Informing your supervisor of holiday and/or travel plans

As the holidays approach everyone is busy planning what they’ll do during their time off. What projects they can finally bring back to focus or what tasks must be done by the start of January. However, there’s one step that a lot of graduate students forget to take. And that’s informing (and asking) your supervisor about your time off.

For many students, their supervisor is paying them a research allowance or toping up their pay check. It figures that these supervisors should also get a heads up if you’re planning on not being around and/or working on your research.

My university is closed the days between Christmas and New Years, and so those are automatic days off. However, if you plan on leaving earlier, or returning later, then it’s important to run the dates by your supervisor. It’s not a good impression if you don’t give them the heads up and then their expecting you for a weekly meeting and you’re not around.

My Christmas plans this year have me leaving early next week and staying away until the middle of the first week of January. This means I’m taking extra days off. While undergrads  aren’t expected back until the second week of January (the semester is starting late), the university re-opens on January 3rd. As a grad student, I don’t get the luxury of waiting until the semester starts to need to be getting back to research. But, on the plus side, I have a lot more flexibility when it comes to taking time off.

This information doesn’t apply only to holiday plans, nor does it apply only to supervisors. If you are attending a conference or going on vacation during a semester and you are TA-ing, it’s your responsibility to inform the course instructor (or whoever you report to) that you’ll be gone. They have the right to say you can’t go (although this rarely happens) and you have the responsibility to find someone to cover your TA duties while you’re gone.

Besides the actual dates you will be gone, if you are planning on going out of the country, it’s generally a good idea to pass that information on. I don’t mean you need to give them specifics of your travel plans, just a “I’m going to be gone from day x to day y and I’ll be over in Europe.” That way, if you have any problems when crossing customs on your way back (especially if you’re an international student) and you need to let them know that you won’t be back as expected, they’ll be more understanding as to why.

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