Struggling to Find a Routine? (It’s okay!)

As I wrap up the 3rd year in my PhD program, I still struggle to find my sweet spot of productivity. BUT THAT’S OKAY!

Graduate school is essentially a marathon; you have a great (intellectual) distance to travel, and the primary goal is to finish. In order to do that, a balance must be struck between academic/professional work and self-care. Very often we forget about how important it is to take care of our mental and physical well-being. When we focus on sprinting too fast for a short distance, we run the risk of burning out (physically, mentally, and emotionally). So how can you negotiate your own balance of well-being and performance?

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Making Connections

One of the best things I have done since beginning graduate school at IU is joining a student organization. In my case, I joined the Latino Graduate Student Organization (LGSA). Being a member of LGSA has helped me both academically and socially by making connections with students and faculty.

As graduate students, we tend to stick within our department. Through LGSA I have met students and faculty from various departments such as History and Anthropology and the School of Education. Speaking with people from different disciplines has helped me learn how to frame my research in a way that others can understand it and find it relevant. In addition, it has exposed me to the different types of research being done at IU.

Perhaps the best part about joining a student organization is the supportive community it has to offer. Through LGSA I have formed strong friendships with other grad students. It is great to have people who you can talk to about the challenges and successes you experience in grad school, and life in general.

At IU there are numerous organizations that graduate students can join. I’m sure you can find one that fits what you are looking for!


Balancing Family Life and Academic Work

This academic year was a time of change for me: I suddenly became a guardian of my two younger brothers. I moved them to Bloomington with me because I knew they would have a better opportunity here than where they lived. However, I didn’t know how hard it would be to raise them while also continuing my academic career as a PhD student.

Before the boys moved in with me I had planned on being ABD (all but dissertation) by now, but I decided to take things a little slower. I knew raising two boys would be a lot of work but I figured I could easily continue on with my studies without any significant changes… I was wrong. Almost everything changed… Continue reading

Latin@s Represent!

Moving to Indiana three years ago was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Why? Well, for starters I was leaving New York City for a Midwestern town. I was entering a place that didn’t have bodegas (corner stores) in every corner, amazing NY style pizza, or subway stations. But what scared me the most was that I wouldn’t find the same kind of diversity I was accustomed to in NY and I was right. However, I did find a supportive Latin@ community both at IU and in the greater Bloomington community!

Being part of a Latin@ community was very important to me and so the moment I arrived at IU I immediately went to La Casa, the Latino Cultural Center. I was introduced to the small but growing number of Latin@s at IU. I decided to join the Latino Graduate Student Association (LGSA) my first year and am still active to do this day… Continue reading

Taking Advantage of IUware

IU offers a vast amount of wonderful services to its student and IUware is one of them!

IUware is a software distribution service that offers a wide variety of software packages at no charge, including site-licensed products from Adobe, Microsoft, Thomson Reuters, and others. The university pays for the relevant licenses through agreements with vendors; this allows students, faculty, and staff to use the programs available through IUware, most free of charge.

I’ve turned to IUware to download software for both my academic and leisurely pursuits. I’ve always loved photography and a few months ago decided to download Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom. I’d never purchased the programs because I couldn’t justify paying such a high price for something I’d only use occasionally but as an IU student I was able to download both completely FREE of charge! It doesn’t get better than that! It’s been a good stress break during the semester.

IUware is constantly updated and new programs are added. Just last week, I downloaded Office 2016 for Mac and love the update. Microsoft has always been slow to release updates for Mac and having it available a few months after it’s official release is great.

IUware is a huge money saver and has something for everyone.

Check it out:

Preparing Future Faculty Conference – 2016

When: February 12th, 8:30am – 5:00pm
Registration: FREE! “Open to all IU graduate students. But to participate in the complimentary lunch, you must register by Monday, February 8th, 2016.”

PFFC is an amazing opportunity for networking, learning about job market, interacting with faculty, and last but not least for great food.

This is one of the professional development opportunities, about which you can put a one-liner on your CV. But it’s also a nice opportunity to set new goals for yourself for the 2016 year, things you learn from this one day conference will help you navigate your grad school with little more ease. Last year I wrote at some length about why this particular conference is important.

Take this opportunity, and see you on 12th!

The Waiting Game After Submitting Applications…

Now is the time of year that you have either submitted all of your graduate school applications or about to finish submitting…what now?

The waiting is rough so I’d like to share with you some advice I got when I was in your shoes.

Go watch a movie! Go enjoy your last semester of either undergrad or your MA program! Seriously go enjoy it!

I had a hard time following this advice because you just want to know if you got into the program of your choice. You want to know what “the rest of your life will look like!” You want to know NOW! Well, you don’t have to know now, and you won’t know for a few weeks or even a few months. So take some time to enjoy where you are now because once you get accepted into your PhD program you will have to start worrying about moving. Worry about that later. Worry about waiting will change nothing. You’ve done your best and now it’s up to them. Besides they won’t even be looking at applications until the New Year around the start of the Spring semester (at least that’s the typical departmental timeline) so don’t worry about it.

Yes, I know it’s easier said then done, but my mentor’s goal with me was: “if I tell you enough times to just worry about time with your friends and the program you are in now maybe you’ll listen to me.” SO my goal with you is to help you stop worrying.

Let me say it again…

Go watch a movie! Go enjoy your last semester of either undergrad or your MA program! Seriously go enjoy it!

Grad school is what you do not who you are…

Here you go folks: here is by far the HARDEST lesson to learn and remember as a graduate student: “Life keeps on going while you’re in grad school, don’t let it pass you by!” All of my mentors have said this to me at one time or another and I’ve heard it but I don’t always remember it or understand it.

Developing your academic identity is important and essential to your success as a graduate student but nurturing your own personality and identity is just as important. We can’t be successful as grad students if we burn out and hate what we do. So we must find a balance.

Two things a couple of my friends and I think are essentials to grad life:

1) Food: Personally, I love to cook and try new recipes. If I’m home sick, I prep some of my mom’s favorites; if I feel like procrastinating and trying something new, I look up a recipe online and make it. You can’t go wrong. 

2) Pets: Today is the one month anniversary of when I adopted this guy. Yes, just a month. But in this month, this guy has made life so much more fun. He gets me outdoors. He has eliminated my Netflix time. He reminds me that treats and play-time are a must everyday.

He’s a major responsibility (financial and otherwise) and I thought long and hard about it. I kept telling myself it was a bad idea to adopt a dog because I just wouldn’t have enough time for him. I wouldn’t be able to afford him. What would I do when I had to travel. I should wait until after grad school, I told myself. But one of my friends put it best…”it’s our life and we have to live it.”

Grad school is my career and my job. It’s not a 9-5. But I do get to decide to take some time of my day to myself. I struggle with this everyday. I feel guilty about not getting “enough” work done. But academia will always be that demanding, don’t let it dictate your life. IMG_3877IMG_3887


He didn’t take too well to Ernie Pyle…

Wait, I can’t miss Christmas!!


I swear some people must think I’m the Grinch! But, I really love Christmas, I do.

I’ve had my boyfriend ask me multiple times: when are we decorating for Christmas? Well, it’s halfway through the month and I still haven’t gotten back to it. I don’t have time. I designated the weekend after Thanksgiving to do it but it didn’t get finished and now it’s still not finished. I wanted it done then because December is hectic in graduate school. Sure, it’s the end of the semester so it will get better but before I can call it a day I have to finish writing a syllabus, a historiography paper, another book review, administer a final, and grade ALL of them. I’ve had something to do EVERY single day, I’ve stop taking my usual weekend breaks because my projects just won’t allow it. But the hardest part is not getting all this done; the hardest part is knowing I don’t have time to do all the fun stuff that comes with Christmas.

So what’s my point? As grad students we just need to learn to accept it’s going to be rough during the holidays. You might be away from family, you might be traveling, you might not. Whatever the case may be build in some time, even short bursts of time, to have a fun time and just feel like you’re not missing out.

For example, we did start decorating but didn’t finish. But I’m still glad there are some Christmas decorations at home. Instead of buying things online, I’ve incorporated my Christmas shopping to my errands because I don’t want to miss out on picking out a nice gift. I like wrapping presents so after writing two pages I take a break to wrap a present. I like having hot chocolate instead of coffee this time of year because my mom used to make me hot chocolate when I was a kid so once I day I do that. After finishing my historiography paper I promised myself I would watch one of my favorite Christmas movies before moving on to the next project. I watched Home Alone last night. Why haven’t I had a chance to finish decorating? Because I never built it in to my reward schedule, it was built in to the weekend after Thanksgiving. All that to say, do what works for you but don’t just let the end of the semester get to you. Plan ahead. Take time off in the morning/night. Have some fun. It’s Christmas after all.


I even took time one night to make this guy his own Christmas bow tie!