Gradifying’s first post back from the winter break is a timely one for any of you who are thinking of the new calendar year and the new semester as the time for fresh starts. Amanda Tracey, PhD Candidate in the Aarssen Lab in Queens’ Department of Biology, has some valuable – and wonderfully counterintuitive – tips to share with you about choosing how to spend your time as a busy grad student.
By Amanda Tracey
Roughly 2 years ago, I was 3 months into my MSc and to put it lightly, I was struggling. For 12 to 15 hours a day, I would sit at my desk reading papers, analyzing data and wishing I was doing something else…anything else. Today, I am three months into my PhD and feeling amazing. I am at the same school and in the same lab. I still sit at that same desk and read papers and analyze data but I don’t need to daydream about doing other things. Now I do other things.
I started by getting involved at school, right in my own department. I ran for a position on the BiGCoW (Biograds Committee of the Whole) and was elected as the Co-Chair/Secretary. I help out with all sorts of events and have made a ton of new friends.
Once I got involved in my department, I figured I would try to get more involved in the community. I have always loved animals so I started volunteering at the Kingston Humane Society as a ‘cat cuddler’ and an event volunteer.
I also became a big sister to a young girl in the community through the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Both of these opportunities help me make a positive impact in the community, and both organizations have made a huge impact in my own life. Every week, I look forward to taking a little time away from work to go cuddle some kittens, or go do some baking with my little sister. It’s refreshing; almost necessary. It is so easy to get consumed in your research as a grad student and spending some time doing something good for someone else and for yourself will feel great – I promise!
Feeling consumed with your project? Want to get involved but don’t know where to start? Check out a few suggestions below.
Get more involved in your department or at Queens:
1) Contact your student council (the link is probably on your department’s homepage)
2) Contact the SGPS (always lots of opportunities there!)
Get more involved in the community
What are you passionate about? Do you love kids or animals or health or the environment? Whatever it is that you are passionate about, do some research and find something to get involved in! Some ideas to get you started:
1) Check out some great volunteer organizations right here in Kingston
2) Join a political party (lots of events and opportunities to help out in the community)
3) Play on a local sports team or help out with youth recreation/sports
Even though I am involved in so many more things than I was before, I am more productive now than ever before. I have learned that grad school is all about balance. Don’t let your project consume you—get out there and get involved!