Yes, I myself dread spring-break. I really do. When I was an undergraduate, spring-break literally and figuratively meant a BREAK. No homework, no readings, no nothing! Break was all about the beaches, drinks, and Netflix. You honestly did your best to break, and forget about academics for a week. But the golden days of truly “breaking” for spring-break are over once you enter grad school. Now, its about strategically using your time.
This last week has been the pits for me; First, I got sick, and then a small piece of my back tooth came out, and I need a crown (MAYBE $750 🙁 ). I still have so much to complete to stay on track (a detailed critique/commentary for one class, and I must read a book for another class by tomorrow) but throughout the weekend my body was simply not functioning. So I did what I could during the week, and when everything ended Friday I headed home. I made soup with onions, jalapenos, and green onions and curled up in bed.
A major challenge we face as graduate students (or others in hyper productive environments) is that we get so used to being productive (or at least striving to be) that when we are not working, we experience guilt to different degrees. And this can really weigh down our future efforts.
I was in the bed, sick from the flu, with a toothache I would wish on no one, and yet I still worried about getting my work done, and what would my professors think of me if I did not live up to their expectations. BUT LIFE HAPPENS!!
As a first year graduate student, I have quickly learned some of the tricks of the trade for surviving the first year.
- DON’T isolate yourself during the first year. Grad school is hard enough already so don’t carry the burden alone. This leads me to the first DO:
- DO enjoy and get to know your cohort during the first year. These people will be around you (for better or worse) for many, many, many years to come. They will be your future colleagues. Therefore at least some of them should be your support system, therapist, editor, friend or whatever else you needs to get through grad school. BUT…
- DON’T start comparing yourself with your cohort or other students. Being a grad student itself is extremely challenging, but once you start comparing yourself with others the challenge can become unbearable. Remember that the first year for EVERYONE is an extremely difficult time, where people start doubting themselves and their ability to be a successful graduate student. It’s also an extremely humbling process, but the struggle becomes more bearable when you are not afraid to seek out help or advice. This leads me to the last rule:
- NEVER be afraid to ask questions or seek help from professors or fellow students. If you don’t understand the readings, start a reading group. If you doubt your writing, ask a fellow student to help you with ideas and edits. If you don’t know how to frame your research ideas, reach out to a professor. Remember that no one assumes that you should know everything or that you are dumb for asking questions. After all, if you already posses all the knowledge, then what’s the point of going to grad school?