Drinking coffee, returning library books, taking stress naps and grabbing drinks are all parts of a standard grad student's life. They're also standard parts of the Lego Grad Student's life, a humorous social media account run by a real-life postdoctoral student.
Lego Grad Student is exactly that — a Lego man navigating the turmoil of academic life. Much to the delight of fans on social media, Lego Grad Student's collective accounts have amassed an impressive social media following with 56,000 Facebook likes, 25,000 Twitter followers and almost 10,000 Instagram followers.
His creator, a postdoctoral student in the social sciences at a West Coast university, prefers to remain anonymous. However, he's recently made an exception. Lego Grad Student's creator visited Western University’s campus on Wednesday, Oct. 4, to give a speech during the inaugural Society of Graduate Students' Graduate Wellness Week.
In person, students glimpsed the man behind the “hollow head struggling to make it through a blocky world.” However, for the time being, he still chooses to remain unknown online.
Lego Grad Student says he spends about two hours a day on average maintaining the accounts, balancing them and academic work. Although it might seem like a lot of extra work, Lego Grad Student says running the account helps him de-stress.
“In the bigger picture I think it's actually been pretty helpful for me to have that sort of distraction away from my work," he said in an interview with the Gazette. “Right before I started doing all of this I didn't have that kind of hobby to take myself away from my research when it wasn't going very well.”
Run by the SOGS, the first Graduate Wellness Week began on Monday, Oct. 2 and coincides with Western’s Wellness Week.
“I felt that it was time we have a graduate-student specific wellness week to highlight some of the distinct issues and experiences that graduates have in comparison to undergraduate students,” said Madison Bettle, SOGS vice-president of student services.
Bettle added she wanted the week to make graduate students more visible on campus. She noted that Western’s administration typically focuses programming on undergraduate students, although graduate students make up approximately 20 per cent of Western’s student population.
The real-life Lego Grad Student's talk focused on the struggles that exist within graduate student life, and he gave advice on dealing with those stressors.
He notes that grad school isn't what many students expect it to be like — while you might have entered grad school feeling confident in an area, it can beat you down and challenge your identity.
One key piece of advice Lego Grad Student gives to grad students is: stick together with your friends.
“Really forge bonds where you're willing to be very open honest and vulnerable with one another about just how difficult things are in grad school,” he said. “I think over time that's probably one of the most helpful things to make sure you don't feel isolated and sort of hopeless as you go through the grad student process.”
Bettle notes other highlights of the week include events to help grad students eat well and practice self-care, a town hall on the health care plan and a family-friendly arts and crafts event.
Correction (Oct. 17, 2:15 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated Graduate Wellness Week began on Wednesday, Oct. 4. It began on Monday, Oct. 2.