Reflections from my First Semester as a Ph.D. Student

January 19, 2022

Hi Everyone! Sorry for my lack of posts in December. It was a busy time for me, but I'm glad I got to prioritize spending time with my family over the holidays. I hope you were all able to visit with some family this past month. 

Today I want to share with you some reflections I have after finishing my first semester of my Ph.D. program. My hope is that this will give people potential and future Ph.D. students an idea of what life is like as a new student.
  1. My rotations are not at all what I expected. First, they’ve all been virtual so I have had limited interaction with other students. I’ve also realized rotation project timelines never seem to go exactly as planned. This really isn’t surprising as I find most research has a base timeline that is rarely kept. I’m also doing much more statistical analysis than I ever expected, which is good! Although it’s not my favorite thing, being proficient in statistics is a very strong skill in research and one that I hope to improve.
  2. My class projects have taken longer than expected. Even with balancing my time appropriately, there are times where putting in a 110% on every assignment just wasn’t possible. I legitimately ran out of time. And although I hate it when I cannot place this much effort into a big assignment, I’ve had to accept that this is not a reasonable expectation. Sometimes we just don’t have the ability (be it time, resources, support, etc.) to do everything to the highest of our abilities and thats okay. 
  3. When I’m focused, I take advantage of it. Whenever I find myself hyper-focused, I take advantage of it. This sometimes means I work well into the evening. But I rather stop working at 10 or 11 pm at night if I am really on a roll. 
  4. Balancing a personal life is a priority for me. A Ph.D. is a marathon, not a sprint. I can’t place my personal life on hold until I get this degree. Life is always going to be busy and there will always be something in the way. So I prioritize having a social life as well. I go out to dinner, movies, have been on hikes, and explored my new city! At a minimum, I give myself 1 full day off and if I really do well balancing my workload, I can sometimes get away with taking off both days on the weekend. This usually means I work late one to two evenings per week (sometimes until 10 pm), but I’m happy with this compromise.
  5. I need to prioritize taking care of myself. When I have a lot of work to do, the first two things that I drop are exercise and eating healthy. At 27, I need to be building sustainable life habits that work with whatever I am focusing on in my life. So that is my New Years Resolution! Learn more about how I plan to accomplish this in next weeks blog post: Prioritizing YOU in Grad School.


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