Fall Evenings

So as most of you know, I am completely obsessed with my scooter. It’s a great gift for grad students ;). I really don’t know how I went this whole time without one. I mean, I had a bike, but there are some limitations with bikes that scooters can bypass. Last night I went to Depot Park, here in Gainesville. Actually, I ended up in Depot Park after doing some exploration around my neighborhood. Sunset is around 5:45 pm here and I left my apartment at 5:20, so I really didn’t have too much time to explore, but I made the best of the time I did have. I just wanted to share some pics with you guys of the sky and park from last night.

Picture Time: Fall Evenings

Fall evenings
Fall Evening
Fall Evenings

It was beautiful out. A bit chilly, but that’s to be expected this time of year. The coloration of the sky was crazy. There was blue, pink, red, orange, and some crazy colors that i can’t even describe. It was quite an experience and new that my readers would enjoy it just as much as I have.

Something like this is why I encourage people that are struggling in grad school to go on walks and get out in nature. Grad school can confine you to this really weird corner of the world where you forget that there is an “outside”. It is so easy to get caught up in work and forget that you are on this earth to live, not work. Enjoy the small things, the “free” things. Going arounf my neighborhood last night was such a treat and extremely peaceful. I was also surprised at the many places around me, mostly food places, that I didn’t know existed. I think I’ll hit up those places soon for some food.

Go Outside

It is highly suggested that you just get outside for at least 30 minutes a day. The evenings are a great time, especially during the fall, to get out and just…be. Go for a walk and listen to your favorite music or audiobook. Heck, sometimes just listening to the natural sounds is all you need. Sometimes getting away from the “artificial sound” is good for you. Just try your best to stay away from busy work. Your life and happiness is way more important.

I hope you guys have an amazing day. I will be in the lab for a very long time today, but I will make sure to leave, eventually lol.

Grad School Experiences

I want you to be prepared for everything that you may experience when you go off to school. This includes what you will experience as an undergrad, but mostly as a grad student. I want to share with all of you the many different things that I have experienced that you will most likely experience in your grad school studies. These are all both good and some not so good. Grad school is not always about having a bad time lol. It is also a great experience too. Here are a few of the things that stand out.

Photo of Woman Writing on Tablet Computer While Using Laptop

1) You will experience imposter syndrome

This was one of the very first things that I experienced when I started my grad school program. It is the feeling that you are not good enough or belong. You can also intensify these thoughts and feelings by comparing yourself to others. Some people will come from really great schools and that will cause you to feel inferior. You are not! You definitely belong and it is normal to feel like a small fish in this huge pond full of very, very large fish. You will grow and eventually be that person people are intimidated by.

2)You’ll be poor but that’s alright

Being poor is part of the process. You aren’t in grad school for the salary. You are here to learn very important skills. I think being poor is one of the best things that has happened to me because I appreciate what I have more than ever. I get the basics and don’t chase after money constantly. I find happiness in what is free and not materialistic things. The money will come, but the skills you learn on how to manage money and live frugally are priceless.

3) You may not make friends right away, but you will

Grad school may be a bit harder to make friends because you might be isolated from people for a very long time. Do not give up hope though. Eventually you will make friends, and lasting friendships too. At first, you may have to just do things alone, but you will not be alone for long. I wrote a whole blog on making friends in grad school. Check it out here.

4) You will have to say goodbye often

Grad school is a time where you will see a ton of people come and go. You will say goodbye more times than you like, especially if you are a doctorate student. I see master’s students come and go all the time. It doesn’t mean I don’t befriend them. I just know that one day I will say goodbye, possibly for the final time. Keeping in touch with everyone is hard too. Just be happy that they were part of your life, even for a split second. Everyone, no matter who they are, shape you into the person you are today. Be happy you were able to spend time with them.

5) You will fail. Then, you will succeed

Failure is inevitable. You will fail more times than you succeed, but you will eventually succeed. The difference between you and everyone else is that you don’t give up. You keep going even when it gets hard. That, in itself, is success. Grad school has not been kind to me or my colleagues, but we keep going. Honestly, that’s what makes this experience so amazing.

I have experienced many ups and downs in my 4+ years of grad school. I have seen many people come and go and had to deal with failure upon failure. Grad school is shaping me slowly into the person that I will become and it’s exciting to see that happening. You will experience all of these things in grad school too, if you go lol. Embrace these things and learn from them. Become a better researcher and person because of them. It’s the only thing you can do. If this blog made you sad, I suggest checking out my blog on things that I do on days I feel sad (link here). It will help.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Shopping on a Grad School Budget

shopping

Thanksgiving is usually the beginning of the Holiday season. Some people would argue that Halloween is but they are wrong :p. It is going to get busy for everyone in grad school here on out. You are probably neck deep in papers, presentations, experiments, loans, everything. Trust me, this time of year can get crazy just from school, but remember that there are other things that will probably make you say “I quit” such as present shopping and visiting family. The long drives to see family are also crazy and I suggest checking out how to make them easier (blog post here).

I did write about all of the stress that comes from the end of the semester but today is about the stress of the season. As a grad student, you are both an adult and college kid at the same time. It kind of stinks because, while everyone else is going on trips, buying presents, spending money, you are studying for finals, trying to get presents that you can afford, as well as just trying to be able to survive at this time of year. Money is sparse so I want to list off a few things to maybe do to save money and make everyone happy with gifts. Also, you need to be able to treat yourself too. This is extremely important. Here is a list of ideas on how to still save money and have a great holiday season.

1) Get crafty

I highly suggest making people presents instead of buying presents. Unless I really need something, a homemade gift is the best thing to get me. Anything edible is a plus to be honest. Many people don’t really want anything, but we all sort of expect to get gifts. It’s human nature, honestly. So instead of spending hours at a store or online shopping, why don’t you get crafty and make a gift. You can even do some wood carvings ;). If that’s not something you want to do, I highly suggest just baking a cake or cookies or something. It will be extremely cheap and everyone loves a food item.

2) Go to a local shop and buy something homemade

If you don’t feel crafty, taking a trip to a local market or shop is a great way to get gifts for everyone. They will most likely have things that you definitely won’t find on Amazon. You are also supporting local businesses which is a major plus. Bring a friend along and help them find gifts as well. Local shops usually have really high quality items too that are extremely unique and fun. This is probably what I am going to do this Christmas.

3) Stick to a budget

This is so hard to do some times but it is essential. count up all of the people you will get gifts for and then maybe assign a dollar amount to them. Couples are easy because they can count as one person lol. Next, add up the amount you assigned, tack on a factor of probably 1.25 and that will be your amount to stay under. the 1.25 gives you a more realistic goal since you will probably end up paying more for some people. If you can keep under budget, that’s great. Use the left over money to pay for rent :).

4) Try to reduce guilt when buying things

You may feel guilting for buying and not buying things. Some people expect fancy gifts, this does not mean you need to get those gifts for them. If they really want to get a diamond necklace for Christmas, you may need to let them know that you literally cannot get that for them. Spend within your means, please! Plus, if you do buy them something that amazing, they will probably expect that every year. Don’t do that to yourself. You may feel guilting for not buying expensive gifts for other, but just know that you come first. I’d rather not have anxiety because of finances than make people happy with expensive gifts.

5) Limit who you give presents to

Get your family and friends presents, of course. But, you don’t need to get 3rd cousin Charles a gift or the guy that lives 4 doors down from you that said hello to you one day. You can definitely be generous and get them gifts but maybe go with more of a baked goods approach. You don’t need to go broke to please everyone.

These are all things that I am definitely taking into consideration when getting presents for those in my life. Please be mindful about small stuff such as this. You don’t need extra stress in your life. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed during this time, take a step back and get away from the stress. I know that is hard but your mental state is far more important than the stress that comes with the holidays. I hope you guys have a good end of the semester and remember to take many breaks. Also, be kind to yourself. Show more love to yourself and others. That’s what this time is about anyway. Thanks for reading!

Gifts for Grad Students

It’s Black Friday so of course today’s blog will be about buying things lol. This time of year can be extremely stressful because of spending a ridiculous amount of money and also because you really don’t know what everyone wants/needs. I hate it because I have so many people to get gifts for and it really stretches my budget. If you are buying gifts for grad students then here are a few ideas that will help you find the perfect gift for them.

1) School supplies

Pens, paper, binders, and literally anything like that are always appreciated by grad students. A really good gift to give them is just a basket full of school supplies. Make sure to include really good pens, sharpies for sure, oh and dry erase markers if they happen to have whiteboards nearby or in their offices. This is a great gift for grad students right here.

2) Pay off one of their semester fees

Crop anonymous person calculating profit on smartphone calculator near banknotes

If someone was to just pay for my semester fees (around 300 dollars) that would make my day/year. Even just paying a little of it is grately appreciated by all grad students. It stinks we even have to pay it in the first place but such is life.

3) A one month subscription to a food delivery such as Misfit Market or Hungry Harvest.

Assorted Vegetable Lot

Here is a link to a blog about the different ranks and which each is good for (here). I think these are wonderful ideas because sometimes it is really hard as a grad student to get healthy food. You often work very weird hours and don’t get to the store as often as you should. Plus, the quality of food choices tends to go way down as you start getting busy with your PhD or Master’s. This is a great way to make sure the grad student in your life stays healthy so they can finish their degree strong.

4) Get them assorted coffee, if they drink coffee.

I think this is one of the best gifts you can get someone. It’s cheap, easy, and they won’t say no to a good assortment of coffee. Read about my favorite coffee flavors (here). If they buy coffee each day because they don’t have a coffee machine, I suggest getting them a Hamiliton Beach single serving coffee maker or possibly just a French press like this one. You don’t have to go crazy and you can get a very small and cheap one. Ask the student if they drink coffee and need a coffee maker. They most often will say yes to both.

5) Toys for their animals

Orange Tabby Cat on Penny Board

This is different but very appreciated. Whenever people buy Sirius gifts, I am the one who is always so delighted. I love when people give gifts to my cat and I would rather have that for Christmas than something that just takes up space. If the grad student has an animal, I suggest getting gifts for said animal.

6) A scooter! or bicycle, but probably scooter.

Man Riding on Bird Electric Scooter

College towns are getting overrun with those electric scooters all of a sudden. They might seem cheap to ride to school each day on one but the trips add up. I think they are like 80 cents per minute so each day, you might spend 4 to 5 dollars, one way. Why not get to school about the same time and have something that doesn’t cost you anything to start it. I suggest getting a scooter like this one. The Razor A6 is what I have and it’s the best thing in the world.

I can get to my office and back in about 20 minutes. Plus, you don’t have to really abide by the rules, unlike a bike. I can go on sidewalks, in the street, on paths, basically everywhere with it. Bikes are great to have but a scooter is where it’s at. Also, scooters are much cheaper to buy for the grad student.

7) Just take them out to eat and talk with them

Man Wearing White Top in Front of Woman Wearing Blue Long-sleeved Top

Sometimes, the best gifts are the simplest. I know, personally, if someone just took me out to eat and just got my mind off of working, that would make my whole day/week. Grad students are often isolated and can go a very long time without just talking to people. It creates a ton on mental issues. Taking the student out and talking can be what gives them the strength to not fall into that mental trap. I highly suggest just doing this if you are able to.

8) Pay for some therapy if needed

Free stock photo of adolescent age, adult, chair

This is a gift that you definitely need to be close with the individual to talk about. If the student is truly struggling, maybe bring up that you’ll pay for some therapy. They may take this the wrong way but hopefully not. Maybe they were already thinking about it but were too afraid or broke to start. Offer to pay for a few sessions if you can. That may be the best gift that that student ever gets. Here is a link to online-therapy, the same one I post at the bottom of most of my blogs.

There’s also BetterHelp and Talkspace, which are both really good. Also, seeing a therapist in person is good too, just a tad expensive.

In the End

Grad students are easy. Get them anything that will help with their studies and they will be grateful. For me, the best gift that I could recive right now would be school supplies and a thing of Mac and Cheese lol. When in doubt, and if this blog didn’t help with ideas, go with scratch off lottery tickets. You really can’t go wrong with those lol.

Be Thankful Everyday

thankful

Thanksgiving is here. Honestly, it seemed like last Thanksgiving happened a few weeks ago. These years sure fly by. Today, we give thanks for all that we have in our lives, and launch off model rockets lol. I just want to tell you guys that you don’t need just one day to show thanks or what you have. Be thankful everyday of the year. Here is a list of some of the things I am grateful/thankful for:

1) My friends and family

2) My health

3) My cat, Sirius

4) cookies

5) This blog and all of those reading and commenting

6) My education

7) The motivation I have to finish my doctorate

8) Scootering

9) Model Rocket launches

10) Time away from work

These are just a few of the things that I am thankful for. What are some things that you are thankful for? Let me know in the comments. I hope you all have a wonderful day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

How to Be Happy in Grad School

This is it everyone. I finally found the secret to happiness in grad school. The secret is….don’t go to grad school ;P. I am just kidding of course. Grad school has all types of happiness that can be found. You just have to know where to look.

Grad school can be an extremely rough time for an individual. It usually occurs during a very interesting transition in your life. The transition from being a dependent to someone who is independent. You may think this is 18, but trust me, the kids these days aren’t independent until they graduate undergrad…if that even.

Why this blog?

I was watching Hector and the search for happiness last night, and it made me think about what makes me happy. Am I happy? What even is happiness? There were so many questions that I thought about and I sort of figure some stuff out. Of course, these are things that make me happy and make others happy. I think the movie did a good job of answering some questions on happiness, but it missed out on others that might be essential for grad school.

I love when people say that they just want happiness in their lives. Yes! we all do, but that is not how things work and I think this mind set is one reason why people can become so unhappy. People want so hard to experience happiness that any minor unhappiness discourages them. Happiness can come from literally every situation but you need to be open and willing to see the happiness there. I write about this quite often. There is usually something good that comes form every outcome, but people tend to focus on the negative instead of the positive. This is why grad school can make individuals feel so unhappy.

How to be Happy in Grad School

happiness in grad school

So how do we become happy in grad school? The key here is to understand that happiness is not a destination, it’s a travel guide on your journey to where you are going in life. If you are severely unhappy in a job, you go to the next. If you are unhappy in a relationship, you leave and start one until there is more happiness than before. In grad school, happiness can be a bit sparse. You may experience moments of hardship that lead you to some very dark places. Talking with other grad student, this seems to be the overwhelming consensus. But the happiness is still there.

The happiness comes when you look for the good in all that you do. You may have failed an experiment for the 100th time, but you may have learned how to master a technique during that same period. If you focus on the good that came from the bad, that is when you find happiness. That little bit of happiness helps to motivate you as well. So, instead of giving up, you find reason to try that experiment one more time.

If you find happiness in grad school, this may lead you in the direction of academia as a profession. For me, I am teetering on this idea of becoming a professor instead of going into industry. Research, finding out the unknown, playing with chemicals all excite me and they bring me a ton of joy. Yes, I have failed experiments so much that I have contemplated breaking all of my equipment just to be done with it.

But, I looked at those failures in a different way. I figured that maybe the data that I was getting, though it wasn’t what we were expecting, was actually significant. Maybe what I thought was a failure wasn’t actually one at all. This brought a great amount of happiness because I thought that maybe I had stumbled upon some amazing scientific theory that will change the world of water chemistry. Turns out, I was contaminating my samples, but hey, that still brought happiness because I solved a problem lol.

Some things that I focus on to get the most happiness from Grad School

What are some things that you place above all others to make you happy or to bring some happiness in your life? For me, there are a list of things that I value above all others that I think contribute to happiness that I find everyday. Here are a list of those things. See if they match up with what bring you happiness.

Man Standing Beside His Wife Teaching Their Child How to Ride Bicycle happiness in grad school

1) My family, friends, and relationships with others.

You will go through life and have very hard times. Some of the hardest moments in my life so far have been made better by the love and support I had from my family, friends, and others. I have gotten out of some dark places because of others and that’s why this is top of my list. I find happiness from the time spent creating these relationships with these individuals. Of course there will be some hardships here too, but those lead to wonderous moments of love and happiness later. BUild relationships with others and your happiness will increase exponentially.

Yellow and White Alarm Clock happiness in grad school

2) Understanding that everything in life is temporary.

This is kind of a sad realization but quite an important one. All hardships that you have had are temporary. Every moment is temporary and every feeling is temporary. You will have sadness but that will fade as time goes on. It’s important to know that, because things are temporary, you must try and enjoy or at least gain something from those moments. People will come and go in your life. Some may stay, but they won’t always be there for you so it is essential that you focus on enjoying the time you have with them. You will find quite a bit of happiness this way.

Silhouette Photo of Woman Against during Golden Hour happiness in grad school

3) Focusing on the “free” stuff

This is a money section. Money can buy some happiness. Of course it can, it got me a scooter and it can buy McDonalds lol. But the free things in life are what truly bring joy. For me, walking in the morning and watching the animals brings me so much happiness and one other thing, peace. Being able to spend time with my friends and just talk about life brings me happiness, and it costs $0. Meditation has brought on so much happiness and peace and it was freeeeeee. We tend to think that the best things in life come with money but in fact they are the free things we take advantage of each day. I try and focus on all that is free to me and really appreciate those things.

Person in Yellow Hoodie Standing on Seashore

4) Being Myself

In undergrad, I used to work out 6 to 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. All through high school, under senior year, I was chubby. I wasn’t necessarily fat, but I was not happy with how I was. So, in undergrad, I worked out and ate right so I could get lean and get girls. That was pretty much a huge focus. I cared so much what people thought about me that I started to change my character to fit the crowd I was in.

Unfortunately, I would be a totally different person around others just so they would like me. I was never myself because I was so concerned about what others thought about me and not about how I felt about me. You can see that this can bring a ton of unhappiness. I see this way too often in grad students. They try so hard to please others and change for others that they forget to be happy with who they are.

I realized later that, yes being myself may lead to fewer friends, but the friends I did get are ones that will be there with me for the rest of my life. I chose quality over quantity and man did that really help.

happiness in grad school

5) Not comparing myself to others

This is a new thing that I had to learn in grad school to stay sane. Anyone who has been in school knows of that individual who just has everything going for them. They are good looking, rich, smart, popular, everything good happens, etc. It’s annoying but that’s life. Have you ever compared your life to those people’s? I know I sure have and that made me feel like crap. First off, comparing your life to anyone else’s is going to cause problems. You are only speculating based on what you have seen so that’s pretty shallow. You don’t know what kind of life that person has or how hard they work to be where they are. Stop comparing and start doing stuff to benefit yourself.

Grad school is definitively all about comparing yourself. You will have people that work constantly and you see yourself not working as much. Boom! you start comparing your work habits to theirs. You see a person that just published their third manuscript and you haven’t even written one. Boom! you think you are doomed to fail in this. Comparing yourself to others accomplishments leads to torment. Focus on yourself and what you accomplish. Say congrats to others and then get back to work to obtain your goals. Also, stay off social media because that’s just one big pool of comparing yourself to others.

happiness in grad school

6) Finding the honey

I wrote a blog at the very beginning of my blogging journey where I talked about a monk being chased by a tiger. It’s a great story and I suggest you read about it here. Pretty much, the story is about finding the good in every situation. SO the monk found the “honey” in a very bad situation involving a snake, some mice, and a hungry tiger. This is what brings be true happiness, finding the good in bad situations.

Have you ever had a person talk to you and just complain about how hard their day is. They had to write emails, talk to Janice down the hall about her expense report, eat a lunch that wasn’t that good, etc. They make it seem like every situation that they have is the equivalent of getting their teeth pulled. See, don’t be like them because this individual only looks at the negative things in every situation and not the positive ones such as having a job, being able to eat, and literally just being alive. If you find the “honey” in bad situations, they stop being so bad. I guess a good way to say this is to look on the bright side of life.

I hope you find it

Remember that happiness is not a destination. You may get to a happy point in life but it is far from being the end. There will always be good and bad days, but the bad days will really make you appreciate the good days even more. This will bring about more happiness. I hope you find happiness in your grad school experience. It can be quite difficult but it is attainable. Some days will be hard to see happiness and other days will only be joyous. Enjoy the ride, you only get to go on it once.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

End of Semester STRESS!

stress

Hurray, you have made it to the end of the semester, or well pretty darn close to the end of the semester. If you aren’t stressed to the max then you either have everything together or maybe this is an easier semester. Most of you will have projects, papers, presentations, and exams. This can be a pretty stressful time, indeed.

On top of that, you have Thanksgiving, which will probably make you not want to work at all afterwards. The odds are against you lol. This can be quite stressful, but you’ve done this many times before. Honestly, by the time you get to graduation, you will be so numb to end of the semester stress that it doesn’t even faze you. Until then, there are a few things you can do to reduce this stress.

1) Get plenty of sleep.

Good quality sleep is essential to finishing the semester strong. Honestly, sleep deprivation is causing you to limit the capabilities of finishing strong, so it’s essential to get plenty of rest.

2) Limit the caffeine.

The last thing you want is sleep deprivation and a full out panic attack. Sure a cup or two of coffee is fine, but try to keep it just to that. Any more and you will feel anxious and probably won’t sleep or get work done. Maybe get some decaf coffee. Here’s some to get.

3) Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day.

The great Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahm, used to spend the time between finals to meditate. He said that meditation helped to clear his mind and actually helped him significantly to remember information for exams. He went on to get a doctorate in theoretical physics, so I think he knew what he was doing. Here’s an article on how to meditate.

4) Take breaks and go outside

Study breaks are essential. Starring at a computer screen is terrible for your eye sight and you need moments to let your brain relax. Finals definitely take up quite a bit of time so exercising time gets taken up by studying. By just taking a brief walk, you can get some form of exercise in which will help keep you energized to finish strong.

5) Drink more water

This is good because you’ll spend so much time going to the bathroom that you won’t have the detrimental effects of studying for hours on end lol. Also, dehydration causes you to get tired easily and water will help keep you awake.

6) Don’t aim for perfection

Perfection does not exist. Aim to get it done. People stress so much on grades that they don’t actually focus on the learning aspect. Yes, passing classes is fine but understanding the materials that you just learned is way more essential, especially in grad school. As long as you keep a 3.0 gpa, which is pretty easy, you will be fine.

7) Make sure to ask yourself if everything is fine.

Check in with yourself. Do you feel sad, happy, depressed, relaxed? Make sure your mental health is of top priority during this stressful time. Trust me, I have suffered for many years because I did not prioritize my mental health. I don’t want anyone experiencing what I went through.

Good luck on all of your final projects, papers, and exams. The end of semesters in grad school can be just as crazy as in undergrad, so staying on top of things is a must. After finals, make sure to rest and recover. Go on a trip or play your favorite video game. Enjoy the time off before you have to do it all over again in the spring.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you

It’s Ok to Treat Yourself

Grad school is a time where you may get very few wins. By this, I mean you may fail a ton of experiments. The paper you spent months on gets rejected. Your adviser might hate you (hopefully not). Stuff like this makes grad school extremely mentally taxing. I have said this before and I will say it again. You will be desensitized to the word “No” by the time you leave grad school. You will hear it and see it so many times that it won’t even phase you later on. You’ll be numb to rejection.

You may not win all of the time, but you will get victories. Honestly, getting a few wins feels so much better in grad school because of all of the rejection. When you get those small victories, Treat Yo-Self!

treat yourself

Small Wins

Small wins are a great way to boost your self esteem. If you get a good grade, treat yourself to something fun. You don’t have to go crazy and buy a car or something. Maybe go see a movie or get ice cream. Do something to really solidify that win. You don’t get too many in grad school :(.

Big Wins

For things such as passing your quals, or getting a paper published, I suggest treating yourself to time off. Guilt free time off that is! These are huge milestones in your academic career and deserve some time away from work. One thing that I did when I passed my qualifying exam was go to Disney. Something big like this really makes you feel like you did a great thing, well, because you did do a great thing.

One thing that I have notice though, and this is from not just me but others, is that when you do something successfully or accomplish something, it is almost anticlimactic. When I passed my qualifying exam, there was no overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I didn’t feel a wave of excitement come over me like I imagined. It was very, blah. Like, cool I passed, but nothing more. This is how others have felt too. That is why you need to celebrate so you can get that feeling of excitement that might not come from just accomplishing the goal.

Person Wrapping Gummies In An Orange Paper

Just Treat Yourself

Whatever you do, celebrate it. You are working on stuff that is very hard and you are succeeding in it whether you think you are or not. Celebrate the small victories and it will make this time in your life so much more enjoyable. Grad school is what you make it, so choose to make it exciting and fun.

I hope you guys have a wonderful Friday. I am celebrating surviving another week without going insane by having a nice cup of coffee.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Driving Home for the Holidays

driving home for the holidays

Many of you will have to make a very, very long trip home to see family during the holidays. You have probably been away for a couple of months and are probably really looking forward to seeing your family. Luckily for me, I don’t have to travel far, but many of you may have to make a very long car trip home. This can even be made worse by bringing your pets too. I know for a fact that Sirius does not like car rides and he makes it known. He’s getting better but it does still stress him out.

If you have to make a very long car ride back for the holidays, I have a few suggestions to make it more exciting and possibly fun. Let us get started with my favorite thing, a LIST!!!!! WOO.

1) Listen to a podcast or audio book that you’ve never listened to before.

I like to listen to audio books that are classics such as The Hobbit or Harry Potter. Unfrotunatel, I know for a fact that I won’t read these books, but I still want to be able to enjoy them. I have a list of other audiobooks that I have listened to. Check them out here.

As for podcasts, literally any podcast out there will bring you entertainment. There are a few that I have heard are pretty good. They pretty much all deal with weird things in the world. Here’s an article on the best podcasts to listen to in 2021 (here). These will definitely keep you entertained.

2) If you don’t mind using internet data, listen to scary creepypastas on YouTube.

So a creepypasta is basically a legend or scary story shared around the internet. Some of the best ones are Slenderman, Laughing Jack, and my favorite Ben Drowned. There are a plethora of other stories as well. My favorite channel to listen to them is Dr. Creepen. I listen to a ton of these stories when I go on my 6 hour trips to Miami.

Of course, you have to like these types of things to really enjoy it. If you like listening to scary stories, I highly suggest checking some of these out. They make the drives really fun and a bit thrilling as well.

3) Plan out your stops

So if you have a very long trip, try and find a cool place to stop and maybe see something or go somewhere you’ve never been before. Do a little research and see what types of food places are along the way too. You may end up driving by a really good food place that you’ve never been. For me, I usually plan out my stops on the drive to Miami to see areas of Florida that I’ve never been. You’d be surprised how many fun places are along I-95.

4) Understand traffic is out of your control so try not to get upset.

Traffic stinks, especially during the holidays. Yes, everyone has been in bad traffic, but there really is nothing you can do about it unfortunately. You can get upset, but that will just make the journey less enjoyable. Honestly, traffic isn’t too bad. It gives you more time to listen to the audiobooks, podcasts, or scary stories :). Try and look at these things in a positive manner and you won’t feel as frustrated. Plus, traffic may save you from the politically driven fight that may occur when all of your family members are present lol.

5) Lastly, listen to really uplifting music! Also, sing like no one is watching.

One of my favorite things to do is listen to my favorite bands and sing ever song on their albums. I honestly don’t care that the person next to me looked over and saw me singing. That person is just jealous because I am having fun and they aren’t! Singing makes you happy and happiness can sometimes be sparse when driving long distances.

If you happen to be travelling soon, I hope you try some of these things out. They help me so much when I travel and I know they can help you. Let me know what you do on long road trips during the holidays to help make them easier.

Starting Your Thesis

I have a friend who is in a bit of a struggle mentally right now. He is currently in the process of trying to get a paper published. In my program, published articles are your chapters, so he is essentially writing one of his thesis chapters. He is experiencing panic because this is the only chapter that he has written and he graduates next year! This is causing a ton of anxiety because what he’s doing is thinking about the future and everything that he has to do. This is a major problem in graduate school.

I have the same problem. I see how much work needs to be done and the timeframe it has to be done in. This has kept me up at night on more than one occasion. Writing your thesis is a herculean task and that’s why not many people go to grad school. Honestly, writing a book practically, on a subject that might be pretty insignificant, doesn’t really appeal to many people. It has to be done, unfortunately.

If you are doing grad school and have to write a thesis, here’s a couple of suggestions for getting started and not going completely insane. I know I haven’t written a list in a while, so I figured I would :).

Grayscale Photo of Man Thinking in Front of Analog Wall Clock

1) Stop thinking about how much you have to do.

This is sooooooo important. When you think of having to write three papers, do experiments, water the plants, feed the chickens, pass your classes, etc., this will create anxiety like no other. Instead of thinking in the future, ask yourself “what do I need to do today?” Start off small because small steps get you places. If you worry about all of the stuff you need to do, you may not even put forth effort to do those things. You are more likely to procrastinate.

Person Holding Blue Ballpoint Pen Writing in Notebook

2) Write a little each day.

This is good for many reasons, but I want to share 2 in particular. 1) writing each day will get you used to writing in general. I have this blog to sort of dust off the cobwebs. Writing takes practice and you need to work your way up to being able to write a whole paper. It’s a hard skill, but over time you get better. 2) You will begin to chip away at the thesis. You do not have to write 4 pages a day, everyday. But 500 words a day will help you finish your thesis is no time. 500 words is also quite sustainable and realistic. That will take you maybe an hour a day. Check out my blog on writing each day (link here). This can help you get started.

Man Writing on Table

3) Never go for perfection. Well, at least at the beginning.

The hardest thing is just getting started. My best advice is to just write. Don’t worry about formatting. Don’t worry about spelling. Just write. Write down everything. This will get you started and going. You can always go back and edit. Heck, if you have an adviser that edits a ton, just write and make them do it lol. Just writing will create the motivation to continue. I have a pretty decent article on motivation and how it’s created by doing something instead of waiting for motivation (link here). This is the same situation. Just write and edit later.

Smiling young ladies in overalls standing near bench with wicker baskets with flowers near gloves and pot with books near trees and green grass in summer day in garden

4) Find someone in your department that is also starting to write.

Be their accountabilibuddy!!! Keep them on a schedule and they will keep you on a writing schedule. You can almost make a competition. One day you write 100 words and they write 200. Well you have to outdo them the next day. Next thing you know, you are both writing 5 pages a day and your thesis is done. I am hoping to try this in the spring. I want to finish by the end of summer so I need to stay on the writing grind.

High Angle View of Lying Down on Grass

5) Make sure to take breaks form writing.

This may be the most important one of all. The best thesis is a finished thesis and you can’t finish unless you are able to write. Burn out is a major problem and taking breaks is how you prevent that. I write about taking breaks in grad school, check it out when you are taking your break! (link here). Rest is essential to continue this journey. Take time off to recoup.

Photo of Planner and Writing Materials

6) Stick to a schedule. This includes a workout schedule!!!

Sometimes it is really easy to just do stuff sporadically. This may work, but establishing a schedule will increase productivity. This means incorporating exercise into your schedule!!! Make a schedule where you work hard from 9 to 5 or something then go to the gym afterwards. If you follow a pretty set schedule, you’ll be productive in multiple ways. I would stick to your phd work as a full time job. 9 to 5 each day then rest afterwards. This works for me, but it may not work for everyone. Try something similar and see what works best for your productivity.

Writing your thesis is exciting! It means you get to finish your degree and you are contributing something to the world. It is a difficult task but you can do it, I promise. If you have questions about starting or just want tips, email me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I can give you more advice and maybe you can give me some more advice too and I am sure need some when writing this beast of a paper lol. I hope you all have an awesome day. Thanks for reading.

Daily Reminder That You Rock

Today’s post is a short and simple one. Today, I want to tell you that you are amazing and deserve nothing but happiness. Some days will be easy, some not so easy, but know that you are awesome regardless how the day is.

I wish more people would tell others this. Just getting up in the morning and doing what you do makes you amazing. You rock and you always will.

Have a wonderful day and I hope the rest of your week is awesome too.

Starting Over: A New Adventure

I meant to write about this particular subject last night but decided to wait until this morning. I had a meeting at my part time job last night and we found out that our boss is leaving the department and going back to school. He presented a fantastic lecture on finding your path in life and figuring out what you want. I felt sad at the end but very excited for him since he gets to experience what I went through, a great adventure.

adventure

Many grad students come directly from undergrad and start into a master’s or PhD. School is something that they have always known and it’s not too scary to start it. Of course moving to a new city or state and starting school is terrifying, but I have other blogs going over that. This one is about leaving a full time job to pursue education and how this is scary, yet amazing.

This subject hits home for me because I gave up a full time job to pursue a career in something I really had little experience with. This is often the case for those that leave the comfort of their jobs to pursue a degree. I understand how scary this is and how many questions go through your head while applying.

Just a bit of background

If you are unaware of my background, I graduated undergrad in 2016 and went to work for a civil engineering firm. After 2 years of work and 2 years of very comfortable work and paychecks, I left it to come get a PhD in engineering. I know the mixed feelings you get when you see that you are making pennies in grad school. In know the struggles of saying goodbye to the many wonderful individuals you have grown close with. And, I know how hard it is to jump into the unknown, head first, and deal with that anxiety.

These are normal

Let me tell you that these feelings are 100% normal. They are hard to deal with and take a good while to come to terms with, but they do pass. Leaving a job to go back to school is a huge risk, but risks are how you find your way through life. I had a wonderful blog about the comfort zone. Check it out here. I basically said that it is totally Ok to be nervous about these changes. Being nervous is good and it WILL lead to something amazing.

Uncertainty

I always say that the only certainty in life is that life is uncertain. I want to add one more. There are two certainties in life, uncertainty and change. Sometimes change comes under uncertainty and uncertainty definitely goes under change. Things will change, you passions will change, and you will change. Sometimes you need to leave your comfort zone to expedite these changes that allow you to become the person you were destined to become. Being scared and nervous is totally fine, and those feeling will come and go. What you are doing takes courage and guts. Things that cause you to grow.

Don’t let obstacles stop you

If you know what you want in life, go for it. Don’t let anything get in the way. But know one thing, it will be hard. It may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But it is worth it! Trust me, I know. I want to leave you with one of my favorite quote/song lyrics. I’ll post the song below too. It comes from the Hobbit movie from 1977. The quote goes, “The greatest adventure is what lies ahead”. This is so true.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Grad School Jokes and Comics

It’s almost the weekend! If you are reading this on a Monday, eh, pretend it’s almost the weekend. So for today, I thought I would share a few comics that I found funny as well as some grad school jokes. I hope you enjoy.

Comics

Grad school Jokes
Graduate school Jokes
xkcd: Thesis Defense
Piled Higher and Deeper
I don't miss grad school too much. - Album on Imgur
PHD Comics: How Grad School is just like Kindergarten
Opening Up About Stress In Graduate School
Some of my favorite comics from this person. - Album on Imgur

Jokes

what do you call a cruise full of college graduates?

(a Scholar-ship)

A dentist graduated from Hogwarts…

He’s now known as the “Wizard of Aahhhs”

How many grad students does it take to change a light bulb?

One, but it takes 7 years

A graduate student submits his thesis to his advisor…

A few days later, the advisor returns in with a single note: Needs Improvement.

So the student makes a few changes and resubmits it. Again, the advisor returns it with the single note: Needs Improvement.

This time, the student pores over it, double checks every word, adds every reference he can find, and adjusts the layout to make it more readable. He walks into his advisor’s office and says, “I have done everything I possible can, this is absolutely perfect.”

The advisor takes it from him and says, “Okay, I guess I’ll actually read it this time.”

When I first started college, the Dean came in and said “Good Morning” to all of us. When we echoed back to him, he responded, “Ah, you’re Freshmen.”

Then he explained:

“When you walk in and say good morning, and they say good morning back, they’re Freshmen.

“When they put their newspapers down and open their books, they’re Sophomores.

“When they look up so they can see the who’s talking over the tops of the newspapers, they’re juniors.

“When they put their feet up on the desks and keep reading, they’re seniors.

“And when you walk in and say good morning, and they write it down, they’re graduate students.”

Have a great day

I hope these jokes and comics have made your morning or afternoon a little bit better. I thought some of these jokes were quite funny. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about the must haves when going back to school (link here). I hope you have a fantastic day!

Something to Think About

good and bad

Lately, I have been looking back on all of the wonderful and not so wonderful things that have happened in my life. I have looked at where I’ve been and the direction in which I am going (scary right?). One thing that really caught my attention was thinking about really good things that have happened in my life and really bad things that have happened and how they have shaped where I am currently.

I hope this makes sense

This concept was introduced to me a long time ago when I was starting my mindfulness journey, but recently reemerged from my subconscious. It is the concept of how every event leads to good or bad things happening later on. So our lives are made up of choices, right? Everything you do is a choice and sometimes we make really good choices and really bad choices. At the time these choices may seem good or bad, but these choices, regardless of what they were will lead to something else that may be good or bad.

My choice led to some cool outcomes

I will give you an example because It’s hard to describe really what I am thinking sometimes lol. When I was in undergrad, I used to consume heavy amounts of preworkout. The amount of caffeine was absurd, but I kept drinking it because the workouts were amazing. This choice was a good one at the time because I was in shape, the girls really noticed me, and I was never too tired to do anything. Thanks caffeine. I thought this was the best decision of my life, until I had a panic attack for the first time in my life. So my “good” choice led to bad consequences later on. Just because I thought the choice was good at the time did not mean that it was the best choice for me in life. Some of the best things come from “bad choices” or “bad occurrences” in your life.

The story does not end there, though. See, I had the worst experience of my life for about 6 months. I was it such a bad place mentally that I was worried I would never recover. What started off as a good choice turned into something very, very bad. But, even bad things lead to extraordinary things. If it was not for my mental health, I would not have gone to therapy. Because I went to therapy, I had the motivation and courage to continue with my doctorate. And because I continued, I got a publication, I am now a PhD candidate, and I will graduate. Also, because of the choice of taking prework so much, I ended up creating this blog to help others who suffer from mental health, especially in grad school.

What’s your path?

Everything you do will lead to an outcome. You won’t know it until you experience the outcome later on. So, what I am saying is, just because you think it is the right decision at the moment, might not mean it’s the right decision later on. But, it may lead to something great. We create our own paths in life depending on the choices we make, but we have to make a choice to go on these paths. One day you might be offered a great job opportunity that turns out to be the worst thing later on. You never quite know what the future will have for you.

Forgive me for rambling

I hope my rambling sort of made sense. Just know that if you think you made a bad choice, it may lead to something greater in the long run. Don’t regret the choices you make, unless they are really really bad. Just know that those choices will take you on a different path, one that may turn out amazing. Who really knows?

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

What to Watch on Your Down Time

There is one thing that all grad students love to do and that is tell everyone how hard their program is and how much work they have. I happen to fall into that category more often than I would like. Yes, grad school is hard, and you will have tons of work to do, but, you will have a ton of free time as well. If you take away all of the time you spend on social media, you’ll be surprised how much time you actually have.

Experiments also have a ton of down time. You might be running simulations or waiting on a very slow reaction to occur. You might be like me and spend countless hours watching water drip out of a tube at a rate of 1.5 mL/min. So, there’s a ton of free time whereyou can watch a few shows or movies!! Of course, you can use this time to blog or start a business or, my favorite, meditate, but sometimes you just want to be lazy.

So, I want to list off a few shows/movies/documentaries that I found really great and I think you will too. Some are super helpful with motivation. Some of these are informative and others are just a great way to enjoy the moment. Let’s get started.

Movies and Shows

1) Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting is my all time favorite movie! I have honestly watched this about 50-60 times and quote it quite often. Matt Damon and Robin Williams are both fantastic in it. I don’t want to give too much away and would highly suggest that you watch this one. There is a reason why this is my favorite movie ever.

2) My Octopus Teacher

My mom actually forced me to watch this and it was well worth it. My Octopus Teacher is about friendship, life, compassion, nature, and understanding how much we don’t know. I think this is still on Netflix and would suggest heading over to there as soon as you can. If you don’t have Netflix then I bet you know someone who does, if you catch my drift.

3) The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha

So, I just started watching this about 3 days ago. It is very difficult for me to sit still and watch movies, so it has taken a while to finish this. This tells the story of the Buddha and all of his teachings. It is fantastic. Most of the mindfulness blogs are all based on the teachings of the Buddha, so it is cool to see the origins. They interview a ton of people and even the Dalai Lama. It is an easy movie to watch and you learn a ton from it.

4) Chef

I watched this movie in 2016 when my mental health was at its worse. This was the only movie that I could watch all the way through without having a serious panic attack. What makes this film one of my all time favorites is because there really aren’t any sad moments. The only moment where there is some conflict is towards the beginning. I won’t give anything away, don’t worry. This movie is just such a feel good one and there really aren’t any sad moments at all. Actually, I take it back, when the movie is over is a sad moment :p. I suggest checking this one out.

5) Jungle Cruise

I am going to end the list with this, Disney’s Jungle Cruise. I “did my research” aka went on rotten tomatoes and saw that it did very well. I figured “hey, let’s give it a chance and maybe we will be happy with it”. Oh man, this movie was hilarious and awesome. It kept the goofiness of the ride (jokes and puns and stuff) but brought a really interesting and unique story with it. If you have Disney+, go watch this movie. It’s phenomenal.

Let me Know

Of course there are many more videos and movies and stuff that I would love for you to watch. I just wanted to post a couple to get you started when you get bored of watching Parks and Rec for the 15th time. Oh, Parks and Rec is fantastic and super easy to watch while you are in the lab. That will be the very last recommendation. Wait, Schmitt’s Creek is also super amazing, oh, and IT Crowd. Ok, Ok, I’ll stop lol. Let me know in the comments of any good shows that you have watched or if there is a great movie or documentary that everyone needs to see. I would love to fill my down time with great entertainment.

If you haven’t already, go check out my blog on the best study music (link here). It’s a good alternative to watching movies in the lab. Also, here’s a good link to the best movies for PhD Students (link here). Check it out.

Maybe Stay Off Social Media

Yesterday, while walking on the treadmill at the gym, a YouTube video popped up talking about a “dopamine detox”. I could kind of guess what that was based on the name but I was curious as to what it actually did. Ironically, the dopamine kick was probably the reason I clicked on the link and watched the video. Next thing I know, I am researching this exact subject and trying to prepare myself for my very own, dopamine detox.

detox

Detox video

If you have no clue what I am talking about, I suggest you watch this video, below.

So this was the exact video that popped up. I highly suggest watching and possibly trying it. The overall concept is to reduce the “high dopamine” hits that we have each day such as social media. By reducing these things, we will start finding more enjoyment in the smaller dopamine boosts such as working on your side business, exercising and maybe your hobbies.

Time away from things that matter

I spend way too much time on my phone and social media, yet I constantly complain how busy and how much work I have. When I actually get the motivation to do the work, I realize that most of the time “doing the work” is spent on my phone. That’s why it takes so much time. I am going to try and stay off of social media for at least one day each week. If I can get to the point of being off it completely, then I will be one happy guy.

In conclusion

I think that this might be a good experience to try and I will definitely blog about it in the next couple of weeks to update you all on how it’s going. I have done this one time before, unknowingly, and the time away from social media was amazing. Wish me luck! Anyway, I just wanted to update all of you with something I found pretty cool. I hope you were able to read my blog post about feeling homesick (link here). As always, I hope you all have a wonderful day and I hope you are all extremely productive today!

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Homesick While in Grad School

Photo Of Woman Sitting On Floor

So I wrote about if grad school is worth it yesterday. If you are asking yourself that question, I highly suggest checking that blog out. Here is a link to that one. I was actually fairly surprised how that blog came out. One of the better ones that I have done. Anyway, I touched on a subject in that blog that I think is well worth writing about…being homesick. Well, I wrote about moving away to a new place, but this goes with that.

Homesickness

I know so many people that left their hometown to come to UF. Many people left their home country to come here as well. I couldn’t imagine how hard that is for them. I had a hard time just moving 2 hours away lol. But one thing that we all have in common is feeling homesick.

Homesickness will hit you eventually. I experienced it in undergrad about a month after moving to Gainesville. One day you are just strolling along and the next moment you see or smell something that reminds you of home. For me, I felt homesick for the first time when I decided to make my mom’s mac and cheese recipe. It hit me hard too. Luckily, I am in grad school where I went to undergrad, so the feelings of homesickness subsided and were not as bad when I came back. For almost everyone I know here, this is not the case.

I believe this is about the time of year where people are sending in their applications for grad school. Or, they are preparing to fill out applications soon. This means that there will be a new group of individuals that travels to a new town, to start a new journey. And, man, will there be some rough patches for them.

homesick

You can read a ton of methods to help reduce homesickness online. I want to share just a couple of weird ones that have worked for me. I do suggest trying the other methods as well of these don’t work. Also, if the feelings get too much to handle, seeing a therapist is always a recommendation by me. If you want, you can read about my experience with a therapist (here). Here are a few ways that I reduced the feeling of being homesick.

Methods that I hope help with homesickness

  1. Call your parents/siblings/friends/anyone at least once a week. You can call them everyday but that might make you feel even worse and miss them more. It is good to stay in contact with them though.
  2. Sit with the feelings of homesickness and acknowledge it. Sometimes the best way to deal with your feelings is to accept is and just sit with it awhile. If it is overwhelming, try some meditation practice (check out how to meditate, here).
  3. Pick up a hobby to distract your mind. This helps so much with my feelings of loneliness and I am sure it will help when feeling homesick.
  4. Cook a meal that your family usually makes. Sometimes what we miss most is just the comfort that we removed ourselves from. Food always makes things better too.
  5. Stay of social media!! This is a no brainer but always needs to be brought up.
  6. Join a sports team/club/organization/anything to keep you busy. This will help tremendously because you’ll make friends that will help with your feelings and you will stay busy. Preoccupy yourself with things and the transition becomes easier.
  7. Create new experiences for yourself and go do them. Go find something that makes you happy each day. Focus on those feelings rather than the sad feelings and you” feel alot better. One thing that I did and still do is just listen to calming music and go walk around campus. Look for specific things like birds or flowers. Focusing on doing this will keep your mind from wandering back to the bad feelings and thoughts. Trust me, it works.
  8. Plan a trip to come visit your hometown. Plan a trip and the excitement of going will make it easier to handle each day. Sometimes the thought of myself not seeing my parents for a why was overwhelming and I thought I would never see them. When I planned to go home, I knew that I would see them again and that made me super excited.

I hope this helps

Going away to school is so terribly difficult. You will have ups and downs the whole time you are there. Just know that those moments will pass and you’ll be better off in the long run. I hope these can help. Let me know in the comments ways that you overcome the feeling of homesickness. I think we can all benefit from that.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Is Graduate School Worth it?

Is graduated school worth it? You probably typed this in a few times while either applying for school or while actually being in school. Honestly, the answer is always going to be “it depends”. Every situation is extremely different and going to graduate school can be 100% worth it and 100% a waste of your time. From my experience, it has totally been worth it and I’ll explain why in this blog. For you, you might really want to consider some things before going. You can be extremely successful without graduate school. It really depends on your goals.

Green Typewriter on Brown Wooden Table

Your Goals

Before you start applying, really ask yourself “what are my goals and will grad school help to achieve those?” Let’s say your goal is to make a ton of money, will grad school cause that to happen/. You could be going into a program that really doesn’t make a lot of money afterwards. So, in this case, grad school is not worth it for that goal. If your goal is to further your education and possibly go into an academic research position, grad school is essential.

Why I chose graduate school

Going to grad school was a pretty easy one for me at first because I was money driven. I wanted to get a master’s to be able to make more money and be highly sought after by employers. Getting a master’s in engineering is pretty difficult so I figured people would really be interested. It wasn’t until I looked more at what my real goals were that I realized what my true passion was for. My goal for grad school changed drastically. I wanted to become a research scientist because I was curious about the unknown. Money would be nice, but thanks to many of the realizations I had about money, I knew that that wasn’t something to really chase after. Now, 4.5 years later, I am preparing to exit grad school with very new goals that I have set. So for me, grad school was worth the time and many, many headaches.

Person Holding Yellow Leaf

Some more perks in graduate school

Here is a list of some of the perks that come with graduate school and why it may be worth going:

  1. You meet a ton of really intelligent people. You also get to network with scientists that may have come up with some of the concepts that you studied in college. I have met many people that have revolutionized the field that I am studying, water chemistry.
  2. You get to make long lasting friendships with like-minded individuals. The friends that I have made these past few years are some of the best friendships that I have ever had. Sure, you can meet people outside of grad school, but it can be very hard to find people just like you in this huge world. College brings all of these people together and almost makes it easy to find them.
  3. You will obtain a master’s or PhD at the end of it. These degrees last you the rest of your life and can open up doors that you never knew existed. This is a huge perk to grad school.
  4. You get to work on some really exiting projects. If you do a thesis based grad degree, you may get to work on some cool scientific studies. FOr me, I get to play with water, lead pipes, and some super concentrated acids. I also get to work on projects that can help make people’s lives better. That makes all the work I do extremely satisfying.
  5. You can go on trips to present your work. Conferences are a huge part of grad school. You might go to one, you might go to 50. Each one is unique and you get to meet some really cool people from around the country or even the world. I have only gone to one, but I learned some cool things about similar research and got to talk with other PhDs about their experiences. I made some friends too.
Side view of frustrated bearded African American businessman in formal wear sitting on street near building in city after workday

Some other things to Consider for Graduate School

Unfortunately, there are some other things that you need to consider first before going off. I list those here:

  1. How much it costs. I don’t know about your schools, but UF is 1.5x undergrad tuition. It’s expensive to go to grad school. Luckily I have a tuition stipend so it’s paid for, but master students pay out of pocket, mostly. If you are an international student, you are paying much more.
  2. You may be very far away from friends and family. I am fortunate enough to only be about 2 hours away from my family, but I am about 6 hours from my girlfriend. This is always extremely hard to deal with. Some people move half way across country from grad school and spend months or years away from loved ones.
  3. You might get addicted to coffee. This is a real concern for some people lol. If you do find yourself in this position, check out my blog post on coffee. You’ll need it (link here).
  4. You’re mental health will be put to the test. If you have mental health problems already, grad school may cause those to be worse. It is extremely stressful in 1000 different ways and will stretch your mental health to the limit. If you don’t have mental health problems, you might get some unfortunately. Read up on if before applying. Here is a great place to start.
  5. You might hate it. Grad school can often be an acquired taste. Sometimes you get a terrible adviser or your project just doesn’t go anywhere. These happen but you are taking a risk by going to grad school. And, you probably won’t go anywhere if you don’t take risks.
grad school

In the end

Do you want to go to graduate school? Do you feel like it will help make your life better than it is now? Have you considered everything that is on this blog? If you say yes to all of these, I say apply somewhere today. Graduate school has been such an amazing, scary, frustrating, exhilarating, and fulfilling experience for me and for many of my colleagues. Would I do it again? That’s a hard no, but would I say it was worth it, oh yeahhhhhhh. I have about 6 months left in my program before funding runs out and I am forced out. I honestly love what I do and thinking about what comes next is scary. But life isn’t worth living unless you conquer those things that scare you.

If you are thinking about graduate school, and have questions, send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I’ll try my best to help you out. Also, check out my other blogs on my website. Until next time, peace!

Making Each Day an Adventure

So, as many of you already know, I bought a razor scooter. I blogged about it a few weeks ago and you can read about that here. I wanted to share with you quite an awesome experience that really made me appreciate life.

Yesterday, I decided to go for a very long ride and try and see Paynes Prairie before it got too dark. The weather was extremely gloomy which kind of made the whole experience that much cooler. The ride from my apartment to the spot I wanted to go was about 4 miles, so not a bad distance, but still a distance. Getting there was easy because it is mostly down hill. I barely did any work.

The journey

It took me about 30 minutes to get where I wanted to go, but it was totally worth it. Something about the weather yesterday really made it one of those moments where you just feel at peace. I honestly have a hard time describing the feelin, but it was a good one. If you have never gone through the forest during the days when it’s gloomy and drippy, I highly suggest trying it. Make sure to listen to music that fits the mood as well.

Ouch

Unfortunately, I hurt myself when I got to the destination. I forgot that the friction coefficient of wood drops fairly low when wet. In other words, I slipped. The scooter’s brakes don’t work well when you are going fast and slippery wood is hard to brake on. I did catch myself, but man does my arm hurt. Totally worth it though because I got some memorable videos and pictures.

This is after I fell. You can see how wet the dock was

I posted most of the journey on my snapchat. Unfortunately, my phone is being a jerk and not allowing me to share those here. When I got there, I didn’t see anyone. As I walked on the dock, there was one person off in the distance. The overall setting made it pretty creepy so I stayed away from them. Didn’t want to get murdered lol.

It was such a cool experience to be in nature in this weather. The ride home was all uphill and wasn’t as pleasant as the ride there. Plus, the wind was in my face.

I suggest trying it

The whole experience was pretty much like a meditation for me. I focused mainly on my kicking, and whenever a thought came into my head, I acknowledged it then went back to thinking about pushing my scooter. The exercise also reduced my anxiety and feelings of depression that I had. I highly suggest trying something like this ever once in a while.

I just wanted to spend some time today sharing a cool experience that might be beneficial to you to try if you are feeling a bit anxious or down. Getting into nature is quite helpful and there’s scientific evidence that it helps mental health. Here’s a link to a paper about it (here).

I hope you all have a great weekend, I am spending mine in my office, but it’s alright. I want to get some work done.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Winter Weather and Lack of Motivation

I’m starting to think that I write way too much about having a lack of motivation. Honestly, this is such a common occurrence in my life that I can’t help but talk about it. I am quite sure that this is a common problem that all grad students face and it’s about to get a lot harder in the next coming weeks. See, it’s the end of the semester which means a couple of things 1) Thanksgiving break 2) Finals and 3) graduation (if you’re lucky) or winter break. What do all of these things have in common? They all bring a lack of motivation to do work for class. Heck, you’ve probably already calculated the bare minimum score for your final to pass and plan on aiming to get there.

Gloomy weather

Another reason why the end is so difficult is because of the weather. We have some crazy weather events that occur in winter, down in the swamp. We get pretty decent cold fronts that cause for extremely gloomy weather. today is one of those days, you know, the type of day where you binge watch Harry Potter and drink coffee in bed. Yeah, this is that type of day. Below is the current weather radar. Looks like today and tomorrow will be pretty unproductive.

Image preview

For those that are finding it hard to get work done, I get you. I really do. Honestly, you’re motivation to get anything done is going to dwindle pretty quickly. This is normal and everyone, even those working full time, are going to experience it. Just keep on keeping on and be kind to yourself. Doing any work on days like today is an accomplishment that deserves a Harry potter binge watching marathon.

Some motivation

If you are truly unmotivated to do anything, I suggest checking out my blog on how to get motivation and create it yourself (link here). This is probably a good time to hone those skills before the end of the semester hits you. For me, and most PhD candidates, the end of the semester doesn’t mean too much. We usually don’t follow that schedule. For master’s students, this is a stressful time. Make sure to take care of yourself during these times. Also, take plenty of breaks. If you get burnt out during this time, there’s not much time to recover.

Winter is coming

Another thing that might show up during this time is some form of the winter blues. The weather, lack of sunlight, and stress of completing the semester could be a recipe for disaster. I am not sure if this is something that would work for you or not but I recently bought a light therapy lamp (this one). I know, I know, I live in Florida where it has more sun than the rest of the states. This is true but I leave my apartment relatively early and get some late. Also, my office doesn’t have windows so I need a bit f help. I have read great things about these. This might be something good to get to help you through these next few weeks.

I am going to leave you with a video on seasonal affective disorder by my favorite therapist, Emma McAdams. I’ll always send you guys her way. As always, I hope you have a wonderful day. It’s Friday, so do something fun after work or relax.

Panic in Grad School

This morning, I woke up around 4 am to a panic attack. These happen every once in a while, so I’m usually well prepared. Usually, what sets them off, are just random little things. Things such as not being able to go to the gym that day, or will I have enough money in 20 years to eat dinner. That last one was actually something that set off a panic attack. Anxiety is weird sometimes. Last night’s panic attack was set off by a significant worry that I have, writing my thesis.

How do I start?

I am not the type of person to procrastinate. They say that many PhD candidates wait until the last 3 months to write their thesis. I was looking into how I could start writing mine the first week of grad school lol. Procrastination gives me too much anxiety, which in this case is a good thing, and often makes me feel ever worse. So, instead of waiting for the last minute, I get it done or start tackling it right away.

Now my thesis is well underway, but I still have a few more chapters to write. Luckily for me, my papers that I submit for publication are my dissertation chapters. Many students not in a STEM field may have to write papers but their thesis is completely different. That is actually something that my friend is currently dealing with. Her dissertation is much different than the papers she is publishing. So she has a lot of writing to do if she wants to graduate next spring.

Is it so scary?

Woman in Gray Tank Top

I have read many horror stories about writing a thesis. Unfortunately, when you read very negative things about something, you start to look at it in a negative manner. This is how I am starting to look at my thesis, at least at a subconscious level. Waking up with a panic attack because of a writing assignment is nonsense, but it did happen. There are some things that I am going to try to reduce the chance of this happening again. Let me share with you what I am thinking of trying. Oooooo another list from Ben!!!

List of changes that I am going to try

  • Write at least 500 words a day. This is a good start and very easily done. Many of my blog posts are about that and that takes no time at all. As long as I don’t try and make everything perfect, I think I can hit this goal.
  • Every other day, format or rewrite sections of my dissertation. Eventually, I will have to proof read my thesis, so might as well do it along the way. After I write 500 words of course.
  • Take a break from writing ever once in a while. I do this with blogging. Writers block is such a terrible thing to experience whe you are close to a deadline. I don’t want to experience too much of this so I’ll take many breaks.
  • Be kind to myself when I don’t hit my goals. Writing a dissertation is hard. Doing the work is hard, but doable. By beating myself up, I am accomplishing nothing. I want to make this a good experience since it is really a major milestone in my life.
  • Waking up early to go to the gym so I can write at night. When I get home,I tend to make dinner, go to the gym, then watch tv or play with Sirius (I do both at the same time mostly). By switching gears and going to the gym in the morning, I can have the evenings to write, eat dinner, and hang with my favorite cat. I won’t have to worry about getting to the gym either. Also, my sleep schedule will be better.
  • Lastly, I am going to try and get to sleep much earlier than I have been. Mornings have been hard since I go to sleep so late now. Time to switch up my schedule a bit and start my days off early. I have a bad habit of staying up late that stems from undergrad. See, I was a partier so staying up was necessary. I gave that up long ago, but the habit stayed with me.

I think that these are some good changes that might set my anxious mind at ease. Graduating is my goal, but I have to conquer this herculean task. If you are trying to write your thesis, and you are having trouble or pretty anxious about it, maybe try some of these things that I am going to start doing. They might help. If you have any other tips for me to try, please leave them in the comments. The next few months might be stressful for me, but I know I can handle it. I hope you all have a wonderful day. Also, if you haven’t read my blog about what to do when stressed, I suggest taking a look. the link is here. Also, below is a really great presentation on writing your thesis. I suggest checking it out. It is very long.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Everyone Gets Nervous

I was going to write a different blog post today, but I think this is an important one to write today. I had a pretty big meeting today with everyone on my research project. They told us that it was “informal” yet everyone had pretty pre-rehearsed presentations and pretty well put together slides. I had to present my data that I have collected over the past year and present them to a bunch of pretty big named researchers. It was kind of nerve wracking, but I made it through, thanks to the skills I have written about (here).

Holy smokes

Anyway, I noticed something that really caught me off guard. My adviser was showing signs of nervousness. Now when I say this surprised me, I mean “holy cow! he actually gets nervous!?!?!?” My adviser has been a professor for 20 years and every presentation that I have seen him give, he’s very relaxed. So, see him somewhat nervous actually made me less nervous. I realized that give presentations to literally anyone can make you nervous.

Seeing this made me realize even more so that we are all human, and that is wonderful. Now, I want to specifically address grad students. Your adviser is human. They have gone through everything that you have ever and will ever do in your academic career. They still get super nervous during presentations and I guarantee they experience imposter syndrome. Nerve feel like you are alone when feeling this way. It is the process of becoming a scholar. Even the “giants” that we are supposed to be standing on have all been nervous or anxious.

Overall, it was a good day

Today was a good day, not because I got through my presentation without any questions, but because I learned something about people, specifically my adviser and the other researchers. We are all human and trying our best and that is something to be proud and grateful for. It was also a good day because I got orange chicken from panda express :).

I want to leave you with a YouTube video of ways to reduce nervousness/anxiety. As always, I hope you have a wonderful day!!

About Me

So, I have been blogging for a few months now and was just informed that I really don’t have an “About Me” page. That actually surprised me because it is one of the first things that you should do when creating a blog. So for today’s adventure, I will dive deep into my personal life and share with you stuff about me. Hopefully that sounds fun, if not, I suggest checking out my blog on things that make you happy (link here). That is way more fun.

Let’s See, Let’s See

So first off, I started this blog as a way to improve my writing skills while in grad school. The other main purpose of this was to help students and non students cope with anxiety. Yes, this is focused mainly on grad students, but remember that grad students are pretty much full time employees that get paid far below the poverty line.

I wanted to share my experiences with those that are just starting off in grad school. I constantly get asked questions from new students about the stresses that occur, so I know everyone has the same problems that I have had. The one year of therapy that I had really helped to find creative and effective ways to help, not just myself, but my colleagues. Grad school is hard and you can develop some pretty nasty mental health issues. This is why I wanted to create this blog, to help those that really need it.

About Me Now

So my name is Ben and I am a 3rd? 4th? 5th? year grad student. I’ve been in school so long that I don’t even think they consider me a student anymore lol. I am studying environmental engineering with a focus on water chemistry. My research primarily focuses on lead solubility in water. Think about Flint, Michigan. I am trying to understand more about the chemistry involved to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

I am an avid fisherman, which is weird that I haven’t really blogged about that. Hmm, maybe tomorrow. I love the outdoors and everything that comes with it. My main hobbies, other than fishing, are cooking (check out my recipe blog here), scootering (blog here), as well as wood carving (blog here). I am truly passionate about helping the planet and hopefully one day I will be a lead scientist on a project that helps solve one of the many problems we have.

Message Me or Comment

I love to hear (read) feedback about my blog, well, as long as it’s nice lol. If you would like to suggest a blog post for me to write or if you just want to say hello, comment below or you can reach me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. If you want to ask about grad school, please reach out to me. I have been here for a very long time and can most likely answer any question that you throw at me.

My Favorite Recipes

Few people actually know that I was on a culinary competition team in high school and we won quite a few competitions. I was actually awarded a scholarship to go to culinary school as well. As my long time readers know, I did not follow that path, and instead, went to UF for engineering and now I’m getting my doctorate. Crazy how things change so quickly.

Here I am at the ProStart cooking competition in Orlando

Anyway, I do enjoy cooking. Not as much as I used to, unfortunately, but I still enjoy it. I wanted to share my favorite recipes that I have come across in the many years I’ve been in the kitchen. As a grad student, one of the best things you can do is just experiment in the kitchen. Many of us rely on to-go orders and spend way too much on take out. Cooking is a great way of stress relief as well as a way to save a ton of money.

I figured this would be a good post since November is the start of gluttony season lol. You can try these recipes before your family comes over for the holidays. They are definitely crowd pleasers and it gives you a wonderful opportunity to hone your culinary skills. Plus, they are cheap and you can make a ton to eat throughout the week. So let’s get started.

Brown Pie on Brown Wooden Tray

Butter Chicken

So I am going to link to each recipe so this post isn’t 12 pages long. This recipe, I found on reddit one day while looking for Indian food recipes. This is the best butter chicken that I have ever eaten. People beg me for the recipe, which I share of course, but it’s that good. If you like Indian food, and don’t care about calories, you’ll love this recipe. Put it over rice and it becomes the perfect meal. Also, the butter chicken gets better as it sits in the fridge. The next day is way better than the first.

Here is the recipe

Free stock photo of bakery, baking, butter

Alton Brown’s Biscuits

I made this recipe one day while quarantining at my girlfriend’s dad’s house. Everyone loved it so much that we made it two more times afterwards. These are my all-time favorite biscuits and they are so easy to make. This is slightly biased because Alton Brown is my hero, but the biscuits are phenomenal.

Here is the recipe

Bowl of Meat

Orange Chicken

This one required a bit more time and effort (and some courage) to make. Orange chicken is sooooooooo good. I love Panda Express’ version of it but it honestly can be hit or miss with them. This recipe is 1000000Xs better than their orange chicken. I haven’t made this in a while because I am trying to get over a bit of a fear. In March, I had a pretty bad accident with cooking oil, so I am slowly trying to get back to being comfortable with it. But, if you are courageous and don’t mind deep frying, this recipe is for you. I highly suggest doubling the sauce and adding way more garlic and ginger. Other than that, this recipe is perfect. Once again, don’t count the calories!!! lol

Here is the recipe

Key Lime Pie

As a Floridian, there are two things you must love, or at least tolerate. 1) Alligators 2) Key Lime Pie. Key lime pie is one of my favorite desserts, mostly because lime is my favorite flavor. The keys have the best pies, since that’s where it originated. Publix have an amazing key lime pie as well. If you are down here, I suggest getting one of theirs. If you are in the Keys, check out Blonde Giraffe.

Here is a really easy and simple recipe for Key Lime Pie that I found on Reddit (It’s the first comment). Alsways remember that key lime pie uses graham cracker crust, not anything else. If the place has anything but graham cracker, leave. I mean it, just leave and go make you’re own.

Here is the recipe

Let Me Know Your Recipes

Do you have an awesome recipe that you are willing to share? If so, I am sure a ton of us would absolutely be floored by it. I am always on the lookout for recipes that are easy, delicious, cheap, and plentiful. I also like to cook for friends and show off a bit. Let me know of any cool recipes in the comments.

As always, I hope you guys have an awesome day and week. Also, for those asking about pictures from yesterday’s Viking wedding, Below is a picture of my girlfriend, Madison, and I. Madison made the fur things (not sure what they are called) herself.