Dealing with Office/Lab Mates

If you are in a grad program, more than likely you are going to be getting an office somewhere close to your adviser. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my office is on another floor than mine. This is good because I don’t have to look like I am working all of the time but can also be bad because I never know when he’s around or when he will suddenly pop up. I have to be on my “A” game most of the time.

office

Unfortunately for grad students, the dream of having your own space, where you can have plants, maybe a TV, and possibly add your own couch, is not a reality, yet. You will be with other students. Some of these will be other PhD students, while other’s could be Master’s or even undergrad students. If you are fortunate, you won’t get too many other people.

Having office mates is good and bad. One advantage to them is having someone to talk to. Being in the office and lab all day can get quite lonely. Talking to someone that does the same thing as you really helps. In fact, this is exactly how I’ve made friends. It’s a total win. Also, another advantage to having someone in the office is that they may bring snacks and treats. This is especially true if you tell them when your birthday is!

office mates

The bad things about having someone share an office are actually not too bad. You will have to figure out how to have Zoom meetings with them in the room. You may also have to find a way of reheating the fish you brought for lunch without causing them to run out of the building. One disadvantage that I found was not being able to use the other desks to work on side projects. I used to have my office to myself, which was good and bad. But, I would have multiple different projects going on at once on almost all of the desks. It was nice being able to jump around from desk to desk. I can’t anymore.

These advantages and disadvantages occur in the lab as well. Having someone in the lab with you is nice because you can talk to someone while your experiments are running. This makes lab work a heck of a lot more enjoyable, if your experiments are boring of course. It can also be a pain to have to share bench space with someone else. One of my labs has like 3 different groups using it at one time. Luckily, I don’t work in that lab that often because having that many people in there at once would be a nightmare.

One surprising disadvantage to having someone else in the lab, especially an older grad student is the pressure of doing everything right. Sometimes I feel like I don’t pipette right or sometimes I feel like I don’t allow my glassware to soak in an acid bath long enough. I don’t want to be told what to do by someone else or be told that I am doing everything wrong. I understand that it’s helpful to get criticism, it is just anxiety inducing at some times. Other than that, having a lab mate really isn’t that bad.

If you are working in a lab currently, do you enjoy having others around? What about having office mates? Let me know, in the comments, how you are able to cope with having people in your space. I hope you guys have a wonderful day. Also, if you haven’t checked out my blog about sharing your lab and office with a ghost, then I highly suggest reading about that lol. (link here). It is spooky season!

**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.

Make Sure Your Friends Are Ok

I spend a great amount of time alone. That is just how academia works to be honest. Finding friends has been a bit of a tricky situation since starting for this fact. Luckily, through some persistence, and dumb luck, I have found quite a few friends to share my time with. These individuals are also graduate students, so we are all in this chaotic boat called the doctorate program.

Everyone complains in my department about the exact same things, long hours, impossible workloads, sometimes weeks of no work (weird but it comes up), etc. It’s quite normal to have one of my friends come to me, complaining how badly they want to leave. They feel lonely, imposter syndrome is kicking their butts, or something is happening with their adviser. This is why it is so important to be kind to others in your program.

Grad school is easy. Doing the work is easy. Thinking about the workload and the dissertation and also thinking about all of the alone time and isolation, that’s the hardest part. I believe this is a major contribution to why people are very unhappy in grad school. They have shown that they can do the work, but they get caught up in their own heads, thinking about other things that come with grad school. This is just one hypothesis that I have, but that’s for a different day.

Two Women Sitting Near Trees

Your friends need help too. In fact, if you are in a mentally healthy position in grad school, please help your friends with coping mechanisms. I have started to do just this, not only to my friends in academia but also those working full time, in the real world. Make sure your friends are doing well. They are such a valued part of your life, and if they are hurting, you probably will as well.

Make sure to check in with your friends often. Also, check in with the other students in your department as well. You don’t even have to say much. A simple “good morning” or “what’s up?” is enough. When people around me say stuff like that, it always makes me feel better. You’re friends will probably be the same way.

fight

Everyone is fighting some form of fight. We all have demons, but that doesn’t mean we all have to suffer. Grad school can be a terrible place for people if they don’t have the right support. Why not become that support? But, like most things, be warned. You may be taking on quite a bit if you try and get your friends to open up to you more. They might be having a very rough time and need you there. Remember, be like a dust pan. Take up all of their “trash” but make sure to dump it in a trash can. Do not hold onto their problems or you will get burnt out. Learn to let go. Check out my blog on other mindfulness techniques that you can use too (link here).

If you could do me a favor today, please check in with your friends this week. Make sure things are ok, and if not, offer some support. I guarantee it will be well worth it. I want to leave you all with a YouTube video about mindfulness and kindfulness. Check it out below. See you all in the next blog.

**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.

How the Heck Do You Make Friends in Grad School, or, Well, in General?

“How the heck does everyone around me have a million friends?” I see it all of the time in school. Literally pods of students all together, seemingly having a great time with their friends. In undergrad, I wanted that so much. In grad school, I just want to be able to talk with a few people, not a whole group. But how are these people making so many friends? That I cannot answer, but I can give tips on how to make really great friends, something I will cherish way more than having a bunch of people that you aren’t that close with.

It has taken me about three years to establish a really good friends group. It mostly consists of max five people, but they are all people that I genuinely like and know on a deeper level. Grad school can be extremely tough to make friends. If you are a PhD candidate, like me, it can me almost impossible since you will spend a great amount of time alone. But with a little persistence and some courage, I guarantee that you will find friends.

  1. Join a club or sports league

Clubs are super easy to join and frankly you don’t have to put that much effort into it. If you join a club that really falls in line with your interest, you will find friends. People just like you, with similar interests will be there and you’ll get to know each one of them pretty well. sports leagues/intermural leagues are also a great way to make friends. I am currently on a kickball team with people that are my age, drinking, and having fun. We go to get drinks after games each week and they have even invited me to parties.

2. Get a part-time job

This is a bit tricky in grad school because your adviser may say it breaches contract or you may not graduate on time. Luckily for me, my adviser doesn’t care unless it’s between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm. As I have stated, I am a personal trainer so my hours of work are later. Jobs are great because you will spend a ton of time with people, mostly students in a college town, but also some older people too. Some of my closest friends that I have are from a job I had in undergrad.

3. Meetup.com

I don’t have a lot of experience using this but I know people that swear by it. This one takes a bit of courage because you may be meeting a ton of people for the first time and that can cause a great amount of anxiety. Heck, my anxiety is the reason I don’t use this. Meetup does a great job of bringing people with similar interests together, and honestly, that’s what you want in friends.

4. Blog

Blogging can introduce you to so many people in the world. I have just started but I can definitely see how I can make a ton of friends with what I am doing. The interactions that I have with people are just truly amazing and I think this is a fantastic way to make friends.

5. Having a roommate

This one may require some luck if you have roommate matching. If not, and you can pick your roommate, then this is way easier to make a friend. I have friends all over the world that used to live with me that I call friends. By being forced to live with someone, you see how they actually are, all the time. You develop a deeper relationship with the person and that can be a good or bad thing lol. I have had some amazing roommates that are close friends. But be warned…friends might not always make good roommates!!!

Anyway, this was a short list of ways that I have been successful at making friends. It’s hard, but with a bit of work and luck, you can have amazing relationships with people. Let me know how you make friends or if you want too be my friend!