The first li’l while at the rodeo…

So thinking back to when I started graduate school (what feels like so, SO long ago now!) there’s just a whole slew of things I wish I had a better handle on… From figuring out which departmental activities are crucial and which are superfluous to whether I wanted to be active in student groups to finding ways to live within my means while still doing things I wanted to – yeah, it is fair to say I was pretty clueless. Let’s just be real: the first semester at graduate school is usually a pretty overwhelming experience! Since a lot of what works for you will, well, will work for you I figured I’d share two things that most folks I know have encountered in the hopes of helping you adjust to this newest phase of your life…

First, and I think this is pretty crucial, find someone you click with who is not in your department, and maybe even not at your institution. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with the folks you’ll see lots and lots in the hallway, seminars, and maybe even share an office with – they’re good folks and can empathize with you in ways that almost nobody else can. That said, for me (and for a stack of people I know) it has been fantastic to be able to vent – without reservation – to someone who is outside of the theater that sometimes is graduate school… A lot of folks find that the best person for them to speak with is a counselor – and in my book not only is there no shame in that game, if anything the opposite: big-up-yourself if you have spoken with a counselor about your life issues, or even which colors work best on you. In other words, it isn’t crucial that you have friends outside your department, but it is important that you have a safe space for you to vomit up the trials of being a graduate student – and probably to shed some tears, too! For me, personally, it has been good to have close friends in different departments here at IUB and to have a few close friends in this hustle at other institutions.

The second thing I wish someone told me was that sometimes, usually even, you just have to be easy on yourself. For me it took a few to adjust to not being the single most go-get’um person around when I hit my graduate program and, it turns out, most folks who get to graduate school (and especially one with as many prestigious programs as IUB) are both focused students and real smrt (yeah, that’s right) – usually among the most dedicated and brightest people at their undergraduate institution. Getting to IUB and realizing that most of what I learned as an undergrad was more or less useless was a pretty big hit to take; combining that realization with the reality that I had to work like crazy to keep just-barely-on-top-of-things was a whole new chapter in humility for me. Here’s the thing, though: you’ll adjust and find your stride, it can take a while, but eventually you’ll figure out what you need to do to be successful or, alternatively, you may find that you don’t need that next degree for your career or life goals. Either way, the first semester (and perhaps the first year) of graduate school is often be mind-bogglingly challenging and sometimes you just have to be kind to you because, frankly, you deserve it! Yikes, hope that wasn’t TOO feel-good!

As always, holla back if you see it different — or if you feel me on this! Peace…