Winter break has arrived! In retrospect, the first semester of grad school was a whirlwind. It FLEW by, just like we were told it would. I’m not quite sure how to begin this post or how to dive into reflecting on my first semester because there was so much, yet so little, jammed into three months…
I feel like September and October were the awkward months for my cohort. We didn’t really know each other and we were all trying adjust to the new demands and stressors of grad school. I know personally that I felt like I was kind of just doing my own thing.
Doing my own thing was fine until we got assigned a bunch of different group projects. At one point in time, I remember being on five different Google docs with five different groups of varying size. It was extremely difficult trying to keep track of who was in which group and when due dates were for each project. This is where I began to fully depend on my planner for EVERYTHING. If it wasn’t written down, there was a good chance I would forget to do it. My planner organized my life!
One by one, projects were submitted and crossed off the to-do list. Each project came with its own personal bundle of stress. The Colombia project still makes my blood boil. Don’t even get me started on the Lifespan Task Analysis project! I never ever ever want to spend hours trying to analyze someone clicking a computer mouse ever again. Never. On a brighter note, I enjoyed our health literacy project and occupational profile project. Those were manageable.
The exams required dedicated studying. Even though I often went into each exam nervous, I always left feeling confident…. except that time I got a 78% on a group process exam because half the material on the exam we never even covered. That time I was pissed.
By November and the beginning of December, I had found my niche of friends. United spontaneously by a 28-page paper on obesity, I can truly call Michelle and Jess my confidants. Becoming friends with them opened up another door to become friends with friends they were friends with (so much usage of the word “friends” in one sentence). Finals week we were gathering for study groups, just trying to survive together. On our last day of our first semester a group of us went out to IHOP to celebrate!
The hardest transition for me to make wasn’t the 55 minute commute to/from school everyday (although the morning my car got flooded out by a puddle I drove through was one of the most stressful mornings of my semester). The hardest transition for me to make wasn’t the “lack of sleep” (pretty sure the littlest amount of sleep I got all semester was 7 hours because I am a nervous wreck as a sleepy driver).
There have been three really hard transitions for me to make since starting grad school. The first two are sitting for long durations of time and sacrificing a normal running routine. My core, back, and leg muscles have atrophied. This is due to sitting for 85% of the day (between studying, 4+ hour classes, and driving 2 hours/day) and not having time to get out for runs to move those muscles. These two things have crushed me time and time again the past 3 months. My back hurts all the time. I don’t feel confident in my body like I did before. My ankles are weak (hence why I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago). I miss running so very much. I am working on coming up with solutions to these two challenges so that I can strengthen my back/core/ankles and maintain my sanity through running. It’s just been a really challenging transition for me to make.
The third difficult transition has been sacrificing time with Josh & my family. I used to be able to consistently spend the weekends with Josh spending time together or going out for runs/mountain bike rides. With an excessive academic workload, I’ve sacrificed part of my weekends to study rather than spend time with loved ones. I’ve politely declined invitations for socializing with others. I’ve tried to balance socialization as much as possible by allotting at least one day each week to spending time with loved ones and that has helped keep my mind fresh and my stress in control. There’s just days that I miss not having schoolwork always lurking in the back of my mind. Days like that will pass though – these sacrifices are temporary and my support system knows that I just need to push through these next two years until I graduate.
This semester was primarily foundational classes that have prepared us for the next three academic semesters. I finished my first semester with 4 A’s and an A-. To say I’m ecstatic would be an understatement. I am proud of myself and my success proves that all my hard work paid off this semester.
Next semester we will be immersed in pediatric classes, my Level I fieldwork placement in a pediatric setting and…… *insert dramatic drumroll here*.. neuroscience. Oh boy!
I am looking forward to enjoying this much deserved and hard-earned winter break before starting the daily grind again. But for now, I will enjoy time with Josh, friends, and family, stress-free & guilt-free running, and maybe a few glasses of wine. Cheers to the first semester!