Hey everyone! I am glad to be starting off our last set of posts under the theme
“What would you do differently in graduate school?”
I have been here for 4 years now with another 3 to go, so there has been ample time for learning and reflection! Here are some of the things I wish I had known or done earlier:
1. Don’t go through grad school being fine.
You can probably guess by now that I care very deeply about mental health. I went way too long with just being fine. Grad school should be one part of your life and not your whole life. You deserve to be happy and healthy during grad school. Figure out what recharges you, makes you feel good, and do those things EVERYDAY.
Your job during graduate school is to learn and become better. Your job is not to be an expert or get everything right. Unfortunately, feelings of being an imposter syndrome might try to convince you otherwise (stupid brain). Measure and track your success by incremental improvements in your abilities and not by the final product.
3. Just say NO
Grad programs do not care about you. It sounds harsh, but I am not speaking about the people who run these programs; they do care. I am speaking about the program as if it were an autonomous grad student-making machine. It has no system of checks and balance, which would ensure that you are not working past your breaking point or that the demands placed upon you are too great. At first blush, the seemingly endless opportunities it offers will be alluring but it will take from you as much as you are willing to give it. Initially I said yes to every opportunity and I quickly became overwhelmed (see grad school Barbie). You are the operator and only you can tell the machine which opportunities you want and can handle at any given time.
4. Learn something fun at Queen’s
We are all here because we love to learn. Often times I forgot how great it feels to be a beginner and sit and learn something new. I wish I had audited some 1st-year undergraduate courses for fun.
5. Get to know your faculty and support staff
Form relationships with these people because A) they are lovely, and B) they have years of wisdom and experience which they are always willing to share with you.
6. Take the vacation/see the people
You will not regret taking time for yourself or seeing the people who make you feel good. Although we tend to work extreme hours, we also have fairly flexible schedules. This does not exist in the working world so take advantage of it. The work will always get done!
7. Take advantage of resources at Queen’s
I did not realize the incredible number of resources available for graduate students. There are workshops, online resources, social events, student advisors, a writing center and much more. Take advantage of these, and you will come out the other end of your degree a happy and well-rounded academic.