If I’ve learned one thing in attending social events as a grad student (and yes there are plenty to attend), it is that homemade dishes always are more respected than store-bought. Always. Closely related to that, if you make some tasty dip, you will gain fans, guaranteed. One quick dish that has not let me down yet in three years as a PhD student and two as a MS student, now my ace-in-the-hole: guacamole. While there are many delicious variations, I thought I’d share how I do it, which is tweaked from my mother’s version.
The caveat to all of this is that to-taste trumps every measurement…always. In fact, there is only one rule: do not measure; go with what you like. I taste it as I go, after every couple ingredients. I’ll put in bold the ingredients that are always consistent from bowl to bowl, even though the measurements may change slightly. Here is what I do:
- 5-9 medium avocados
- 1/2 to 1 whole medium red onion (sliced fairly small, but you do want occasional big chunks; and yes, I took the middle out.)
- several pinches of salt (probably more than you’d think); and several pinches of pepper (to match the salt)
- 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced finely
- 2 diced tomatoes (large-ish chunks, for texture)
- A handful of cilantro. Chop roughly.
- Heat: about half of a Serrano pepper (about 2 inches worth). I’ve used all kinds of peppers in the past. Whatever you choose, slice it finely and mix well.
- Fresh-squeezed lime juice (1-2 whole limes)
Main consideration: the salt has to counter the bland avocados and the acidity of the lime juice. So it will likely require more salt than you would ordinarily use. And then add roughly the same amount of pepper as you’ve added salt. Lastly, mash and mix with a fork…intentionally leaving it chunky.
Photo by me (LaNita C)
The picture above is my weekly meal prep time. It may look like too much food but its an easy way to save money and time for anyone and everyone, whether you are a graduate student or not. Clockwise from top left I have tilapia, pork chops, chicken and potatoes, ground beef and salsa, and steak burgers. Cooking in bulk will save you time because you cook one time for the whole week.
Just a few pointers/tips so you can experiment with meal prepping:
#1- CROCKPOTS I have 2 and I will put meats/veggies in them and let them cook on low or high for hours. EXAMPLE: chicken breasts or drumsticks with some garlic, salt, pepper, and cajun spice and chicken broth on low for 6 hours. Then you can just broil them for a few minutes to get the skin crispy.
#2- EGGS I hard boil about 10-12 eggs for easy breakfast or snacks. I don’t have time to scramble eggs everyday.
#3- FISH So you cant make a ton of fish and expect it to stay fresh- but it will last a day or two. I love tilapia for breakfast. I buy a ton of frozen tilapia fillets. Thaw them and put some cajun or chipotle seasoning on it. Heat a bit of olive oil in non-stick pan and sear it. Adding green chile sauce to it while its in the pan. Easy, fast, lean protein.
#4- LOTS OF TUPPERWARE Yep you need a lot to save in fridge or freezer and to take with you everywhere.
#5- MRS DASH SEASONING (no salt) Great and easy seasoning. I have a cabinet full. Most spices and marinades are full of sodium.
These are just a few suggestions to make life easier when schedules are chaotic!
I have never been a fan a libraries…don’t get me wrong, I believe they should exist like traffic lights and a big burly bouncer when a brawl is about to go down, but Landon personally would never step foot in a library if I did not have to. Thankfully the Indiana University gods bestowed IUCat upon us. I am almost certain that I have mention IUCat before, books are available to be read online through our university’s online library. In the event that they are not, you can request the book you’re looking for to be delivered to your own personal carrel. Carrels are graffiti laced desk within the library that you can reserve during the duration of your academic career at Indiana University. Whenever you need a book you can have it delivered to your carrel via IUCat or you can have the book delivered to any of the libraries on campus to pick up and use in the safety of your own home, coffee shop, or particular zen study space.
Personal bias aside, the library staff is always available to help you in person or online. This is what makes visiting the library bearable, you are always guaranteed to receive proper assistance and leave feeling a little more confident about your research (unless you’re researching Cosbynomics).
Photo from www.indianapublicmedia.org
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.
Photo from etsy.com
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??
Photo from hoosierhalf.com
Depending on the institution, your comprehensive exam(s) is another hurdle to jump through to obtain your Ph.D. Some institutions call them your comprehensive exams, others call them qualification exams. I just finished my two qualification exams, and I feel good … kinda!
I hope I did well, but to have these exams in the middle of the semester while I am teaching, research, and conducting other academic responsibilities can be stressful and overwhelming! Don’t fret … I chose to do them in the middle of the semester, so I guess I asked for it.
They say that if you made it far enough to the qualification exam process then there is no reason why you wouldn’t do well on the exams. I sure hope this is the case. Anyhow, I’m one step closer to ABD … all but dead!
Know that when you get to this point, you are not alone! I had lots of support from friends, family, colleagues, and professors and advisors. Thank you all!
Things to do as soon as you start your PhD program
1) Set up a support system around you, both academic and non-academic. Meet with your cohort, go out to grad student events, meet with your professors, and start a good relationship with your advisor. Let your family and friends know that will you need their support too as you start this new phase of your life.
2) Manage your time wisely. Being a grad student involves juggling a lot of responsibilities! Start identifying what works and doesn’t work for you, and work around your strengths and weaknesses.
3) Continue/Start networking. It’s never too early to start. Ask your advisor what conferences are good to attend, set up meetings with faculty members that you share research interests with, mingle with the advanced students and post-docs (these are good people to look for mentorship too)
4) Start looking for and applying for grants/funding. The more you do it, the better you get at it, and the higher the probability of you getting something.
5) Start looking into what you can do to build up your CV. Applying for grants is a start, but you can also start planning conference presentations and joining professional organizations.
6) Get into good writing habits. Our job as PhD students is to learn how to conduct good research, AND to be able to communicate it (after all, what good is research if nobody knows about it). Writing takes a good chunk of our time, but there is no good system in place within the PhD student process to make people good, habitual writers. Join a writing group, ask advanced students to talk to you about the writing process, and start a daily writing habit. This will really help you out in the long run!
The 7 year rule came into place as of August 2011, meaning I have 7 years from that date to complete my dissertation. So this year I primarily focused on getting my data organized and ideally I am looking to have a dissertation proposal very soon. In recent years, my department has had students complete their dissertation proposal having already completed their analysis–so I am trying to do the same. From now until very early in the fall this is my main focus. Next year I start a new graduate assistantship and ideally I’ll be writing up my dissertation as well as looking into faculty position openings. It will be a very busy year, hard to say it will be the most busiest. Each year my Ph.D. program has come with its own challenges from managing time spent in classes and on class assignments, working as an instructor, research graduate assistant and generally trying to balance life. The summer is about to start though and it’s the perfect time to reenergize a bit, visit with family, and to hit the ground running in terms of setting myself up to have a great start in the fall. Steady as I go.
So the next steps after having accepted a graduate program offer of admittance is to carefully consider all of the resources-networking available to you. Several examples include: banking, cost-of-living, parking permit, change of address information (i.e., mailing and all other correspondence), access to social and peer networks, and staying organized (i.e., good record keeping). Although I came to Indiana from another state, I made many of the appropriate transitions mentioned prior to coming to Indiana. I recall emailing, making phone calls, and doing a number of online searches to gather all of the information I needed so that as soon as I did arrive to Bloomington, IN I had taken care of most of my to-do-list in terms of making the transition from one state to another.
My best advice is to make a list of all the things that can be done prior to your arrival as well as once you arrive. In my own case, I came to Indiana in the July prior to the start of my first semester, this was primarily because my assistantship start date–but it allowed me enough time to be settled in before the start of my program. So, talk to current students, your given faculty, and ask plenty of questions as you outline your next steps.
The Indiana University student newspaper is a good resource to find information on community opportunities, housing, the surrounding city of Bloomington, restaurants-entertainment and you name it. Check it out.
Currently, our very own IU is hosting its first ever Latino Film Festival and Conference. This event has brought together national scholars and film makers, to discuss the themes and issues within Latino cinema. The event began yesterday evening with a screening of Sleep Dealer, followed by a Q&A by the director, Alex Rivera. Several discussion panels were organized for today and tomorrow, along with more awesome film screenings, including Blacktino (director Aaron Burns), Gun Hill Road (director Rashaad Ernesto Green) and some classics, like Zoot Suit (Director Luis Valdez). This event is a depiction of the dedication by IU and the people and organizations within it to promote the diversity of perspectives and enrichment of life in Bloomington. And best of all, it’s completely FREE!!! Hats off to the IU Cinema and organizers of the event (for a list of the organizers, and more info, visit the website).