Day-to-Day Life in Bloomington

While all graduate students have different schedules, I thought for this blog entry I would share what my typical week looks like as a Ph.D. student in Education Policy Studies. Please note, my schedule for this semester is 10x better than it was last semester!

Mondays-Class 9:30AM-12:15PM, Work 12:30-4PM

Monday morning classes are rare in my program, but this year there was no avoiding it. While I enjoy the course, it is a bummer as I must return to Bloomington by Sunday evening in the event that I go out of town for the weekend. My part-time job is with the Balfour Scholars Program and, fortunately, I can set my own hours so I choose to work Mondays after class is out.

Tuesdays-ME DAY!

I rarely leave my apartment and avoid scheduling any meetings or appointments on this day. It is nice waking up on Tuesdays knowing that I do not have to go to campus and am on my own schedule. I tend to complete several assignments on Tuesdays.

Wednesdays-Teaching 4-5:40PM

For the first eight-weeks, I only teach one section but the second eight-weeks I will teach two sections. It is really convenient that I was able to have all of my teaching on one day. I also try to do some grading on Wednesdays. I am an Associate Instructor (AI) for the Student Academic Center (SAC) and it is a great place to work! If you are in need of a graduate assistantship and are interested in teaching, check them out.

Thursdays-Bible Study at 7PM

The only time I have to leave my place on Thursdays is for bible study. As a result, I tend to put in a few hours at the Balfour office prior to bible study. Since I already have to leave my apartment, I am more flexible with scheduling meetings and appointments on Thursdays than I am on Tuesdays. I also use Thursdays as a reading day for my Monday class.

Fridays-Staff Training at 1PM

Each Friday, the SAC has a staff meeting for our undergraduate teaching interns and I am often charged with leading the meetings. After the training is over, I usually stay at the SAC to finish my grading for the week and run copies for my next class. In the evening, I usually get together with friends. Last Friday, a group of us went to IU Late Nite which featured karaoke and free bowling.

Weekends

Saturdays are mainly work days during the morning and afternoon and then I hang out with friends in the evening. Sundays are mainly work days after I get home from church.

I should also note that this semester I have a weekend class. We only meet 5 times throughout the semester: three Saturdays from 12-5PM and two Sundays from 9AM-2PM. It is actually a pretty good deal and frees up my schedule during the week.

I hope this day-to-day has given you somewhat of an idea of what life may be like for you as a graduate student!

Garrett

Student Academic Center
Photo by Garrett Carter

 

January Entry: New Year, New Me. Really!

Congratulations, you have made it through your first semester of graduate school. It’s the start of a new year, and of course, a new semester. Many people have used the phrase “new year, new me” as a means of declaring to better themselves in the new year and learn from their past mistakes. As a graduate student, it is definitely possible to improve yourself in the life of academia, but it starts with learning how to handle your classes as well as taking care of yourself.
The first thing that graduate students should do before a new semester begins is to reflect on your experiences in the previous semester. In doing so it will help recognize what you need to do to help make your life as a graduate student less stressful. The first thing one should reflect on is their coursework. It’s important to recognize the difficulty level of classes you’ll be taking so you can determine if more study time will be needed or not. Doing so will help you prioritize courses that may need more attention than others if you find course material difficult. Another factor that can be crucial is working with other classmates more frequently in said courses. Lastly, visiting the professor during office hours can be more beneficial in understanding the material better, especially if you didn’t do it that much last semester. Next we will talk about the importance of taking care of yourself outside of the lab or classroom.
Grad school can be a very stressful environment and while it’s important to stay on top of your coursework, it’s equally important to care of yourself. One way to help reduce stress in your academic career is by surrounding yourself by people that are going be a positive influence in your academic journey. Whether they be professional colleagues, professors, or classmates, have people that can encourage you to keep going can help make the stress more manageable. Other ways to reduce stress can be a form of recreational activity or something as simple as working out in the gym. Speaking from experience, going to the gym a couple times a week and running on the treadmill usually helps me ease any stress I have going on during the week. There may be times you may not to be able to commit to a certain number of days working out or any other sort of activity, but having something to do that’s not academic related can help make graduate school become less stressful.
Starting a new semester of graduate school can be seen as an opportunity to improve oneself. Learning from your past experiences and repeating certain practices that helped you in your journey over the ones that were more of a hindrance can help make life in graduate school that much easier. So in conclusion, as a certain Vulcan from Star Trek once said (Spock): “Live long, and prosper.”

Pursuing the ‘Dream’ in Bloomington

When I made the decision to visit Bloomington during the fall of 2014, it was a cold and rainy day. I was nervous because the “look” of a place can really impact how one perceives its value. I tried not to judge right away, and so I went about my next two and half days meeting my future department faculty, staff, and students with a smile on my face. I knew I was pursuing a dream when I came to IUB. This was a reoccurring dream that I had as an adolescent. I wanted to earn my Ph.D. in African American and African Diaspora studies to teach the world the magnificence of the Black diaspora, especially to the members of this often oppressed and marginalized community of people.
In the end, I decided to attend IUB, and am approaching the end of my third year now as a Ph.D. candidate. I couldn’t be more excited to write my dissertation proposal and my dissertation project, and feel like I’ve grown so much over the past couple of years. The weather or seasons that most non-native Hoosiers experience while attending IUB can take a while to get adjusted to. I am originally from Miami, FL, so we pretty much had one season year-round. In leaving my home city when I was 17 years old to pursue other educational and professional opportunities, I realize how metaphoric the weather in Bloomington is to life in general and my growth as a person.
During the winter months (late Nov.-mid March) it takes a lot more dedication to maintain energy, self-care practices, and motivation. It snows sporadically, and can be harshly cold on some days. On those kinds of days, I give myself lots of extra time to get my day started and completed. I also find that investing in some winter coats is helpful during your first fall semester in Bloomington, before the cold really starts to impact your commute to campus. I watch the weather daily to schedule meetings with advisors, professors, and students on “good days” versus harshly cold days where the snow may not have melted yet.
The late spring and summer months are really pleasant in terms of weather. Although new graduate students may visit the university too distracted to notice the weather, it is an important indicator of productivity and preparedness while living in Bloomington. The metaphors in Bloomington’s seasonal weather can be applied to the graduate experience as encouragement to stay the course and excel. When it is cold, and you want to just stay in bed, think about what being perpetually dormant can do to your future goals and health. Its important to stay mentally and physically active during the winter, so that you don’t end up feeling guilty when its time to shed those layers or turn in those final projects.
During the summer and early fall, the weather is beautiful. Don’t distract yourself on purpose to get off course. Rewarding yourself for the previous semester’s accomplishments need to happen as soon as the successful semester is over. Then on to the next. As the seasons change, so must we, and hopefully that is always for the better as we pursue our academic dreams.

Social Life in Bloomington

They call New York City (NYC) the city that never sleeps, there is always something to do and/or something open. New York City is my hometown, so when I moved from NYC to Bloomington, Indiana I knew I was in store for a transition.

After I settled into my assistantship and course work, I began to seek out social outings in Bloomington. Back home I went to a lot of poetry events and was searching for that in Bloomington as well. I thought I would have to pause my passion for poetry, but I was able to find a monthly open mic and poetry slam right downtown. This was a monthly event, created by people of color that brought together various communities for communal storytelling. Whether it be a monthly slam, an informal gathering at someone’s home, or a night out at the bar, I always find comfort in these spaces. Graduate students of color take ownership of our experience here at IU and create the communities and bonds we want to be a part of. There is always a gathering happening somewhere with graduate students of color. I am able to engage with different graduate students from different disciplines and full-time professionals in Bloomington. I never knew when I came to IU that I would find a strong community of graduate students of color that would play such an integral role in my social support. Bloomington is no New York City, but I still manage to find spaces that rejuvenate and refresh me.

Spring Semester Thoughts and Tips

Now that we’ve had another break and are settling in to our spring classes, I thought it might be nice to share my thoughts on what I do to adjust to a busier lifestyle after each academic downtime. You know how it is–break comes, we have all these plans to read our research materials, visit with family and friends, and organize our study spaces. But, if you are anything like me, I spend the first two days wandering around my apartment and inside my head, trying to figure out exactly how to structure my life for a few weeks. Graduate school is intense at any level, and I know when I don’t have pressing deadlines and meetings hanging over my head, I feel a little lost for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have the break, but I’m so productive during the semester in comparison that I always feel disjointed and even somewhat guilty for being so “lazy” for the first few days of a break.

Then, reality of my free time hits and I’m off and running. To be honest, however, I only get about half of my “break to-do” list completed before I realize that the next semester starts in a few days. You know that feeling–panicking in my head over the “should-haves” instead of appreciating the “what-happened”. And before I know it, the weight of a new semester re-settles on my shoulders and that to-do list now becomes a Spring Break list lol.

You know what, though? It’s all good. What used to stress me out so strongly has become a way of life for me. Regardless of whether I’m working on my academic responsibilities or on my life outside of my studies, I have learned this one thing: Some way or the other, it will get done. Maybe not on my expected time frame, but when push comes to shove, I will accomplish what is needed. I have made it this far, one step at a time, and I will continue to work my way through it, one step and day at a time.

So, as far as adjusting to a busier life after each break, I have learned to take time for me outside of academia. Whether that is to take an hour or two to sort out my bedroom–which, trust me, can easily become a mountain of books and papers–to go to a movie on campus or at a public theater, or to exercise. If given a choice, personally I like to exercise the most, as it helps elevate my mood and ensures I will still fit into my clothes lol, but not all the time. Sometimes I just like to sit and watch a show that has little to do with what I am researching. In my opinion, I am always learning, no matter what I chose to view, and since learning makes me happy, then movies are justifiable. I am very introverted and don’t need much social time, but I can truthfully attest that spending time with others doing what makes you happy is one of the most productive ways academics re-coup and re-center.

Basically, nothing I’ve said is what you probably don’t already know, but it is so easy for us to forget. Take time for yourself. Be patient with yourself. And above all, put yourself first. You’re the only You you have:)

Love and Peace,

Amy Aiyegbusi

 

A New Semester!

With a new semester beginning on Monday, I thought I would share some steps and tips that I take to prepare myself.

Purchase color-coded notebooks and folders-Maybe this is because I am a former middle school teacher, but I still purchase the same color notebooks and folders for each class. This small trick makes organization a bit easier.

Say no as needed-The beginning of the semester always seems to bring a ton of meetings, appointments, etc. Say no when you need to. The new semester can already be overwhelming with new classes so you may need to focus on your studies and hold off on scheduling non-urgent meetings and appointments.

Schedule time for yourself-It may not happen if you don’t! If going to the gym is important to you, put it on your schedule as if it is a class and make it happen. Same goes for massages, seeing friends, weekend getaways, etc.

Happy New Year!

Photo by Garrett Carter

Happy New Year! Starting a New Semester by Thomas Elton IV

Getting back into the routine of school after winter break can be challenging. This is the time to order your books, purchase your parking pass for the new semester, and any other materials or supplies you need to replenish to make sure you continue to do well with your graduate studies.

Before the semester begins it may seem that you have a lot to do and you’re “on break” but here is a list of a few  things you may or may not have thought of to do to ensure you begin the next semester smoothly.

  • Clean and organize school stuff. Recycle all those articles and papers you printed that you do not need. If you believe they could be useful in the future, organize them by putting them in a folder so that you can easily access them later.
  • Check your emails! In graduate school you may find that even though you are “on break” not everyone else is. There may be emails regarding your financial aid, research, volunteer, internship, or even employment opportunities. For example, I recently checked my email, and the initial application window for a position was only 6 days. If I had waited to check my email, I would have missed my opportunity to apply.
  • Clean and stay up to date with your housekeeping. Although you are on break, you do not want to start the semester having chores to do on the first day. For example do all of your laundry, so that it is one less thing that you have to worry about when beginning the semester. Also do any other regular housekeeping tasks such as sweeping (vacuuming) floors.
  • Go grocery shopping and clean out your fridge.  When you have a lot more time than during the semester, stock up with your food. Since winter break is a few weeks, our refrigerators may become bare because food does go bad. This is because we may travel during the holidays and any food that can not last a few weeks will need to be thrown out. I personally like to make sure that I purchase milk, fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks during this time.
  • Make a list of things you do not want to forget. This list can include everything aforementioned in this post. This list can also include anything else you feel that you need to do before the semester begins. I like to physically write my list down but you can do it however you like (i.e making the list in your phone).

These are just a few suggestions that work for me when beginning a new semester  after winter break. Feel free to use them and good luck!

Countdown to 2018: Self-Care Practices for Graduate School in the New Year

The end of each fall semester is bittersweet. Grading is done, courses are complete, and, more often than not, we are burnt out. The new year is just around the corner and resolution ideas are already brewing as we check the pulse of our progress for the year. Self-help writers and experts publish pieces every year about why writing new year resolutions are necessary or planned failures . Wherever you stand on resolutions, the semester-end is usually a clear reminder (or demand) to get back into the regular practice of self-care, self-love, and healing after 16+ weeks of the emotional, physical, and spiritual tax of academic life. As I write this blog, I think about the 50-11-hunnid think pieces about self-care Continue reading

The End of the Semester…

For those contemplating a return to school, I thought it might be useful to give you a snapshot of what the final weeks of the semester look like. To provide some context, I am a third-year Ph.D. student in Education Policy Studies. Let’s begin with the Thanksgiving break that wasn’t…

While I enjoyed the opportunity to go home for a week, I went into break with one smaller paper to complete (7-10 pages) before returning to school, and two larger papers (20+ pages) due on December 11th. Since I did not want to be working on two large papers at the same time, I decided that I would complete my smaller paper and put a big dent in one of the larger ones. The good news is that I completed the smaller paper and put a dent in the larger paper! However, this came at a cost. One, I did not tell many friends that I would be in town because I knew I would not have time to see them. I work best when I have full days to work as opposed to days broken up by luncheons and dinners. Second, I chose to cut my break two days short because I knew I would get more work done at my apartment in Bloomington than at home where I would rather be spending time with my family. So, while I technically had a break, I also felt like I did not have much of one since I was still doing work. While this was a sacrifice, it definitely paid off upon my return.

While several of my friends were cramming to complete several large assignments in the final weeks, I was left with just a few pages to finish on one paper and then my other large paper. There is no right or wrong answer here; you just have to know what works best for you. Some people needed Thanksgiving break to rejuvenate and then tackle all of their work during the last few weeks. I knew that it would be better for me to get work done over the break, so I only had one major assignment to complete afterwards. As a result, I finished up my semester on Friday, December 8th leaving me with a full month of no work before returning on January 8th. This time, I will tell my friends I am home!

One of my large papers!
Photo by Garrett Carter

Happy Holidays, and I hope that you have an opportunity to take a little break as well!

Garrett

“ I’M HERE!”


(Image from http://pridebrary.com/the-color-purple-1982/

There are a lot of responsibilities that we take on as graduate students. Between personal, professional and scholastic development, I have felt absolutely exhausted at times. It is during these times to remember to be kind to yourself. Self-kindness allows you to forgive yourself. I may not get everything done as I would have like, but I am continuing to press forward, allowing myself to stumble and sometimes fall. There are days when the best I can do is show up… “but, dear God, I’m here!!”