1.06)

(Restart Story) 

You start by telling Volker your name and a little bit about why you joined the program.

"I'm Neil Amarico, and I'm here to research colonial American history, though I'm not sure exactly which aspects yet. Nice to meet you all!"  

"Very impressive sir, very impressive, it is noble indeed to study early American history. I myself could never be bothered looking that far back, the twentieth century is much more engaging in my book. But I'm sure you will be in good hands with your adviser, Dr. Anderson, I presume?" The left side of Volker's mouth lifts slightly in an upwards motion, indicating a smile. However, his eyes remain steady, uncaring. 

"Yes," you stammer. "Anderson is a great scholar and I hope to learn much from them." 

Volker looks you in the eye for an uncomfortable amount of time before uttering a lazy "hmm." 

Volker continues questioning the remaining members of your cohort, with similarly awkward results. The hours pass by slowly, and by the end of the seminar you've barely covered the first week's readings. Instead, Volker closed by waxing poetically about an unrelated topic--an article written by his friend that was recently published in the New York Times. 

Volker ended class with a few minutes to spare, swiftly putting on a black trench coat and bowler hat before bolting out of the room. Mac, looking like he wanted to ask Volker more questions, speeds out in pursuit. 

You get up from your seat and turn to James, whom you got to know earlier in the year when attending orientation events. 

"Well that was something!" You smile lightheartedly, and James cringes at what just transpired before breaking into a smile of his own and laughing deeply. 

"Yeah, what a great way to start graduate school! I can't believe he kept getting my name wrong. My name is James, not José. Jeez" 

"Yeah, and I think he called me James once or twice. And what the hell was he doing with those comments to Michael? Guy's a complete racist if you ask me." 

"Agreed...well, our other seminar can't be any worse." He pauses to place his laptop in its case. "When is that again?" 

"Tomorrow," you respond, "I think at the same time as this one. Professor Metternich, right?" 

"That's right...should be, uh, interesting." He laughs again, filling the room and lifting your spirits after what was otherwise a tumultuous first seminar. "Where to for you now?"

"I've got a meeting with my adviser, first one of the year. Actually I think I might be a minute late now. I'll catch you later James!" 

He waves and nods at you as you both go separate ways from the seminar room. Whereas he goes down a flight of stairs towards the street, you go up, deeper in the gray social sciences building. It takes a moment, but you finally find the offices where the professors work, consisting of several floors. You remember Anderson told you the number of his office, and finally find it after several minutes of searching the labyrinthian structure. 

His door is open, and he motions you inside. 

"Shut the door," he says. "It's time I told you why you're really here." 


I hope you are enjoying this interactive short story. If you can spare it, please consider donating to my Coffee Fund so that I can keep writing stories like these. Thank you again for reading my work! 

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About The Author

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Nicholas Garcia (M.A.) is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Davis. He is also a Co-Founder of the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Previously, he contributed to and the Davis Humanities Institute.