When I started this blog, one of the things I wanted this to be was a living diary of my experiences as a Ph.D. student. Having pretty much finished my course curriculum, I understand why there are not more people documenting their experiences in graduate school.
Reason #1: WE AIN’T GAT TIME.
Reason #2: Politics. Unless you make your content anonymous, and in hindsight, I wish I had done that because then I could give y’all DA REAL REAL, but now I can only just give y’all DA REAL.
Reason #3: Netflix & sleep. I don’t be wantin to do nothing but watch tv and sleep after school.
Okay, so I started my second semester feeling rejuvenated coming from a 3 week Christmas break at home. I took advantage of the extra breaks we get as first years since we’re not officially in labs. If we keep it 100 though, we should get 3 week breaks AND more. This should not be unprecedented. Admin wanna make all this talk about grad student mental health, well for starters, you could let us take real breaks in peace. After my 3 weeks off off I was READY to come back to school, excited even! Bet you I was more efficient because of it too… #bih
Okay, let me just cut to the chase. How did my second semester go? It went wonderfully. My Pharmacology GPA is a 3.7 something…can’t remember right now, and my grad school GPA is a 3.95 thanks to the 4.0 I maintained as a Master’s student in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Found out all my grad school grades (since I’m doing both degrees at Michigan) get lumped into one GPA which was a dope surprise.
So my curriculum for the second semester consisted of four accelerated half-semester classes. I took two classes Mon-Thurs for 2 hours with exams, quizzes, presentations, etc. that went from January through February and then the final two from March through April.
First let me say, I hated taking classes. They were the bane of my existence. Admittedly, I’m being dramatic BUT I felt the material was useful, important I guess.. but insanely irrelevant for me. For example, I had to take a neuropharm class, which was a fantastic class and would have been extremely useful if I wanted to be a neuropharmacologist but I actually hate neuropharm, like with a passion. So having to go into SO much detail at an accelerated pace on material I just did not care about was taxing at best. It’s like wanting to become a baker who specializes in making vanilla cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles, and then you’re forced to become an expert on making coconut covered chocolate cupcakes, when you hate coconut and you hate chocolate cupcakes. Like damn, I know want to be a baker but I ain’t never gon’ make no chocolate cupcakes with the Devil’s dandruff for sprinkles AND if anyone ever shows up to my bakery with coconut shreddings I’m drop kicking them in the chest out my damn bakery.
I also had to memorize a bunch of sh– which I also hate. I had to go back into Georgia Tech/undergrad/sickomode and regurgitate info that I promise you I don’t remember for the life of me. If the material becomes relevant to my work, I’m going to have to go back and relearn it because I retained nothing.. okay, I mean I learned a lot but like don’t ask me about no drugs because I don’t remember anything. Okay…I remember some things BUT YOU GET MY POINT.
So by March, I had fullllllllllly adopted the “Bs get degrees” policy. I was very strategic, impressively strategic even, in how much effort I dedicated towards my classes. I didn’t care about getting As and often times I flat out just said yolo, y’all not gonna fail any of us so who cares. So basically, the second half of my last semester of classes was extremely challenging for me because I was losing motivation at light speed. Thankfully, the harder classes were the first half of the semester when I still had some juice.
By the time the second set of classes rolled around I was on the cusp of burn out, not from fatigue, but from complete and utter disinterest in the material. And for those who don’t know me, it is nearly impossible for me to put energy towards something I’m not excited about. But we made it y’all, I finished strong and now I’m done.
Okay, so what about the rest of my life?
I joined a dope lab with a lit advisor. I love the research, the lab environment, the mentorship. I hit the trifecta. I’m gonna have to write separate blog post about tackling research rotations because there’s a lot to cover. I’m excited to now have the time and space and FRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM to focus on my research.
Social life? Uh.. it’s great? I was so busy that “I haven’t had time” to talk to my friends routinely. A lot of my conversations turned in to (bi-)monthly crash updates with my homies which was fine, they understand.
What else… I think that’s it.
Grad school is challenging y’all and is very much department and school specific. My advice? Glue yourself to the hip of your professors, your cohort, advisors, and senior graduate students. If you find yourself struggling get help ASAP. Maintain a positive attitude, do your best knowing that it’ll work out and be enough, and TAKE BREAKS. I cannot tell you how many times I looked at my calendar, calculated the time, thought to myself there’s not enough time and said… eff it, I’m still going to sleep for 8 hours tonight. And you know, I survived. It can be difficult to prioritize yourself and your well-being but success and your happiness must go hand in hand.
OH, extracurriculars. I did the most, the absolute most this year, and I’m dropping 50% of my extracurricular load and I could not be more excited. I will say, as someone who is naturally involve din 101 things, my resume is stacked with professional development and volunteer/service work. These are things you should consider and be involved in as a first year student.
Nobody is really going to care that you mainted a 4.0 GPA if you weren’t involved in anything on campus. I mean think about it, if anything less than a B is failing, that tells you something right? At this stage of training, you’re expected to do well. So for me, I’m taking a lot off of my plate but I would strongly recommend you get involved in your communities and commit to things you’re genuinely passionate about. Everyone wins when you do.
Alright y’all.. currently in Porto, Portugal (#LOOKATGOD) learning a technique for the lab. I’m bout to watch Netflix and take my behind to bed.