My First Semester of Graduate School

Well,

It felt like I was going to die? Is that a good way to commence a blog post for aspiring students? Yes. Its realistic.

With that said, I did have a 20 hour GA that I juggled with my already full course load. Graduate school is hard, but for all the right reasons. You learn a-lot in an a small allotted time frame, you have REAL people as clients that you feel this sense of obligation towards and somehow you’re expected to balance your personal life, clinic and academics. Its a-lot to handle. This post would be the most efficient if I came up with some lists, Ten Things I’ve Learned, Ten Things I Wish I Had Done Sooner and the Ten Things I Couldn’t Have Survived Without.

So lets go!

The 10s.

Ten Things I’ve Learned

  1. ADVOCATE for yourself and for your sanity. What do I mean by this, I mean, if you are overwhelmed and you need an extension on something ask for it, your supervisors are a-lot more understanding then you give them credit for. It will avoid any miscommunications and also maybe put into perspective things that are happening not only to you but to other students, you’re not alone. It might also make you realize that your priorities aren’t lining up, its normal, you’re not supposed to have it all together the first few weeks.
  2. When in doubt, ask your Cohort, you’ll be surprised at the information they can pull out of you and that they can pull out of thin air. Sometimes you just need someone to bounce ideas off of. There were so many times when I felt stuck on what to do in therapy or when I didn’t get something and they were always there, breaking things down and sometimes helping me overcome my own mental blocks. Plus they are all so smart and talented, you wouldn’t be in graduate school with them if that wasn’t the case.
  3. No one understands you except your Cohort. This couldn’t be truer, its that simple. Not even your spouse will understand why you’re ranting about something that happened a day ago, but if you text your cohort members, they get it and they are right there with you.
  4. Your Clients are Angels sent from Heaven to assist you in becoming a better Clinician. They understand that they are at an Academic teaching center, they get it. They aren’t nearly as fragile or scared of you messing up, they get it. They’ve most likely been through the process if they are seasoned clients and are open to helping you out as much as you are helping them out. They know you don’t have it all together but they know that you care more than most people do and that you’re going to work your ass off to make sure that you give them your best.
  5. You may think you’re going to die, but you probably just need food and sleep. There is nothing that food and just some sleep can solve. Seriously, take a nap. There were times were I just couldn’t think anymore but I was so adamant about powering through that I wasn’t taking care of the basics.
  6. No one knows a damn thing. That person in your class who seems like they have it together? Yeah they aren’t saying anything because they are shit scared like you’re. If anyone knew what they were doing they wouldn’t be in graduate school. Period.
  7. Find the strengths in your cohort and find your own strengths, everyone is good at different things. Rely on each other for those things. I had a girl in my class who was a linguist, she was a bad ass, someone else was good at Kid things, and someone had so much experience with autism, rely on these people and use their strengths. More than likely they are good at these things because they enjoy them!
  8. Turn things in on time. Do your best to turn things in on time, one, you’ll get more feedback and two, you wont get the reputation of being that student who didn’t turn in their things on time. It also helps you fly beneath the radar. I on the other hand, was that not the person who turned in things on time and I did catch heat for it. Lesson learned. It really boils down to maintaining  your professionalism as a student.
  9. Always keep:  1. Some type of pain medication, 2. Snacks, 3. Caffeine and 4. a frozen meal just in case. You have no idea how many times these things will be asked for, and even if they aren’t for you its nice to know that you can help someone else. In turn, trust me, these people will be there for you as well.
  10. Let your guard down, and don’t take yourself so seriously. Graduate school is fun if you make time to laugh and just realize how messed up your life is.

Ten things I wish I had done sooner

  1. Consistently worked out. Seriously. Even if it was for fifteen minutes a day, It was so hard to think about fitness but I think it would have helped my mental state of being.
  2. Trusting myself and being sure of who I was. Once I was more comfortable and was myself during sessions I noticed that I could start building my relationships with my client, which in retrospect is the most important aspect of clinic.
  3. Eating healthy. LOL. Grad school is a pitfall of chips, bad food and cookies. Its hard not to crave sweets when your entire life is stressful.
  4. Requested more feedback. You can never have enough feedback. When my supervisors made it optional to meet with them I thought it was the best thing in the world, I wish I hadn’t given up that time to talk to them, even if it wasn’t about my clients.
  5.  Scoped out some good resource websites, I found some way too late! They could have saved my life.
  6. Checked out the materials cabinet and its full range of inventory. Too late did I find out that we had a hungry hippos! I think the problem was that most people kept things in their box and you just never knew it existed!
  7. Bought a laminator for home. Yeah. It was great. I could prep at home, in my PJs and live some kinda of home life, even if it meant that I was just cutting and laminating things out.
  8. GOOGLE CALENDAR reigns supreme. Seriously. You’ll need a way to keep a tab on everything you do, it definitely helped to plan things out.
  9. Pretending I knew everything. Yeah. You don’t know JS and that is fine, pretending to always have it together is exhausting. When I just let myself be a mess I felt a-lot better.
  10. That there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I wish I had seen it earlier. There were times were I just felt so exhausted I lost track of what the goal was, just being a first semester student. You know nothing, no one expects anything else of you and its okay to make mistakes. This was the hardest thing to learn.

Ten Things I Couldn’t have Survived Without 

  1. Recorder. Get one, it will save you when you need to listen to your session at the end of the night because you blanked out, due to sleep depravation, on collecting data.
  2. A white board and dry erase markers. There are so many activities you can do with a white board and dry erase markers, its limitless. It was the best tool!
  3. A watch, you’ll need one to see as the minutes of your life waste away. No, but seriously, you’ll be spending most of your time in these drab rooms with no clocks and no sense of time.
  4. A portfolio, to look professional of course because no one should know its empty like your dreams of success. No but seriously, a nice portfolio, preferably one where you can stuff papers into, because you know, being an SLP means that you have to print out ten million things and kill god knows how many trees.
  5. Some kind of family support, for me it was my husband, for others just someone that you can have on your side that can remind you of how smart you’re and why you’re doing this in the first place. You’ll need someone who gives you, as we say in spanish fanfaria, which translates to fanfare, or someone who is yelling ” YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH WOOOOOooooOOO”.
  6. Having a few tote bags. These are nice to pre assemble your materials for individual sessions so you can just pre arrange them and go on hectic days.
  7. Making your materials last, yeah it seems like a pain in the ass to have to laminate everything and put velcro on things but I can’t tell you the amount of times I have reused my materials! All because I spend a few extra minutes making sure they were durable.
  8. My cohort- for asking questions, for support, for materials, for ideas. I mean these girls are a well of information. Make a few good friends, open up to them and build yourself a fort of trust and support. Invest in these relationships, go out of your way to help one another and just watch how they are going to be there for you when shit seems impossible. You’ll also want to go out and enjoy some sort of life, its great to do this with them, so you can bitch and rant about things that no one else gets.
  9. One good supervisor. You don’t need them to all like you, but find the one you vibe with the most and make a conscious effort to nurture this relationship. You’re going to need someone that believes in you and someone that you can go to incase something happens.  I had something happen to me this semester that I needed the support of my supervisors and faculty about, but that is for another blog!
  10. Food. Snacks. Food. Snacks. Food. Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke Zero, Food. Pretty much just having food around that is portable and on the go. There can’t be enough said about just having something to eat or snack on, most of time that you feel like you’re going to punch someone, its probably because you’re hangry.

And when the semester finally ends, you’ll be in disbelief, mostly by the fact that if someone asks you some kind of speech related question you can probably bullshit your way through it whereas before you really had no clue. You’ll also be surprised by the friendships you made and the high and lows that a human can experience in a span of a short semester. You might also definitely either be surprised by the amount of weight you’ve gained if you didn’t take into account my things I learned bullets about eating healthy and working out, for me that was 7 pounds, for my friend she lost like 10! Stress affects different people differently, I am envious of her. Lastly, you’ll be glad that you made it and didn’t give up! Apparently its all easier from here on out and you should feel like a seasoned student at this point with some sort of knowledge about the general workings of your department and the temperance of your superiors, e.g. Mrs. so and so, I can turn that in late, Mr. So and so, yeah I need to have that in like now. It helps when attempting to plan out what from your list of ten million things you’re not even going to get to that day.

Good Luck to you all and feel free to shoot me an email if you’re looking for some motivation or just have general questions.

Forever a servant to the people,

Nu

FINALLY-I got into Grad School!

Currently living on cloud-9

When I decided three years ago to change my career I felt lost. Deciding not to pursue medical school was hard, especially since my family had really pushed me to do so for so long. I felt I was disappointing them but after working in the ED, being a medical assistant and a scribe for so long, it lost its appeal and glamour. Being a doctor is anything but glamorous and although romanticized, its hard work. Unless you’re very passionate about medicine it a lot of long hours with little reward all while working against a system that seems to over work you.

I married one-a doctor, and he actually loves what he does which is why he is able to endure the 87 hour-long weeks.  He is passionate about helping others, loves neurology and went into medicine for all the right reasons. Some other physicians I’ve met are miserable, went into it for the wrong reasons and hate their lives. This is what I realized three years ago when I finally decided to close the door on pursuing medicine. I kept putting off applying, either because I felt I wasn’t ready or that I needed to retake my MCAT, it was always something and I instead hid myself by working and telling myself that I was getting experience and that when I was ready I would apply.  The reality was that I  wasn’t happy with the work I was doing in the medical field and I was watching first hand the truth of being a physician,  I spend most of my day trailing behind the doctor while we saw patients all day. I decided to soul search and really look for something I was passionate about and for the first time in my life I had someone who supported me and encouraged such growth without boundaries or refrain, my husband. He was really the first person that told me I should follow my heart and that if I didn’t want to go to medical school it was okay, that it didn’t mean I was a failure. For so long I had been scared of what others would think, why didn’t she just apply, why didn’t she want to be a doctor, doesn’t everyone want to be a physician? Are you a doctor? lol it seems like being a doctor makes you some kind of protegé, society really romanticized a job that is very tough, demanding and doesn’t reward those who dedicate their lives to helping others.

Then one day while you know, searching the internet for jobs, I stumbled upon speech language pathology. It had never even crossed my mind but it included all the things I was passionate about, neurology, research, clinical work, language..I could go on. I decided that I would apply to a post bacc program and get my  pre-reqs. We moved to baltimore-where my husband matched to residency and while working full-time attended night school.I worked my ass off, made all A’s and if you’ve read my previous blog, was straight up rejected the first time I applied.

For about eight years now I’ve felt like I’ve been in this black hole, with this cloud hovering over me that was constantly telling me, get your shit together. I am going to be thirty this year, and I know that it’s not supposed to be a big deal and it doesn’t feel like it but its hard when I look at my peers and they all seem to be excelling in their careers. When I learned that I was accepted at one of the top 10% SLP programs in the country, I felt this great sense of relief. I’ve been on cloud nine since then. All my insecurities and feelings of not being good enough have melted away but I also realize that it just didn’t happen for me, I worked hard and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, including not having children, these sort of things, moving away from home, sacrificing having a full time job-I am a part-time nanny. It was hard-working forty hours and doing night school, it was hard working part time and doing research and its been hard to keep myself motivated while being rejected to my face. It’s really a testament to endurance and setting goals. But most importantly to the thought that we should follow our hearts, I knew while doing pre-med in undergrad that it didn’t seem like it was the right thing for me, but I let others influence me and made it feel like it was my choice. I also let the burden of disappointing others get in the way of my own happiness. I can’t change anything but if I could tell my younger self something it would be like, ” its okay to make mistakes and be afraid but you just have to try” or ” step out of your comfort zone and speak up for yourself, you’ll be okay .

I am not nervous about starting grad school because I feel like this is what I love and this is what I want and who I am supposed to be. I haven’t felt to certain and motivated about something ever, well something that wasn’t food at least.

I’ve made it and now I will have more relevant things to talk about, which puts me over the moon. I can change my name from aspiring graduate student  to actual grad student. *Jaw drop.

*shrieks and that goal I’ve been writing in my journal for the past three years that read -get into grad school  can finally be crossed off. I’ve moved onto a new goals-getting a graduate assistantship, presenting at ASHA and getting into the cultural and linguistic diversity program. Cheers to the next three years.

For those who stumble across my blog to find my stats for being admitted to UMD: GPA: 3.8 Post Bacc from Loyola Maryland, GRE: 157V, 152 Q, 4.5 W, have eight years of clinical experience,  3 years of research experience including the last year doing research with Dr. Gordon-Salant at UMD,  Bilingual with an emphasis on diversity within the field.

Ciao,

Nu