- Poster in poster tube if you will present a poster (note: this counts as a carry on)
- USB where your talk is stored if you are giving a talk
- Address of your hotel and the conference venue
- List of people you intend to introduce yourself to at the conference
- List of economical restaurants near the conference venue
- List of nice/expensive restaurants (for the one night you want to spoil yourself)
- List of places nearby that you want to see. In case you have some time to tour the city.
- One change of clothing for each conference day. Sometimes you can recycle some clothing (a pair of pants or a sports coat). Packing light is key! One extra change is ok, just in case, and maybe an extra pair of comfy shoes (because you will be walking a lot)
- Granola bars (to keep you going through the long days)
- Water bottle (to keep hydrated)
- Cell phone and cell phone charger to contact colleagues for lunch/dinner plans (I always forget my charger!)
So obviously the school year is off and running. Briefly let me tell y’all what’s going on in my life AND give you a FREE TIP OF THE DAY about grad school survival.
This first month of school has been very crazy. For the Higher Education and Student Affairs PhD program you have to take courses outside your major. Being the adventurous person that I am I decided to take a Religious Studies class, and it is a very demanding course. Just to give you an idea of how demanding the course is, I have spent about 14 hours over the past two days reading and reflecting on the text for the class (see picture below).
This brings me to my FREE TIP OF THE DAY: do not blindly take any course, ever. This is what I did. Over the summer during registration I thought to myself, “hmm… this course looks interesting I’ll sign up for it.” If you ever have that inclination, raise your hand then slap yourself in the face. As soon as you recover talk to people in your department both faculty and classmates. At the very least, you should email the professor teaching the course to make sure it will provide you with what you are looking for academically
The same principle applies when you are looking at grad schools. This month is our annual event called Getting You into IU (GUI2IU). That event gives you the opportunity to check out IU, and see if this is a great place for you. So come and check us out!
Many people often ask me: what do you wish you had known about Grad School? Looking back, my answer is undoubtedly: time management and peer-networking. You will be surprised of how fast the weeks go by when you have A LOT of academic work, in addition to a “personal life”. Putting together a daily schedule will significantly improve your productivity, as well as enable you to schedule time for hobbies and other stress relieving activities. Furthermore, as Amy mentioned of her post: “Use your time wisely”, an organizational structure will prove most beneficial during your dissertation writing phase.
The other thing you want to develop early as a graduate student is a network of peers, that is, within your program, as well as outside your program (or even university). For instance, it took about two years into my graduate career to realize that, at least in computer science, coursework in not meant to be completed independently; even further, collaboration is not only encouraged but expected. Having a network of classmates will provide a support network for studying, working on assignments or projects, as well as relaxing when you are feeling overwork.
Finally, I remember when I was an undergraduate student and one of my mentors told me: “getting through grad school is mostly about perseverance because you will never run out on reasons to quit”. Hence, having a peer group outside your department will play a critical role in the completion of your degree. Ahmed does a terrific job on identifying most of things that grad students will wonder at some point in their graduate career in his post “The first li’l while at the rodeo …”, which I strongly recommend everyone to read. Hope this advice will prove helpful to you!
So thinking back to when I started graduate school (what feels like so, SO long ago now!) there’s just a whole slew of things I wish I had a better handle on… From figuring out which departmental activities are crucial and which are superfluous to whether I wanted to be active in student groups to finding ways to live within my means while still doing things I wanted to – yeah, it is fair to say I was pretty clueless. Let’s just be real: the first semester at graduate school is usually a pretty overwhelming experience! Since a lot of what works for you will, well, will work for you I figured I’d share two things that most folks I know have encountered in the hopes of helping you adjust to this newest phase of your life…
First, and I think this is pretty crucial, find someone you click with who is not in your department, and maybe even not at your institution. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with the folks you’ll see lots and lots in the hallway, seminars, and maybe even share an office with – they’re good folks and can empathize with you in ways that almost nobody else can. That said, for me (and for a stack of people I know) it has been fantastic to be able to vent – without reservation – to someone who is outside of the theater that sometimes is graduate school… A lot of folks find that the best person for them to speak with is a counselor – and in my book not only is there no shame in that game, if anything the opposite: big-up-yourself if you have spoken with a counselor about your life issues, or even which colors work best on you. In other words, it isn’t crucial that you have friends outside your department, but it is important that you have a safe space for you to vomit up the trials of being a graduate student – and probably to shed some tears, too! For me, personally, it has been good to have close friends in different departments here at IUB and to have a few close friends in this hustle at other institutions.
The second thing I wish someone told me was that sometimes, usually even, you just have to be easy on yourself. For me it took a few to adjust to not being the single most go-get’um person around when I hit my graduate program and, it turns out, most folks who get to graduate school (and especially one with as many prestigious programs as IUB) are both focused students and real smrt (yeah, that’s right) – usually among the most dedicated and brightest people at their undergraduate institution. Getting to IUB and realizing that most of what I learned as an undergrad was more or less useless was a pretty big hit to take; combining that realization with the reality that I had to work like crazy to keep just-barely-on-top-of-things was a whole new chapter in humility for me. Here’s the thing, though: you’ll adjust and find your stride, it can take a while, but eventually you’ll figure out what you need to do to be successful or, alternatively, you may find that you don’t need that next degree for your career or life goals. Either way, the first semester (and perhaps the first year) of graduate school is often be mind-bogglingly challenging and sometimes you just have to be kind to you because, frankly, you deserve it! Yikes, hope that wasn’t TOO feel-good!
As always, holla back if you see it different — or if you feel me on this! Peace…