Hello lovely readers!
Since my last blog post I have been accepted into PhD program of choice (YAY!). While I am beyond excited about getting into the PhD program, I also feel a little weird about moving away from Newfoundland. I have been living here for the last seven years and it’s an odd feeling to know that my days in this province are numbered. I think it will be a strange feeling to be on the mainland and not be near the ocean anymore and not watch the fog roll in over Signal Hill.
It’s been a wild ride to get where I am now and it has definitely not been easy. Looking back over the past several years, I think I occasionally put myself at a disadvantage because I am a first-generation university student and often did not know “the ways of academia” (if you want to put it that way). Going to university was this completely new and at times intimidating experience for me and I did not have anyone to compare my experience to. As a result I often did not realize that I should do certain things differently until after the fact. Looking back now, I wish I had gotten involved with student societies and volunteer programs sooner than I did. My first year was rather lonely and I only focused on the academic side of things. I only realized the importance of involvement in student groups and of volunteering a little over a year into my undergraduate degree. It’s difficult to explain but I often did not know that I needed help with something, or that I had questions about something because I was not familiar with how university works and everyone else seemed to know what they are doing. It’s often difficult to even articulate a question because the situation seems so big that it’s difficult to break it down and express what you are struggling with.
At times, the same was true for my graduate degree. External funding and scholarship applications became this new kind of beast and all of a sudden I was competing with many more people for funding compared to my undergraduate degree. I had to learn how to improve my proposals and make my CV stand out more and it was a long process littered with numerous rejections along the way. Luckily, I got a lot of support from my department and especially from my supervisor who helped me deal with rejections and showed me ways to improve. I also found that my continued involvement in volunteer activities helped with my mental health in grad school. You get so caught up in research and course work that it’s easy to become isolated. Volunteering kind of keeps you sane because you are forced to go out every now and then. It’s really important to step away from your work every once in a while and interact with people from different disciplines because it also shows you that you are not the only one who is struggling with certain aspects of grad school. I know it can seem like a lot of extra work on top of everything else but committing to some kind of volunteer activity will help with work-life-balance because you will meet new people while gaining some soft skills that will help you in your career.
That’s all the advice I have for now. Now I have to get back to writing my thesis and other fun things. This image from the Facebook page “The Dissertation Coach” really encapsulates my life right now.
Good luck with everything you’re doing now. Until next time!