In thinking about what graduate students care about/want to read I immediately asked myself “Ok Leigh, what are things you wish you would have known years ago? What information would have been useful my first day at TAMU?”
This question took me down a long road filled with memories of long nights, tears, laughter, stressful events, lessons learned, and the great victories I’ve had since starting my doctoral training here. I think sharing some of my mistakes, oops, my bad, hell yes, and that went great moments might be helpful to other graduate students for 2 reasons: 1) hopefully someone else has experienced something similar and I can be re-assured I’m not totally crazy, and 2) someone can beg, borrow, or steal lessons learned from my experience to help enhance their time here at TAMU. Many times over the last four years I’ve said to myself “I wish someone would have told me that sooner”!!
So…considering the rational for writing this first blog post, here are 15 things I’m sharing NOW that I wish someone else would have told me:
- Don’t freak out if you don’t know something – that’s ok. The point of graduate studies is to expand your knowledge and learn new stuff. No one comes with their research idea and design neatly organized in their backpack on day one.
- Figure out how to BALANCE work and school life. Take time for yourself EACH WEEK for personal endeavors. The fastest way to burn-out on academics is only focusing on academics!
- Always carry 3 things in your backpack: A Notepad, Tissues, and Snacks. These items are critical for survival.
- The workload is heavy. Be prepared to spend hours [yes I said hours] reading, writing, drafting, and collaborating on assignments, papers, and projects.
- The graduate classroom looks and feels different from undergraduate. Seminars and group discussion are law…no more multiple choice tests, so do your readings and be ready to TALK.
- The 1st semester is supposed to feel like you’re in LIMBO. Embrace the uncomfortable and hold on for the ride.
- Locate on-campus resources [most of which will be FREE] to help with your writing, research, and teaching.
- Parking is a nightmare. The campus bus or bicycles are your new best friends.
- Get involved in at least one non-academic organization or group. It’s a SAFE place for you to talk about non-school stuff and meet new people.
- Talk to other graduate students in your department. Yes, our environment is competitive – but you need support from peers to make it through.
- What a standard deviation was.
- The professor/student relationship is different. Faculty members are training you to be colleague someday, so they talk and interact with you differently now.
- Pack enough food and snacks to last you on-campus from 8:00am to 8:00pm.
- It’s ok if your thesis/dissertation topics changes 10000 times. Talk about your ideas with your advisor, other faculty, and peers. Two heads are better than one!
- When in doubt remember: you are fully capable [with help along the way] to complete your degree. Be confident in your abilities and skills – that’s what got you here!
Hopefully this short list relieves some stress or validates some concerns you are having! Remember, we are all in this bus together - riding along to bright, productive, and fun futures!
Until next time, ask yourself this what else do I wish someone would have told me sooner? Write it down and SHARE with peers and colleagues!
Leigh Szucs | Health and Kinesiology
Leigh is a PhD candidate in the Department of Health & Kinesiology, pursuing a doctoral degree in Health Education. Her research and teaching experiences focus on the effectiveness of teen pregnancy prevention program (TPP) implementation practices among curriculum-based intervention models.