Love nature, art, and microbrews?

One of the Nashville shops selling trinkets and homemade snacks. Photo courtesy of www.browncountyshops.com

Nature, art, and microbrews are just a few minutes away in Nashville, IN.  This quaint little town is located about 15-20 minutes west of Bloomington in Brown County.  I especially love going to Nashville, IN Continue reading

The non-academic portion of my summer

Dexter, my chosen handful of surprises.

I’ve already explained to you the academic portion of my summer. Even though it took up most of my time, I did manage to squeeze in two trips back east. The first was to go home for my sister’s birthday and for family BBQs. That was also the first time I brought my dog Dexter home. I am from NY and I didn’t want to pay for a plane ticket for my dog I decided to drive. The trip from Bloomington, IN to NY, NY is about 14 hours depending on traffic. I’ve driven it several times, with friends mostly and alone once. I mention this because when I decided to drive it was probably the week before it was time to leave. I hit up some friends to see if anyone needed to go to NY and within a day or two I had a full car, 3 people and two dogs in a 4 door. The drive was still long but it went much smoother because the dogs could entertain each other and we rotated driving so no one had to drive tired. It was a good reminder to me that no matter how focused you get into your research it is very important to keep your social life alive and healthy.

The second trip home was for my line brother’s wedding (I am in a fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi and a line brother is one of my fraternity brothers who joined at the same time as me). That was an amazing trip for two reasons. The first being that I he got married and it was a beautiful ceremony. It was in Philly and even though I had been to Philly before I had never been to that part and It was very beautiful. The second reason it was an amazing trip is because it was the first time in 4 years that all 8 guys from my line were together again since we joined. We love spending time together but two of us have moved out of state (one is in the marines and I am in grad school), two more have kids (one just got married and the other is engaged) and everyone works full time somewhere. That being said scheduling is a bit difficult. But the time spent with them was fantastic and even though I was still working through my exam my summer was still amazing simply for that one trip. Once again I want to stress that you must keep the balance between your 9-5 and your 5-9. You are in school to accomplish something that most don’t have the desire, determination or drive to complete. However your friends and family are the ones who will keep you grounded and help you bounce back when things get rough, and they will get rough. Grad school is an amazing experience that you wont want to do again. At the end of the day you can do it.

My line at Chris’ wedding, the groom is kneeling in front.

How Did I Spend My Summer? Reading, Relaxation, and Preparing for Quals

This summer was a transition for me in a variety of ways. As I finished the spring semester, I realized that I was, “running on fumes.” I desperately needed a break. So for the first time, since 2004, I gave myself a summer vacation. Actually it was a “stay”cation.  No teaching, no grading, and no classes….well, there was one small class in early May. It was a course on Critical Race Theory, and it was great! So I will give that a pass. However, other than this one course, my summer was completely devoted to giving myself some “me time.”  During my relaxation staycation, I created a nice groove in my couch by watching re-runs of my favorite television shows. I also got the chance to see movies that I planned to see once I got a free moment.  At first, I was nervous about this decision. However, it was the best thing for me. As graduate students, the desire to engage our respective curricula, or the drive to complete degrees in a specific timeline can take over our lives. To compensate, sacrifices are made to ensure that the goal of graduation is accomplished. I think that it’s good to be focused; however, it is crucial to one’s mental, physical, and emotional health to make sure that he or she takes the time to recharge.

As I was embracing my staycation, I was also preparing for my qualifying exams.  When I first entered my program, this rite of passage seemed so far away.  However, starting August 17th, I was going to enter the trenches.  Though I dedicated time to relaxing, I also took the time to collect and read resources.  Now having finished my qualifying exams (I turned in my final response August 27th), I really appreciate that I took this summer to relax.  Qualifying exams were very intense.  In addition to this, classes started back (AHH!!!).  I’m still getting my bearings, but I’m prepared to start the semester.  So Fall 2012…let the games begin!!

Rites of passage

http://chelseavose.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/is-evolution-real/

I spent more time than normal this summer in Bloomington (not necessarily a bad thing). This summer was spent trudging through something every PhD student must go through, Quals. This word will certainly evoke a reaction from most graduate students. One of three to be precise. The first is one of blissful ignorance, “what’s quals?”. These students are new and don’t need to worry about Quals yet. The second reaction is similar to a depressed shake of the head. These students are either approaching their Quals or currently working through them. The final reaction appears like they are remembering a bad taste. These people have taken their Quals and although they aren’t fond of them they respect the process and understand it now. No matter the program we all must pass a test to prove our worth if you will. It is difficult but it is worth it. A hurdle on the path to the next plateau of higher learning. As I finish a summer filled with more reading / writing and less bench work than I would prefer I am ready to jump back into my project and continue this journey. Remember as long as you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.

Summer daze…

Where did the summer go? In academia, summer is usually a time to catch up on work. During the school year, it can be hard to set aside time for all those side projects (publishing an article?) or long-term projects (building a teaching portfolio?) that get pushed aside during the school year. Hopefully, a little relaxation sneaks in there too. This summer, I did an internship with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, developing an audio tour focused on musical instruments from around the world.

Rhythms of the World audio tour at the Mathers Museum

This internship was actually not my first choice of opportunities for the summer, but when the other options did not pan out I was very happy to have the chance to work with the Mathers again. The project turned out to be a lot of fun and a great learning experience. It also taught me the importance of having a backup plan and making the most of the opportunities you are given.

And for fun… my husband and I finished out the summer with an amazing road trip to Maine, complete with waterfalls…

Waterford Glen State Park (NY), Moss Glen Falls (VT), and Taughannock Falls (NY)

ice cream…

roadside ice cream in Vermont, ice cream at a harbor in Maine

hikes, sailing, and historic sites.

the shoreline at Hermit Island, sailing off coast in Maine, and Fort Knox (Maine)

We love to camp, and it was a wonderful away to get away from school, work, and email. We traveled through some amazingly beautiful parts of the U.S. that neither of us had visited before, spent time with excellent friends, and ate a LOT of lobster. All in all, a perfect vacation. Of course, I don’t expect that kind of trip every year, and next summer we might stick around Indiana. But don’t worry – there’s plenty of relaxation and outdoor enjoyment to be had quite close to Bloomington…

floatin down the river at Turkey Run State Park

It’s summer time :)

When the spring semester ends, all students get so exited about the upcoming summer which is incredibly awesome… no class, no assignment, no deadlines…yayyyyyy… On the last day of the class, we ask each other “What gonna you do in the summer”. It is fascinating to hear my classmates’ plan with innumerable attractive destinations: Japan, Europe, DC, Texas, Boston, New York…Everyone has their own summer plan and for me, “I take internship in an organization in California”…Two great things in one summer: California + Internship. California offers the amazing weather (AC is definitely not needed) with numerous landmarks to explore…San Jose, San Mateo, Monterey, Saratoga, San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas…I spend every single weekend to travel to a new place and meet with many great friends. I also join to various community activities, visit temples and practice Zen…Trying new things, seeing new places…are definitely the key to refresh anyone (including me) after a heavy semester at school.

Since my concentration at school is Nonprofit Management + International Development, working fulltime at the nonprofit organization offers me the practical training for my career in the nonprofit sector. I work with communication and fundraising department. My main assignments are to raise funds for development projects in Vietnam. Through the internship, I am aware of the significance of individual givings in the US and deeply acknowledge the importance of individual relationships as the key for fundraising success. Given the American cultural context, lots of typical practices in the nonprofit area are approached and they give me a comparative view of the sector between the US and Vietnam. My colleagues especially the executive directors are the great sources of knowledge and information sharing. Life is just amazing when we throw us out there, broaden our contacts, make friends and most important, have fun! And the organization that we do internship always has high potentials to offer us a job upon the graduation. Overall, a well planned summer will be a great summer :)

And just like that…

Summer has come to an end.

The life of a graduate student works a little backward at times. As Bloomington steadily diminishes in undergraduate student population and opens her roadways for effortless commutes, she officially marks the beginning of summer. The warm summer’s breeze buzzes with plans of imminent adventures and excursions to distant worlds or perhaps just coming home. In celebration, I took a day off to relax and prepare for the fleeting sabbatical ahead.

You see, like elves, fairies, and leprechauns, summers are these mystical, almost dreamlike spans of time where one can focus intimately on his/her research uninterrupted by the rigors of classwork and burdens of teaching responsibilities –and grading, mindless and soul-numbing grading. The sheer joys of temporary liberation is well apparent on the faces of most faculty members as they happily work in their offices waiting to be bothered by graduate students armed with endless questions, I am sure. Despite the long hours on experiments commissioning the new particle accelerator and the preparation for an article to be published at the next International Particle Accelerator Conference held in New Orleans, I still made time for a little fun.

It is typical in our field to see close friends and colleagues in the department relocate to national and international laboratories for research. Recently, one of our good friends, Manny, moved to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia to work on the GlueX Experiment. Certainly this gave us good justification to explore the Midwest before Manny departs. As the old adage goes, “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, but whiskey is the water of life.” The Kentucky Bourbon Trail was the next adventure on our list, I’ll just let the photos tell the stories.

This was the most stationary photo I’ve found of our crazy tour guide who gave us a fine tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Photo taken by Alfonse.

Devil’s cut and Angels’ share fills the dark damped air as we descended deeper into the aging lair. Photo taken by Alfonse.

Some of the finest bourbon Buffalo Trace Distillery produces. Photo taken by Alfonse.

At the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Our tour guide was much tamer this time. Photo taken by Alfonse.

All bourbons are required by law to be aged in new charred American white oak barrels. Photo taken by Alfonse.

Got schooled on a little bourbon history. Photo taken by Alfonse.

Our final stop of the day, the Four Roses Distillery with one of the department’s finest in frame. Photo taken by Alfonse.

Four Roses was built remarkably like a particle accelerator, I felt just right at home. Photo taken by Alfonse.

Hardware, oh glorious hardware. Photo taken by Alfonse.

We made a pretty good sized dent in the list of “things to do in the Midwest” this summer and great memories were made. Our own graduate traditions dictates that no summer is complete without a boat party in Lake Monroe, so thus we forge ahead cutting through the clear waters in our rickety rental pontoon yet again. Until next time.

Proof: 25 graduate students + boat + lake = one hell of a time. Q.E.D. That seemed a proper thing to say with two very mathematically inclined minds, center frame, discussing their ideas as the boat was en route to our favorite destination. Photo taken by Sunny Nigam.

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!

Summer on La Isla Del Encanto (“The Enchanted Island”), Puerto Rico

With the support of a departmental research grant and through some great networks, I landed a 6-week research experience in Puerto Rico.  The experience was eye opening, served as a language and cultural immersion, and established lifelong friendships.

During the previous spring semester, I had been chatting with a friend and faculty member about the anti-climatic feel to the passing of my qualifying exams and how unprepared I still felt.  I attributed this to my lack of experience in working with a research team or with a specified project.  After listening to me, my friend simple asked, ”Well why don’t you do something about it?” The faculty member followed in asking,  “how is your Spanish? I have a contact in Puerto Rico.”

I contacted the faculty member in P.R. and within 24 hours I had a response and the rest was my summer.

During my time there, I worked at the medical campus alongside two faculty members, and graduate students who had recently collected data on sexual health, attitudes, and personal sexual history of Puerto Ricans.  Additionally, I visited and was a part of the workshops offered at a local AIDS clinic, participated in the end of semester presentations, commencement, and the inauguration of the first transgendered safe space, Nosotr@s.

 

 

On the weekends, I visited surrounding towns, cities, and beaches.  The people of Puerto Rico were warm, extremely hospitable.  At social gatherings I encountered individuals who were eager to hear about my experiences on the island, and ready to add to my bucket list.  Needless to say, the bucket list only seemed to grow, and I eagerly look forward to next summer when I plan on returning to take on another project.

*All pictures taken by Zelideh