There’s a point in the first year of econ grad school where you switch from “yeah, I’m in grad school” to “OMG!!!11!! How am I going to live through all this formalization!”

For me that moment came about 10 minutes into Prof. Silvestre’s first lecture, in the first micro theory course on the first day of classes. If I had opened up the required text for that class, MWG, before lecture, I may have had that sinking feeling even before I started grad school; this is assuming I would have started grad school school if I’d known what I was getting in to. In any case, these notes on the MWG text may help.

PS – Fellow UC Davis grad Matthew Pearson wrote these notes on surviving the first year.

Well, the way you get introduced to econ grad school at UC Davis (and hopefully most other econ programs) is through Math Camp which starts like this (all spoken in English, with a heavy Catalan accent):

“Hello, welcome to Davis, it’s nice to have you all here. A Convex set is a set of elements such that for any two members of the set…”

and then you look at the stranger sitting next to you and you both go “oh shit! This is serious!” and that sets the pace for at least the next four years. As it should be. And that above is just preliminaries. A day or two later there’s free pizza and some cuddling by elder grad students but hopefully by that point you’ve gotten… the point.

It’s just a way of making sure that they know that you know what you’re getting into early on.

In a fair world, profs would have to pass comps-like exams every 5 or 10 or so years, just like a licensing test, so that they show that they’re still up to speed with everything.

Also, prove that any open set is a union of open balls.

My problem was that I had just finished a math degree so math camp was a surprise but not a shock. The shock came when economic ideas themselves were so deeply mathematized. I had just never thought of economics in those terms before.