Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ask and you shall answer...

I betcha thought I forgot didn’t you? I have been busier than a chicken looking for its cleaved head – so posting on my blog has been at the bottom of my to-do list for the last few weeks. I have time for eating, sleeping and studying. If I’m lucky labbing (yes, labbing – look it up in my dictionary…) works its way in as well. My last post requested questions and I got a few which I will answer below. The answers may or may not be helpful to you, dear readers. If not, I will happily tender you a refund for the money you have paid to view this particular post.

What was the worst and best thing about your first day as a graduate student?
I consider my first day as a grad student to be the first day of orientation – though you may have been thinking of my first day of actual class. I will answer this from both perspectives. The first day of orientation was great because I finally got to meet my peers. I was excited because it was the beginning of a new phase of my life – I would be surrounded by fellow science geeks. I was, (danger: exciting language ahead) SUPER STOKED.  The worst part was, unfortunately, realizing that the sort of acceptance I craved as an undergrad would be the same sort of acceptance I craved as a graduate student. We go through life looking for those that “get” us. I found those people in NC. I left most of them in NC. It was a sobering day for me.
My first day of class was terrible because I had to get up before Jesus to be in Biochemistry on time. It was great because, well, how many of us can say that we got up before Jesus?

What would have made the transition easier?
Transitioning from NC to Indiana would have been easier if I’d scooped up Purdue and placed it in NC. Honestly, I don’t know that anything could have made it easier. I think the difficulty of transitioning is part of the process. The only way the transition would have been easy is if I hadn’t found and made a home in NC. I think the worst part was when my boyfriend got in his car and made the 12 hour drive back home. I’m a crier. When he left I didn’t cry. I sat and stared. I think his departure left me a little broken. Now that I think about it, the one thing that would have made it all easier was…vodka. Lots and lots of vodka.

In what way were your expectations met? What disappointed you?
Most of the people at Purdue are always willing to help. The person that stands out for me is the director of interdisciplinary graduate programs on campus. She has always made time to talk to me. She sat with me while I cried about missing home. She offered me advice on mentors that could help me really be successful here. She provided me with open and honest guidance – and not once did she ever make me feel like I was wasting her time. She did these things because she genuinely cares about the students she recruits to this university. If I take nothing else from this university, I will always carry her compassion with me.
As many of you know by now, there are many things that disappointed me about coming here, but the number one thing is the quality of teaching, which is something I plan to discuss extensively in a future post. I’ve no doubt that the instructors here are great SCIENTISTS, but being a great scientist does not necessarily make one a great teacher. As I told my boyfriend the other day, if doing something made you great at teaching it, then professional basketball players would become professional coaches – and how often do we see that?

Is there a forum you can access to help improve grad school for next year's incoming class? Should the school assign mentors to newbies?
I don’t know if there’s a forum available, but I do know that the PULSe program has a student council that has openly welcomed our questions, concerns and thoughts. Every year they solicit information from the most recent class for making the incoming class’ life easier. I don’t know if the graduate school itself assigns mentors, but my program assigned each of the students in my class with a mentor. My mentor is awesome. We’ve met a couple of times thus far, and she’s been really instrumental in helping me adjust. She’s boisterous and fun and reminds me of home.

Can you start a support group so no more students feel as alone as you sometimes feel?
Support group? But that’s what the blog is for! Starting a support group may not be necessary given the many resources that I’m slowly discovering are available on campus. If I was to start a support group, it wouldn’t be until during or after my 3rd year. This gig is hard work. The absolute last thing I want to do at the end of the day (after sitting in poorly taught classes and slaving away on experiments that always seem to go crazy in annoyingly different ways) is think about getting an entirely new program off the ground. I would like to use what I learn from my experiences to help prepare other first years for what grad school is really like, but, as always, the question is when? For now, I just need to find the time/courage to go and participate in one such group already made available to me.

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