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).

My Cat Won’t Let Me Work

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Today is going to be a slower day of work! Thank goodness for the holiday season because nothing gets done and that is totally fine. There are a few things that I need to do, but for the most part, I am going to relax, blog, maybe make some Pinterest pins, and go workout. I am currently working from home right now so I have extra company, my cat Sirius, but my cat won’t let me work. If you have read any of my blog, you know that he is a main component of my life. To give some background, my roommate was fostering him (I pretty much took over that job) and I fell in love with him and his brother. They were both the cutest kittens ever and I wanted them both but knew taking care of a cat was a huge responsibility. Luckily Sirius’ brother was adopted which made getting a cat way easier. I adopted him right away after seeing how unhappy he was at the adoption events at PetSmart.

Assorted Color Kittens

Benefits of my cat

Anyway, Sirius has been a huge part of my life and my mental health and overall an amazing addition to my life. It is always great to come home and hear him meow really loudly because I am back. Definitely a wonderful cat, but he won’t let me work lol! I think all cat owners know of this problem. In times of remote working, our pets are really the ones benefiting from this. They are getting more attention than ever. For me, however, I spend most of my days in my office or my lab. This leave Sirius alone to roam the apartment.

Grey Kitten On Floor

I understand

I understand that he wants attention. It’s hilarious because he’s super shy unless I am on my computer, then he is right up in my face, hitting all of the keys and scratching at my monitor. It definitely makes it hard getting work done, but you know what, that’s good! It can be annoying when they walk into the camera view while you’re on a zoom call, but that’s hilarious. Sirius made an appearance on my qualifying presentation and it made one of my committee members laugh. It was hilarious.

Yes, I won’t get things done in an extremely quick manner, but that’s fine. I am enjoying my cat’s company, he’s having a good time, and we are bonding. It is well worth it.

Photo of Orange Tabby Cat With Red Handkerchief

Get them toys

But if you are having a hard time getting work done because of your cat, might I suggest investing in more cat toys! That has helped me a lot. When I was doing my qualifying exam and working from home for 2 weeks straight, I got Sirius a few toys to keep him busy. Luckily for cat owners, cat’s usually sleep during the day. Sirius was asleep for a decent amount of time but when he was up, he was playing with toys and not bothering me. If you are having trouble with your cat walking all over you ever second, I suggest getting them a few toys. This one specifically is Sirius’ favorite. I think it’s because of the catnip lol. I wrote about the different cat toys that you can get them here. Go check it out if you want ideas.

Final Thoughts

I know this was a bit of a random blog post, but sometimes you just need to write something random. Cat owners know that struggle of trying to work from home and having your cat just flop on you keyboard without warning. It’s cute and annoying but I am happy my cat does it. Plus, he keeps me from doing work which is always good and I enjoy life more. If you have a cat, let me know about them. If you have written about them, link to a blog post about them so we can all check it out.

Habits in Grad School This Year

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Today is December 29th, 2021. We have 2 more days of 2021 and we will be on to a brand new year, hopefully way better than the previous ones. First off, congratulations o getting through another year of Covid. We still have a ways to go but I truly hope that we are at the end of it. If you are getting ready to start grad school in the spring, I welcome you to one of the most exciting chapters of your life. If you are continuing with grad school, still, welcome! I hope you find this blog very helpful. Today I want to talk about a few habits that will be good to pick up this upcoming year and years to follow. I have written about the habits of highly successful grad students (here). I highly encourage you to read those if you are in grad school. Personally, I am going to try and solidify these into my life so things are a bit easier for me. This is my final 2-3 semesters of grad school, so finishing strong is a must.

Habits in grad school are extremely hard to create as well as break. Some really easy habits that grad students may make are sleeping in, not exercising, eating cheap food, blogging instead of writing their dissertation….(me). There are of course really good habits in grad school that you will naturally acquire such as using planners to remember things, taking public transportation instead of driving, and my favorite habit of all, coffee drinking (lol). You will create all types of habits and you may even try and break quite a few. The habits on this list are some that I feel will help me get through my last year and hopefully help you as well. So let’s talk about some habits in grad school that will make 2022 and on the best years of your life.

List of Habits in Grad School

Black and white from below background of Relaxation Deadline and Money titles on gray wall

1) Take more breaks.

Have a trigger that causes you to take breaks, especially in very stressful times. When you are on a time crunch, taking breaks seems like it;s counter intuitive. You want to get the work done and don’t have time to relax. Don’t listen to your brain. Make sure to take a break every 45 minutes or so. You will be able to stay more energetic to finish the job. Trust me, I started taking breaks after about 30 minutes of work and my productivity increased a ton. Here is an article about the benefits of taking breaks. Check it out here.

2) Drink More Water

I am going to drink a lot more water. One thing, you need water to survive (duh). “Research has demonstrated that lack of water to the brain can impair short-term memory function and the recall of long-term memory, as well as cause a variety of symptoms such as brain fog, exhaustion, headaches, sleep issues, stress, anger, and depression. Amongst its many health benefits, water helps with digestion and circulation, as well as helps with the transportation and absorption of nutrients, and helps to limit changes in body temperature in a warm or a cold environment. Drinking water can improve one’s brain health by simply increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain – which, in turn, improves concentration and cognition (supporting memory function) and helps balance moods and emotions, reducing stress and headaches.”-Women’s Brain Health Initiative. My blog is all about ways to help stay focused, motivated, and of course, reduce mental health issues.

Drinking water can help solve or at least help to resolve those problems. Also, drinking water when you first wake up helps you wake up faster. You are probably pretty dehydrated when you wake up, so grab a glass of cold water to rehydrate yourself and get a bit more energy.

Crop ethnic female psychotherapist in formal clothes writing notes in clipboard while listening to black male patient complains in light studio

3) Complain Less

Do you find yourself complaining about a ton of stuff? I know I complain more than I wish, and I am trying to create a habit of thinking of positive things instead of the negative. Grad school can be full of negative things, but I guarantee there are far more positive things to think about. It really isn’t all that bad, but our brain can focus on the negatives so much that it seems that bad. One way to create this habit is to write down things that you are grateful for each day. Focus on what things you were grateful for during that specific day as well. Also, tell yourself a few good things that happened that day, even if they were very small. At first, you may struggle to find good things, but naturally, you’ll start to find it easier to see everything good that happened. Trust me, it works if you try.

Brown Wooden Table With Chairs

4) Take Lunches Outside

I have developed this nasty habit of eating lunch at my desk. Every day, I make my lunch, plop down in front of my computer and eat while watching YouTube videos. I truly believe that separating yourself from your work or just your computer during lunch will make your life a bit better. One thing that happens is you eat slower and recognize how much food you actually have eaten. The key word here is mindfulness lol. I have a bad habit of eating quickly and watching videos at my desk doesn’t help. Also, I think just removing yourself completely from your desk is good for your mental health. I’ll have to research that and provide some manuscripts for you guys to read.

5) Writing at Least 500 Words a Day

I want to emphasize how important this habit is in grad school. I have been in grad school for 5 years now and the best thing that you can do is write every single day. This is such an important skill to acquire. I have even written quite a lot about it. (link here). This is a habit that I am close to making part of me. This blog helps a ton and I have found that days just aren’t really complete unless I write something. It has also made the thesis writing portion of my doctorate a piece of cake. Writing has been extremely beneficial and I am glad I started really focusing on it the past year. This will be on the top of my list for this upcoming year.

Final Thought

I know these are only 5 habits but I think these are definitely the most important ones that you need to pick up this upcoming year. Seriously, do it lol. What habits are you hoping or GOING to gain in the upcoming year or what habits do you thing need to be added to this list? Please let me know in the comments. I would greatly appreciate it! As always, thank you so much for reading my blog. I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to actually have people read what I write! You guys and gals make writing fun and enjoyable. I am truly appreciative of you all.

Make Your Own Adventure

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Life is one crazy ride. Think about it. You literally wake up on a planet, hurling through the universe at extremum speeds. You wake up to sunshine, water, animals, television, and literally an infinite amount of other crazy things that have yet to be discovered. On top of that, you are able to interact with everything and actually manipulate your surroundings. That’s some really crazy stuff right here if you sit down to think about it. Life, itself, is a gift that we often take full advantage of, and that is pretty sad. Many people wake up and just think that all there is is work, sadness, hopelessness, and depression. I feel so much for these individuals because life is way more than that. It is the opportunity to explore the world, to express yourself, to learn, and most importantly, to love. It is an opportunity to make life one big adventure.

My life adventure

Recently, I was able to explore all four of those mentioned above. I went on an amazing journey back to California, which you can read about here. My girlfriend and I decided to make our own adventure and do some fun activities while in Cali. These included visiting my hometown, getting lost in Los Angeles, hanging out at as many piers along the coast as possible, and lastly, surviving the harsh conditions of DEATH VALLEY! Today, I wanted to share with you some of the pictures from the trip. The trip itself was not as planned out as most people would like, and I think that’s why it was so fun. We pretty much just winged it and created our own adventure.

Death Valley

So, if you have never been to Death Valley, or have even heard of it, it is the hottest, driest, and lowest place in North America. The temperatures in the summer get up to like 120 degrees Fahrenheit. From a quick google search, I can see the highest ever air temperature recording came from there at a whopping 134 degrees! Holy Cow! Well, we went in the winter which was way better since the high for the day was 55 degrees. That part may have been planned out by us lol. But pretty much, Death Valley is just one giant desert with a ton of different areas that you can visit. It is not just one big plain heat sink. No! There are sand dunes, salt marsh area things, hills that have 20 different colors, mines that were used for borax extraction, and a whole bunch of other places to see. It was so cool!

Picture Time!

I would like to share some of the pictures with you. My camera really didn’t capture the true majesty of the area. When I say breath taking, I mean it!

It’s funny because the pictures really make it look like it was extremely hot that day when in fact I was freezing. Anything below 65 degrees is super cold to me so I was especially cold when the temperature in the morning was 45 degrees. Yes, I know, it’s not that cold. But it is when you have lived in Florida for most of your life lol.

Final Thought

Making life an adventure really makes living so much more enjoyable. Living for the moments is a great was to live and I highly encourage you to make life your greatest adventure. I have become a much better person because I have realized that life is more than a career. It is so much more than working each day for 2 weeks of vacation time. So, I encourage you to try something new, go places you’ve never been, and write the next chapter of your life. That’s what I am doing. Also, if you are thinking about heading to Death Valley any time soon, check out this blog about going (link here). It has all you need to prepare yourself for some amazing adventures.

How to Enjoy Life and Grad School

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How to enjoy life and grad school? Sounds like a pretty difficult concept to write about lol. I have been thinking alot about my life and where it is going next. I have also come to the conclusion that I do indeed enjoy grad school and I am starting to enjoy my life as well. It took a very long time, but I think I have found a few ways to get the most out of the cards I am given in life. My enjoyment does not come from the goals or the money I will make. Heck it doesn’t necessarily come from any materialistic thing. No, it comes from a mindset that has taken me a couple years to finally get to. I want to share some of the ways that help me find enjoyment even when things are bad.

So, like all my really amazing posts before this one, I would like to do a list of the things in my life that have helped to make the past 4.5 years pretty good. I think these things are definitely excellent ways to increase your happiness and overall mental state while in grad school. See, grad school is a pretty long, mostly boring, journey that we must take to do research in academia. You will go through many emotions, especially towards the end f it where you are questioning your time and effort into doing grad school. First off, it’s worth it. Getting an advanced degree is totally worth every penny but you many not see that now. So lets get into some ways to enjoy your life and grad school.

Motivational Quotes

1) Whatever you do, do not compare yourself to others, especially those not in grad school.

This is huge because you will have friends that will advance very quickly at work and make a ton of money. You will be stuck in this limbo state where you are making little advances and even less money. Do not compare yourself to their achievements, instead, congratulate them and be happy for them. You may be very jealous of their advances but they may be extremely jealous of your achievements and how you decided to get an advanced degree. I have met countless individuals that have told me that what I do makes them slightly jealous even though they make tons of money and have really fancy things. The grass is greener where you water it for sure.

Person Walking Between Green Forest Trees

2) Get outside as much as possible, especially when it’s sunny.

My office does not have windows. In fact, it wasn’t even an office originally, but a storage fridge for chemicals. That means that I could spend a whole day there and not even see the sun or another person. You can see why it’s imperative that I focus on my mental health, because if I don’t, I will be in a bad situation. One of the best things that I do, daily, is walk to campus. For 1 hour a day, I am outside and doing some light exercise. I truly think this has helped me enjoy things more. During the walk, I get to experience a ton of really cool things that I wouldn’t if I rode the bus such as the cool breeze of the morning, the sounds, the smells, and most important, the peace. Getting outside and enjoying the free things in life have made my 4.5 years way more enjoyable.

Full body of flexible barefoot couple in activewear sitting on mats in Lotus pose with closed eyes while practicing yoga together

3) Meditation

Yeah, I know, I have written about this countless times. But, it’s something that has helped me significantly. My head, like many others, is a bee hive of thoughts and useless information. It is almost impossible for me to remember anything unless I have a way to calm my brain and extract that info. Meditation has allowed for that to happen. I also suffer from anxiety, which has caused a ton of hardships throughout these years. Meditation has been a key component in reducing those feelings and actually giving me the confidence to overcome the residual anxious feelings that I have towards things. You cannot enjoy life if you are in constant fear of things and worry about things that will or will not happen. Spoiler alert* The things you worry about happening will probably never happen, ever. If you want to learn how to meditate or want to read more about how meditation has helped me, here are a few links to my blog posts (how to meditate here, everything else here).

Relaxed black woman watching laptop near dog on bed

4) Get a pet or a ton of plants

Taking care of a pet or plants can be a bit difficult but sooooooo worth it. When you are in grad school, you spend a ton of time alone unfortunately so coming home to a pet that is super happy to see you makes your day so much better. Plants are great if you don’t have the time or resources to take care of a pet. Just the act of keeping something alive can really help your mental state as well. Also, plants just make you happy. I love having plants in my apartment because they really make everything look pretty. I also love the whole “nature” look that comes with having them. Here’s an article on how plants make you happy. I think a nice combination of both plants and animals has helped a ton.

Men's White Button-up Dress Shirt

5) Surround yourself with good people

One of the hardest things to do is to end a relationship with someone because they are toxic or really don’t bring happiness to your life. I have been here. Having to let someone go out of your life is hard but it has made, at least my life, better. If you have to let someone go because of toxicity, then it is totally justified. Once that is over, surround yourself with non toxic individuals. I have surrounded myself with very uplifting and supportive individuals and I truly believe that has helped me enjoy my life as well as grad school more. You will meet all types of people in grad school so you can almost pick and choose who you want to bring into your weird little world. If you are just starting, try and make friends with supportive individuals and you will see that grad school is not nearly as bad as what you have read on reddit.

Final thoughts

Most importantly, have fun while in school and, well, life. You get one chance to make this the best experience ever so being miserable shouldn’t even be an option. What I have shared today has helped get me out of some really tough mental states. I am such a different person than what I was a few years ago. You can definitely have an amazing life adventure if you take the time to truly enjoy the simple things. Happy Saturday everyone. I will see you in the next post.

Check in During the Holidays

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Happy Holidays everyone! Today, my family is celebrating Christmas together and we are starting with a large breakfast, followed by presents (of course)! My girlfriend’s father has covid so I won’t be seeing them today. In fact, a few people I know have covid today and will not be see their families because of it. It is quite sad but it happens.

sadness during the holidays

Holidays are Hard

I want toe write a short blog emphasizing to check in with people that might be alone this holiday season. This doesn’t just mean friends or family, this includes those individuals that might be in your lab or building (if you are a grad student) who really don’t have a place to go. I know for a fact that like 80% of the grad students in my department are international students. Since flights are getting canceled and regulations are in place, they may not get to see their families this season. Heck, they may not have been back in years to see them. That makes this time especially hard for them.

If you are alone

Being alone is pretty difficult during this time. You tend to see everyone with their families, happy, and that just makes things worse. If you know someone who is alone this season, reach out to them. If you are alone this season, maybe reach out to the other people that are alone and have a get together or a party with everyone. Spread kindness and happiness because this unfortunately can e a very depressing time of the year.

I am fortunate enough to have many places to go this winter and I am beyond grateful for that but I do feel for those that don’t. I have reached out to a few people and they seem to be ok being alone but they did appreciate that someone was thinking of them. Even doing something like this is a huge deal. Feeling that someone cares can really help and I encourage you to do this. For those in grad school, you know how difficult it is being alone most days or weeks. You know the feeling of isolation so I encourage you to make sure others don’t feel this way. It is a season for joy, so let’s spread it (but let’s not spread covid).

Final Thoughts

I want to wish you a very happy holidays! We have been through so much and we need to realize that this year will be hard, but we don’t need to make it hard. Look for the honey”. Find the good in all of this madness and let’s spread that joy. We are better individuals and we will thrive but we need to help ourselves and others to get to that point. So, please, spread kindness and joy this season and check in with your friends. Also, call your mother please. Happy Holidays-Bean.

Visit the Past but Don’t Linger

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I want to apologize to you guys for not posting the past week. I went on vacation and didn’t really have the time to update everyone on my travels. There was a ton of stuff that I did on my trip and will have multiple posts about it. I also have a ton of really great pictures from my travels that I would like to share with all of you!

travels to california

Cali Trip and Travels

My girlfriend and I decided to take a very last minute (bought the tickets 2 days prior to leaving) trip to go to California. I am originally from Cali, but haven’t been back since I left 19 years ago, so I was a bit excited and somewhat nervous. The reason I was nervous was because I didn’t really know how I was going to emotionally take the trip. I mean, I am going back to where I was born and I had a ton of very great memories there. Because I am so adamant on doing things that scare me, I said ” let’s go!” It was worth it.

The Emotions of Going Back

There were definitely some crazy emotions when I visited my home town and the adjacent cities around Los Angeles. It was a crazy amount of memories that came flooding back and most of them were really good. Some sad, but that’s life, I suppose. Being back in Cali was amazing and I will definitely go back, but visiting my old stomping grounds will probably have to wait for a few more years. If I were to move to California, I’d definitely either go north Cali, or maybe San Diego ways, just to see something new.

Grad School

This brings us to the main subject, visiting the past but not lingering. See, I made a mistake in grad school and that was coming back to the school I did my undergrad in. After 2 years away from it, I was coming back to a school that held very difficult times as well and extremely joyous times. When you come back to something like that after many years, you will have a ton of memories pop back up. It is totally fine to think about them, but please do not get caught up in those memories. And please don’t compare your time in the past to your present time.

Many times I get caught up comparing how amazing my undergrad years were and how I wish I was still in undergrad. This mindset brings a ton of pain with it since you will be constantly living in the past. I understand that things change, and you probably don’t want that. Gainesville has changed so much that the town is almost unrecognizable. But accepting the change and embracing the change is how you get away from the pain of living in the past.

Cali Travels and Emotions

This is how I felt when I went back to Cali. I remember so much from childhood and it was great to see my hometown, but I tried to not fall in love with the past and get upset seeing that things have changed. I went back and visited the past, but I did not stay there. It was nice to relive some of the memories I had though such as baseball, going to restaurants, seeing the surfers, and seeing my old school.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I had an amazing trip down memory lane and I am happy that I visited. California is such an amazing state and I truly missed it. I also missed In-N-Out. Their milkshakes are amazing, if you’ve never gone. As I said, I have a ton to write about and will try and write tomorrow. The pictures that I got of Death Valley are awesome and I am excited to share those with you guys. And because I was talking about not lingering, I want to add a video of lingering lol.

Just Write for the Fun of It

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I sat down at my desk this morning, ready to write a very thought provoking article. I had caffeine, I made sure good music was on, and opened up my blog page. Nothing popped in my head. I usually spend the 1.5 mile walk to my office to think of things that I can blog about. Today was different. In fact, the only thing on my mind this morning was my very long drive down to Miami today. My girlfriend and I are going to California tomorrow morning, so I have to leave Gainesville after my experiments and drive to Miami. For some reason, flying from Miami is a decent amount cheaper than Orlando. Anyway, I do not have a crazy insightful post today, unfortunately. Todays post will be about how you should write for the fun of it.

writing for the fun of it

Just write for the fun of it

Today, I just want to talk about how writing doesn’t have to have a purpose. I feel like many people are turned off because they were forced to write poetry or essays in school. When you are forced to write, it takes the fun out of it. I started writing this blog as a helpful tool for grad students. I think it is helpful, maybe not, I don’t know, but I found that writing has turned into a bit of a hobby for me. Writing has become fun!

Why is it fun?

One reason that I think it has become fun is because of a small dopamine hit that I get each time I write a blog post. That comes in the form of likes or comments. So, I want to thank all of you for at least getting me started. After a while of doing this, the likes and comments didn’t really persuade me to blog, it was purely out of the love for writing. Blogging became extremely fun for me.

Just do it for the fun of it!

If you are someone who struggles with writing or English language in general (my English grades show I was baddddddd), then I think just taking up blogging our journaling as a pastime is an excellent way to get into writing. With journaling, you do not have to write for an audience. This is good if you really are struggling and just want to get a ton of practice in before going into the world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Blogging, on the other hand, introduces you to a world of writers that will help you acquire writing skills as you go. I jumped head first into this one and man have I learned a lot.

Final Thoughts

In the end, just have fun with it. Life is too short to really care what others think. People may tell you that your writing is terrible. I don’t see that person writing for an audience, though. Also, writing for the fun of it is just, well, FUN! You can just write gibberish, but as long as you are having fun, that’s all that matters. So for those that are starting their writing journey, go for it! Don’t aim for perfection, aim for having a fun time and learning as you go. People will love what you write and you will gain so much from it. I know that for a fact.

Imposter Syndrome in Grad School

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There are a few things in a grad students life that really affect them. The approval of their adviser,. finishing their research, having enough food to eat, and lastly, feeling like they belong and good enough, are all very really things that dig into a grad student’s soul. For the most part, we can handle these things, but sooner or later, we are more than likely going to have to tackle one of the hardest things in grad school, IMPOSTER SYNDROME!!!!

Hand Touching Glass

What is it?

So, imposter syndrome is the feeling of self doubt. You tend to feel that you are not good enough and that you do not belong. This feeling is heightened in grad school because you are surrounded by individuals from all over the globe, who went to really prestigious schools. On top of that, you may meet professors with curriculums vitaes the length of CVS receipts. No wonder there is a feeling of self doubt. Plus, it’s even worse the first couple of years because you are still comparing yourself to your peers. Please, please, please don’t do this.

Types of Imposter Syndrome

Superhero: So this person completely overworks themselves to try and show that they are not inadequate

Natural Genius: This individual sets extremely high goals and feels crushed if they do not meet them.

Expert: This one isn’t too bad. It’s an individual that is never satisfied with their level of understanding and are always trying to learn more.

Perfectionist: Self explanatory. This individual is not happy with their work and focuses on flaws instead of strengths.

Soloist: This individual works alone and never asks for help because of fear that others will say they are weak or incompetent.

If you have read any of my blog posts or literally just have gone to school and met grad students, you can see that grad school is definitely a place where all of these people exist. I have experienced every one of these the first year of grad school, heck, the first year of undergrad. I have also found out that professors experience these feelings just as much as grad students do.

imposter syndrome in grad school

Ways to Cope with Imposter Syndrome in Grad School

If you are just starting grad school and are afraid of imposter syndrome or if you are in grad school and dealing with it currently, there are a few ways to combat it. Let me share with you some ways that I have found extremely helpful to combat imposter syndrome in grad school.

1) Talk with others about your feelings.

This is a great way of letting other’s know that you truly care about your mental health and it opens the floor up to them telling you about their feelings. More than likely, your other classmates and lab mates are experiencing the same feelings you are. This is a great thing to talk to them about because you might help them feel less terrible too.

2) Talk with a therapist.

This helped me a ton. I used talkspace because it was covered in my insurance. My therapist helped me realize that my thoughts were not necessarily telling me the truth and I did belong in grad school. This boosted my confidence greatly. Talking to a therapist is the best thing I have done. You can read more about it in my blog (here).

3) Stop comparing yourself to others

This one might be hard to do and you have definitely heard it before. There is truth in it, though. As humans, we tend to only look at the highlights of other individuals. We also love to share our highlights too *cough cough Instagram*. Of course this would make us compare ourselves to others. I have heard countless times how someone thinks their life is bad because they aren’t on a crazy adventure somewhere or they are still in school while everyone else is at a job, making real money. It took me years to finally cut the habit of comparing my life to other’s. I had to to reduce my imposter syndrome. Everyone goes through struggles and everyone’s life is different.

You may meet some of the most successful and brightest people in academia, while in school. I guarantee their lives are not as amazing as you see it. They have also worked countless hours to get where they are. You will get to that point eventually, but it will take time. If you compare yourself to other people’s highlight reels, you’ll always feel inadequate.

4) Question your thoughts

This was covered in my blog about cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). I didn’t cover it in too much detail (potential blog post?). Anyway, one of the best things that I learned in therapy was to question my thoughts. When I start thinking that I am not good enough to be in grad school, I ask myself why I feel that way as well as is it justified. Am I actually a fraud or do I just feel like one at the moment? Does my adviser really think I am a terrible student or am I just frustrated right now and a bit overwhelmed? Question your feelings every time you have something come up that is negative. You will quickly realize that you mind likes to exaggerate things.

5) Aim for Done, Not Perfect

This was one of the single best pieces of advice that I ever got. I think it was from R3ciprocity, but I am not sure. Either way, go check out that channel on YouTube. It’s worth it. Anyway, go for done, not perfect. This is what I do with my writing. If you aim to be a perfect writer, you will never finish. Yes, you want to give your best, but do not obsess over one sentence or paragraph. In fact, just write out whatever pops in your head and just get it on paper. Then you can edit later.

This is the same with everything you do. Aim to get it complete and not perfect. First, you will get comfortable with the thought of not being perfect, and second, you will actually be moving in the right direction with your studies. You will develop skills along the way that wil hone your skills and perfection will naturally come. It may take a while, but it will happen.

6) Stay off Social Media

Social media, especially twitter, can be terrible when it comes to having imposter syndrome. One of the things that people tend to do when starting grad school is get a twitter and add every person with a PhD. This seems like a good idea until you spend hours reading about all of the amazing things that they have done and the projects that they have completed. Then you start comparing yourself to them. This can cause a ton of anxiety and feelings of self doubt. I am not saying to not follow these people, but just do it sparingly. If it is affecting your mental state, please, please, please just delete it. Your mental health is way more important than twitter.

imposter syndrome in grad school

Final Thoughts

Remember that you are not alone. You are an amazing individual that DOES deserve the recognition and praise for all you have done. Imposter syndrome does not have to affect you. you can combat it and thrive in a place where it is so common. I promise you, if you are experiencing imposter syndrome in grad school, it is only temporary and will go away. That is if you do something about it, and I know you will. If you have any questions about grad school imposter syndrome or just want to say hello, email me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I’d be happy to share more insight with you.

**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.

Some More Stuff on Imposter Syndrome in Grad School

I want to add some additional resources that you can use if you are experinecing imposter syndrome in grad school. Below are some links that I think are super helpful.

Headspace: Imposter Syndrome

Online Therapy

The Imposter Cure: Escape the mind-trap of imposter syndrome (link to book here)

Articles

What is Imposter Syndrome

Contextualizing the Impostor “Syndrome”

YouTube

Traveling While in Grad School

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COVID 19 will end one day and it will be ok to travel. I guarantee this. Until then, traveling in grad school right now may not be the best idea, especially if you are not vaccinated. If you are like me, you are feeling the travel bug, bad. Every year since I graduated undergrad has had at least one trip to another country or multiple countries, so I am ready to get back out there. I know for a fact that I am not alone. My girlfriend seems to spend more time on Skyscanner, looking for cheap flights everywhere than she does on work lately lol. I am pretty much the same way right now, so it’s ok.

Travelling in grad school can be quite the experience. First off, you are pretty much limited to travelling places you can afford currently. You might be able to buy that plane ticket to Australia, but I know for a fact you’ll be staying at a hostel lol. Don’t worry, hostels are extremely fun places to stay and you get to meet some amazing people there. I wanted to take this time this morning to share a few places that I thin are really great to visit in grad school. These are all places that I have personally been. I have only been to 7 other countries, and have a ton more to get to. But, I have been to some fairly cool places. So, grab your passport and let’s get into it.

Places to go: Traveling in Grad School

1) Canada-Anywhere

Canada is one of my all-time favorite countries. The people are extremely nice, the food is amazing (and cheap), and best of all, they speak English! I have been to Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City. Out of those four, Montreal is my favorite. If you are able to make a trip over the border, go for it. Each town that I spent time in had so much to do and it was really cheap. I mean, the flights from Orlando to Toronto are like $150 right now so it may be good to go there right now. Below is a picture of an alley way in Quebec City. If you like climbing stairs, I highly suggest visiting here lol

Quebec City

2)Ireland-Dublin

Dublin reminded me of Pennsylvania so much. I was fortunate enough to go during New Years and actually celebrate New Years Eve in The Brazen Head, which is the oldest pub in Ireland. So, that was cool. The town is super fun to explore and the people are some of the nicest. Hostels can be a bit expensive here though, so be ready for that. The flights are not too expensive to get there. I think honestly, travelling to Dublin is the cheapest to get over to Europe, so it’s a good place to travel. Also, you’ll love Ireland, especially if you love the color green. Everything there is green lol.

3) Luxemburg-Luxemburg City

If you have the chance, go to Luxemburg City. This is, by far, my favorite location that i have ever visited. It is a combination of Germany and France. I can’t really say that since I haven’t been to either of those countries, but my girlfriend has and said that it’s pretty much that. The city is straight out of a post card. Let me add one of the photos I took while there.

The city is surrounded by a giant wall as well. It was really cool to just walk around the city, take in all of the sites, and truly just be a peace there. I loved the food as well and loved the pastries especially. French pastries are the best. The hostel that we stayed at was extremely cheap and right down the street from where I took this picture. I highly suggest making a trip here. It is a good 1 to 2 day place to visit.

4) USA-New York City

If you want to experience some of the craziest people, the best food, and possibly see a celebrity walking there dog, New York is where to go. I have only been twice, but have experienced quite a few things in the like 5 or 6 days that I spent there. You may have to save a bit of money for a hotel or try and find a friend that lives up there to stay with but it is so worth it. Once you get there, just walk around the city. Take in all of the sites, sounds, and smells (the good smells hopefully). Grab some pizza and make sure to get a bunch of bagels. Please send me some bagels too.

Here is a picture of me in Times Square. This was also the face I had literally every where that I went in New York. If you are a grad student, put this at the top of your list on travel locations. Maybe apply for some conferences up there. Just make sure to bring back bagels for me. Seriously. In fact, if you want to send me bagels, I will personally give you my address to send them lol I love NY bagels.

5) China

I am going to end this list with what started my travels. China was the very first country that i travelled to and it was a gift to myself for graduating engineering school. My girlfriend was going to visit her sister there and asked if I wanted to join. I was hesitant course, but eventually agreed. If you want to feel truly alive, I suggest going to a place outside of your comfort zone, such as China, and immersing yourself in everything there is. This trip was by far, the best trip that I had ever been on. While there, we climbed the great wall of China.

We saw the Terra Cota soldiers

And, we were able to freeze our butt’s off at Shanghai Disney

I was there for a month prior to having to come back to start a new job :(. It was an amazing adventure that I hope to go on again some day. If you want to travel here, you will have to get a visa, so keep that in mind. It can take a very long time to get one too.

Why take a trip?

Grad school is all about growing as an individual and becoming a professional. Traveling in grad school is one of the best ways to grow as a person and get out of your comfort zone. It is also amazing to be able to explore places during your short time on earth. Take the time to just wonder and not worry about life’s problems. Go to places that few people have seen and go explore what life has to offer. The problem is getting started. So, I was completely fine with just doing my thing in the USA and maybe travelling as far as the Keys. Going to China made me realize just how much there is out there to explore. I mean, there’s sooooooo much to explore in this world and really not enough time to explore it all. When you are in grad school, you will have opportunities to go and explore these places. Yes, it will make you poor, but the experience is worth more than any amount of money. Trust me, it’s better to be poor and travel than save money and stay where you are.

Traveling in grad school, well just in general, is the best thing that I have ever done. I have become such a different person. There is so much in this world to explore and experience that it’s almost insulting not to go and experience it. I highly suggest taking a trip as soon as you can. Life is more than work, I promise you that. In fact, a trip somewhere else may make you leave that work life and possibly become a travelling blogger. How cool would that be? In the end, start small and branch out. Explore life because you only get this one chance to. I hope you all have a wonderful day and I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Let’s Bring Compassion Back

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When I make long drives, I tend to listen to quite a few things on YouTube. Music, scary stories, and my favorite, Buddhist talks from the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. I am not a Buddhist but I enjoy listening to the teachings of Buddhism. Many of my posts actually bring up the teachings that are part of the religion. Any way, I was listening to Ajahn Brahmali talk about compassion today and I felt like it was a good thing to bring up, especially this time of year. At the end of this post is the video I was listening to.

compassion

Everyone is suffering

Everyone is going through some form of suffering. Some have it a lot worse than others, but we are all going through battles that can be tough. For me, I am very fortunate to be able to go home to my family. Many people aren’t so lucky and will be spending the holidays by themselves. We need to show other’s compassion because life is very hard for everyone. You may look at someone and say, “They have everything. What suffering do they have?” Little do you know that that individual maybe suffering from depression or emotional trauma.

Be best

I know quite a few individuals that look like they have everything right in their lives, yet they feel anxious all of the time or are really hurting emotionally. This is why showing compassion for everyone is so essential. Think about it, the people that have really been hurt, or who have gone through a tough situation in their lives usually are some of the kindest people. They could totally be complete jerks and bitter, but they aren’t. They try and help other’s because they do not want anyone else to go through what they have gone through.

Be the good you want to see in the world

I personally try and help as many people as I possibly can to overcome the hardships of grad school. Yes, I have had it a bit rough here and there but not nearly as bad as other’s. I am very fortunate to have the experience that I have had but that does not make me not want to help other’s. Grad students, especially the older ones, really need to show some compassion for the younger ones. You have gone through a tough transition and helping other’s will make the department and the world a little bit better. Just because you had it bad doesn’t mean that the rest of the students should have it bad too.

The Holidays

For those celebrating the holidays, spread kindness and compassion. Listen to what people have to say and don’t try and one up them with your own problems. Give hugs when possible and show love. If someone is really having a hard time in life, offer them support. Send them a post card or text saying that you are thinking about them. Heck, just take them out to lunch one day and try and distract them from what they are going through. Literally one hour away from pain is worth the world.

Final Thoughts

I hope everyone has a wonderful Friday. I am heading to Orlando this weekend for birthday celebrations. Try and show some kindness and compassion this weekend. Call up a friend or talk to quiet person in your office. Bring in cookies for the office or, better yet, volunteer your time somewhere. Let’s make this crazy life a bit better. Thank you all for reading.

Grad School: Easy or Hard?

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I’ve written about whether or not I think grad school is hard. You can read that here, if you like. The overall answer to whether grad school is hard or not is “it depends”. For some people, this may be the easiest thing they have done. For other’s, not so much. It really depends on a ton of factors. For me, I find grad school pretty difficult, but not the hardest thing that I have done. Today, I want to do one of my new favorite things. Instead of a list, like usual, I am creating tables now! I think tables are way better anyway. So today will be about the easy and hard things about grad school.

Full body of young man in sneakers and jeans pushing and falling boxes saying Work Problems Anxiety Stress and Deadline while fighting with problems

I feel like it is a really good thing to know both ends, especially if you are about to start a grad program or you are just beginning. Things can get difficult really quickly if you are not prepared. This can actually be one of the more difficult things that you experience in grad school, but it can be better if you come prepared. Hopefully I hit a ton of topics on the difficult and easy things about a grad program. This list will be based on my observations of being in a grad program for 4.5 year. Holy cow, have I been a grad student that long?

Table 1.

The table is self explanatory. To the left will be all the things that I find easy about grad school and to the right will be all that I find difficult. I would love some input from my readers. What did you find easy and hard while you were in grad school. Heck, what do you find easy and difficult while you work full time? Let me know in the comments.

Easy Difficult
Classes. Hear me out. For some reason, the classes in my grad program are pretty easy. There is alot of work but I have a much higher GPA now than in undergrad. You will probably be the poorest you will ever be. This is very difficult especially if you have a spouse or a family that relies on you.
Making acquaintances. Friends are a bit different but you will have a ton of acquaintances. It’s good to even have these so you can talk to someone.Your mental health will be strained. I find balancing my sanity very difficult some days because of all the uncertainty that comes with grad school.
Waking up early. I feel that this has become way easier now since I don’t party at nightIt takes forever to finish. You may even go much longer due to unforeseen circumstances (*cough cough* COVID). It’s a long time and a longggg journey
Getting plenty of sleep. You can only work so long. Grad school is a marathon and you need plenty of rest.You may not make many friends and you may even lose quite a few.
Seeing family. This is easy for me, not so much with other’s. This will also be on the difficult side.Seeing family if you live far away from them. It’s actually really sad seeing some of the international students coming into the office during breaks because they can’t go home to their families. Also, why am I in the office during breaks with them???
Getting the help you need for your mental health. Many times colleges pay for therapy services such as talkspace.com or online-therapy.comWriting your thesis, and manuscripts, and presentation articles, and well just writing.
Getting help with your class work. It seems like professors give special care to grad students more than undergrads. They may treat you somewhat better in most cases and be nicer. Take advantage of thisSeeing your other friends or collages getting high paying jobs and “living their best lives”. I have friends making far more money and working much less than me. It’s hard to see this happening while I continue my pursuit of academic excellence.
Man Relaxing and Working on his Laptop

Overall

Grad school, especially a doctorate, can have very easy and very difficult moments. You need to understand that this journey will test you in a whole bunch of ways and you will come out a totally different individual. I know I have changed so much since I have started and I still have a ways to go. Grad school, essentially, is as hard or easy as you make it. You can make it extremely difficult by being just a bad student. Bad student’s aren’t teachable and they think they know everything. Don’t be this person. You can also make it easy by getting the help you need, creating good habits, and practicing mindfulness. Understand that this journey will not be the easiest but you will make the best of it.

Anyway, I hope you wonderful people have an awesome day. I am going to get ready for office work today. It’s getting close to winter break so things are slowing way down. Also, the undergrads are leaving which means the gym is finally not packed. I think I’ll get a workout in today, sometime.

Sick Days in Grad School

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Today, I feel pretty terrible. I did this to myself, though, and before you ask, it’s not Covid. I will explain. This whole week I have been dedicating myself to all that is fitness. I am trying to keep up with my walking challenge. Personal training at the stadiums is going on too. And, I have been getting on those early morning workouts, to top t all off. I have been extremely active, and today it is all catching up to me. That is just the source of pain. I feel king of sick because I received my Pfizer booster yesterday. The first two times were easy peasy. Apparently, third times the charm…So, I figured today I will write about feeling sick while in grad school.

Sick days

Oh no, I woke up sick

It probably won’t be like that, though. It will be more like “Ugh, I feel awful”. Waking up feeling sick in grad school can be the absolute worst. Probably the first thing you ask yourself is, ” is this Covid”. That might be the worst thing for grad students, particularly those with lab work, because you need to quarantine yourself. During this time of year, it can be a ton of different things that make you sick, so you might only feel lousy for a bit and then be fine. If it is Covid, and you don’t feel really lousy, it might be a good time to just binge watch every show that you can or get some writing done. See, there can be good things from these situations.

Woman with bracelet taking bath with foam

Treat Yourself

On days where you are feeling a bit sick, make sure to treat your body right. Drink plenty of fluids, try and eat decent foods, rest, and literally everything else the doctors tell you to do. The last thing you want is to feel even worse or have to go see a doctor. Treating yourself also means forgiving yourself for not being able to really do work that day. Getting sick is one of the worst things that can happen, especially if there is a deadline. It may also be a gift because your body is telling you to “stop”. Listen to your body. Work will always be there and you will never be or feel “caught up”. Take a day or two off. Treat yourself to easy activities such as watching Netflix, listening to audible books, heck, if you feel up to it, carve a wizard into a block of wood lol. Just make sure not to push yourself.

Photo Of Person Using Black Laptop

Let your adviser know

Sometimes, you may not see your adviser for months and then, all of a sudden, they pop up. I guarantee one of the days they pop up will be on the day that you feel sick. It’s a fact. Send them an email and let them know that you might not be in today or you may not do any work because you are feeling sick. They will understand. 99.9% of advisers will be happy that you stayed home. They need you to feel good so you can produce data for them, so taking a day off to recover is good. My adviser will send me emails to let me know when he’s sick. Most of the time it’s because I sent him papers to read or something he needs to look over. So, it’s totally fine to let them know you are sick. Your adviser is a person too, not some crazy boss.

Black and white from below background of Relaxation Deadline and Money titles on gray wall

Deadlines

If you get sick and there is a deadline, a hard deadline, then you need to email your adviser right away. If you feel a little under the weather then doing work won’t kill you. But, if you feel awful, you need to let them know that you cannot do work. There are very few deadlines that can’t be adjusted. If you are submitting a paper, those deadlines may not be able to change. For those deadlines, you may need to reach out for help from your adviser.

Deadlines that can be adjusted are good to have in this scenario. It’s easy, just push back the deadline a day or two. In the case of Covid, you may have to go longer. Unfortunately this may create some anxiety, but you have to just accept it. Life is uncertain and getting sick is one of those things that will happen but you don’t know when.

sick days in grad school

What to do then?

I feel like I could write a ton of information on this topic. I’ve had my fair share of sick days in my college career and probably so have you. Grad school sick days aren’t nearly as fun as when you were a kid. I loved sick days (not the feeling sick part) when I was a kid because I could watch The Price is Right as well as Jerry Springer (shhh, don’t tell my mom). I was able to hang out with my dog and eat ice cream all day. Man, those days were amazing. Also, my mom would bring home ginger ale and other snacks. It was nice having someone take care of me. You don’t really get that in grad school. Hopefully you have someone to help, but often times, you are on your own.

As I said before, take the day off! Don’t do anything related to your work because that may create some stress and your body cannot take anymore stress right now. Watch a ton of movies or shows. Heck, watch both. Hang out with your pets. I have my boy, Sirius, to watch over me and make sure I feel fine. Here are a few pics of him with his Slytherin and Gryffindor scarves on.

Also, being sick is a great way to catch up on some reading. I don’t mean for you to scour the literature, looking for research articles. No, read a fun, adventurous book that you haven’t read before. Lay down in a cozy chair or on your bed and spend a few hours reading. It’s easy and will make you feel better.

After your binge watching and book reading, make sure to take a nap. Sometimes, the best way to break a cold is to just sleep. Sleep is extremely beneficial and you’ll feel better afterwards. Take a hot shower prior to sleeping then nap for a few hours. Wake up and repeat the binge watching lol.

Final Thoughts

I hate feeling sick, but I know it will happen eventually. I try my best to eat right, exercise, and stay away from sick people, but sometimes you just get sick. If you are in grad school, you may get sick at a very inconvenient time such as a deadline or when about to go to a conference. This stuff happens and it’s part of life. Unfortunately, it’s not the best part of life. If you do happen to get sick, take a break and rest. Your body is telling you to slow down. Keep your health at the top of your most important things list. Research is important, but you can’t do it if you are sick all of the time.

Anyway, I hope you guys aren’t sick or feeling sick today, if you are, and want to do something, I suggest checking out my whole blog at love-and-bean.com. Go on there and give me some good advice on how to make it better. That would be amazing.

My Experience: Online Grad School

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Man Using Laptop on Table Against White Background

Before I decided that I wanted to go to grad school, I was a civil engineer. I take that back, I did consider grad school, but the thought of making money out of college was really appealing, so I went that direction. After a few months of work (yes only a few months), I decided that I wanted to do a master’s in engineering. I figured that getting a master’s would really allow me to stand out and possibly make more money. I did still want to work full time so the only option was to do an online master’s through UF’s EDGE program. Here’s my experience in online grad school.

EDGE Program

The EDGE program was a cool concept because the live lectures would be recorded and you could watch them on your own time. You would be fully remote, but you would still feel like you were part of the in person class. It also isn’t one of those “go at your own pace” type deals. No, you did the course on the same timeline as the in person class.

I took classes like this for about a year before I decided that I should just go back to school. There were other reasons why I decided to get a PhD and they mostly dealt with my overall satisfaction in life. I was not as fulfilled as I wanted to be and felt pretty stuck. Also, I needed something to get me out of my comfort zone. Going back to school was the only decision, honestly, and it turned out to be the absolute best decision.

Pros and Cons. My Favorite!

I wanted to give some pros and cons of doing an online grad degree. These are all from my experience and it may be completely different for you. I think online grad degrees are just as good as in person, but there are some differences that kind of threw me off. Without further ado, here is my pros and cons of doing an online graduate degree.

ProsCons
The degree shows up as a master’s degree on a diploma.You miss out on the in-person experience. Meaning, you don’t have hands on learning with the instructor. It can be frustrating.
It is convenient and you can do it after work or on the weekends.If you work full time, you will be giving up weekends and nights to catch up on work.
The exams are all take-home (obviously) so you don’t have too much stress from taking it in a room with others.Exams might still be timed so there is some pressure.
You can take one class or several classes at one time, depending on your schedule and time commitmentThis may delay the time it takes to get a master’s. Usually they are 30 credits, so like 10 classes.
It is cheaper to do an online course. Tuition is still the same, but you don’t have to pay additional amounts for housing and food and such. You will be working at the same time too, so you’ll have additional money. You miss out on the college life. It may seem like a good thing to not have to deal with that again, but something about being poor and only focusing on school is exciting and joyous. I don’t know, I’m weird like that lol
The work is the same difficulty and you are getting the same education as being in an actual class.The work is just as hard lol
You can email a professor whenever you like and they can help out.You have to schedule time to see them. This may mean scheduling a time at night to zoom meet with them. My advisor actually did this last night while I was in the lab. It was about 8:30 pm and he was talking to EDGE students since that was the only time they could meet.
You will get really good at using the computer, especially zoom.You will need to spend a great amount of time on a computer.
online grad school

Final Thoughts

I thought doing a master’s online was awesome. I was even able to come to in person classes and take exams and give presentations. It made me feel like I was back in school again and I had a wonderful time doing it. If you are considering applying for an online master’s, I highly suggest doing it. The acceptance rates are extremely high and you can even do your master’s at top schools in the nation. You get the same quality education as in person students get as well. Here is a list of the best online degrees of 2021 from US News. Check it out.

Fall Evenings

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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

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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

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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

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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 gifts for grad students in your life.

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

Gifts for rad students can be 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.

**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.

How to Be Happy in Grad School

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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!

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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 (my all time favorite brand).

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

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

Homesick While in Grad School

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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

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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.

Happy Halloween

Today is my absolute favorite holiday. Halloween is just such a cool holiday that has an amazing build up. The only other holiday that is more fun the month prior to it is Christmas. Thanksgiving doesn’t even come close.

Woman sitting holding pumpkin

Halloween is just so fun because of all of the decorations, parties, and candy. Lots and lots of candy. It is also an awesome day for my cat, Sirius, since he is a black cat.

Today, I am going to a wedding where we are allowed to dress up as Vikings. This will be my second themed wedding, which is pretty cool if you have never been to one. My girlfriend and I are going to dress formally but also have Viking stuff on as well. It should be a blast.

This blog is going to be very short because we have to get ready. I just wanted to tell you all Happy Halloween and I hope you and your kids get tons of candy! If you haven’t already, check out my blog about some interesting Halloween facts. (here and here).

Have a wonderful day, and I will see you all tomorrow!

Doing Grad School For the Money

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When I was in undergrad, I had quite a few friends that were all in the business college at UF. When we weren’t discussing what we were going to drink that night or what workout we were about to do, we were talking about how we are going to to make money and get rich. As an engineering student, I was constantly being bombarded with the comment that I am going to make money and be well off. These comments came from my professors mostly. So, for my entire undergrad, I was focused on getting a good job and making money. Isn’t that really the point of getting an education?

First Job

As I switched gears from undergrad to the “real world”, I realized that everything they told me was a lie, or at least not as truthful as I thought. I figured that my first job would be extremely lucrative and something I could see myself growing in. My first job out of college was an hourly engineering job, making $16 an hour. Not really what I was expecting, but, hey, it’s money right!! I spent 2 years at that job before coming for to school for my doctorate. I realized much later that that job was one of the most important lessons that I have learned in my life.

Because of my puny pay, I decided to get my master’s while working. I specifically strived for a master’s so I could get more money and that back fired. I was told my master’s wouldn’t help the company in any way, and basically getting it was a waste of money. It hurt to hear this, but it set in to motion the best decision I ever made.

Time for Change Sign With Led Light

The Change

The day that I was told that my master’s didn’t matter was the day I had my annual review. I was anticipating a pay increase, which I got, but it was also the same day I decided I needed change. My pay increase was $1.80 an hour more and I became a salaried employee. No more overtime for me. I loved working at that company because of the people. Engineers are just some of the coolest people and extremely friendly. That’s why making the decision to do my doctorate was so hard. It was scary, but doing things that are scary can help you get to a very magical place.

New Beginnings

Leaving the firm was a hard decision, and I did it mostly because I was chasing money. I took a big financial hit when I found out how much my stipend was, but I was going to be a millionaire after college, right? I realized very quickly that my choice to come to grad school was not because of money, but because I loved to learn things and I wanted to explore the unknown. It took me a whole 2 years to realize that what I do is not about the money, it’s about the journey that many people do not take. It’s about contributing to science and humanity. Money will come and go, but the lessons I have learned in the 3 years I’ve been here will stay with me forever. Those lessons are priceless.

It’s Ok

It is ok to come to grad school to get a pay increase. In fact, that’s the main reason why many people do their master’s. Doing your doctorate shouldn’t be for money though. You put yourself through this journey because you love the subject. This journey is hard. It is exhausting and it will wear you down to nothing, but you keep going. The money will come, don’t worry about that. Doing your doctorate will also not cause much of a pay increase compared to a master’s either. You do this because of the love of the subject.

I am doing my doctorate, now, because I love science. Also, I get to mess around with chemicals all day and get to explore the unknown. I love being able to teach other’s crazy difficult concepts. Getting to present your findings is also super fun as well. It’s not about the money, it’s about finding what you are passionate about. That will truly make you happy. As for the lesson I learned from my previous job, that one was super easy to realize. I learned that finding what I was passionate about was more rewarding than having a good paying job. Sure, money is great,but over the years I have learned that actually enjoying what I do is worth more than any paycheck I receive.

Do something because you love it. Life is too short to be miserable. I hope 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. 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.

Handling the Good Days

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Grad school is an extremely fun, stressful, confusing time of a young scholars life. You will experience such a fluctuation of emotions that you might think that you are going insane. It is completely normal and part of the process. Some days can be very hard. I have written about this specifically *here*. Go check it out if you haven’t already. Other days are going to be easy and quite enjoyable. Today, I want to address the days that are “good”.

My Morning

Today, I woke up to a torrential downpour that lasted like 2 hours. Lightning was everywhere, thunder was causing my apartment to shake, and everything was amazing. I love waking up to rain because it’s so peaceful and cozy weather. I’m not going to lie, getting out of bed was difficult, especially because Sirius was curled up next to me, sleeping. But it was a great way to wake up.

Bearded Man Holding Cup of Coffee

By the time I left my apartment, most of the rain had already cleared up. Rain storms in the fall/winter are amazing because you get a cool breeze afterwards and the smell of fall just takes over. That smell can really change your whole day. Walking to campus was very nice and I had a really refreshing and great tasting cup of coffee. Today was already off to a great start.

Be Grateful

One thing I like to do when I am having a good day is remember all of the things that make the day great. It is really hard to be grateful for things or at least think about that when you are having a really bad day. Since I was in a good mood, I thought of all the things that made me happy. Many of these are in my list of things that i am grateful for *here*. I’ll tell you that the rain was definitely something I was super grateful for.

Silhouette of Man Raising His Hands

Also, another thing I do on the good days is focus on the feelings that I have. I mainly focus on how I physically feel and my mental feelings. I really try and remember what that feels like so I can remember that on the days that aren’t so good. Some times, on bad days, remembering the feelings you had from good days can change your whole day around. Try it and see if it works for you.

One Last Thing

Lastly, on days that are good, I smile and make sure to spread some happiness to others. I try and do this on the bad days as well, though it is much more difficult to do then. When you are having a good morning, afternoon, or whole day, try and spread some joy and happiness to those that might be having a bad day. I find this makes your day a lot better and can completely change the other person’s day as well.

I hope everyone finds some happiness in their day as well as finds something they are grateful for. Remember, good days come and go, so take full advantage of them. I know I am. Have a great day and I will see you in the next one.

**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.

Interesting Halloween Facts

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Halloween is Sunday, so it’s a perfect time to blog about some cool facts that I have learned. Some of these I learned a long time ago in elementary school when learning useless facts like these was actual a thing. Now, in grad school, we have to learn about things that “matter”. I’m sorry, but knowing that the Bermuda Triangle exists and that a tomato is a fruit are pretty important, in my opinion. Anyway, Here is a list of some really interesting Halloween facts that you may or may not have known about.

1) Halloween developed out of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain

View of Dark Hallway

2) The National Confectioners Association estimates that around 35 million pounds (over 15,000 metric tons) of candy corn are sold annually.

3) According to candyindustry.com, Reese’s cups are Florida’s favorite Halloween candy. Check out your states favorite.

4) The holiday was not called All Hallows Eve until 1556.

5) In Walnut Creek, California, USA, you actually need a permit to wear a mask on Halloween. They created this law to try to prevent people from causing trouble.

A Family Wearing a Diy Cardboard Box Mask

6)According to an old Irish legend, the practice of carving produce for Halloween comes from a man named Stingy Jack who once invited the devil for a drink.

7)Halloween is the second-most commercial American holiday of the year.

8)Candy wasn’t given out to trick-or-treaters until the 1950s

9)Skittles are America’s favorite candy.

Colourful Candies

10) The fear of Halloween is called Samhainophobia.

11) The world’s longest walk through horror house is the Dragons House of Horror in Albuquerque, NM.

12)The most lit jack o’lanterns on display is 30,581

Jack-o'-lantern

13) Michael Myers’ mask is actually a William Shatner mask

I hope some of these facts were brand new to you. I know they were to me. Let me know in the comments other interesting Halloween facts that you know of. Also, if you haven’t already, check out my list of things that I am grateful for (link here). Have an awesome day everyone. Also, enjoy the funny video below.

How to Enjoy Busy Weekends

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weekends

This weekend was extremely busy for me. I was supposed to stay in Gainesville and do work, but that’s not fun and life is way too short. My brother bought tickets to Howl-o-Scream at Busch Gardens, so I spent Friday night there. Unfortunately, I had to work Friday night until 7:30, so I arrived at the park pretty late. Driving from Gainesville to Tampa then back is quite an experience lol. Also, walking through the park, alone, with scary creatures, is also an experience. I used this as an opportunity to do something that scared me.

Busy Saturday

I got home from Busch Gardens around 3 AM and went directly to sleep. Luckily, Sirius was not rambunctious and actually let me fall asleep. Saturday, I woke up late and made my way to Orlando to see my girlfriend and her family. I know “why didn’t you drive there on Friday?” Well, I don’t really have an answer to that lol. Saturday was pretty eventful and we ended the night at the Columbia restaurant in Celebration. 10/10, would highly recommend going there or to one of the other restaurants around the state.

Relaxing Sunday

Sunday was filled with movie watch and cookie baking. I was supposed to do a bit of work yesterday as well but I think making cookies is way more important. Driving home last night was quite fun and I did eventually end up working for a bit last night, before falling asleep fairly early.

It’s Hard but Fun

Grad school has really taught me to take full advantage of the free time that you have. I have experienced both full time work as well as grad school and my grad school studies definitely give much less free time. Grad school is filled with so many things that one “should” be doing and it is hard to turn off. Also, work hours are not really limited to 9 to 5 so you can spend way more time working on things than you realize.

Weekends are a great time to get in as much as you can but also designating time to rest. Friday night and Saturday were for activities and I designated Sunday as a day of rest. This has significantly helped my productivity today as well as decreased the amount of brain fog that I usually have on Mondays. It was also nice to get a bit of work done last night to fight the feeling of anxiety.

If you are doing grad school, you will be very used to having crazy packed schedules. This is not just limited to the week but also the weekend. It may take a bit to get used to but you will. You’ll even thrive off of getting a ton done in a short amount of time. Just make sure to take some time to rest as well. Some weekends will be crazy but some need to be chill. Check out my post about relaxing on the weekend (link here). When you aren’t busy with things, make time for yourself to recover. Your mind and body will thank you.

Cookies

Photo Of Stacked Cookies

Also, if you want a really great recipe for cookies, here’s one. My girlfriend and I made this recipe and the cookies came out amazing. I highly suggest trying it. Also, for more recipes, I suggest getting The Cookie Book (link here). There are some really great recipes in there.

Money Can Buy Some Happiness

So, I have an addiction. I am addicted to impulse shopping and the immediate gratification of buying anything and everything on Amazon. I have actually consulted with my therapist about this and I have worked to reduce my spending as much as I can.

Getting a Scooter

Man Riding on Bird Electric Scooter

Every once in a while, I do buy something that satisfies the large void in my soul. You know, the one where you think buying stuff will fill it. Yeah, that one. Well, I think I found something that is worth the money, a scooter. Not just any scooter, but the Razor A6. I did actually contemplate getting this for a very long time, so it was less of an impulse buy.

The Hawthorne Trail

See, I live right next to a very long biking/ running trail called the Hawthorne Trail. It’s 16 miles long and goes through some amazing wooded areas. I have ridden on it before with my bike, but my bike is beyond repair, so I am only left to walk the trail. I was shopping for a bike to get, to ride the trail again, but those things are super expensive. The idea to get a scooter after seeing a group of individuals scooting passed me on the electric scooters that they place around campus. Sure enough Amazon had push scooters that were relatively cheap. I slept on the thought of buying it for a couple of days then bought it.

The scooter came 3 days ago and have ridden it the past 2 days. The very first ride was 3 miles down the trail at a top speed of 14 mph! I was hauling butt down some of the hills. The trail is mostly woods and then it opens to Paynes Prairie. I was not able to get all the way to the prairie but I will try again next week. The main goal is to eventually ride the whole Hawthorne Trail. I calculated it to be about 3 to 4 hours of riding, totally doable.

Happiness

This scooter has taken me to places in Gainesville that I did not know existed. I have gone through neighborhoods, trails, apartment complexes, literally anywhere I can ride to . This has brought a feeling of excitement and happiness that I haven’t had in quite some time. Seeing all of these new places and experiencing the outdoors has been such a blessing and I am truly grateful that I bought this scooter. It won’t take awy from my walking though. I still aim for 5.6 miles a day.

If you are looking for something fun, fast, and a great form of exercise, I suggest buying a scooter. It’s probably one of the top 10 best purchases I’ve made.

If you haven’t already, Please check out my blog on my walking challenge (link here). Until next time, peace!

Do One Thing That Scares You

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Lately, I have been really trying to find ways to be a productive as I can. For about a month, I was just running on fumes practically and going with the flow. My motivation to really do anything was lacking and I just wanted to stay home, watch TV, and go to sleep at 8 pm each night. The reason for this was because I hit burn out. PhD students take a comprehensive exam/qualifying exam as well as an oral presentation. I have written about it (here and here). This was a month long stress fest that ended in burn out. In fact, they have a name for this specific burnout called Post-Qual Slump (PQS). They even made a comic about it too (here). Luckily, that lack of motivation has passed.

Because of all this extra productivity that I strive to achieve, I have come to some scary situations that actually aren’t that scary. For someone who is more introverted than extroverted, I tend to get anxious about simple things that require me to venture out of my comfort zone. These include 1) emailing my advisor 2) asking for help 3) calling someone 4) going to things alone and so on and so on. Literally things that are really not that difficult are actually quite terrifying.

Man in Black Shirt and Gray Denim Pants Sitting on Gray Padded Bench

I am not alone. These are very common things that make grad students anxious, surprisingly. So, to make them less scary, I have decided to tackle these head on. Well, I’m starting small by only tackling one thing at a time. Each day, I have been doing one thing that scares me. So for example, this morning, I reached out to someone about information that i need. I asked for help, essentially. Honestly, it wasn’t that difficult to do, but for a minute, I was a bit anxious. I did it anyway.

What I am trying to do is convince my brain that there really isn’t any danger with what I am doing. I am facing a fear, convincing myself that it wasn’t scary or dangerous, then later, my mind will remember that it wasn’t bad. Boom! Less anxiety. This is the same concept that they teach in a speech class. Presentations are one of the scariest things that you can do, if you aren’t adventurous lol. My speech professor told us the best way to get over being nervous and scared is to just do it. This is how I was able to conquer that fear.

Each day, find something that makes you nervous, like calling somebody, or going to the movies alone (surprisingly common fear). Start small and you will start feeling more confident in everything you do. Soon, you’ll realize how easy things are and how not-so-scary they actually are. Below is a great video on how to face your fears through exposure.

I hope that you are able to face all of your fears and take back your life. Have a wonderful day.

How to Become a Morning Person

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I think one of the ultimate achievements of grad school is becoming a morning person. I doubt many individuals think about it often, but I know that practically all grad students wish they could wake up early and go to be early too. Luckily, I am a morning person and pretty much always have been throughout grad school. I would say this mostly happened because I worked an 8 to 5 job prior to coming back. Being forced to wake up early helped.

Grad school can be a weird time for your sleep schedule. Unless you have to do early morning experiments or get to class, often you may not wake up until 10 am or later. I know quite a few grad students that roll into the lab at 3 pm, after just waking up. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine going to bed so late at night (early in the morning?) to where you wake up after 12 pm. That’s just too much.

I want to share some other methods that one can use to become more of a morning person. I find mornings are a great time to get a ton of work done before you eventually succumb to the afternoon slump. No amount of caffeine can help you then lol. Here’s a list of some ways to become a morning person.

1)Go to bed earlier

Person Lying on Bed Covering White Blanket

I know this can be difficult for some, but it is essential if you want to change your sleep/wake schedule. Usually during the summer, when I don’t have to wake up as early, my schedule tends to shift to me waking up early.

The best way that I found to get to bed earlier is lay off caffeine after 12 pm and make sure to get a workout in at least 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Also, stay off your computer and phone before bed. Slowly, your body will start adjusting to this pattern and realize it’s time to sleep. At first, you may sleep longer than you were anticipating (probably because you were alot tired than you thought0 but eventually, your body will start waking up earlier, on it’s own.

2) When you wake up, drink water

Drinking water in the morning rehydrates the body after 8 hours of being deprived of water. Rehydrate yor body and you will definitely feel more energized. After water, get some caffeine in you. This really helps a ton.

3) Schedule a workout session each morning.

Woman Doing Exercise Inside Gym

If you really want to change when you wake up, schedule to workout in the morning and actually stick to it each day. Gradually, you’ll begin to wake on your own, you’ll be energized, and ready to work out. This also makes nights way easier because you have more time to settle down and relax.

Get a friend who will keep you accountable as well. This helped me significantly the first year back in college. 6 am workouts were my favorite part of the day. The extra energy boost in the morning was super helpful as well.

4) Create a night time routine and stick to it

Free stock photo of blank, blank notebook, blank page

This includes the time that everything happens. Create a routine at the same time each night and stick to it. Maybe read a book an hour before bed or do a bit of cleaning prior to bed. Stay consistent with the routine and time that this happens. Soon you’ll be off to sleep and walking up early to kick the day’s butt.

Overview

Mornings can be extremely tough for some people. I mean, waking up each morning to my cat curled up next to me makes getting out of bed so difficult. Resist the urge to stay in bed though. The mornings are a great time to get all of the difficult work out of the way so the rest of the day goes smoothly.

Grad school is a hectic time, with weird schedules, but I promise you that being a morning person might just be the best thing you can do. It will make the transition from grad school to real life easier. Productivity will increase significantly. Also, you will find that mornings are an amazing time to be up.

Mornings can be super relaxing and quite therapeutic time of day. If you aren’t a morning person and are trying to become one, I suggest trying these methods shared above. Also, for more helpful suggestions, check out Sleep Foundation (link here).

100 Things I am Grateful For

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The title says it all. This very post will be my lucky 100th blog post. Well, technically yesterdays post was, but I deleted a blog post to make this post my 100th! Hurray. Anyway, I have come a very long way since starting this journey, and I have a heck of a long road to go. But, I am super excited to what this road brings.

Today, I want to focus on 100 things that I am grateful for in my life. I have written about things that I have learned throughout these years (link here), but I have only touched up on the things I am grateful for. So today, I am going to tackle this behemoth of a list and post all of the things that I am truly grateful for. Here we go

The List

  • My Girlfriend
  • Coffee
  • My family
  • Grad School
  • Waking up at sunrise
  • Going to bed at a reasonable time
  • My cat, Sirius
  • The ability to mess around in my lab and call it “science”
  • The many nights of just talking with my friends
  • My friends
  • Key lime pie from Blonde Giraffe
A Person and a Layered Cake
  • My therapist
  • Talkspace.com
  • Fall weather in Gainesville
  • The Florida Gators
  • My advisor
  • Good deeds
  • Nice people
  • Even mean people (it makes me appreciate the nice people more)
  • The Florida Keys
  • Fishing
  • Engineering
  • The time spent with my family
  • Weekends
  • Lab work
  • My committee members
  • Being able to say I am a PhD Candidate
  • A good show on Netflix
  • That Good Will Hunting is a movie
Brown and Green Grass Field during Sunset
  • Sunrises
  • Sunsets
  • Waking up each morning
  • being alive
  • Long lists
  • Productivity
  • Good memories
  • My apartment
  • The scooter that I just bought from Amazon
  • Vanilla cake
  • The University of Florida
  • The many people that have helped me in my doctoral journey
  • My boat
  • Having an income
  • My health
  • Personal training
  • Being able to do stadium workouts
  • Experiencing the struggles of life
  • Walking!
Blue Body Water
  • Mother nature
  • The beach
  • The ocean
  • Travelling
  • Being able to carve wooden figurines
  • Knowing how to do calculations on excel
  • Not being afraid to give presentations
  • Ajahn Brahm
  • Being able to listen to really good music
  • Trees!
  • Dogs, especially both of mine, Loki and Thor
  • Alligators. They’re cool
  • Turtles
  • My office mates
  • Random strangers that say hello as you walk by
  • Puppies
  • Kittens
  • Being able to get fresh food from the store
  • Technology
  • The washer and drier
  • Being able to look out a window (you appreciate this more if you have an office without windows)
  • Audible books
  • Google Pays
Close-Up Photo of Person Holding Pizza
  • Pizza
  • Literally any food that has cheese
  • My brain
  • All of my senses
  • The feeling you get when something just makes sense to you
  • Silence
  • Meditation
  • Life lessons
  • My failures
  • All of the teachers that I have had
  • All of the heart breaks that I have gone through
  • Finding happiness in every situation
  • I really appreciate the influx of skateboarders on campus
  • Electricity
  • To add to that, AC
  • My car
  • Water
Frozen Margarita
  • The occasional margarita
  • Kickball leagues
  • My name
  • My future
  • Being able to go home to a really comfortable bed
  • Growing in everything I do
  • The good days
  • The bad days
  • Mindfulness
  • Seasons
  • Blogging
  • My readers

This is a very long list of the many things that I am grateful for. Let me know in the comments of all the things you are grateful for, well not all, just put a few lol. I hope you guys have a great day.

Walking Challenge

Yesterday, I managed to walk a bit over 10 miles. This may seem like a lot but I was trying to catch up to my walking app. The virtual walking app that I use is the Conqueror Virtual Challenge. I started doing this when Covid first started because I did not want to become lazy and a couch potato. Ever since I started, I have completed 5 challenges and have tracked over 1400 miles!

The Conqueror Challenge is super fun and they offer really great medals after you complete each one. Currently, I am walking the Appalachian trail which is 1968.3 miles, which I am currently 33% of the way through. To stay on track, I have to walk 5.6 miles, so that’s why I walk so much.

Here’s a picture of the medal I have so far. Each of those has a distance between 40 and 400 miles, so I have been walking quite a bit since I started. Walking this much has been a huge stress reliever which has been a great incentive to do it so much. Also the medals are a good incentive too.

I do emphasize the importance of exercise in grad school and this is a great way of stay on top of your health. Each challenge requires you to put in how long you think it will take you to finish. Then, it tells you how far ahead or behind you are on that goal. This is great for grad students because it will force them to actually go for a walk so they don’t fall behind. The last thing a grad student wants to do is fall behind on literally anything. Also, it’s super useful in creating habits that are sustainable.

This is not just a great thing for grad students, but also working adults. If you are interested, here’s a link to their website.

Love the Journey

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“I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.”-Anna Quindlen

I have a pretty bad problem of always thinking about the end goal. I always tell myself that once I get to the end of my PhD, I’ll finally be happy. If I finish something in the future, I will finally have the satisfaction that I have been craving. This is extremely toxic thinking and it has taken me quite a while to actually understand this.

My Journey

I was told about 3 months ago that I would be graduating next May. This really hit me hard because I was finally close to “happiness”. I was finally at the end of my program and all of my dreams would come true. Thinking this way really brought a ton of excitement and a bit of dread as well. I had to starting thinking about careers and where I wanted to live and all the good stuff that comes with big changes. I was excited until about a week ago when my advisor told me that they found funding for me and I will probably be in my program for a bit longer than expected.

All of the excitement that came with thinking that I would be happy soon came crashing down. But, something quite interesting happened. My happiness came back, and fairly quick. This was odd but I understood what it meant. I love the journey. Being a grad student is amazing and I absolutely love the process of getting my doctorate.

I have grown so much as an individual in the past 4 years that people have taken notice. This is the first time in my life where I honestly don’t mind putting in a few extra hours of work or staying up late to figure out a problem that I have. I love what I do and the vast unknown that I am entering in to. This stuff excites me and I am OK continuing to struggle through this program. The struggle is just a component of learning.

Your Journey

journey

I have talked with many individuals about how “we will be better off after college” but frankly, I don’t know if we will. This isn’t supposed to be discouraging or negative, all I mean is we really don’t know what the future holds. I write about uncertainty a lot and this is one of those situations. I really have no clue if I will be better off after grad school. Yes, grad school can suck some times, but I know so many people that hate their careers and dream of being elsewhere.

This is why it is important to find happiness right now. Don’t tell yourself that you will be better off and happy after you hit some goal because you really don’t know if you will be. Find the happiness you desire through the journey. Learn to love the whole process and I guarantee that it will stop being as bad as you think it is. In other words, learn to love the suck lol.

Grad school is a journey that is not supposed to be easy. Learning new things is not easy and this is a time where you will learn more about life and yourself than probably any other time in your life. If you can learn to love this ride, I guarantee that it won’t be as bumpy. I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

**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.

Working On The Weekend

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Working weekends while your friends and family are doing fun stuff can be depressing. You work so hard during the week just to see that you are still behind and can’t enjoy two days off of work. But, it happens to all of us. Heck, some people never stop working and really have no sense of what a weekend is, so be happy you’re not one of them. I am currently 5 hours deep into work and decided to blog a bit to get grad students aware that they will work weekends.

Photo Of Female Engineer Wearing Lab Coat

I am extremely fortunate to have worked a full time job prior to coming to grad school. This taught me a valuable lesson…how to be productive in 45 hours a week. I only had to work one weekend and man that was awful. In the 2 years I worked, I would rarely stay after 5:30 PM. My brain would just shut off at this time and I needed to go home. Also, I am a morning person, so productively is at it’s peak around 10 AM. I brought this with me to grad school. Most days, I will come into my office around 8-8:30 and leave around 5 PM. In that time, everything that needed to be done would get done so I could leave my work at school. There are only a few times where I will stay longer.

This weekend is unfortunately one of those where I did not catch up on work. I did tell myself that I will be done by 5 today so I can at least spend the evening doing something fun. I will have to come in tomorrow, but not as long.

Grad school is difficult because you aren’t really on a set schedule. At first, your classes pretty much make up your schedule, but when you get into research only, everything gets weird. You will work odd hours, eat at weird times, and honestly forget what day it is. This is why creating a schedule, like I have (8 to 5), is essential. It also keeps you from having to spend weekends in the lab, unless you really like that.

Unfortunately, having to work a few weekends to catch up on things is inevitable. You will have to give up plans to come in and run another experiment or, like what I am doing, dilute samples so a half a million dollar machine doesn’t explode. Coming in on the weekend doesn’t have to be that bad though. There are a few perks like being the only one on campus or being able to blast The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack without having someone yell at you to turn it down.

So, if you are in grad school, still make plans to do stuff on the weekend. Remember to rest. But most importantly, be flexible. If you make plans to hang with a friend and then you have to come in to do work instead, be honest with them. True friends will understand. I truly hope that you can get away with only working the week. If you can, please let like 99% of grad students know how to do it lol. But, realistically, prepare to spend a few weekends in the lab. Honestly, it’s really not that bad.

Until next time friends, stay awesome!

Another Day With No Motivation

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Life is just so funny. One day, you could be hours deep into work and quite overwhelmed, then the next day is completely empty. This has been quite a normal experience for me while in grad school as well as when I was working full time. It sucks, not because of the work load, but because the days where you don’t have anything to do, can be filled with anxiety. Grad school is very much this way. You can go weeks with non stop work, then, poof, nothing. The days with little work are the worst because you will feel like you “should” be doing work. To that, I say “nay”.

I am currently busy with quite a few experiments. Our research team just got the green light to do more experiments, so we are pretty busy. We also have meetings galore, so that’s fun. I tend to be the go to guy with these experiments. Don’t get me wrong, it makes me feel amazing to be in charge of doing the experiments. This is the reason why I started research, but it can be overwhelming some times. Also, motivating myself to get any work done has been difficult. Caffeine can only get you so far.

For incoming grad students, or grad students that are getting into the bulk of your research, having this ebb and flow of work is normal. Heck, you may have weeks where you never see the sun, but know that this is essential to get you where you want to go. This can be fun too because you learn so much about yourself and you grow as a researcher. Though, it can be hard when there is little to know motivation.

Just Do it

I have written about how to motivate yourself (link here and a video here). There are even classes you can do to get more motivation too (here). But the best thing that I have found is to just get started. Lately, motivating myself to do something has been hard. I think of all of the things I have to get done and end up just procrastinating. This causes unwanted anxiety and stress. The best thin to do is start small and motivation will come.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson Summary

The above figure is from The Subtle art of Not Giving a F*ck. I just listened to it on audio and man was it good. The author describes that motivation is a cycle. Motivation leads to action which leads to inspiration. But also, action leads to inspiration which leads to motivation. You just need to get started and motivation will come.

Make it Fun

Today, I am going to do a ton of work but I am also going to have fun doing it. I have 250 samples to dilute prior to analysis and I think I am going to listen to an audio book while I do it. I have a good list of books to listen to if you are interested. (link here). If I make the task enjoyable then it doesn’t seem like work at all. Grad school work is not physically demanding, but mentally. If you are able to convince yourself that you don’t really need to think while doing the task, you’ll find you have a lot more energy to do it. Make the work fun and have a good time doing it.

Whatever you have to do, just start. Grab a nice big cup of coffee and start. It doesn’t have to be much but at least you will see that you are moving in the right direction. I hope whatever stuff you have is easy and get’s done quickly. I also hope you have an amazing weekend. Thanks for reading!

Handling a Rude/Mean Advisor

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I have a friend who is in the last year of her PhD. She has been working extremely hard lately because her advisor is asking a lot from her. Unfortunately, it’s a bit overwhelming for her. Her advisor, who may be a great researcher, is a complete jerk. In fact, none of his students like him. I don’t know the man personally, but he does come off a bit pretentious. I have nothing against him but when my friend is hurt due to things he has said to her, I really take offense to that.

She has a rude advisor. Now, I am very fortunate and have an amazing advisor. He is super supportive, incredibly helpful, and also helps me grow as a researcher. These are all really good qualities to look for with an advisor. My friend’s advisor does little of this and it is really affecting her self esteem. I can offer some suggestions if you happen to have an adviser that you may not get along with or is just a jerk. Hopefully you don’t have to deal with this, but it can happen.

Woman in Black Jacket Sitting at Table

1) Talk to your advisor about the situation.

They could be completely oblivious to the fact that they are treating you this way. Make it know that it is unacceptable to be treated this way. This is often extremely difficult to do, so many students will do everything but this. Talking with them may make things much worse. This should be the very first thing you do, but it might be the hardest.

2) Ask yourself if they are actually rude or if you are just thinking they are.

Some things that people think are rude are actually not. I struggled with this for a very long time, especially in grad school. Some times constructive criticism is seem as being rude or mean, when actually it’s really not. So, before thinking your advisor is being rude or mean, ask yourself if it’s actually rude or you are taking it the wrong way. This may save a lot of unwanted suffering later.

3) Talk to the Department Head

Go straight to the boss. This could be the department head or the dean of the college. Let them know about what is going on and see if there are ways to handle this. Your advisors boss may actually talk with them and let them know that they need to be better. This can be very difficult to do as well. But if you are in a position where you feel down all of the time, this might be the best option prior to going to #4.

4) Get a new advisor.

Life is too short to be miserable. After a while, you may realize that your advisor is not the right fit. This is totally fine and you can find a different one. I knew a grad student that was a doctorate student since 2013 and went through I believe 3 advisors until he found the right fit. He is now a research scientist with his doctorate and a great career. His first advisor didn’t care much about him only because the student was being funded by someone else. I thought this was crazy that someone wouldn’t like their student because of funding.

Hopefully you never have to experience a mean or rude advisor. They can really cause a ton of unwanted stress in grad school. If you are in a situation like this, look for help. You do not need to have a bad experience that could have lasting effects. You may have a stressful experience (check out my blogs about anxiety and stress here), but you don’t have to experience a bad and hostile 4 to 5 years.

**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.