How To Survive and Thrive in Your First Year of Grad School
When I think about how fast this year has gone by, I am absolutely blown away. Time flies when your life is constantly falling apart, but, in all honesty, it flies when you’re laughing, having a blast, and doing what you want to do. I am the newest member of the Hashemi Lab, and, as Jordan so elegantly puts it, that makes me a “sophisticated newborn baby”. With that, I think the best thing my first blog post should be about is navigating the first year of graduate school.
For this, I have enlisted the help of some fellow first years. The following is a concise list of the things that we think are the most important for you to understand if you are going into your first year.
1) “Recognize that imposter syndrome is real and that it’s okay.” – Madeleine Bodine, Shaw Group (Analytical Division)
• This just means that you are going to most likely feel completely out of place; however, take a deep breath at this point and know that everyone is feeling the same way as you. You feel like you don’t belong, but you do. You earned this spot in your program, so enjoy it.
2) “Stay organized and leech as much information from your senior students as possible.”
– Corey Martin, Shustova Group (Inorganic Division)
• I cannot express this to you enough! It is so important to learn as much as you can from the senior level students. I only have a few months left with some of the people in my group, and I am trying to learn all that I can. The senior level students want to teach you as much as they can. Let them take you under their wings and teach you how to fly.
3) “Come in with an open mind and try to find the research group that fits with your personality the best.” – Gabby Leith, Shustova Group (Inorganic Division)
• When you are coming into the program you may think you’ll know who you want as your advisor; however, it is very important to find the group with other grad students that you can get along and mesh well with. You need to find your group of “weirdos”. I got super lucky with mine! If you would have told me a year and a half ago that Shane and I would be friends, I would have laughed in your face. But now we are #broskies4lyfe.
4) “Spend time getting to know the other first years in the program and making friends.” – Daniel Monteith, Ferry Group (Analytical Divison)
• Striking a perfect work/life balance is important to find in your first year. Some first years experience depression and home sickness. Just remember that there are other people going through the same feelings and emotions that you are going through. Talk to each other, learn from each other, and grow from each other.
5) “Work super hard but also enjoy yourself. It’s hard sometimes, but remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint.” –Laura Murdock, Benicewicz Group (Organic Division)
• Take your time to acclimate. There will be days when it seems like nothing works and that you have no reasons to be here, but remember the days like that teach us valuable lessons in the end. Whatever mistakes or errors you make on those days you get to learn and grow from. That’s what this whole process is about.
6) “Don’t be afraid to ask questions.” –Dayla Rich, Morgan Group (Analytical Division)
• In your classes, ask questions. In your group, ask questions. This is the whole process of learning! If you don’t ask questions, you’ll never get the full benefits out of this situation.
7) “Go to group meetings to get a feel for the group.” – Caroline Granger, Richardson Group (Analytical Division)
• When you are trying to decide which group is best for you, going to group meetings is a great way to see if you fit. In groups, you will see the students in the lab present their data, and you will understand how that PI runs their group. All-in-all, this gives you the sense you need to tell if the research that they do is right for you.
8) Finally, I would like to give you my advice: “Just be yourself.”
• When you are being yourself, you will find that everything will fall into place. The more you are your genuine self, the more you will get out of this experience as a whole!
With all that, I hope you can get something meaningful out of this post. You’re getting ready to start a new adventure — grab the bull by the horns!