Starting the Second Year


So you’ve finished your first year of a masters program, spent the summer working in an internship that you loved, and now you’ve returned to your bustling campus for your second year. But, what does that second year have in store? Your first year brought with it changes in your life: new school, new classmates, new town, dietary habits, and even possibly a new partner. But now the second year? Mentors and friends can prepare (if one can be prepared) you for the first year, but hardly anyone talks to you about them second year.

As an aspiring second year masters student, this is where I now sit: returning to IU after a summer away to a campus full of new students, energy, and the oncoming school year only a short time away. While I do not have any advice to give as of now (having not completed the second year yet, I can’t say if anything worked best or not), but I can say that these are some of the things I plan to keep in mind to make this next year a great one.

Now, this may seem like a strange strategy to begin with, but it is one of the most important to remember throughout grad school. With assignments, grading, work, friends, family, and life all swirling around you at the same time, it can be easy to forget that you yourself need time every once and a while. It is also important to note that one should not fall into the trap of believing that self-care is the same for everyone. While one person may find that taking a few hours to sit on the couch, read a book for fun, and drink warm tea are the way to go, others may not. I fell into this trap many a time during my years as an undergraduate student, and into my first year of grad school. Thus, in the end, self-care is a two step process: remembering to find time to take for yourself amongst all the things that you need to do, and, finding those things that give you peace so that you can carry on.

Find your Person(s)
I know, I know, I quote Grey’s Anatomy in suggesting this, but, it is very much true. It is possible to make it through graduate school alone. But, it is much easier with friends. Having someone you can talk to after a long day of classes, a tiring shift at your job, and homework that will last you long into the night, can often mean the world. But, one person cannot bear the weight of all your problems, just as you would struggle to bear the weight of theirs. Thus, as the old saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child.” It may not happen right away, but finding your people will happen eventually. And these people will become so much more than friends.

Find your Routine
So, this one may seem obvious, but it may be one of the hardest things to accomplish during your year. For the first few weeks (even close to a month) you may find that you feel off: you’re adjusting to course loads, your job schedule may be in flux with new folks joining the team, and then outside of class you have to find time for all other things life. But as that first month passes you’ll start to figure out what your instructors are looking for in their classes, your homework time will solidly itself, you will find time to call your family and go get dinner with your friends, and it will all slowly come back into focus.

Things will Close
It may seem that grad school will continue on forever, but know this: all things end. For some it is two years, others 6, some 8. No matter what the time frame looks likes for the degree that you are pursuing, it will eventually all come to you walking across the stage with a new degree and a bright future. Now, this means two things for you in the present. First, remember this on those dark nights where it seems like there is no end. You can make it, and you will make it. Rely on your friends, your family, get sleep, eat healthy, and get ready for the next day. Second, take advantage of the time that you have where you’re at. Meet new people. Take walks around campus. Do some of those first year student traditions you think are weird. Make the most of it, because in a short amount of time you’love be moving on, and the memories you make are what you’ll always remember.

If there is one final piece of advice that I can pass onto you it is this: everything I’ve just said could work, or it couldn’t. Remember that you are the one who knows your life best, and that you have the opportunity to make of it what you will. Don’t be afraid to try new things; don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. You are the one who has the opportunity to see this new year through to the end, your way.

With that, I wish you well. Welcome to you friend, whether it is your first day or if you’re returning once more. Welcome to your all, and I am glad to have the opportunity to learn from you while we’re here.