To wonderful people at graduate school interviews

So, I previously mentioned that at one of my grad school interviews, I basically completely lost my ability to speak.

Grad school interviews are a whole weekend-long affair. You get flown out there, stay in hotels, and have a several-day mixture of formal interviews with faculty members, tours of the school, fun stuff, food, meetings with graduate students, and informal meetings with faculty. It can be fun, in parts. The food is usually delicious. It is tiring and stressful. It is a lot of dealing with people.

I was alright through the beginning of the interviews. Some awkwardness, but sometimes scientists are awkward people and I'm an awkward person, so that's only to be expected occasionally. But my words worked, and I was able to explain my research, although I got more and more tired.

The moment my words stopped working and started heading down to complete non-verbal-ness was when I showed up for an interview, and the interviewer wasn't there. It was a change. I didn't melt down (which was very good). But I sat there. And I managed to find someone in her lab who told me there was a meeting. And I managed to wait. And I even managed to reschedule an interview later in the interview weekend (during the meeting, the next person to be interviewed also came and waited, so there were 2 at once).

(And I don't really blame that professor. Because someone scheduled her to interview during regularly scheduled lab meetings. So I can see how the change in schedule would be forgotten (especially since there were two interview days), so it seems not-unreasonable to assume that the interviews were on the Friday, especially as they had been for the other interview weekends.)

But after that, I got really quiet.

I didn't realize how much a change in schedule would affect me.

To the remaining faculty members who I had to interview with:

Most of you were so wonderful. You had someone in your offices who was just sitting there quietly. Who didn't really have working words. Who had drawn out pictures of their research and diagrams, and whispered it to. Pointing out things.

You just asked if I wanted a cup of tea or anything else.

And sat and listened and watched. And then told me about your research, and asked me if I understood and accepted nods and shakes of the head as answers. And written out words as questions, which you then answered.

Thank you.

To the other students on the interview:

Other students on the interview, particularly that one boy whose name I have no idea of, thank you, too. You were so good at interpreting my gesturing. Thank you for giving me turns in conversation, and waiting for me to act something out and then guess it. Thank you for reading the words I wrote down in a notebook. Thank you for speaking for me, even though I had just met you. Even though you were on interview, too. Thank you for ordering for me at the restaurant when I pointed to what I wanted on the menu. Thank you for letting me follow you around quietly.

To all these wonderful people, thank you.

I didn't understand what was happening. (I thought I was just prone to really-inconveniently timed bouts of other-symptom-free-laryngitis... not sure how plausible that actually is but it seemed a lot more reasonable than just NOT BEING ABLE TO SPEAK at that point in time). So I am sure you didn't either.

But you were kind and accepting and talked to me normally and treated me normally. You helped me without making me feel inferior for not being able to talk. Thank you for including me.

(And yes, I didn't get in. But it was very competitive, so who knows if I would have gotten in anyway. I know I did not do a good job necessarily of demonstrating how I would fit in your lab, or of demonstrating my knowledge. Also, all the people I interviewed with had such impressive research backgrounds. So it seemed reasonable to me.)

P.S. I wonder how this would have worked out if I knew about my autism already--had already had it as confirmed. I might have had a better way to communicate set up. (I am thinking I should get something ready in case this happens again, since it only seems to happen at really important times).

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