The Perils of Higher Education

When I was sixteen, my family and I went on a cruise in Europe, starting in Copenhagen and going through the Baltic sea to Estonia, Russia, and Scandinavia before landing in Amsterdam. Among my favorite stops was Helsinki, not so much for the city itself (though it’s quite nice) but because my dad and I happened to land at the National Museum‘s exhibit on modern Finnish culture. Amidst Civil War-era photos of Mannerheim on horseback was a section on education in modern Finland. There, it was noted that upon receiving their degree, Finnish PhDs get a sword, a ceremonial rapier to be specific.

Being a 16 year old boy, I thought this was the greatest thing ever. Indeed, it was all I could talk about for the rest of the museum visit. And our stay in the gift shop. And the walk back to the ship. And at dinner with my mother, brother, and grandparents. This was so great, I insisted, that I would have to move to Finland to do graduate work. Eventually, the concept of me spending five or six years at the University of Helsinki proved sufficiently terrifying that my mother offered me a deal: she would buy me a sword, any sword, if I got a PhD from a university anywhere but Finland. This won me over, both because I didn’t really want to learn Finnish and because there are better swords than rapiers. Like katanas. Better PhD + better sword = better deal.

And then Ezra had to go ahead and post this:

If getting a PhD means getting Katana chunks in my stomach, I might just have to skip my starving grad student period. I’d do anything for the life of the mind, but I won’t do that.

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