There are several things you need to know: First, DO what you like. Second, do what YOU like. Third, do what you LIKE.
1) Do. The key is that your niche will involve doing something. It requires leaving your comfort one and acting. Make no mistake: finding your niche will not fall in your lap nor be presented on a platter. Instead, it will be discovered. You have to be about doing.
2) You. To be frank, finding your niche requires knowing YOURSELF first and foremost. While the undergrad years are fundamentally about learning, growth, and development, the graduate school years are about refining that self-awareness. There is too much at stake and too much demanded of you as a grad student to waste on excess. What do you like? What do you enjoy? What activities have meaning to you? What motivates you? However you answer these questions are a good starting point.
3) Like. Your niche will undoubtedly be discovered in something that you have enjoyed in the past. What is fun? What is rewarding? How do you like using your leisure time? Who do you enjoy working with? What causes do you champion?
So remember, you will find your niche by getting out and doing. what. you. like.
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I know lawyers and doctors (MD and PhDs) and public officials all from my time here at IU, but none are possibly as interesting as the vocalists I have met that are pursuing advanced degrees. Not only do you have the chance to attend Jacobs School of Music operas at The Musical Arts Center for discounted student pricing, but you get to see fellow graduate students showcase their hard work and talent on stage (as well as the musicians in the orchestra pit).
Operas are dynamic, fun, and exciting. It’s also a far more complex world than I originally thought. Imagine singing for 3+ hours! Imagine learning songs in French, German, or Italian! There are altos, tenors, baritones, counter tenors, sopranos and mezzo sopranos, contraltos, and bass baritones to name a few! I am no opera aficionado, but I absolutely love them and take advantage of every opportunity to attend a performance and learn more.
Just like attending your first IU basketball game, going to the Lil 500 race, playing cornhole (I never heard of this in Los Angeles), and experiencing the Taste of Bloomington– I think attending an opera (at least once) should be on everyone’s list. Who knows, you just might become a season ticket holder! After all, Jacobs School of Music is one of the most renowned in the nation.
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Challenge yourself to try something new. The pressures of graduate school and perhaps living in a new area will force you to try new activities, utilize different study techniques, and step outside your comfort zone. I picked the IU Mini, a half marathon, to challenge myself during the first year of my doctoral program.
I am thankful for graduate student groups like the Black Graduate Student Association, because that is exactly the medium I used to
peer pressure contact and interest fellow graduate students to train and run the race with me. My listserv message was met with lots of interest from ladies in different programs and schools that were ready to tackle this challenge.
Some of these ladies are currently writing dissertations, while the others have graduated and moved away from Bloomington, but training through a snowy and icy winter for a spring half marathon has bonded us forever. Nothing like wearing ear warmers, running gloves, 2 pairs of warm tights, base layer shirts, fleece jacket, and warm socks to brave the 25°-30° weather for weekly long runs.
Here I am almost 3 years later and deep in the world of powerlifting and weighlifting, but something is telling me to try it again, perhaps train harder this time and improve my time. Truthfully speaking, I just want to run it so I can have a
cuter better picture at the finish line, because I actually hate dislike running (still waiting for that “runner’s high”), but I love working out with friends. Obviously I have time to decide, but it’s always in the back of my mind. The race is right here in town with plenty of undergraduates, graduate students, alumni, and community members running right next to you. Perhaps it’s time for another listserv message??
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Finding one’s niche can be a daunting task. It certainly was for me. As a student who is much older than most of my cohort members AND close in age to many of our professors, I struggled to find my place here at Indiana University. Further complicating things, Continue reading
The stretch of time between Thanksgiving break and the end of the semester is always rough for me. Thanksgiving break is a glorious week of being at home, spending time with my family, relaxed work hours, and eating, of course. Then, it’s back to Bloomington for three more weeks of real work before another break. How do you keep your head in work mode when all the signs say it’s time to relax?
For me, the time after Thanksgiving means I am well within my rights to play Christmas carols and decorate my apartment. I hang lights, stockings for my dog and me, and drink a lot of hot chocolate. I also take advantage of the cold weather and light my fireplace. It helps to come home to a warm and cozy apartment after a long day of working. Watching holiday-themed movies like Love Actually also help create a festive mood. Another thing that helps is listening to Pandora holiday stations while I’m working. Since I spend most of my days working on my computer anyway, jamming out to holiday music helps break up the monotony. Sometimes I get so into it that it’s hard to keep from singing out loud–but I don’t want to disturb my labmates!
What are some of your end-of-the-semester tricks? Whatever they may be, remember, we’re in the home stretch. It’s the fi-nal count-down!
There’s a running joke that graduate students only know where two buildings on campus are: the building where their classes are held, and the library. Bonus points for other amenities like student union, health center, and gym. As a graduate student at IU, you should add one more to your list: the University Information Technology Services (UITS) building. Continue reading
There are many things that I miss from home. I know that one thing that I always had fun doing which relieved my many stresses from my undergraduate life was bowling – at least once a month. I learned of bowling from my father because he was in a league that bowled once a week, and I took it up too. I bowled so much that I got my own bowling ball and bowling shoes (and I’d suggest getting bowling shoes no matter how much you bowl because you’ll probably bowl enough in a year to equal the rental for the shoes).
In Bloomington, Continue reading
If I had one weakness besides ice cream sandwiches, smiling babies with chubby cheeks, and gliding across as freshly mopped floor in my socks it would be a lack of community. Sans the cliche I do believe “people make the world go round”, especially at Indiana University. Continue reading
Photo from Walmart.com. Altered by Tiphani D
I am a firm believer that sweatpants, a T-shirt and an assortment of sugary snacks can be a human’s best friends, but sometimes these need to be abandoned in favor of finding your social and professional niche within the IU community. While it sounds daunting, and not at all as easy as blasting through a marathon of Law and Order: SVU, it is an extremely important skill. I will, in full disclosure admit to not mastering this yet, but it is important to make connections for professional development, and for you own mental health; grad school is hard, and having a circle of people you can talk to can make the process easier. Continue reading
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Though it may seem like a tiny dot of light at the end of a long, paper lined tunnel, there opportunity to go on leisurely breaks throughout the semester do exist; particularly around major holidays, such as Thanksgiving, and the oh so festive Winter Break where one is expected to do nothing but visit with close family and/or friends, and gorge themselves shamelessly on seasonally appropriate goodies. Continue reading