Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: Gifts for Graduate Students!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gifts for Graduate Students!!

     Ever wonder what to get a graduate student for a gift?  In case you are that kind soul just Googling "What do I get a graduate student for her birthday?" or scouring graduate student blogs to find out what gift will be the perfect present for the graduate student in your life, this post is for you!!!
     I actually Googled it myself, and most of the information online was about graduation gifts, but I'm not necessarily talking about that. I'm talking about the average, run of the mill, it's-my-sister's-birthday-and she's-in-graduate-school-and-what-are-some-fun-and-thoughtful-gifts-I-could-give-her, or my-brother's-turning-25-and-is-across-the-country-getting-his-Phd-in-computer-science-at-Stanford, or my-mom-is-a graduate-student-in-history-and-I-need-to-get-her-a-Christmas-present, kind of gifts.

     There were a few articles, though. On, Graduate School edition, the Ph.D.'d writer Tara Kuther explains in hers that "Graduate students are an odd lot," saying that most are "short on cash" and will basically take anything. Some of her ideas are school or scholarship related: flash drive key ring, external hard drive, staple-free stapler, power outlet manager, calendars, and a moleskin notebook.  Not bad ideas -- like Kuther says, we graduate students can't really afford anything, and so anything practical that will help us manage our lives is a pretty decent gift. The other mentions on her list were what I might call necessities: food, gas cards, and coffee and/or a coffee pot. All decent ideas, too.
   Foodstuff is actually something I was thinking about at the top of my gifts, because so often in my early graduate school days I remember having a $10 per day budget for food for most days of the week. (Grocery budget = $300 per month). That is not easy! It basically consists of stocking up on cereal, ramen noodles, frozen dinners, pasta, cans of tuna fish, boxes of rice, and peanut butter and jelly, and eating pizza slices or cheap burgers when you go out to eat, and maybe scoring some free coffee in your department or at lectures and workshops. So, nice baskets of gourmet food, or restaurant gift certificates, or even some nice local farmer's market veggies, cheeses, olives, pickles, and fruits would most likely be a welcome gift for the 20 something graduate student who has to take out loans just to eat normally.

    I really like the coffee and coffee pot idea, too. I remember in graduate school I had a hand-me-down coffee pot for my first couple of years, and then it broke, and I couldn't afford to replace it, but then my mom got me a small and cute one or two cup French Press from Target, and it worked just fine for many years!! That was a great, Mom! Gift cards to cafes (Starbucks, D & D, Tim Hortons, Panera, local cafes, anywhere with seats & wifi) are great too, because grad students often need to find a place to work, and you most often have to purchase something in order to work there. I got yelled at once in a Starbucks for working there for three hours on my laptop and only buying a bottle of water. Sigh... first world problems!
   Another couple of great articles I found on the topic were on Yahoo voices; check them out here and here. My personal favorites from these lists are:
    1.) A hand held voice recorder. You can use this for so many things -- lectures, seminars, job talk or interview preps, etc. I recorded myself a lot when I was preparing for my oral comprehensive exam, to practice making arguments out loud. Actually, I use it to help me write sometimes, too!

    2.) Bed Lounger: I love this idea! So many times in my bedroom in my little apartment that I shared with another grad student, I used my bed to do work and reading. This would have been an amazing piece of furniture to aid in my studies-in-bed!

   Here's some other potential gifts I was thinking about that graduate students simply can't put in their budgets without living above their means:
   1.) Nice shampoo, conditioner, and toiletries. Yes, folks, when faced with the choice in the supermarket between a nice dinner or nice shampoo, we most likely choose the nice dinner and grab the Vo5, Suave, White Rain, or Pert Plus shampoos, foregoing the Pantenes and Garniers, and not even glancing at the Bumble and Bumble, Aveda, or Paul Mitchell bottles. The under $2 per bottle shampoos and conditioners are just too tempting when faced with cravings for some nice homemade meal instead of a Lean Cuisine for dinner. Something to think about when shopping for your favorite graduate student!

   2.) A bottle of champagne, wine, or liquor - of course! This is difficult to budget in, but there are always times to celebrate! See my post on Champagne Vs. Prosecco for some ideas!!
   3.) Apple TV -- cable is expensive, but Internet and Laptops are almost a necessity for graduate students to have in their homes. So, a great solution may be Apple TV. All you need is a TV, internet, and a computer -- no cable bill required!!! It's a digital media receiver that hooks up to your computer and watch video from Itunes, Netflicks, Youtube, HULU, and other sites on your HDTV. So, if the grad student in your life has a TV for DVD's only and can't afford cable, this might be a perfect gift, allowing them to save money by using internet sources for their entertainment. Something to look into!

   4.) Audio Book Gift Cards -- You know how I love audio books!!! But they are expensive!! :( An Audible or Amazon gift card would work great for your favorite I-pod or I-phone toting grad student!
   5.) Record Player -- You also know how I love record players! Why is a record player is fun for grad students? While players are expensive, records are cheap and fun to browse through; buying a record in a used record store is an event in and of itself!
   6.) Rare Books from Favorite Authors -- what's better than a first edition Pride and Prejudice for your favorite Austen scholar, or a rare edition of the Invisible Man for your modern Americanist? Not too much!!!
   7.) Workout gear/ clothes/ videos/ equipment -- it's hard to budget for working out as a grad student, even though it is so important! Gear them up with fun clothes, equipment, and gym memberships, and they'll feel better about themselves, body, mind, and brain!!!
Grad.Life readers, let me know if you have any thoughts (or requests!!!) And get your favorite grad student the perfect gift today!!!
-- Liza


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