5 Summer Experiences Graduate Students Should Have

#1 – “Summer months can get hard. For my specific Masters Degree Program, our summers were filled with classes everyday. In NYC there’s plenty to do but even when the city became too much for me I made sure to take a break to surrounding cities. I visited D.C, Philly, and even Jersey. Sometimes with members of my cohort but most of the time alone. I made sure to take the bus so that I would have time to write and complete any assignments, and that was all the time I needed. Once I arrived to my destination, I made sure to take advantage of the happenings, food, and people of that city. So my advice is to travel during the summer, even if it’s just to a nearby city. In grad school, balance is a must. So during the summer, take a break and travel whenever you get a chance, even if it’s just a few hours away. “

 Cierra Selby 
Public Adminstration
 MPA, National Urban Fellow Class of 2017

#2 – “During the summer between my two years I decided to do an internship that allowed me to get course credit as well as some professional development. I choose this because it let me live in a new city and be able to explore, I am in St. Louis for the summer and enjoying it.
I would say for the summer in between make sure you relax and just take time to kick back and have fun if you aren’t taking classes because this is the last time time you will have something known as a “typical summer”. Live life go and visit things take yourself out on dates if you are single or dating.
If you are still taking classes just like me make sure that you get your work done but don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the outdoors, so that you aren’t always in school mode.
Extra Tips:
If you don’t have to get on a computer don’t for a day, go outside to the park or just take a nap.Enjoy a TV show, catch up with an old friend, go visit family.
Make sure you have fun especially if you don’t have that many responsibilities take advantage of your time now.”

Aliesha Nunnally 
Masters of Education
Student Affairs in Higher Education

#3 – “As a first generation and a Black grad student, I had no idea how to navigate the summer! Should I be taking classes, should I be working? What I did do early on, was join several professional organizations/associations in my industry. This was extremely beneficial in expanding my network of other professionals and getting me in contact with potential mentors. Not only was I able to stay abreast of current happenings in my industry, but I was able to have some fun by attending conferences and later apply those experiences to my studies. There are some academics that don’t take advantage of the value of staying closely connected to industry, set yourself apart!”

Sha’Mira Covington
Communications and Public Relations

#4 – ” Let’s face it, the year-round grad school grind can be both intense and isolating. While reading extensive research articles and producing a steady stream of writing assignments, it’s easy to lose sight of life’s bigger picture lying outside the ivy towers of academia. Studying or Volunteering Abroad can not only provide the perfect change of scenery, but also a great mental vacation, soul searching adventure, or opportunity to help those who are less fortunate than you. Most universities offer study abroad experiences that allow you to earn credit towards your degree while being immersed in a foreign culture. For example, this July I will be studying abroad /doing a service learning project in Costa Rica with other students from UGA’s College of Education. As a person passionate about community service, I felt this experience was perfect fit for me both socially and academically- especially because the 4 weeks of courses count towards an additional teaching certification. But the best part is– as a strong student coming from a diverse background, I was awarded a FULL scholarship covering the academic costs of the program; I only needed to buy my flight!! Once you enter the work force, your free time, flexibility, and disposable income will most likely decline. Take advantage of the free time you have and the resources your university might offer while you’re able to! Who says studying abroad has to end after your undergraduate experience?”

 Jessica Gibbs
Masters of Education                                                                                                                          Early Childhood

#5 – “During my first fall semester of grad school, I knew that I wanted to intern during the summer to gain more (industry) experience while helping me pay the bills! I looked heavily at different opportunities and decided to move across the country from Atlanta to San Diego to work in a group that tested unmanned systems. The initial weeks were pretty tough – I had moved out there by myself and there weren’t any other graduate interns that I knew of. I decided to be proactive and reach out to the young professionals who worked full-time at the company and get to know them. This was awesome because they gave me a better insight of what it was like to spend more than 2 months at the company and showed me around the San Diego area. I would recommend building relationships with the full-time employees even if it’s outside of your comfort zone – they will give you candid insights and help you get to explore the areas around you!”

Andrea Gutierrez
Masters of Science                                                                                                                Aerospace Engineering

Few extra gems to take with you:

  • Enjoy the people around you
  • Laugh as much as you can
  • Traveling is expensive but road trips are not 😉
  • Take advantage of the flexibility you get in graduate school

Is Mastering More Time A Thing?

I think one of the most popular (and probably worst) statements many of us have said at some point is “I wish I had more time!”

It is a never ending struggle that seems to follow us through out every point in our lives. Even now where my days are a bit more structured, post graduate school, it is still a struggle for me but doable. However, life is not as predictable in graduate school. Assignments arise, experiments go wary, classes are overwhelming, the list goes on. So how does one do it in graduate school? How does one “master” making more time? After all, time cannot be created….but it can be managed. Here are just two simple ideas that give the illusion of “making more time”.

First order of business (and my bad habit at times), procrastination needs to be left by the way side. 

Just like bad habits are hard to break, procrastination is hard to overcome. It is easy to put things off by a few minutes or a couple of hours. I have been guilty of  the “I will start in 30 minutes.” There is so much lost time when that approach is taken. Just think about how many times you procrastinate a day. If that time was added up, it may be several minutes or even hours.

Make Post-Its your new favorite thing.

I have no idea how I would have made it without these seemingly unimportant pieces of paper. In graduate school, you need to write everything down and lay it out in your line of sight. It helps to have a list of daily tasks that you split up into three categories:

  • Priority – These must get done.
  • Minimum Value – The minimum number of additional tasks you will complete.
  • It Would Be Nice – The group of tasks that would be great to get to but if you don’t, progress has not been lost because of it.

This may seem like overkill when it comes to executing your day, but when you have a visual list that you can pull from and discard on completion,  you will be surprised by how much more efficient you become. Efficiency leads to more time 🙂

Don’t overcommit.

24 hours in a day means so much can be accomplished right? Wrong! You cannot expect to truly make more time if you are committed to different activities and tasks that are going to leave you with no time. When commitments suffer, it means that there may be too many extra activities and you may need to remove from your plate. Again, look at your task list. If the stack is not feasible then that means it is not just about time, it is about the number of things you do.

So how does one make more time? By doing what you are supposed to do when you say you are going to do it, and sticking  to your task list.

What are other ideas have you tried?

“What I wish I knew” – Jasmine Dillon

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You will learn many things by word of mouth – learn to connect with experienced colleagues.

  1. For example, knowing where and how to get funding for your graduate program, which conferences to attend, how to conduct yourself at conferences, parsing through your hypotheses and perspectives, and learning to improve your oral and written communication can all be things you accomplish simply by having relationships with people in your department. Of course, since graduate school is a highly competitive and high-pressure environment, it is important to choose wisely.

As a species, we humans run our mouths a lot. Much of what comes out of them is bullshit, especially when you’re in a high pressure, competitive environment like graduate school.

  1. Learn to discern bullshit from the real and try to stop comparing yourself to the things they say. Learn to be self-motivated. Gauge your performance in graduate school by your individual benchmarks and your progress towards them. There will be times when you’re ahead and times when you’re behind, and that’s NORMAL. Develop a plan for getting to the finish line and always re-evaluate your progress and adjust accordingly to stay on track.

Make friends with people who reach out to mentor you.

  1. These are typically people who understand the process, know a lot more about the resources available to you, and see something in you that compels them to support you on your journey. Set your pride aside and be open to their feedback. These people are on your team. Ask for help with school, life, navigating difficult circumstances, etc. To this day, these people are still friends and mentors of mine who have helped me navigate new and tough situations in work and in life. I’ve learned that graduate school and life are a lot easier when you are able to set your pride aside and ask for help. Your mentors are typically ready and willing to give advice.

Life doesn’t begin after you graduate. Life is happening now and as far as we know, you only get one. What are the implications of this?

  1. You don’t have to wait for graduation to become the “you” that you want to be. Contrary to popular belief, you can be a good graduate student and have hobbies outside of graduate school. In fact, I’ve found that my work performance is improved when I partake in fulfilling hobbies outside of work. Most recently, this has been powerlifting and body building with a close friend of mine (shoutout to my SWOLEMate!) who is also “part of my tribe”, as Jessica Gibbs put it.
  2. That said, you don’t have to do everything NOW. Pick and choose carefully what you decide to involve yourself in. You only have so much time, energy, and focus. Choose wisely and take care of yourself.
  3. Be yourself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important to learn institutional norms to succeed in graduate school. That said, once you’ve learned to navigate these norms, I think that the academy is also a place for your individuality to flourish. It is your unique perspective and approach to problem solving that enables you to make novel contributions to your research area. A professor once told me that as I proceeded through my career, I would have insights and inclinations about the systems that I was studying. She told me to hold on to those and to let them guide my work. To accomplish this, I had to stop trying to conform and assimilate and at times let my freak flag fly – with well-thought out logical arguments and defenses, of course 😉.
  4. Live your life. Work hard. Rest hard. Repeat. Take that trip. Get that tattoo. Start that relationship. End that relationship. Always wanted to learn to play an instrument? Take lessons. Get fit? Learn to paint? Make music? Become a competitive slam poet? Pursue these hobbies. It will give you something to think about other than graduate school and can become an outlet for relieving stress.

Finally, life is about growth in my opinion. During graduate school, you have an opportunity for accelerated growth. Figure out how you work best and become your own manager. This will serve you well whether you continue in academia or go on to do something else.

My mantra: “[Insert some motivational quote that resonates with you here.] Hahaha. But seriously, just BE!”

“What I wish I knew” – Indira Turney

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Grad school has been pivotal to the woman I am growing into. I am now at a place of peace, happiness, and continued growth. Here are my main take-homes:

Change is inevitable
Most of my most adult years to date have been spent in grad school. Our early adult years come with many major life changes and adding the stress of grad school created a lot of uncertainty in my life. I used to hate uncertainty, so when it became an everyday thing, it began to wear me down. I eventually realized that one thing that was certain in life was change. The end result is always for the best, so I have come to accept change and try to enjoy life’s moments instead of worrying about what comes next. It’s going to be great, right? So why worry? Don’t miss life’s amazing moments by worrying what’s next because there will always be another uncertain thing around the corner. Leave that up to God.

Consistent self-care is vital
Self-care (e.g., gym, sleep, quality time with family and friends etc.) was always the first to go when work became too much. However, within the last year I realized that once I put my self- care first and was consistent with it, it positively affected all aspects of my life. Make time for yourself and learn to say no to things that prevent you from doing so. I also realized that having a self-care accountability buddy helped me be more consistent, especially when it was someone who did some of my self-care activities with me (i.e. gym partner/swolemate).

A support system is crucial
Grad school is tough. In undergrad, you can get away with being a loner, but in grad school, if you want to be mentally stable, it’s important to have a selective group of friends that you can vent to (about personal and academic struggles), celebrate milestones, cry and learn life lessons. I have a small group of people I rely on for support. I must also say that having my dog, Buddy, has been a great support for my mental health. From a slightly different perspective, networking is also essential. This includes connecting with a mentor or life coach (someone independent of your academic advisor), which will make a world of difference. As I mentioned before, many important life decisions are made during this time and it’s helpful to have someone who’s already gone through it, help you navigate.

It takes more than intelligence
During undergrad, your intelligence is very valuable. In graduate school it’s important, but really you typically only know a whole lot about a very specific topic. Perseverance is more important here. It’s about being able to get back up when you didn’t get that award or publication or when that experiment doesn’t work. It’s about continuing the fight and not doubting your ability to succeed.

It’s a place of growth
Again, because of the battles you face in grad school, your morals and values will be
challenged, and your worldview will change. You will learn who you are and what you truly value in this life. It will break you down and build you back up, and in the process, you will learn valuable life lessons that make you a better version of yourself.

My Mantra: “Focus on the now; you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.”

“What I wish I knew” – Brittani Halliburton

Brittani

As a young African American female professional, I wish I knew that I would learn tons of things I did not like to do before I learned or found anything I actually like to do.

In law school, we were taught to go out for internships at large firms or companies and make great impressions in hopes to be offered the opportunity to return the following year and so forth until you are ultimately offered a job after passing the bar. Hearing this constantly could easily sway you to believe that is the only way to become a successful attorney. When in fact that is not true at all, it is not the only way. But in the spirit of following the “rules”, I found myself applying for internships and working in certain areas of law because I thought those were the areas that I wanted to practice, and I thought I was doing what was right.

However,  I wish I knew I would learn things I don’t like before I ever learned anything I did like because I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself during the process of school, interning and entry-level jobs. I allowed the dislike for things I went through at internships and on jobs to negatively impact my confidence, and I allowed self-doubt to rise inside of me.

Had someone sat me down and simply explained that I would learn things I did not like before I found anything I did…it would have helped me to see that it was not that I was doing a bad job or that I wasn’t good at the work assigned but that it just wasn’t where my heart or interested lied.

I would have also looked for the silver lining more often. I would have worked to find things I could take from those internships and jobs instead of just beating myself up.

So as someone that has learned what I love by first learning what I disliked I encourage you to stand firm and hold your head up even if you are doing something you dislike. Don’t beat yourself up, thinking you aren’t good at the job or knock your self-confidence as a first resort. It’s possible that you are just learning what you dislike and that’s ok.

My Mantra: “First believe that you can and then accept that you will” 

What I wish I knew – KayLa Allen

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I wish I knew that no matter what I could overcome every struggle that came my way, from the beginning. I faced adversity, discrimination, abuse, and depression all at once for years, and I struggled deeply until I realized that everything that I needed was already inside of me. No matter what you deal with, it is not the end-all-be-all. You can move beyond your circumstances.
I wish I knew that there are people out there who are great mentors and advisors, who are the great counsel that God said He would send forth. I kept finding myself following my heart instead of my mind and spirit. I thought I knew what I wanted and it took  what I perceived as failure before I was able to see that I needed to use the gifts and talents that God gave me. I needed to take those exact qualities and values and build a brand and career for myself that incorporated my passion for global health, helping others, epidemiology and psychology.
Lastly, I wish I knew that there were so many scholarship and grant opportunities out there. I did not grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth, nor did I live in the suburbs. I grew up in a 1 bedroom apartment with my single mother; it was tough. The counselors/advisors at my high school were not exactly helpful, so at first I did struggle in college. After a year, I learned the power that I had right at my fingertips. Use the internet to search for scholarships that are specific to you and your ambitions. Join organizations that are related to your career goals and make connections. You do have the power, do not be afraid to ask for help! The only questions that are stupid are the ones that you do not ask.
Now, my journey in college is not over, but I am proud to say that I am a 4.0 GPA Master’s Candidate in a great Public Health Program; next year I will begin my doctoral program and study Epidemiology.
Your education is power, use your knowledge as pearls of wisdom and never stop reaching for higher levels.
Her Mantra: “Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.” -Maya Angelou

“What I wish I knew” – noa_the_little_scientist

noa

Everything I know now! This might be the atypical response, but when I was a teen an elder had this saying, “If you live long enough.” I didn’t get it then, but I most certainly do now. Grad school has taught me about life in general. Most lessons that I’ve picked up on my journey #TheRoadToDrPh have nothing to do with school. I can’t even articulate it in a way that gives this journey the justice that it deserves. All I can say is “self-awareness” and “If you live long enough.” What I know now wasn’t necessarily “taught” to me. I had to come into my own understanding. Hopefully, that resonates with someone; even if it doesn’t make sense now, it will when it’s time.

Her Mantra – “Don’t let the PROCESS punk you out of the PROGRESS ” – Unknown

Morgan State University

DrPH in Epidemiology, Infectious Diseases

“What I wish I knew” – Felicia Wenah

Fe Me

As a current Doctor of physiotherapy student, I entered this profession due to my love for physical medicine and assisting patients to alleviate pain and improve their mobility. I still have that main mission and driving force in mind in addition to showing others that they can pursue a profession/passion even if they don’t noticed others that look like them within that profession and the importance of enjoying the journey. My profession currently consists of the majority being women and then within that subcategory a small percentage of women are of African descent. There are numerous reasons that one can suggest why this is an occurrence. For me, instead of solely focusing the “why” I focused on the “how”. How can I expose others of diverse backgrounds to my profession if it is of interest to them. I didn’t want to wait until after I graduated to help with this cause, so as a current doctor of physiotherapy student I spend some of my time mentoring and sharing advice to others of diverse backgrounds that may be interested in the field of physiotherapy.

In my young adulthood, I have realized that one’s exposure can have powerful effect on their state of mind and the possibilities they see for their future. Another thing that I share with others is to not worry about the destination. Yes, those that came before us in our profession that paved the way may have thought about the destination.  But, I am sure they took time to honor their journey with the moments of victory and achievements they received. I wish that I knew that even though I may not see a diverse representation of those in my profession doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. I also wish that I knew to just honor the current journey that I am experiencing and not to focus solely on the destination. School  will go by quickly, (even though it may not seem like it) so being present in the moment and enjoying the journey is a necessity.

Her mantra: “They journey of a thousand steps, starts with one” …so get going.

Felicia Wenah, Doctor of Physiotherapy Candidate

University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

“What I wish I knew” – Sherrina Lofton

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As a former Division 1 student athlete, I had trouble with identifying my next steps, so I understand how challenging that time and process can be. Before starting my graduate career, I had not really given much thought to pursuing a master’s degree, let alone a doctorate. I wish I had known that it was ok to take the necessary time to fully research and understand all of the PhD programs that were available to me. I did some research based on my understanding as a career counselor, but it wasn’t until a year or two into my PhD that I realized the program I had entered into, was not the right fit for me. Had my pre-doctoral research been more thorough, I would have started in my current program (Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.) Although this little detour has extended my time to completion, I learned a lot through the process and am happy for the experience and knowledge I have gained thus far in pursuing my doctorate.

As my research centers around identifying ways to best assist collegiate student athletes in their transition out of college sports; now that I have gone through this process myself, I know better how to guide other students, especially student athletes, through the process of pursing an advanced degree. I think my matriculation experience adds some fruitful wisdom to share with others like myself who are first generation African American undergraduate or graduate students.

My Mantra: “Life is a journey filled with lessons and blessings.”

Sherrina Lofton, PhD Candidate

Florida State University

Higher Education: Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

“What I Wish I Knew” – Tylisha Villaruel

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What I wish I knew going into the master’s program for Public Health is such a long list. But the one thing that stands out to me is knowing how to handle course work because it was so much material that I needed to know and understand. The master’s program for Public Health was very hard, especially epidemiology. I say epidemiology because there’s a lot of research that you need to do in order for you to know the work.

Epidemiology was challenging because the many diseases that you have heard throughout the years is something that you will get to know and read about once you were in the subject. For instance, the Black Plague was one of the killers in the 1920’s and 1930’s due to the fact of contaminated water, dust, Etc but there were no vaccinations. After doing more research on particular diseases out here, I have grown to appreciate subject matter as it comes along and in this particular case, I truly appreciated the work epidemiologists do. Learning about them got me one step closer to my Masters Degree.

My Mantra:

“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again” – Sojourner Truth