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Is it common or something usual for students to sometimes go home for the summer?

  • Isn't this normal? International students go home to see their family, save $ (instead of paying rent over the summer), holiday, etc. – Prof. Santa Claus Aug 14 '17 at 3:02
  • I am a bit perplex about this question. Maybe it is a USA thing or there is something you are not saying. I'm in Australia. Our students can go back whenever they want. If they leave for an extended period of time, then it could be due to family or financial issues. – Prof. Santa Claus Aug 14 '17 at 3:47
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    Welcome to the site. It is usually best to choose a title that gives someone an understanding of what the question is about, instead of something generic or vague. I edited the title but please feel free to edit it further if you prefer something else. – Nate Eldredge Aug 14 '17 at 4:08
  • @ProfSantaClaus: "Isn't this normal?" - depends. From convrersations with American friends, I have gathered that at (some?) U.S. universities, the concept of a "summer break" appears to be a lot more pronounced than e.g. in my place (Germany), seeing that my friends' campus partly shuts down, there's no-one around, students clear their dorm rooms and get new ones after the break, etc. Hence, there may well be regional differences for what international students do during summer. – O. R. Mapper Aug 14 '17 at 5:22
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    No. When you join academia you renounce everything you care about and sacrifice yourself on the altar of science. – user79256 Sep 1 '17 at 23:45
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It would be very unusual for an international PhD student to leave for more than a month to visit family, at least within the sciences. Students are paid during the summer. Leaving for the whole summer would likely entail giving up the pay, which many students cannot afford.

Some international students do not leave at all for financial reasons, or for fear they will not be able to re-enter the United States.

This is totally different from undergraduates, who usually leave the university during the summer.

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    Although many RA's are on year-round contracts, most TA's are on 9 month contracts and often are not offered a TA contract for the summer. – Brian Borchers Sep 2 '17 at 1:48
  • @BrianBorchers in my experience in science departments in the US all PhD students had summer RAs. The available RA positions were never filled up. Of course this might not be true at poorer universities. International students without funding can usually be paid more if they work near their universities than if they work in their home countries. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 2 '17 at 4:37
  • My department (computer science) provides very few TA positions during the summer. A lot of students seek internships. – Austin Henley Jan 17 '18 at 20:07
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I have seen a wide variety of decisions about the use of the summer break from classes, both in the case of students from the US and those from abroad. It really runs the gamut. Examples:

  • One friend couldn't afford the air fare to visit his home town, during his entire PhD. This was very stressful for him.

  • One friend made his good-byes in May and came back in late August married, with his wife accompanying him.

  • Some students visit family for part of the summer.

  • Me: when I needed the money I worked as a secretary in a temp agency over the summer. Otherwise I enjoyed the break from TA'ing, which allowed me to immerse myself in my exam prep or my project.

It's a very individual decision. I don't think one should decide about summer plans based on what other people do.

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International students do visit their home country. I have seen several Ph.D. students spend their entire summer in their home country. However, it completely depends on the student. From my perspective, I think it is a bad idea to waste your three months by going back to your home country. Either you should do an internship or you should continue your research with your adviser. I explained the reasons in the following paragraph:

1) If you choose to do an internship at the industry, it will help you in various ways. The experience in the industry will help you to finalize your career goal. You will get the chance to experience the industry work culture, you will get a chance to work with some industry leaders and it will be a valuable experience for you during your degree. The experience eventually helps students to get a job after your degree in the industry. If the student performs well, they even get a return offer. I have seen multiple cases where the student landed a job after their internship. If the student decides to go to academia, even then the industry experience is valuable. Moreover, the internship helps a student significantly monetarily. Generally, the companies pay the same salaries of a full-time employee to an intern and the amount is pretty high for a graduate student.

2) If you are a PhD student and do not want to go to an internship, then it is better to work on your research with your adviser. Eventually, you have to finish your thesis, so it is better to utilize your time. Generally, the advisers have funds to support their students in summer. So, if you get paid then it is better to work on your research during summer. If you do not get paid, still it is better to research then going back home.

3) If you are a masters student and do not get an internship, then it is better to find some positions in research labs and work with a professor. Sometimes, professors look for masters students and hire them for small research. Any academic work can be added to your resume and eventually help you to get a job later.

If you are a masters student and do not get an internship/works to do in summer, then you can go back home to save some money.

  • @Ponponhollamon, yes I am from US. People leaving for the summer is not a common phenomenon. I have hardly seen graduate students leaving for the summer. In my four years of graduate studies, I have hardly seen four to five people who did that and that did not end up well for them. Some of them left the program after some time, others did not have any job after their graduation. It's my personal experience, you might find different perspective on that. – tousif.eshan Aug 15 '17 at 10:05
  • I think it also matters what you plan to do after graduation. If you are not planning on academia and plan to work in home country, then targeting internships in home country would allow you to both use the summer wisely and see family. – Dawn Aug 17 '17 at 18:47
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I am a Canadian working on my PhD in the US. I was able to get a job in a clinic at home that does very similar research to my lab in the US and was therefore able to go home for June - mid August. I would say if you can do something like this where you stay productive over the summer, then yes it it okay to go home for the summer. But grad students do not typically get the summer off like in undergrad... grad school is a year-round job.

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