5 Ways to enjoy the (campus) Staycation


Who isn’t excited to have a little time off? But often as graduate students we don’t have the option to bail on teaching and graduate responsibilities during breaks. Whether it’s because traveling is too expensive or have an approaching deadline for a project you will, on occasion, find yourself in town during a school break. Staying in town when the majority of the student body vacates can seem disheartening, but have no fear, here are five hidden ways to enjoy your campus staycation.

1) First, appreciate the silence. Ok maybe not complete silence, but the bustle of cars, buses and people everywhere tends to settle down during long breaks.

2) Remember that you’ll have a more flexible schedule. The demands of seminars, attending meetings and/or teaching courses are reduced (if not eliminated) thus allowing you to be more flexible with your days. Perhaps you can take the opportunity to sleep in or leave campus early.

3) Get out and explore the town! Our schedules are always jam packed, so we rarely have free time to explore. Go ahead and try a new restaurant. The wait times are usually non-existent during long breaks, so treat yourself to that new place you’ve been wanting to try. This is also a great time to catch a movie, go to the gym, library or other campus hotspots that can feel overpopulated during regular semester hours can be easier to manage during the breaks.

*FYI* Check operating hours as businesses may adjust times or close for repairs due to fewer patrons.

4) Resources are abundant, whether trying to use the campus printing, valuable office space, or the machines that always seem to be taken. It is highly unlikely you are the only one around, but there are far fewer people everywhere making it easier to access shared equipment.

5) Lastly, you are not alone. There are tons of other grad students in the same boat. Plan to meet up with people you don’t get to see regularly because of your busy schedules. So use the time to reconnect with old buddies or if you’re new to campus, use it as an opportunity to make new friends.

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!


Happy Day After Valentine’s Day

For those of us graduate students who aren’t in relationships, are on a budget, and looking for some tasty treats, the day after Valentine’s Day can be the best day of the year! Why you ask? Valentine’s Day candy is ON SALE! Yummy chocolates that were once $5 are now anywhere from $1 to $2. I am on a mission to make February 15th a new holiday called “Treat Yourself” (taken from my favorite show Parks and Recreation). Take time for the real “Reason for the Season” of love…love on yourself and buy yourself some discounted candy!


Photo Courtesy of http://www.shotinthedarkmysteries.com







The stretch of time between Thanksgiving break and the end of the semester is always rough for me. Thanksgiving break is a glorious week of being at home, spending time with my family, relaxed work hours, and eating, of course. Then, it’s back to Bloomington for three more weeks of real work before another break. How do you keep your head in work mode when all the signs say it’s time to relax?

For me, the time after Thanksgiving means I am well within my rights to play Christmas carols and decorate my apartment. I hang lights, stockings for my dog and me, and drink a lot of hot chocolate. I also take advantage of the cold weather and light my fireplace. It helps to come home to a warm and cozy apartment after a long day of working. Watching holiday-themed movies like Love Actually also help create a festive mood. Another thing that helps is listening to Pandora holiday stations while I’m working. Since I spend most of my days working on my computer anyway, jamming out to holiday music helps break up the monotony. Sometimes I get so into it that it’s hard to keep from singing out loud–but I don’t want to disturb my labmates!

What are some of your end-of-the-semester tricks? Whatever they may be, remember, we’re in the home stretch. It’s the fi-nal count-down!

Black History Month Highlights

I love Black History Month! It is a great time of the year to reflect on the achievements and contributions of African Americans to American society. I will refrain of getting on my soap box, but I’d encourage you to reflect on the achievements of African Americans during February but year round. I’m just sayin’. Anyway here are some pictures from BGSA’s event the State of Black History at IU. Enjoy!

Back to Business

I hope everyone had a very happy holidays and a pleasant break between semesters. I traveled home to Montana and enjoyed some quiet time with my family.

Friendly mule down the road from our house

VERY friendly deer… perhaps too friendly.

We ate a lot of food, played a lot of games, stayed up late, slept in late, and pretty much let our cares rest for a while. Since the breaks between the semesters are often a time for students and professors to catch up on work, it felt a little indulgent to relax so much.

But actually, taking breaks can help your productivity in the long-run (as I’m sure most of us have heard.) Here’s some advice for graduate students from Rachel Manes and the American Psychological Association:

First off, consider how long the designated vacation period will last.  While writing up results of a study might seem like a tempting way to spend this time during the extended break, planning non-academic related events is an equally productive way to spend time during the designated vacation period because they stand to improve productivity after the break is over.  These off-line activities could range from travel and recreation to leisure time with friends and loved ones. (rest of the article here)

So you see, there’s no need to feel guilty about your vacation – and I hope you took one! Instead, you can focus on transitioning into the new semester and having a productive start. Happy spring semester everyone!

Winter Break: To leave or not to leave

This year I chose to not do any international or cross-country travel. Instead I took short trips with my family to Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and Chicago.

Our first day trip was to experience Christmas at the Indianapolis Zoo. Where we enjoyed the holiday lights event, partook in kids activities and caught a glimpse of some of the animals.

Next was our visit to the Fort.  Fort Wayne is the second largest city in the state after Indianapolis, and has many attractions. The activities range from shows at the historic Embassy Theatre to an outdoor stroll through downtown and Headwaters Park. While visiting family there we went ice skating at the Headwaters outdoor rink, and later got some hot chocolate at DeBrand–a local chocolate shop.

From there we headed three hours west to the windy city. While in Chicago we visited the LEGOLAND Discovery Center and did some last minute holiday shopping at the Woodfield Mall.  The next morning we had brunch at Restaurante Aguascalientes at La Villita ( Little Village).   La Villita is densely packed with Mexican businesses and what I consider the closest thing to being in Mexico as I can get in the Midwest. 😉

While we didn’t go very far, the quality time spent visiting friends and family at these locations definitely took me out of the everyday routine. 

Next on the list…outdoor winter activities in the area.

When you can’t go home…

I’m sure most of us would agree that one of the more difficult parts of graduate school is being far from your family, especially at the holidays. I’m happy to be going home this Christmas (first time in two years!), but I’m also happy that the holidays I’ve spent in Bloomington when I can’t go home have also been quite nice. This Thanksgiving I stayed in Bloomington and enjoyed a delicious potluck dinner with good friends, and the next night we went out to see the annual ceremony where the courthouse square is lit up by a canopy of lights.

The square lit up for the holidays. Photo from Indiana Public Media.

I can’t believe this is my fifth year in Bloomington and I never saw the lights celebration before! It was festive and fun, if a little chilly.

enjoying the festivities and trying to stay warm

There’s plenty of fun to be had in Bloomington when you can’t go home – especially when other students in the same position get together. Our Thanksgiving party this year was made up of a wonderful conglomeration of people from around the U.S. and around the world. I think my friend said it best when he said he was thankful that such a diverse group of people could get together and enjoy each other’s company and excellent food and good spirits. It was a very special holiday.

Tree inside the courthouse.

Happy holidays everyone! Only two weeks til winter break!




Happy Thanksgiving

It has been a tradition of ours to always have a small Thanksgiving dinner for all those who are far from home away from family and friends during the holidays. The dinners often consist of an eclectic group of friends and acquaintances both domestic and international graduate students spanning across nearly a dozen academic disciplines. We also encourage a cultural potluck where people bring cuisine from different cultures to share with others. Food aplenty, good music in the air and libations flowing makes for an unforgettable night. Numerous interdisciplinary collaborations have sprang forth from these social events aimed to both entertain and as an opportunity to network outside the academic setting. Techniques and tool that a researcher use in his or her specific discipline can be very well applied to another completely different field with profound results. Good times!

Corn & black bean quinoa, 5-cheese mac, garlic bacon mash, collard greens, grilled chicken, and cast-iron rib-eye steaks. All homemade, enough said. Photo by Rashid Williams-Garcia.

Our large vinyl collection sure came in handy for the event. Can you guess what’s playing? Photo by Rashid Williams-Garcia.