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I am a first year STEM PhD student in a US university, but I come from a different country. I took a couple of weeks off in this winter break to travel within the US, as it was too expensive to visit my home country.

Now, I have two options -

1. To visit my home country in the next winter (2016-17) for around a month.
2. To visit my home country in the coming summer (2016) for a short period (say 2 weeks) and get back to work AND to go back again in the next winter for around a month.

Now, the problem with 1 is that there is still a year to go (well, almost a year), and so there is a possibility of being homesick.
So, there is 2. However, I am concerned if it will be seen as I am slacking off / going on holidays too many times etc. Now, I obviously understand that I should discuss this with my advisor and s/he should take the decision, but I am concerned if this is even a reasonable discussion topic (as opposed to the idea being so preposterous that there is no point even asking, and I should just stick to 2)

Note that even if I go on a short holiday in the summer, I plan to spend most of the summer doing research at my university.

So, tl;dr:
Is going on holidays in 3 consecutive breaks considered reasonable? Or is it too preposterous?

marked as duplicate by Mad Jack, Enthusiastic Engineer, ff524 Jan 8 '16 at 20:16

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  • You haven't said anything about whether you have a teaching or research assistantship that supports your studies. It's obviously necessary to satisfy the requirements of any assistantship that you might have. You also haven't said anything about whether you intend to be registered for classes or thesis/dissertation credits during the summer (you would normally need to be on campus and working if you are registered for credits.) – Brian Borchers Jan 8 '16 at 16:47
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    @BrianBorchers I think if I were only to go in the summer, the TA/RA requirements shouldn't be a problem. So, maybe I should clarify -- suppose all the "technicalities" are taken care of, would the idea in itself raise eyebrows? – user47182 Jan 8 '16 at 16:52

Do you have an adviser? Have you talked to them about this? Most should be fine with you taking some time off to visit your family, but you should probably discuss longer breaks with them to work out all the details.

  • As I said, if the idea makes sense, I would ask my advisor, before taking the final decision. But before talking to him/her, I just want to make sure that it won't raise eyebrows. – user47182 Jan 8 '16 at 16:53
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    If it doesn't affect your work, it shouldn't be an issue. However, whether your adviser approves is very different. I know some that want 9-5 workdays and little vacation from their students. I know others that don't care where you are or how often you work as long as you get results. I even know some that don't mind if their students randomly disappear for two weeks without notice. – Ric Jan 8 '16 at 17:00
  • I understand. However, probably I won't get little to no time for research if/when I visit my home country... – user47182 Jan 8 '16 at 17:02
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    Something is very wrong with your relationship with your advisor if you're afraid to raise their eyebrows occasionally. – JeffE Jan 9 '16 at 0:29

If you are looking for feedback prior to speaking to your adviser, I would highly recommend speaking to other students in your lab, and perhaps other international students in your program. The attitude towards breaks from research and face-time (i.e. time spent in lab where your adviser can see you) varies from PhD program to program, and adviser to adviser, as Ric noted in the comments.

Also, as a first year STEM PhD student, are you currently in a rotation, or have you chosen a thesis lab/advanced to candidacy (is this a combined MA/PhD program)? If you haven't yet advanced to candidacy and are still taking classes, a long break may be feasible. However, if you do any sort of research that involves extended experiments/animal research, a longer break may be unfeasible.

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