How to Navigate Grad School

So you have decided you want to try your hand at grad school? As a semi-graduate from a Masters Degree, I feel that I finally have the expertise to tell others about my experience (and those around me).


Here are a few things you need to be aware of:

Fellow Students: They will be just as confused as you are, especially when it comes to figuring out contracts, funding, conflicting office opinions. You may have lots of friends when you start grad school, but none are like your classmates because they will all be going through the same mental breakdowns as you.

Office Environment: you are not like the other students in your department but you are also not really faculty- which can make it hard to fit in.

The Department: I am a firm believer in that you make what you get out of your supervisor and the other resources in your department. However, in some cases, some supervisors are hard to deal with. They go missing for months, they don’t offer any support, or they offer too much.

Office Admin: they are able to do a lot for you, so make sure you make friends with them.

Thesis: you won’t want to start early, but you really should because last-minute writing sucks. The page number itself causes initial shock, but following a self-made timeline is the second.

Research: it won’t mean much, despite what you think when you are first asked to choose a thesis topic.

Graduating: You will be overqualified for the job market but underqualified for any PhD program.

Well, I hope this semi-sarcastic take on graduate school didn’t completely deter you from ever wanting to seek further education and if you are starting grad school I wish you luck!

B.

A Thought on Living in the Moment

Living in the moment can be hard. Especially when we are constantly connected. But today I found myself on a boat in Vancouver, whale-watching and realized “holy shit! I didn’t think I would ever be doing this!” And here I am with my best friends seeing whales. Actual whales. And not to forget that the background is the ocean, mountains and city. It is the most gorgeous landscape I have ever seen and sometimes we forget to take these moments to appreciate what we have and spend way to long attempting to capture that moment for others, that we forget to savior the moment for ourselves.

This moment has made me greatful, and so glad I came with these people and have the ability to see what we have seen.

Don’t let yourself spend so much time trying to get the perfect shot, completely forgetting that to take a moment to look for yourself. Without the viewfinder.

Oh and since I didn’t get one good shot of a whale, here is one our tour guide took:  

A Letter to My 17-Year Old Self.

At the age of 17 I moved out, went to university and experienced the largest change in my life yet. Now I am 22. And I feel like I have 5 years worth of experience to reflect on.


 

Dear Brittany,

For starters, Moving out makes you scared and unsure. You are going to university as the next step in your life because you don’t really know what you want to do. And that is okay.

However, you may not like what you thought you did, and you may learn that you did things for the entirely wrong reasons. (Like picking a program because even though you did poorly in it in high school, you really enjoyed it.)

Things aren’t as easy as they are in high school. Your life isn’t mapped out for you and motivation is a process you need to learn.

You will be able to meet lots of people and make many new friends. They won’t all be a good fit, but compared to the small town you are from, it is a lot easier to move around the people you don’t get along with.

OH and money, it may seem like the scholarships are ever flowing, but they are not. So perhaps try and save a bit of money while you are at it. Loans add up, and you don’t want to be the sorry sack of shit (me) that didn’t save a dime for/in school.

Also, parties come and go, you won’t be forgotten because you missed a party and decided to stay in. Nor should you feel left out or regret it. You need to take time to yourself and relax, but also get work done. It won’t do itself and if you are deciding between doing an assignment or going out to the pub, you may be better off at home.

Don’t rush things, your time at school is short and it will fly by, don’t constantly wish yourself to be past this stage of your life because eventually you will find that you wished those years away. University is safe and you should enjoy each step as you are experiencing them. (Live in the moment??)

Overall, despite the unease, you will make your way through school and all you need to do is take a leap of faith and trust that even if your life doesn’t go where you thought it would, you will find your way.

Experiences make you strong, so have no regrets.

-Brittany

Grad School So Far

Hello again.

It has been a while since I have found myself inspired to write anything here. But as my first semester of grad school is wrapping up, I finally have something to say.

There have been many days where I am exhausted and I get home when it is dark out and day is over. There are days where I may not have to go to school at all. I have met and been able to study with six amazing new people and study under many more. I got the opportunity to write my major research paper with a professor who I sincerely respect and admire.

I drank too much alcohol, and too little water. I have made mistakes and procrastinated, but I also made amazing memories. I have a great family who stands behind me and supports me in the pursuit of knowledge and academia. I have begun a study in something I am extremely interested in, but equally know that in a few years it will be just another page in the book.

There are many different illnesses I have diagnosed myself with, and many days I was too sick to get out of bed. My diet got significantly worse, consisting almost entirely of ramen and instant rice.

My bank account is depleted, but my soul is full. For the nights spent at the cafe or the pub with friends, drinking lattes or chugging beers while marking papers and studying for classes.

Grad school has not diversified my existence, but made me more comfortable in the life I am living. In the stressful, high-paced environment I have found contentment, and I am ready for what is to come.

B.

21 Things I Learned at 21

  1. Have a friend that can be your support system, your editor and your bodyguard all in one.
  2. Take a leap of faith on things you are unsure about. Sometimes amazing things will happen because you put yourself out there.
  3. Bubble baths should be a weekly thing.
  4. Cheap masks from the drugstore should not.
  5. Do what YOU want to do. Life isn’t all about living up to others expectations for you. (aka. if you want to go to grad school, go)
  6. Try and eat green once in a while. And no, green apple candies do not count.
  7. If it isn’t right in your life, don’t fear quitting. I quit my retail job and I am still surviving.
  8. Being a teacher’s assistant is an annoyingly rewarding experience. In that the students are annoying, but when they actually learn something you are rewarded.
  9. Save towards something that is important to you. Whether it be travel, your OSAP payments or a house, it is a great feeling to see something come out of your hard work.
  10. I mailed myself a list of things I would do better for myself while in grad school. I have effectively accomplished none of the things.
  11. Set realistic goals.
  12. Knowing if there is an elevator in an apartment should be important when debating moving.
  13. Being lazy probably makes me the most efficient person, because I will find the quickest way to do things.
  14. Graduation isn’t as exciting as it seems. Enjoy your time in university, it’ll be over before you know it.
  15. Listen to more Adele, she is good for the soul.
  16. But also try and let loose every once in a while. Dance parties are a healthy hobby.
  17. Take chances. Get that piercing, dye your hair.
  18. Keep up with old friends.
  19. Stop cutting your own hair, we are all old enough to get a $20 cut from first choice.
  20. Retail is not a forever job for me. I hated the crazy expectations stores have for employees. Especially  when they only give you minimum wage and minimum hours.
  21. Go all out for your birthday. Your only young once. We all love a good scavenger hunt.

So unfortunately I am not forever 21. And although this post is a bit of a mess, it is the culmination of the things I have learned over the past year.

Week One.

 

That’s right folks, ya gurl Brittany has survived one week at school and already has a mouthful to say about it.


So after one extremely busy week back I have a few thoughts on my choice to do graduate studies.

First, meetings are exhausting af and no one should have to sit through a meeting that is more that 2 hours long.

Second, nothing is less inspirational than hearing your professor tell you about how little everyone else cares and how much work you will have to do.

Third, being a teacher’s assistant for a class you have already taken and never attended is probably the greatest irony of my entire existence.

Fourth, the attempt to balance multiple readings, course work, my MRP and work is all becoming too real.

Fifth, I have realized I have no idea how I will handle 40 hour work weeks when I can’t even handle the first week back in school.

Sixth, I am extremely glad to have found a group of misfits I can spend all my time with this year. It is refreshing to have new faces and new perspectives in my program.

Seventh, I need sleep. Not your normal eight hours, but all the sleep I can get, whether it be a thirty minute cat nap or a ten hour un-interrupted sleep session.

Stayed tuned for more updates as this journey continues. Week one was brutal but I’m sure it is bound to spiral down hill from here.. Cheers to grad school!

                                                                                       -B.