I honestly didn’t think I’d come back to this blog. My life has been a rollercoaster of emotions and the schedule has been jam packed. As some of you know, I started graduate school in Fall 2016 focusing in archaeology. In my last few blogs I expressed excitement over the new adventure I’d be starting but also acknowledged the stress to come and acceptance of it then to be added to everyday life stress. Little did I know that the acceptance would be much easier said than done. I didn’t know what being in graduate school really meant, especially coming in as a PhD student straight from my BA. There are some things I wish I had known how to deal with both academically and personally that would have made my first semester smoother than it was. I didn’t want to make this blog post about “what I learned in 2016” since I don’t think it’s fair to make that distinction for my situation. Since I’m a student, my life is lived by the semester and because of this I will share with you the experiences I have had both good and bad in my first semester of graduate school and things I wish someone had warned me about. Let me just say, I am not at all complaining about my situation. I am extremely lucky to have this opportunity to learn from leading professionals in this field and work along side brilliant fellow graduate students. That being said, here we go.
Warning: I’m not editing this entry much. Mostly because I feel this type of content should be somewhat raw. Just a heads up in case there are any typos and grammar issues.
1. Choose projects/term papers wisely.
I made the mistake last semester of choosing a term paper project based on what my professor wanted me to do and not exactly what I felt comfortable with doing. I wanted so desperately to impress this professor that I didn’t think in the moment that this was a project that was beyond my skill level. Long story short, the project was a flop and and the paper was horrid. In my attempts to impress the professor turned into a great way to do the complete opposite. I have made sure that not only will I try to make sure that the project I choose directly relate to my thesis/dissertation topics but I will also only take on projects that I know I can handle and seek guidance when it is something I can’t.
2. Everyone else is just as stressed.
Yes, even people who seem on top of their game are just as stressed and self-doubting as I am. It’s easy for me to fall into this mental pit of darkness thinking I was the only one feeling like I was in over my head all the time and scrambling to get things finished on time. As it turns out, this is not at all the case. Not that this was something I was unaware of, but it is something I am now trying to actively recognize as not a fault on my part but a normal part of this life we have chosen as graduate students.
3. Friendships are amazing and necessary.
Whether the friend lives on the other side of the world, city or street, there is nothing that can replace a great friend. If it wasn’t for my friends I would not have made it out of my first semester without quitting. Between coffee pep talks, text rants and evening drinks we all got through our situations together. Not just from an academic standpoint, as not all my friends fall into this category, but from an overall life standpoint.
I’m proud to say that I feel my long-distance friendship is getting stronger after what seemed like a hiatus. Our lives weren’t just physically apart but there were just situations on both ends making communication difficult. This is changing rapidly and I’m so happy to say that my best friend is still my best friend. I truly don’t know how I’d get by without her. She is my sister and my other (better) half.
I’ve also made some amazing new friends in my first semester of graduate school. Friends that I can honestly say will be an important part of my life for years to come. These people aren’t just brilliant but also genuinely wonderful. The lessons I have learned just through casual conversations is extraordinary. I am a better and stronger person now because of them.
4. It’s okay to be upset.
All semester I put up this front that I was okay, that I was handling everything. No, I definitely wasn’t. I was a mess and nobody knew it. I didn’t think it was okay to show that I was upset or disappointed. I thought it would show that I couldn’t handle graduate school and everyone would think less of me. So I held it all in and kept a calm smile on my face. When the semester ended I had a mental breakdown. I went through a solid two weeks of swinging from indifference to uncontrollable crying. I was at an all time low. I don’t ever want to get to the point where I’m breaking down after holding it all in ever again. I need to be okay with acknowledging when I’m upset with something so I can constructively deal with it when it initially occurs and not when I can’t do anything about it. It is okay to feel upset and it is okay to cry it out every now and then.
5. There are no excuses for putting this off.
I put myself in bad situations by making every excuse I could think of to not do things in a timely manner. Everything got pushed to the last second and I paid the price for it either immediately or in the long run. This is stuff that I was able to get away with when I was an undergraduate but I have quickly learned that this isn’t going to get me far in graduate school. I have started off this semester the way I never have before, I created a schedule for myself with deadlines that I will make myself follow. I’m surprised to say that it is actually working! Creating monthly, weekly and daily goals is fantastic and I am feeling great about this new change I have implemented into my routine. Hopefully I can keep it up!
So there it is. An update on my life… sort of. Just a few things that I wanted to share either specifically or generally about my experiences in the Fall of 2016 and what I have learned from them. Clearly this is just a snapshot and I could have written so much more! Hopefully I didn’t lose anyone in this post. It was clearly geared towards my experiences as a graduate student but obviously most of these things most can relate in any career. I hope to be able to post more often on here! I’m not sure how it will go but I will try! Thank you for reading! The content will soon (hopefully) get back to normal outdoor/photography/archaeology related things!