5 Stages of Grad School

Today’s post might be a tad bit longer than usual. I have been doing some really interesting lab work and have been quite busy, so I am going to take a break for a bit and write a little. I am the person that does things in bursts. Unfortunately, this is extremely exhausting and tires me out really quickly. So, I am quite the “break taker” I suppose. During my breaks, I don’t really relax because I have to be constantly doing something that stimulates my brain. One thing that surprisingly helps is writing. Writing has been my go to for a while now, when I have down time or need to break.

So, this morning, I am going to do some writing before I have to get back to work. I am also trying to warm myself up for a task that I have been putting off for some time now lol. Anyway, todays wonderful and exciting topic is The 5 Stages of GRAD SCHOOL (oooooooooo). I actually thought about this topic on the way over to my office and I felt like I should write about it. I have gone through most of these stages and the last stage will be what I will face in the upcoming year. This is aimed more towards new grad students to kind of help them be ready for some very interesting stages in their academic tenure. So, let’s get right into it!

The 5 Stages of GRAD SCHOOL! (OOOOOOOOO)

Group of Friends Hanging Out

1) Classes and Pre Quals

This one of the stages of grad school is one of my all time favorites. See, classwork and getting to know the lab was such a fun and exciting time. Learning new materials, building up my familiarity with professors and colleagues, and being able to go home at a decent time was the bees knees. This one of the stages of grad school usually consists of the first 2 years. You are taking all of the course work required to finish the PhD requirements. You may have some work with your research, but it is mainly stuff to prepare you for after class work. This is the time to develop friendships and get to know the other’s in your program. It is also a great time to develop great habits that will make the rest of the time in grad school much easier.

Take full advantage of this time. Join a sports league, maybe join a club, or just do a bunch of things while you have the time and energy. The later stages can make it more difficult to do these things. Also, take the time to read up on anything and everything that there is about your research. You don’t need to be an expert at this time, but knowing a bit of information about the subject always gives you brownie points with your PI. I loved this phase of my time in grad school. The saying “you’re gonna miss it when it’s gone” truly applies to this. I miss the classwork and being surrounded by super motivated and intelligent individuals.

Person With Tattoo on Arm Holding Pen Writing on White Paper

2) Qualifying Exam Prep

So you’ve made it this far. You did not “masters out”. I have heard of many people getting funded for a PhD with the intent of just leaving after they get their master’s. I think this is why many professors bring on individuals that already have their master’s. That, and funding lol. Anyway, thisstage of grad school is one of the hardest, and frankly, the most stressful. Pre qualifying exam includes writing up a proposal, getting your committee to agree on a day for you to present it, and also reading more papers than you ever have in your life. The proposal write up is quite difficult because you have to come up with unique ideas on what to do research on. By this time, you have discussed with your adviser about what you will be doing, so the only thing to do is write it up.

Now the qualifying exam is a different story. It is a combination of a written test and and oral presentation. The written test can be over literally anything that your committee find fit for you to test on. The oral presentation is there to present your proposal as well as answer anymore questions that they have. My qualifying exam took over a month to complete and even longer to find out if i was a PhD Candidate. You can read more about it on my blogs about the qualifying exam, here and here.

Heck, some grad school programs are trying to get rid of them all together because they are almost like an academic hazing ritual. You will feel defeated afterwards and many people leave just because of it. It is a rough time, but it is do-able. Trust me, I’ve done it and so can you. Unfortunately, it leads into some of the hardest times, motivationally wise that is.

White and Tan English Bulldog Lying on Black Rug

3) Post Qual Slump

Welcome to year 3! Many people on the internet have warned me about this particular time in grad school. You are done with classes, you just finished your qualifying exam., and you are ready for research. Unfortunately, this is the hardest time to find any form of motivation. You will go weeks without accomplishing a single task. Burn out is a real thing and I’m quite sure that is what you deal with during this portion of your grad school experience. I know I felt sluggish, unmotivated, and do right lazy. This is normal and it will pass.

During your third year, you might get very little done because you are burnt out. Just remember to keep going. You will also ask yourself quite often “is this still worth it”? The answer to that question will always be yes. Do not get in the mindset where you think all of this work is for nothing. Remember, your PhD is an apprenticeship. You are supposed to go through all of this to become a competent scientist. Some things need work like lack help with mental health, though. (One of the reasons I started this blog). This year will pass very quickly and you will see motivation come back again. There is hope, I promise.

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4) The “Now What?”

Ah, this is where I am at currently. I am coming to the end of my research as well as the end of my PhD. Unfortunately, I haven’t gone full force into my writing yet, though that may come sooner than later. I am in the “now what?” phase. This phase is where you start thinking of the next step. What will I do with my degree? What types of careers are out there for me? This stage can be scary and quite confusing. You’ll scour the web, looking for jobs that require a PhD and realize that most are post docs. It can get discouraging, especially if you are like me and probably heading to industry after college.

This phase is exciting though. You are pretty much a the finish line and can almost call yourself, doctor. All of the years of studying, the late nights in the lab, the packages of ramen, all come down to this phase as well as the next. You are probably ABD (all but dissertation) at this point, so all you need to do is write. Unfortunately, you are too overwhelmed with figuring out what you want to do in life that you put off writing until your adviser starts asking for papers to read and correct. This is the time you hit the last stage of grad school.

Standing Woman Facing a Speeding Train

5) Fast and The Furious

This is it, the final hurdle between you and sweet, sweet freedom. Why do I say this is the fast and the furious? Well, because it’s going to go by fast and you’re going to be furious going through this lol. i have a friend who is currently going through the writing and editing phase now. She spends hours each day writing. I mean like 14+ hours writing. I haven’t seen her in weeks and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t stepped outside in weeks as well. Unfortunately, her thesis first draft has to be submitted in like 3 weeks so she’s going full force.

This stage in grad school is nuts. You might get some more experiments in, but you really should be finished. Writing can be awful and writing a 300 page explanation of your research is awful. This is also the stage where you will defend your thesis and graduate. It is exciting, goes by in a flash, and can cause you to break. At this point in your PhD, you just want to finish just for the sake of finishing. you really don’ care about the project anymore. You might have a ton of motivation with very little energy.

As I stated before, this is where you defend. I have been to a few defenses and they are all the same. If you passed the quals, you will pass the defense. No one that I know has ever failed the defense and I honestly think it is there for you to show off. Many people present their research in the “victory lap” manner. They are confident, have published papers, and know that they will be a doctor. I like those presentations because it takes away the stress. You did it, you made it this far, let’s have fun and learn about the years of research you did.

Final Thought

These are the 5 stages of grad school that you will likely face when doing a doctorate. Of course, all doctorates are different so these stages of grad school might be different than yours. Let me know in the comments if these are experiences that you had and if this blog post even makes sense lol. I think I have sufficiently warmed up my hand and now I am ready to do work. I will see you all in the next blog. Peace!

Time to Accept Uncertainty

One of the best lessons that I learned while in grad school was life is all about uncertainty. I laugh at people when they are just “so sure” of something. If you were so sure then you can make a ton of money being a fortune teller. Life is such a crazy ride and I love every minute of it, yes, even the bad moments. We are all given this crazy opportunity, that is life, so try and enjoy this ride. Anyway, I just wanted to share a few of the things in my life that came from the uncertainty. Things that I didn’t know would occur and things that are going to change my life in some way.

I am going to be an Uncle

One of the coolest things that no one was really expecting was my brother’s girlfriend to get pregnant, which means I am going to be an uncle. She is actually due today so my family is waiting to hear from my brother and her today sometime. I am super excited and so is my family. This is one of the cool things that I was just not expecting. I always thought that I would be like 40 before I became an uncle, but nope, it’s happening either today or tomorrow!

My graduation is later than expected

One thing that grad students always think is that they will finish their PhD on time. Hahahaha, this is definitely not the case for me. I was scheduled to finish up this semester, but my committee and Covid had other plans. Looking at some Reddit posts and forums online, I saw that this is fairly normal. These past years have been so uncertain with Covid happening that I actually thought at a point that I would not graduate. Fortunately for me, I will graduate this year, at some point, so at least that is a certainty? lol.

A fun one. I got summoned for jury duty

I was summoned for jury duty. This was something I wasn’t prepared for and I have to drive back to my parents for it. I do want to be part of a jury but getting summoned not, while finishing up my doctorate is not the ideal time, unfortunately. I was so certain that I would never have to do jury duty, man was I wrong.

Person in Gray Denim Jeans and Gray Low Top Sneakers

More Uncertainty

There are a few things that I just don’t know about and I am extremely excited for. These include where I will live after receiving my doctorate, what my career will be, and will I still keep in contact with friends I have now. These are all things that will be in my control but parts of those things may be out of my control as well. I will see in the next few months what is in store for me and my life.

Final Thoughts

I think embracing uncertainty of life and riding that roller coaster is such a fun experience. Being so sure about things can lead to great disappointment. You can never 100% know what will occur and when, so you might as well just enjoy the journey as it happens. One day you might be living in your home town, enjoying life, and the next day, you are travelling the world. Things like that can and do happen. I hope my life is adventurous and exciting like that, and you know what, it might be.

I have written about uncertainty in grad school before. In fact, I really think you should go check it out, if you haven’t already. It offers some ways of dealing with uncertainty. As always, thank you for spending the time to read my blog. I will see you all in the next one.

Days I Don’t Want To Write

If you read my blog, you have probably seen a few of these posts here and there. Let me link you to a few of them. (here, here, here). Dang, I do write a ton of blogs about lack of motivation and not working. Today, like those other days, is a very difficult day to get going. I find it amazing how motivated I am the day before, but that all disappears as soon as I arrive to my lab. Today, I had big plans on writing. Unfortunately, those plans might not happen the way that I want. Today is a day that I just don’t want to write. It’s a bit ironic that I am writing about not writing, though. I am hoping this gives me a bit of a boost. So, if you are like me, and don’t feel like writing today, check out some helpful advice on how to get started or not feel as bad.

Let’s Get Started

Close-up of Hand Holding Pencil over White Background

I think writing can be quite a struggle for people because they want to be perfect. When I first started, perfection was the key. I wasn’t going to give in some half down garbage to my professor. So, what I did, was set aside like a good 8 hours to just write perfection. You know what happened? I spend 30 minutes writing and the rest of the time anxious that what I had written was bad. That means that I got practically nothing on the paper. This can be bad, especially when you have a deadline.

So Key Tip #1: Write for imperfection

Woman Typing on Laptop

On the days that you find hard to write, just write a few sentences. One thing that I find a bit upsetting is looking back on the day and realizing that I may have done like 2 things and that was it. I usually have the whole day planned to get some work done, especially writing, and I may only get a few small things out of the way. This usually creates a ton of unwanted anxiety and I worry that I will fall behind. One way to not feel this way is to just designate a small amount of time to write. 30 minutes is all you need. You can write a bit, get closer to the goal of finishing a bit more, and you won’t feel so bad. Writing should be a marathon, not a sprint.

So Key Tip #2: Just write anything. 500 words! 200 words! a few sentences! Just write!

Lastly, on days that you just don’t feel like writing at all. Like, these are days that writing will be the same as pulling teeth. On those days, don’t write. Just don’t write at all. Instead, maybe plan out writing for the next day and do some things that you have been putting off. I know on days where I would rather do anything than write, I will clean or do data input. Maybe catch up on organizing things or plan out the whole semester. One day of not writing will not destroy your career or studies. Hopefully you don’t have a job where you have to write or you are fired. In that case, making a plan to write is the best.

Woman Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair Beside Coconut

So lastly, Key Tip #3:If you don’t want to write then don’t. Make sure to get something done that is beneficial. It will make you feel like you did quite a bit that day and you won’t have anxiety.

Final Thought

Today I am going to take advantage of #1 and #2. I have this blog to prepare me for writing a bit and that is what I am going to do. I want to feel like this day didn’t go to waste, even though I know it did not. There was a ton of stuff for me to do this morning but I do like to get a bit of writing in as well. For those of you that do write on a daily basis, what do you do to keep yourself going? Add some tips for those that just don’t feel like writing. Here are some tips from MasterClass on how to motivate yourself to write. Check it out.

How Do Grad Students Get to Class

There are many questions that you will probably ask when you start grad school. Where are my classes? Is my adviser going to me nice or mean? How much effort do I need to put in to receive a B? You know, the really important questions. One question that may come up is how do grad students even get to class? Many grad students have to live very far away from campus and commute somehow each day. There are a wide variety of methods to get to class that I want to go over today.

I want to share some of my favorite ways how grad students get to class or to campus as well as some of the more popular methods that people do. Some are extremely obvious while other’s might not be. Let’s take a look at the different ways that grad students get to campus.

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How grad students make it to class each day

how grad students get to class :bus

1) Bus

This is the most popular way in which grad students make it to campus. Most colleges provide this as a means of transportation and you pay for it in student fees. This is the easiest way to get to class on time because there are usually buses that come by each stop ever 10 to 15 minutes. you don’t have to wait long. I like this method if I live very far away and I am on a non-popular bus route. When you have a popular route, the buses usually fill up very quickly and there’s never room to sit. This might be the best method, especially if you live far away.

how grad students get to class :bike

2) Bike to Class

I love to bike. I have a road bike specifically for making it to my lab in time to do experiments or make it to meetings. I, however, hate riding my bike in a college town. Some people love this method of transportation because there is a ton of freedom and you will get to your destination probably quicker than a bus. I don’t like it because you have to weave in and out of traffic and college town drivers do not care about your safety. This method is great in places where a driver is more likely to pay attention. Not in a college town lol. Also, when you get on campus, you have to really watch where you are going because there are a million people that you can hit. If you are a good cyclist, I suggest this as a method to get to class quickly.

how grad students get to class :walk

3) Walk

This is my favorite method of getting to my office or class. Walking is great exercise and I also get to complete my walking challenge for the day. It is slow, however. I do have to leave my apartment about 30-40 minutes early just to make it on time. This can be a lot for some people. Also, if you live very far away, walking might not be the best way to get to school. I would suggest not walking and taking the bus if you live greater than 1.5 miles away from campus.

how grad students get to class :scooter

4) Scootering

I love this method of transportation. Recently, those pay-to-scoot scooters have shown up, basically out of no where. People are scootering everywhere and for relatively little money. I have a push scooter so the upfront cost was a lot but at least I am not paying like $0.80 per minute to use these. The motorized (electric) scooters do go very fast so making it to class on time is easy and efficient. These are a good alternative to bikes and you can pick one up to ride literally anywhere near campus. For a push scooter, they are just as fast and a great way to get some exercise in. Just make sure to wear a helmet when riding, especially in a college town.

how grad students get to class :scooter

5) Gas Scooters

You see these a ton on campus. They are fast, fun, and inexpensive to park on campus. They are also fairly fuel efficient and will get you where you need to go. Getting a parking permit for them is like half the price of a car so you can pull right up in front of your building. They have designated parking areas for them all over too. This is a good method if you live a bit further away from campus, but don’t want to drive or taking a bus. You also need to be extra careful because these are motorized vehicles and can be dangerous. If you are going to get one, make sure you are familiar with the area you’re going to drive and be extra precautious. I have seen quite a few accidents involving scooters.

how grad students get to class :car

6) Driving your car

This is lower on the list because I find this method to be a pain. Parking is impossible to find, you have to drive like 20 miles per hour everywhere, and the parking permits are expensive. This method might be the best, other than the bus, if you are in a place where it gets cold. Walking to class in the snow sounds awful and same with taking your bike or scooter. The bus is a good alternative and it’s included in your fees. Cars are good ways to get to campus if you live very far away. I have known people to commute 40 minutes each day via car. Their rent is much cheaper, but the commute is terrible.

how grad students get to class :skateboard

7) Skateboard or Longboard (electric and non electric)

I think this method of transportation is quite cool. I love skateboarding, though, I am terrible at it. Skateboards and longboards are fast and efficient ways to get to campus. The only bad thing is braking lol. I find longboards harder to slow down, especially when riding through campus. Skateboarders and long boarders do weave in an out of foot traffic, but I haven’t seen any accidents with them yet. If you are good at riding either one, this may be a fantastic way to get to campus.

how grad students get to class :uber

8) Uber or Lyft

Yes, people pay for rides to campus. Heck, I saw a girl get picked up off of the road then dropped off a mile across campus. It took them the same amount of time to get there as it took me to walk from the initially pickup to the drop off. I thought it was funny. People utilize uber to get across campus. I wish I had the financial capability to do this, but alas, I am poor. This is a great method to get to campus when you have night classes. Usually after a certain time, busses become few and far between so an Uber or Lyft driver can come get you and take you to your destination safely.

Finals Thoughts

Getting to class can be a chore, I know, I have been a student for the majority of my life. These are ways grad students get to class are the best and possible some of the only ways lol. I am curious, how did you get to class when you where in school? How many of you had to walk up-hill, in the snow. both ways? I know my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents did lol. I’ll tell my kids that one day as well.

As always, I hope you guys have an amazing day and week. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about my experience with therapy and why everyone needs it. Peace.

Goals For This Year

This blog may come a bit later than most that deal with this topic, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not an important one. Creating goals for the year is always a wonderful task, even if those goals slowly fizzle away. For this year, I am focusing mot of my energy on a few key goals. I am more of a process type of individual and focus primarily on the journey, rather than the destination. I believe it is important to get the small habits down than just focus primarily on the end goal. Having goals is important to me, but the process getting to those goals has always been my main focus. Anyway, I want to share some of the goals that I have for this year.

Before I get into it, I want to just let you guys know that this year will be a huge year for me, starting with this month. January has never really been a great month for me. I am an end-of-the-year type person and the beginning has always brought sadness and depression. This year will be different. In a few days, I will become an uncle to a baby boy. Most of you reading this will probably be reading after I become an uncle so I will have to update you all on how it goes. This is also the year I get my doctorate. I was pretty much told this is my last year so I will be leaving. So two very big things going on so far. I also turn the big 30! Hot dang, time flies. Well, you aren’t here to hear me rant so let’s get into my list!

Goals for This Year

Person Holding White Scroll

1) Graduate

This is the ultimate goal of this year. I am ABD (all but dissertation) and all I need to do is finish a few experiments and I am ready for the write up. Luckily, I have been writing a ton over the three years here so my dissertation is practically done. (not really but I am better off then a lot of other people.) I want to spend some time travelling when I finish so finding a job is not my main priority just yet. I want to get to the finish line before I start thinking about the celebration, you know?

Hot air ballons in the sky

2) Travel when we can

Travelling is life. I was not bitten by the travel bug, I was devoured by it lol. I miss being able to go someone brand new and try all of the different foods, meet some interesting people, and just submerse yourself in that culture. Hopefully we can get back to normal after Omicron and get back to travelling the world. This year, I plan on visiting another Asian country. I went to China when I graduated from undergrad and not I want to go to Thailand or somewhere near there. If you have been over that way, comment below and let me know the best place to go.

Blog Letters on Brown Wood

3) Build up my blog

The last time I looked, I think I am at like 160 blog posts or something crazy like that. I love it and blogging has significantly helped my writing, especially my dissertation. I love all of the support from my fans and friends and I especially love that I have developed a cool little hobby. Writing was not my forte when I was younger, but now I consider myself a writer. Thank you all for your support. I want to grow this blog even more and maybe turn it into a side hustle. Who knows, maybe blogging might become my career one day.

Man in Black Suit Sitting on Chair Beside Buildings

4) Figure out what I want to do for my next career

I said “my next career” for a reason. Life is uncertain and where I go next will probably not be where I am in 10 years. I may start off as a scientist and turn into an artist or something. I really don’t know. But for now, I want to figure out my next step. This is a daunting task for sure, but one I must make.

Unrecognizable couple wearing jeans standing carrying stacked carton boxes out of apartment during renovation on daytime

5) Move somewhere other than Florida

Life has a funny way of guiding you where you need to go. Florida has been my home for the past 20 years and I think it is telling me to move on. Things are changing so fast and the Florida that I grew up in is not the same now. Things change, and impermanence is inevitable, but it still makes me a bit sad. I think with the change, there will be new beginnings. Florida will always be my home but I do think it may be time to go somewhere else. California is calling me back, I know that. I may consider another country as well. I hear Germany is a pretty cool place to live.

Flat-lay Photography of Vegetable Salad on Plate

6) Develop better eating habits

Eating healthily in grad school has been tough. Pizza, pasta, ice cream, alfredo, ramen, literally anything is better than eating vegetables lol. I do want to transition into a better and healthier eating habit. The main problem in grad school is healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food. This is why it is so easy to get into that lifestyle of eating badly. Hopefully, I make a bit more money after college so I can eat better. For now, I am slowly trying to replace processed foods with fresh foods. I think I am on the right path.

Woman Reading A Book

7) Read at least one book all the way through

I am not a reader. In fact, I don’t really have the attention span to sit down and read. I do like listening to Audible books though. This year, I want to be able to read at least one book all the way through. I haven’t done this in ages and I truly think that reading more will benefit my wellbeing. It will keep me off social media, that’s for sure.

People Holding Their Phones

8) Delete one of my social media platforms

This is a big one for me. Eventually, I want to get to the point where social media is just completely out of my life. My mental health has significantly benefitted from my reduction of social media. I don’t really compare myself to people anymore and not being bombarded with negativity daily is refreshing. I think I will start with Twitter, then move to Instagram, and finally, Facebook. It will be a slow transition, but a welcomed one.

Woman Writing On A Whiteboard

9) Relearn Calculus

One of the funniest things that I find about grad school is how I have forgotten how to do math. It has been 10 years since I had a calculus course and I want to relearn it. I want to get more familiar with math again and be comfortable with doing it. Just basic math gives me anxiety now because I don’t do it often and I make a few mistakes here and there. I want to be a math guru again, so i am going to either take a class online or reteach myself. God help me.

Cluttered cramped workplace with typewriter papers

10) Get one more paper published

I was able to get my literature review published in a pretty good journal. If you are interested or just curious, here’s a link to the paper. There is a pay wall so you may only have access to the abstract. I am sorry about that. You can email me and I will send you a copy if you are truly curious. I believe I am able to do that. This year, I want to get one more paper published so I can have two, first author papers. That would be a heck of a dream lol.

Holding Hands

11) Have someone tell me that I have positively impacted their life

This has been one of my goals all throughout grad school and ever since I actually started caring about being a kind person. I want someone to let me know that my existence has positively impacted their life. I don’t need a million people to say this, just one and all of this that I do will be worth it. Aiming to be a good individual and do the right things, even if they are hard, is a main goal this year. I think the best thing in life is being able to benefit someone else’s life as well. So, this year, I want to get to that point where someone tells me this. It would make my whole year.

Final Thoughts

This year will have ups and downs, but I am ready. I am ready for everything that may come no matter what it is. I am also ready if this year does not turn out to be “my year”. This may happy and that is ok. I am just so excited that I get to spend another year with those I love, doing stuff that I am passionate about. I hope you guys have created a goals list that helps you this year. Hopefully you hit every goal or at least come very close to them.

Skills You Learn in Grad School

I think the most brought up portion of grad school, other than how hard it can be, is the topic of skillsets. you are going to learn a ton of new skills or just hone old skills that are a bit rusty. We know the types of skills that you will learn:

  1. research skills
  2. public speaking
  3. How to not spill concentrated acid on yourself
  4. How to conduct research
  5. What is considered “bad research”
  6. You’ll be an expert at Excel

These are just some of the major skills that you will learn along with 100 others. Today I want to talk about the weird and not-so-talked-about skills that you learn in grad school.

skills you learn in grad school

1) How to manage money without crying every night

This skill is learned very quickly. You are not really given a ton of money to work with and you somehow need to survive off of a salary that, in some cases, is below the poverty line. This skill is probably one of the best to learn because you are living at rock bottom, yet somehow thriving. Yes, simple living is not too exciting but this is a valuable skill to have because: 1) incase you get in a situation like this again, it will not shock you and you will know how to handle it and 2) you can help teach others how to live poor in case they are in that situation. Also, you will be a better person because you can sympathize with those that are struggling financially. You will probably be the first person to help them too since you know what it is like.

2 Women Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair

2) How to handle mental stress

Grad school is very difficult on your mental health. Heck, this whole blog is to help grad students cope with their feelings, handle their anxiety, and create a mindset that will allow for them to live a very happy and fulfilling life. At first, you may struggle. you may find anything and everything to help you cope. And, let me tell you something, you’ll find the help you need. You’ll practice mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. You’ll try meditation and maybe yoga. You will end your grad school tenure in a better mindset than you had going in. This is a skill that is self learned with a ton of practice, but it can be done. You have seen rock bottom and most definitely won’t ever again (hopefully).

3) How to help other’s, especially new grads.

I hope you had a mentor when you first started grad school. if not then you might have had a bit of a tough time getting used to everything going on. Towards the end of your schooling, you become the mentor. You will have the skillset to teach the younger generation on how to strive in grad school. It is actually quite flattering when you are told to mentor someone. It means that you are trustworthy to help others on their journey. Even if you aren’t told, you’ll have the feeling to go and help someone. Seeing others struggle is kind of hard, and helping them, even a little bit, is extremely satisfying. This is a skill that I think more people need to have.

4) How to stop caring what other’s think of you

As a researcher, you will have a ton of people trying their hardest to make you feel stupid. When you get an advanced degree, it’s almost like an open invitation for people to try and find something that they can fool you with or test your knowledge. They may even say some really nasty things about you or to you. People will judge you, criticize you, and flat out be mean or make fun of you. Those things will not even bother you once you are done. You have gone through one of the hardest pieces of judgement (peer review) and you survived. Nothing that people say or think even bothers you slightly. This is one of the coolest skills to have because you start living the life you want without caring what other’s think. In undergrad, heck even more so in high school, I cared what people thought of me. I cared so much that it caused a ton of pain and suffering for me. Now, I couldn’t care less what people thought of me. It’s liberating, honestly, and I love it.

5) You will be kinder

This is such an important skill to learn. Being kind to other’s will get you extremely far in life. The kind people are always the one’s you really admire and remember. Well, you also remember mean people, but mean people suck lol so being kind is the way to go. After being thrown into the fire, that is, academia, you tend to come out a bit more kind hearted. You have been through tough times and you don’t want other’s to suffer the way you did. Kindness is a skill that is learned. Sure you can show kindness, but it takes a long time to learn how to be a kind person. You have the time to learn while you are in grad school. I highly recommend acquiring this skill set.

Final Thoughts

These are a few skills that I truly believe grad students obtain during their years in school. These are much different than the other skills leaned such as self motivation, analytic skills, and balancing their life with work. These skills mentioned above are some that many people look passed and it is kind of sad. The above mentioned skills that you learn in grad school are some of the best you can have. Trust me.

If you went to grad school, let me know in the comments some of the skills that you learned. Maybe we can make this list even bigger! As always, thank you so much for reading my blog. You may have noticed that my posts are getting a bit longer. I am testing out writing longer posts, but fewer of them. Apparently, I still have to do PhD work and not just spend my time blogging, though blogging is more fun. I hope you guys have a great week and I will see you in the next one.

Your Plans Will Change. That’s Ok

Grad students, professions, and those starting their schooling! What did you want to be when you grew up? Think way back to childhood and pretend as if someone just asked you that question. Did you want to be a doctor? A firefighter? A chef? What was your passion at that age? Ok, now that you have done that exercise, I want to ask you, what do you want to be after college or what do you want to be in 10 years? Is it the same as when you were a child? Odds are that it’s not, but some people may surprise me, so let me know in the comments if you are the small percentage that became what you wanted to be.

Man on Motorcycle in the Middle of Road

My story

When I was young, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I was really good at sports as a kid and was set on being the next Derek Jeter. Once I reached about 6th grade, I started cooking and wanted to be a chef. I even was accepted into my high school’s culinary academy. The first two years in college, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Next thing I know, I’m studying hard to get into UF as an Environmental Engineer student. I graduated and became a civil engineer and now I am a biogeochemist. I have come a very long from where I started and that is totally fine. In fact, that shows that I have thought a lot about what I am truly passionate about and what makes me happy.

Pondering mature woman looking out window

Embrace the Uncertainty

It amazes me that people in undergrad knew exactly what they wanted to do in life. Heck, I even knew what I wanted to be. I chose environmental engineering and wanted to save the planet. I talk to a ton of undergrads and they have a 10 year plan locked down, even telling me what projects they want or will be working on, like they are so sure that will happen. The thing is, life is uncertain. (I have written about uncertainty in grad school. Check it out here). I know this for certain because I have experienced such a drastic change in who I am since I graduated with my bachelors in 2016. This is wonderful and I will tell you why.

A Man Having Coffee at a Table

Change

Changing what you want to do is growth. As you get older, you start to really hone in on things that you are truly passionate about and you will want to do those things. When you are young, you may not have the experience yet to know what careers are best. This is why it is Ok to change your plans as you go. I think the best thing to do is find your strengths and focus on those. Once you figure out your strength, you can easily adjust your career goals.

Starting Over is Ok

I have met so many people that have just started over after graduating with their bachelors. They have figured out what they want in life, or at least the next chapter of life. I find this so fascinating and inspiring. People often just give up and say that they “are too old” to start over. These individuals that are starting over realized what they want in life and don’t care how old they are. They just want to create the life that they have always wanted. I truly admire these individuals.

My brother was one of those individuals as well as my old boss. Both really took a look at what they were passionate about and decided to change up what they were doing to pursue those careers. That takes a lot of guts to do because you are giving up what you are comfortable with, stepping out of that comfort zone, and going into the unknown, practically blind. This is super scary to do but both are really thriving with their decisions.

Final Thought

Changing your mind about what you want to do in life and starting over is totally ok and actually very good to do. Life is short, yet long at the same time. What you are passionate about know may not be what you’re passionate about in the next 10 years or so. I tell people all of the time that are graduating that the next job they get is not the last job that they will get. You will change directions in life and that means that you are growing. You are trying to find your place in this universe, even if it’s only for a short amount of time. I highly encourage you to be open to all sorts of careers and know that you might start off loving a career path but that may change drastically one day. You may graduate with a doctorate in engineering but might be a charter boa captain in a few years. Who knows?

One day you might be the individual that is starting over in their life. You may want to start over entirely and become a doctor or lawyer, or own a waffle food truck (you know who you are lol). I think that’s awesome and you should go for it. The worst thing that can happen is you ask for your old job back which will give you even more time to think of your next career move. Life has a crazy way of working out. It may take a bit of time, but things will work in your favor. I hope you find your passion one day.

Lastly

I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next post. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about surrounding yourself with success (link here). I know you’ll find that to be a good read. Also, check out the rest of my blog at love-and-bean.com. I am trying to get more visitors to my blog and get more of a reach to grad students across the world. If you know someone in grad school, share this blog with them. I would love for them to read and comment with their stories and tips. Let’s build a community.

Surround Yourself With Success

I have met a ton of people in my life. I have made friendships and have ended friendships. And if you are anything like me, or like literally every other person, you have probably done the same. For me, I have gotten to a stage in my life where I am focusing on quality over quantity. As you get older, your friend group tends to shrink. You will have many acquaintances, but very little close friends. Of course, there are always exceptions, but for the most part, your friend group will shrink. This is why finding quality friends and being able to surround yourself with success is optimal, especially when pursuing an advanced degree.

Grad School

Grad school will introduce you to some brilliant individuals. You will meet a ton of like minded individuals as well as many people who may have differing views. Grad school is also a great time to surround yourself with people that will help with your success. The 2 to 8 years in grad school will fly by so quickly that you might not have too much time to prepare for what comes afterwards. This is why it is so important to start early by finding people that will help you along the journey and help you achieve your goals.

surround yourself with success

Surround Yourself With Successful People

If you want to achieve your goals, surround yourself with people that will help you along the way. These people will provide you will the support and care that you need. Grad school is hard. Being alone for most of the day and working on stuff that you know very little about is hard. This is why a really good support system is need to keep you going. I have gotten to the point where the people in my life are there for a reason. They are all really great friends to have with qualities that make them really stand out. I have friends that encourage my blog posts, friends that help keep me in shape, heck, I have friends that just talk fishing with me. Each one has changed me as an individual and made me a much better person.

It is important to surround yourself with people that will help you but it equally as important to help them. For example, many of my friends are grad students and have similar problems that I have. They trust me enough to come to me and talk through these problems. I provide a great service, even if it is just me listening. Just simple acts like this can benefit their life and make you an overall exceptional contribution to their lives.

successful people

Here are a few things that help you surround yourself with success:

1) Find individuals that have similar passions or goals.

This is great because then you can bounce off each other and achieve your goals together. One example for grad students is writing. Make friends with the people that also need to write. You can keep each other accountable, and next thing you know, you both have written your dissertation in a reasonable amount of time. This is a great example of surrounding yourself with success and also being that “successful person” that the other person needs in their life.

2) Just talk with people and see if they have something that benefits your life.

I do not mean just use them to benefit your own life, I mean find good qualities in their life that will help to benefit yours. They can just be a really positive person and that can give you the boost to see the good in life. The person may just love to cook or something and you love to cook. It gives you something to bond over and hone your skills together. Everyone can offer something. Of course many people have different things to offer such as being a partier or maybe they do illegal things. It might be wise to not surround yourself with people like them.

3) Put yourself out there and see who you attract.

This might be a good way of understanding the type of person people see you as. You may think you are a positive person 100% of the time and then attract a lot of negative people. It might actually be good to see this and maybe reevaluate your goals and the type of person you are. Put good out in the world and you will receive good.

4) Go to events that help you succeed.

You will meet a ton of people that want to be successful at events such as conventions, workshops, anything professional related, stuff like that. Of course you can meet a ton of these people elsewhere, but this is a location where it’s pretty dense with possibly like minded and beneficial friends. I go to grad events to meet other grads because I want to surround myself with similar individual. This helps my success. Going to bars, you may find these people but they are harder to find.

5) Lastly, understand that it takes time.

It may take you the whole 2 to 8 years of grad school to find the right people to surround yourself with. This is totally ok. It is not a race to see how many friends you have. It’s about finding quality and that takes time sometimes. I was fortunate to find very helpful and just plain fun individuals to spend my time with. Some people may take longer to find their niche, but it will happen.

Final Thoughts

Surround yourself with success! Everyone wants to grow as individuals and this is a sure-fire way to do just that. This blog post turned out to almost be an appreciation post to my friends. This is also an appreciation post to my audience as well. I have surrounded myself with writers and blogs, and dare I say it, friends. Those in my life and those on the internet have molded me into who I am today. Without everyone’s love, support, and guidance, I wouldn’t be as fortunate as I am today. Thank you all.

Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

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Being in the age of technology is both a blessing and a curse. I mean, think about all of the amazing thigs that you can do on the computer and on your phone! Like holy cow, you can literally do your banking, tweet at a celebrity, tell your vacuum where to go, and you can even tell a Tesla to pick you up from where you are. Like holy smokes! Unfortunately, technology also has introduced us to highlight reels of everyone through social media. No one, well I know a small few, will put up what they are really going through on social media. No, it’s always the best things that are happening in their lives.

It is cool to post stuff like that and I do want to see your trip to Thailand or Russia or anywhere. I really do. But I know that it’s going to make me a bit jealous. This is why it’s important to stay off social media for a bit, sometimes, just so you don’t that jealousy. Staying off social media sometimes also brings us to todays topic. It takes away a platform where you compare yourself to others.

Side view of joyful adult man and pregnant woman in casual clothes comparing bellies and making grimaces while having fun together against white background

Stop comparing yourself, please

I don’t want to go too much into detail why staying off social media or any platform where you are comparing yourself to other’s highlight reel is common. No, today, I want to encourage you to practice not comparing yourself to others in general. It is so easy these days to look down upon yourself and beat yourself up for not having a mansion or a cool car or a rich husband or wife. It is so easy to beat yourself up for mot being the smartest or the best looking. But know that everyone feels bad about something and get jealous when someone else has what they want.

In grad school, the first two or three years are filled with self doubt and comparison. In fact, those are major signs of imposter syndrome which I have written about here. Grad school is one big competition to see who is the smartest, produces the most papers, and graduates without mental health issues. I constantly look at my peers and wish I was as smart as them or productive as them, and you know what, they look at me the same way. I have been told multiple times by those I am envious of that they are envious of my work habits and intelligence. It always makes me feel weird to know that my own thoughts are betraying me. Who would have guessed lol?

I want to suggest a few ways in which you can stop comparing yourself to other’s, especially for those in grad school.

Person Holding Pineapple Fruit Near Pink Wall

Ways to stop comparing yourself to others

1) List out all of the things you are grateful for.

This is a great opportunity to really find out all of the things in your life that you are grateful for. Many people do not have what you have. Write down all of the things in your life that you have, love, a house, a car, the ability to go to the grocery store and get food, even just the fact you can talk to a complete stranger on the phone without having a panic attack. Write it all down and read it every day. You will start to notice that those things that other people have just don’t satisfy what you want in life anymore.

2) Understand that you are not the richest, smartest, best looking, or funniest person in the world and be happy with who you are.

Though you may want to be these things, understand that you aren’t all of these things and that’s ok. Be happy with who you are. Being happy with how you are now is probably the only thing that I wish I was good at. People go their whole lives not being happy with themselves because they aren’t like those people who have money or are smart. It honestly makes me sad because they will always be suffering until they figure out that being happy with who you are is the only way to break that cycle.

From below of crop multiethnic team of professional basketball players gathering and putting hands together while standing on playground before game

3) Focus on your strengths

Everyone is good/great at something. Focus on that! You may really stink at being a writer but you are a math wiz. Don’t spend all of your time being sad because you aren’t writing the next Harry Potter. No, use the gift that you are given to advance mathematics. Same with literally anything that you are good at. Use your skills and strengths to help benefit the world.

4) Celebrate other people! Don’t be upset with their highlights

Celebrating people’s achievements instead of wishing you were them is a great way to show kindness, love, and compassion to others . You have no clue what that person had to do in order to get to where they got. Celebrate them and stop wishing you had what they have. Be happy for their accomplishments.

Delighted friends having lunch in cafe

Final Thoughts

Comparing yourself to others will cause more pain in your life than you can ever imagine. It may cause anxiety, depression, worrying, body dysmorphia, and all types of mental health issues. Practice pinpointing strength in your life and being more grateful for what you have. Happiness is something that we all crave and I think you can get there if you just stop comparing yourself to others.

I hope you all find something to be grateful for today. Also, be kind. It is hard enough these days with Covid. We need to be nicer to each other and lift each other up instead of putting each other down. Also, stay off social media lol. I appreciate you all. Have a wonderful day.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. OnlineTherapy.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.

Why grad students hate undergrads

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Why do grad students hate undergrads? Do grad students even hate undergrads or do the undergrads just think this? So many questions but I do have answers, at least from my experience. Grad students do not hate undergrads at all. In fact, we are friends with quite a few of them. I know for a fact that ever grad student in my department has at least one or two friends that are in undergrad. So no, we do not hate them.

Group of Friends Hanging Out

What We Think About Them

We do, however, find most of them quite annoying lol. Undergrads are like the little brother who annoys you when you were in your teenage years. Grad school is a lot like that time to be honest. We are confused, angry all the time, we tend to eat a ton of food, and we complain literally about everything. So you can see that when someone like a little brother or sister comes up to you, you may find them annoying. This is the case with undergrads.

Generation Difference

Grad students also don’t really know how to interact sometimes with undergrads. There can be a whole generation difference between them. I am 10 years older than the freshman that showed up this year which is a huge difference. I have also been on campus for quite some time so it does get a bit annoying to see all of these young people walking really slowly in front of me, looking for their classes.

Men's White Button-up Dress Shirt

They are Alright, I Guess

We do not hate undergrads at all. I really enjoy when they are around, especially near my office because it really reminds me of the good times that I had when I was in their shoes. I love hearing about their classes and how hard the tests were. Those are the few things that I really miss about undergrad and I get to relive them through the kids walking in the hall.

Grad students reading this blog, please be kind to the undergrads because one of these days they will be in your shoes. Also, remember that you were there not so long ago. They are trying to learn the ways of college and grow. You went through the exact same thing and were the annoying little brother or sister to the grad students at one time. Be kind to them and support one or two while you’re in school still. Maybe become a mentor or heck, maybe even tutor them and make some money.

Final Thought

Grad students do not hate undergrads. We may find them a bit annoying but there is no hatred towards them. If you hate undergrads, please tell us why? I honestly don’t think you can really hate them at all since you were one of them probably not too long ago. I hope you guys have an awesome day and week. If you haven’t already read it, go check out my blog about feeling lost in grad school. It’s a pretty great read.

How Do Grad Students Afford Rent?

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Affordable housing seems to be going away quicker than the money in my bank account. I have noticed that a plethora of apartments have been going up around the campus, yet nothing that is in a reasonable price range. They are all “luxury apartments”. Grad students, though we would love to live there, really just can’t afford that. Most of the grad students actually pay about 40% of their paychecks to rent at UF. I think I am right at that as well, so not much left to save or spend on actually healthy food.

So, how do grad students afford rent? The simple answer is, they sacrifice something in order to pay rent. Many grad students will skip meals, skip seeing the doctor or dentist, skip eating out (which isn’t too bad), and also they will probably not have a car and stay in the town for the majority of their grad school experience. Sacrificing fun stuff as well as important things such as doctor visits is a major way to make sure rent is paid.

Stack of carton boxes of various shapes and sizes scattered in floor near white walls during relocation

Here is how grad students afford rent:

1) They take out more loans.

This should only be done if you really can’t afford housing. Try and find places that are more affordable to reduce spending and reduce your debt as well.

2)They take on other jobs.

This can some times be hard, especially for international students that can’t get other jobs outside of their academic duties. Having a side gig is great but don’t let it get in the way of why you are here, to get your degree.

3) They apply for scholarships.

Many universities have scholarships that you can apply for that will help pay for most things, rent being one of them. If your school doesn’t have this option then try looking for scholarships on sites like Scholarships.Com, Fastweb, ScholarshipOwl, Cappex, Niche, and Goingmerry.

Happy diverse couple using laptop while relocating into new apartment

4) Grad Students get roommates

This is an obvious answer yet can be slightly difficult. Many, and I mean many, of the apartments are pay by room now. There are still pay by apartment complexes but they are very far away from campus. The new things is pay by room which means that the apartment complex can charge more for the whole unit. It is nice because you don’t have to worry about getting a roommate but also quite frustrating when trying to pay. Get a roommate and find somewhere that is relatively cheap to split the cost.

Final Thoughts

Grad school can be extremely costly and housing is one of the biggest chunk of payment. It is hard to pay for rent sometimes, but if you are truly driven and passionate to finish your studies then you will find a way. Above are just a few ways that I found how grad students afford rent. I have done 3 out 4 of these in order to pay for rent and I know how difficult it is. If you are going to grad school, make sure you have a plan. Good luck!

Start Your Semester Off Right

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The beginning of the semester in grad school can bring a ton of different emotions.

1)Happiness, because you get to see friends again and grad school is just a fun time in general.

2)Sadness, because you are doing work again

3) Anxiety, because those deadlines that you have are approaching way faster than you want

4) And lastly, anger, because you ate too many cookies and now have to work out lol

Whatever the feel is, it is completely normal to feel at the beginning of the semester. Wednesday starts the beginning of the semester and I am a bit happy as well as sad. This starts my final year in my PhD, which also means, it is my final year as a student. I am happy because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am almost at the point where I can officially call myself Dr. Ben. But, there is a ton of sadness as well. Over the course of 23ish years, I have come to really enjoy being a student. It is ironic because I used to beg my mom not to take me to school when I wa younger because I hated it. My how things have changed.

I want to write this blog to give you encouragement and make this semester the best. We are starting a new semester with hesitation because of Covid (again) and it can cause a bit of anxiety. If you haven’t read it already, check out my blog about transitioning from zoom class to in person. I give great advice how to deal with covid times in college (link here). This is a great way to start this semester, by being ready.

Anyway, I want to give a few helpful tips on how to start this semester off right in grad school. Let’s get started.

Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

Beginning of the semester in grad school

1) Get yourself a planner and stick to it

I do this every year but you can get one for each semester. Get yourself a planner and write down all the important dates for that semester. Spend a few hours getting all of the important dates such as deadlines, exams, maybe assignments, and put them in a planner. It saves so much time and frustration later. trust me when I say that you will forget deadlines! If I don’t write something down, I will immediately forget it. This is why a planner is a great investment. The one I linked to in the subheading is only 10 dollars too so they are fairly cheap.

Woman in Pink Crew Neck T-shirt Holding White Smartphone

2) Create good habits such as waking up early, drinking more water, exercising regularly, etc.

I write about this is great detail. I will link to those blogs (here, here). The beginning of the semester is a great time to develop really good habits for later. The end of the semester gets super hectic and usually the beginning is not too bad. Therefore, the beginning of the semester is the perfect time to develop these habits because you have the time and energy. When you do establish these habits, you will find the rest of the semester will be a piece of cake.

3) Hang out with your friends as much as you can

Ask them how they are doing and how their break was. Go do fun activities and really just hang with them. The beginning of the semester can be extremely emotional because people are leaving the comfort of their families, they are coming back from vacation, or they have been alone for so long that they need someone there. These are all great reasons to go and hang with them. Whenever I come back from vacation or break, I always feel a tad bit lonely. Hanging with my friends usually helps a ton.

4) Practice mindfulness and make it a habit

I have this as a stand alone because I truly believe it shouldn’t be lumped in with just create good habits. This habit is especially important. A strange thing happens at the beginning of the semester, we tend to forget how awful the end of last semester is and how hard things tend to get. By practicing mindfulness (meditation, cognitive behavior therapy, journaling, etc), we can continue feeling like we do at the beginning of the semester, all throughout the semester. Mindfulness helps to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with school and you will notice how happy you are and at peace even when swamped with work. Mindful.org is a great site to check out even more mindfulness techniques. I specifically use this site.

Man in Beige Blazer Holding Tablet Computer

5) Get to know your professors

Find out everything you need to know about the professors you have this semester. Go to their office hours as well and make sure they know who you are. This will help you a ton because the professor will see you in class, know who you are, and this might just get you a higher grade. Trust me when I say this works. I have gotten to know my professors and have seen then bump my grade up almost a letter grade because I showed up to class and they knew who I was. Plus, I do see them outside of class which made getting letter of recommendation way easier. There are a million reasons why getting to know your professor is great, but I thing grades and letters of recommendation are at the top lol.

6) GO TO CLASS!!!!

I am ending it with a good one. Go to class! Research has shown that going to class will lead to better grades. Yes, you need to pass to get your master’s or doctorate. Plus, you may learn something while there! So start the beginning of the semester in grad school by going to class and finish the semester by going to class lol.

Final Thoughts

The beginning of the semester is super exciting. I always love when people come back all refreshed and ready to go. This semester will be like the last with covid taking out people left and right, but hopefully it won’t be too bad. For those starting this week or next, good luck with the start of the semester! You will be just fine. As always, thank you for reading my blog and also, please go check out my blog about how to enjoy life and grad school. (link here).