OHH NOOO, Spring Break is COMING….

Yes, I myself dread spring-break. I really do. When I was an undergraduate, spring-break literally and figuratively meant a BREAK. No homework, no readings, no nothing! Break was all about the beaches, drinks, and Netflix. You honestly did your best to break, and forget about academics for a week. But the golden days of truly “breaking” for spring-break are over once you enter grad school. Now, its about strategically using your time.

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You are not alone…

Sometimes, writing a dissertation can be exhilarating.  There is nothing like that day that you check something major over the ToDo list.  On other days, however, it can be lonely and/or boring.  On those days, it really helps to reach out to others who have been where you are.  Here are links to a few of those blogs:

I hope they help you remember that you are not alone.

Becoming more productive


Managing your time as a PhD student is exhausting. I often find myself blinking at the sheer number of tasks that need to be completed.  Since the start of this academic year, I have juggled revisions on my parts of my dissertation, learning Swahili, attending research skills workshops, writing conference presentations, teaching, and managing my three non-dissertation research projects. Even though I have experience in these areas, they still take lots of time.  I dream about having a research assistant.  LOL.

I know that there are two types of people in my PhD world:  (1) those who are productive by nature; and (2) everyone else.    This post is for that second group.   Continue reading

Sochi Olympics = Great Procrastinator

The start of the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, has, and will, force me to better manage my time for the next couple of weeks.  It is such a great time to invite people over to my apartment; I usually describe myself as someone more reserved with social outings, but it’s nice to cheer on teams and people in sports that we have never, or rarely, play with others.  You can look on the 2014 Olympics as a political, sports, and social event – basically something for everyone.


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When things don’t go as expected: Car edition

Regular maintenance with your car will prevent these scary signals from popping up. However, when you have an 5+ old car expect major repairs and bills. Photo courtesy of www.convoyautorepair.com

People tell you to save for grad school.  But what does that money go towards?  The most visible channels of your savings goes to tuition, fees, and living expenses.  However, one of the most unexpected expenses I faced Continue reading

Grad Life Advice:Late Night Study Grind!

The late night study grind is indeed no stranger to graduate students. Most nights will be filled with tons of reading material and note taking that you need read for the next days classes. Although reading ahead of time is strongly suggested, often times you won’t have time to do so, so you must submit to the late night study grind. So here are a few tips to get you through the night! Continue reading

Application for graduate school admission checklist

Each graduate program has different admission requirements. General requirements for graduate school admission often includes the follows:
1. GRE
2. Statement of Purpose
3. Resume
4. Letter of Recommendations.
5. Supporting documents (official transcripts, …)

For School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) where I am pursuing the Master of Public Affairs, below is the admission checklist for your reference.

Application Checklist:
1. Online Indiana University Graduate Application (eApp) and application fee ($55, $65 for international students).
2. One official transcript – from each college attended, regardless of if degree was conferred. (If you attended Indiana University, you need not submit a transcript)
3. Three letters of recommendation – preferably from faculty members.
4. GRE or GMAT scores. Official scores should be sent directly from ETS
5. TOEFL or IELTS scores – for international students. Official scores should be sent directly from ETS. SPEA baseline scores for admission consideration are 96 (TOEFL) and 7.0 (IELTS).
a. If you have a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. institution, this requirement is waived.
6. Personal Statement:  Describe your most important accomplishments and how they prepared you for graduate study at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Outline carefully your current goals and professional plans. Explain your reasons for selecting the School of Public and Environmental Affairs
7. Resume or CV

Each part of application checklist has the same weight in defining your eligibility for the program. For my personal case, I put special focus on my personal statement which clearly states what I can contribute for the society given the opportunity to pursue the program.

For international students, the admission process often takes a little longer as you need to prepare for the visa application process upon getting admission from your program (note that the application process starts earlier for international students…You have a different application deadline). Once you are admitted from the graduate program, the Office of International Studies (OIS) will send an official invitation letter and necessary documents for you to apply for student visa. This is another step to take since you need to live up all the requirements of the local US embassy to obtain a student visa. Depending on your case, you will be granted an appropriate visa like F1, J1. And then, off you go …Get ready to exploit all the best IU offers to you 🙂

Taking a Break Helps Me Think

This summer was full of hard work, discipline, and learning more about the dedication it will take to complete a dissertation. I took two classes, one of which was an independent study. Additionally, I split the week working at my assistantship and at a research center on campus. Despite the hard work, there were moments that I had to escape to find a balance. Lo and behold, in came a trip to my home state of Virginia!!

Photo of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo taken by Tomika.

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the town of my undergraduate institution and walk around campus. I mean, this is where it all began! The focus, the dedication, the fun…. It was wonderful to take my parents on a tour of my old campus as I pretended to still know the name of every building on campus. (By the way, I failed since there was new construction.)

I think there are times in graduate school where we forget just how important it is to take breaks away to recharge and refuel ourselves. Summers are great opportunities to refocus before the new year. I found it refreshing and necessary to spend time with my family.

Gaitinsburg, TN . Photo taken by Tomika.

A second trip included one of intentional isolation and fun! My family takes annual trips together and this year we got a cabin in Gaitlinsburg, Tennessee. The majestic mountains, crisp air, amazing outdoor activities, and bonding time was truly the highlight of my summer. I actually plan to come back here next year. Being in an isolate place, there was no internet and limited cell phone use which was the best part of the entire vacation. I was forced to step away from all virtual responsibilities and focus on reconnecting with my family.

I feel recharged and ready for what will be the most challenging and exciting time of my academic career. I look forward to tackling new projects and beginning my dissertation. Remember:  Your brain may sometimes need a break. So take it!

Accepted program offer, now what?

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.

Good Luck!

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.