Hello, my dear readers!
I must say I am super happy to write for you again in this lovely beginning of semester! Although the days are not as warm as before, they are still wonderful, sunny, and full of life (so far), which is great! There are new and thrilling faces everywhere I look at MUN, and all this excitement (together with some science fiction movies I have been watching lately) got me thinking… If something (super weird) happened with time, and if I could see the Juliana from 2 years ago, in the very first day of her Ph.D. studies, making her way to the Chemistry department, would I have the courage to talk to her? And if I had the guts, what would I say? What advice would I give her in the first semester of graduate studies? Well, Juliana from 2017 would have been late for classes on her first day, because I made her a list!
1) Do not expect anything from anyone.
I know it sounds super pessimist like I am telling you to become a depressing zombie and live a sad and terrible life for eternity. However, this way of thinking has been helping me a lot! I am very anxious and have always lived and pre-lived important situations in my mind way before they happen. In these two years, I started to make an effort to control myself, trying not to create huge expectations (good or bad) towards anything or anyone. This approach is hard to put in practice, but it has helped me to avoid thinking I failed when things did not go as I planned (since I did not have a plan to begin with).
2) You are not Jon Snow, and you know a few things: Believe in yourself
The Impostor Syndrome is something we all talk about in grad school because it’s something we all come across at some point. To summarize, if you are experiencing Impostor Syndrome, your brain tricks you, the bottom of your belly gets really full really quick with something that is not food, and you continually think or even say phrases such as “I can’t”, “I am not good enough”, “I will never learn this” and so on. Juliana from 2017 has no idea how many times she will have this strange feeling. All I can say to her (and I know she still has trouble following this advice), is to believe in herself. The academic environment, besides challenging, can be really competitive. It can make you compare yourself to others, doubt yourself, and overthink simple things. The most important aspect of graduate studies, in my opinion, is focusing on what you have to do, on what you are doing, and doing it in your own way. Being true to your principles, beliefs, and perspectives is something magical; create and follow your own and interesting path.
3) Embrace every opportunity to grow.
Engage and participate! Juliana from 2017 has no idea how this will make a difference in her life. In Brazil, I did not have a lot of opportunities for volunteer work, but here at MUN there are numerous opportunities to be involved in the community and to participate in something greater than your own research. Make use of that! You might think you are helping others, but you too are learning and growing. Skills that may not be directly related to your research or work can be improved by thinking outside the box, allowing you to interact with other people harmoniously and effectively. Although these skills may not seem important now, they will be extremely valuable in future situations.
4) Value your true friends and be there for them.
5) Be kind to others (and ignore people who do not know how to do that)
With so many difficulties to overcome and so many things to do in the challenging but rewarding academic environment, some people tend to get immersed in their own little world, forgetting that others are also fighting their own battles. The things you say and the way you say them can make a huge difference in a person’s day (however, make sure the silly things other people say do not influence in yours). Your problems are not the biggest or the most important, so remember to stay out of your little shell and show empathy, always.
6) Have fun!
People say we only value things after we lose them, and I guess this will happen when we look back to our graduate journey and what we have accomplished. Even when things are not as we would like them to be, it is good to keep in mind that a lot of people would have been thrilled to have this opportunity and be part of this amazing learning process, so keep that in mind and make the most of it. J
Well, 2019 Juliana’s list is lovely in theory but even I (who wrote it), cannot keep up with all of this optimism. Some days are more difficult, but I’m really glad I have wonderful people teaching and supporting me every day, so I can do my best in my Ph.D. and do my best to positively influence people around me. I hope this list finds itself useful for all graduate students, especially the new ones, who are excited but do not know what to expect from grad school. For those of you who survived your first semester of graduate studies, what would you do? What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your graduate studies journey?
I hope I was be helpful! Have a wonderful beginning of semester everyone!
Até a próxima,