Requesting Letters of Recommendation…the Right Way

When it comes to completing the graduate application process, one of the most important things I learned was to treat each piece of the application as if it is the only component that will determine whether or not I am accepted into a program. Personal statement. Make it the best piece I had ever written. The CV/resume should be without spot or wrinkle, formatted perfectly, as if that alone was my ticket in. Recommendation letters. Wait, do I really have control over these since a faculty member is writing it on my behalf? Of course you do! Continue reading

“Out to lunch”

Bloomingtonians seem to have an almost pathological love of lunch. Between noon and 1:00pm every day, a huge proportion of the campus shuts down as the staff heads off to eat. It’s like the nostalgic, small-town satire where literally everything in town (even the stray dogs) hangs out an “Out to Lunch” sign as soon as the clock strikes noon. I know that’s the traditional lunch time but 1) who actually gets an hour  for lunch? (The answer: IU Bloomington), and 2) I worked at the University of Minnesota for about 7 years and never saw anything like this! Bloomington is very weird in this regard.

So, this massive lunch-hour exodus has two important implications for graduate students. The first is obvious: don’t try to get any university business done between noon and 1:00pm. Don’t try to sort out a registration anomaly, file paperwork for a research grant, or contact the department of your minor advisor to get a form signed. Don’t!

The second implication is less obvious. Since 90% of the population of Bloomington, IN goes to lunch at the same time, this means the restaurants are clear and accessible at every other time in the afternoon. Beyond that, you will find that a few establishments even have discounts if you go for lunch after 2 or 3pm.

What does this have to do with you? Well, as a graduate student, you probably do not keep regular 9-5 hours. If you are like me, you are working from like 7am – 3am most days. As such, “lunch time” need not be at noon. It’s not like you’re punching a clock or staying compliant with  federal labor laws: you can eat whenever you want to! Sure the little Blooming Foods deli behind Nick’s English Hut is pretty crowded at 12:18pm but, if you go in three hours later, you will find that many of their pre-packaged deli stuff is on 30% discount!

Writing an Amazing Statement (Tips from Someone who Survived)

I don’t know about you, but lately life has felt as if someone pushed the “forward” button and all of a sudden we’re in the month of October. And if you’re applying to grad school, you might be at the point when you are beginning to panic a little. Applications are due in 2-3 months from know and you might be asking, “How the heck am I Continue reading

Finding your Place to Study

My first year in graduate school was definitely a big jump from undergrad. And one of the most important decisions I had to make was where I was going to study. Many times I would try to sit where other graduate students from my department studied and I would find myself talking more than working. Alternatively, whenever I stayed at home I would find too many excuses to be distracted and it limited the amount of work I could accomplish. So I eventually came to understand that when I studied at the library in the graduate commons, I was able to focus more and get more done.

The Graduate Commons are located on the 8th floor of the East Tower in Herman B. Wells (Or just Wells) Library. The great aspects of the Graduate Commons are that 1) You need to slide a graduate student ID through the card reader in order to gain entry and 2) It is a quiet environment so whenever people talk other graduate students will simply give a glance and it serves to keep the area quiet. By the way they are remodeling parts of Wells and it is amazing. There are also a variety of other libraries on campus that are open until different times so look at what works best for you.

In addition to all of our great libraries there are coffee shops around the campus. Make sure wherever you like has a reasonable amount of outlets to plug in your computer. The great thing about Starbucks by the sample gates is that it is open until midnight most nights which is were I am typing as we speak :-) Not advocating either way, just informing.

And when you think about when you work best, some graduate students in my cohort work best from 12pm-3 am. Other students treat graduate school like a job, not only in terms of how hard they work, but also in the sense that they only work from 8am-4pm. Others works differently on different days depending on the workload for the week. So there is no right or uniform way, but rather you must find what works for you and stick to it.

So testing out where you work best, during what times you work best, will seriously pay off over your duration in graduate school.

Connecting beyond your department

Once graduate school begins, you may find yourself constantly running into colleagues from your department. While your department is a fundamental component in your professional development, it is other members of the IU and Bloomington community that provide other unique perspectives. While graduate school is incredibly busy, it is important to find social opportunities outside of your department. From graduate student organizations, to volunteering in the community there are always groups and organizations where you can interact with awesome people from different walks of life.

There is also the Jacobs School of Music here at IU, so frequently there are amazing orchestras and other musical performances. During my first semester of my first year, I attended the musical Continue reading

Academics and Research and…?

A paper due today…read a gazillion pages before class tomorrow…research meeting with a professor the next day…and submit a journal article for publication the day after that. The grad school life. Being a scholar…doing what scholars do. That’s why we’re here, right? We have degrees to earn and changes to make and research to conduct in our respective fields.

Of course all of these things are important. The opportunities we have as graduate students, from working with A-list faculty and exploring our interests to attending conferences and submitting for publications, are amazing. We would be crazy to not take advantage of them. But amidst the academic-mania of classes, articles, writing, and conducting research, we have to create Continue reading

Up close and PERSONAL: Crafting Your Best Personal Statement

It’s that time of year when potential graduate students are diving deep into the graduate admissions process. Application after application…expanding your vocabulary and learning the meaning of every word humanly possible for the GRE…exchanging emails with faculty who will sell you to the committee by saying all of these TRUE, wonderful things about you…pulling together writing samples to show that you can hang with the best of scholars and have something to contribute to the field…updating CVs/resumes with your highest of high honors, publications and service initiatives. And what else? Ah. That personal statement.

Your personal statement is one of the most critical components of Continue reading

Xicanita on the Move

The majority of people are always in shock when I tell them that I am from California. The conversation usually goes like this:

“Hey where are you from?”
“What are you doing here!? Usually people want to leave Indiana and move to California. People in California are so chill and you guys have awesome weather!”

And I usually laugh and smile because I have lost count of the times I have heard people say this. But the truth is…I’m a Xicanita on the Move. The same curiosity that led me to study abroad during my undergraduate years is the same curiosity which led me to IU.

I know what you must be thinking, “Indiana is in no way as “cool” as traveling abroad.” But once you have had a taste of the unknown…of placing yourself in uncomfortable situations and learning to grow from them, then you are changed forever. You my friend are  Continue reading