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The science lifestyle

THE GRADUATE SCHOOL MINDSET: STARTING RIGHT & STAYING AFLOAT

The journey through graduate school is like an odyssey with many perils and hardships. While your classmates won’t meet their ends at the hands of a siren or sea monster, in the end, you’ll realize that you’re the only survivor as you watch people give up and leave or graduate and leave. Well, enough of the gloomy stuff; graduate school could be fun, and below is an itemized list of fun things to do;

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Hehehe… Jokes aside, graduate school can be exciting and rewarding. For someone in the biomedical sciences, I get excited anytime I have a eureka moment reading about a project or listening to a talk. Aside from that, you get to travel to lovely locations for conferences. Not to forget, you have your brothers and sisters in arms to share the good times. Mind you, this doesn’t involve talking about bacteria over coffee breaks. We aren’t all that nerdy. We do go to bars, parties, bowling & recreational centers.

While I might not have been too convincing about how fun graduate school is, the challenge that comes with crossing the finish line changes you in so many ways. Sorry folks, you don’t get superpowers or evolve to be a mutant. But your brain creates numerous neuronal pathways such that at the end of the program, the knowledge and experiences you must have gained will equip you with so many skill sets. In the end, you’ll be in high demand, and the world will highly seek you for your services. So keep the faith!

Indeed, every graduate school experience is unique on its own and should never be compared. But one thing is crucial: Having the right mindset to stay afloat! So with sails-up, let’s start this journey.

THE INNER CRITIC
Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. And one part of you that’s ever-present in graduate school is your inner critic. He/She is that voice behind your ears that constantly whispers how insufficient you are and how you are not good enough. If I had a dollar for every time I felt like a fraud in graduate school; I will have……… Well, best I keep that to myself. **grins**. That aside, your inner critic instills so much self-doubt into you and feeds your insecurities. Much worse if you are a minority like me as you watch your imposter syndrome set in. But in all, adopting a learning approach and working hard is the solution. You need to realize that no one was born an expert. With every practice, you get better. I remember the first time I ran a Western blot experiment; I failed miserably! But here I am today; I consider myself an expert at it. So please keep doing what you’re doing because you’ll get better at it! And remember to shut out the inner critic because you’re good enough, worth it, and you deserve to be where you are right now!

IT IS THE NATURE OF THE PROFESSION
For research to advance and produce valuable and reliable results, many scrutinies have to be involved. Do not feel down if you have to defend your work so often or when people keep looking for weaknesses in your work. In the end, it’s all for the greater good. More importantly, we need to realize that it’s science. There are times experiments will work, and there times it won’t, and you can’t even decipher why. There are times you will hit a wall, and there are times you are on q winning streak. In the end, it’s just science!

CELEBRATE YOUR LITTLE VICTORIES
Too often, we are caught up by where we are meant to be rather than acknowledging where we have been and where we are as of present. So are you done with classes? Did that experiment work? Did people enjoy your seminar? or do you have a review or second author paper published? Whichever way, celebrate your little victories and have a heart of gratitude towards God.

DON’T LOSE YOURSELF
Too often, people go into science and let go of parts of them that made them fulfilled. You should avoid being that person and find time for things you love. So work into your schedule to create time for your family, significant order, and your interests which include but are not limited to arts, gaming, writing, graphic design, etc.

IT IS OK TO QUIT
After you’ve come to the terms that working harder won’t make things better. You need to realize that it’s OK to quit. Because the same way graduate school is not for everyone, it is the same way pursuing a music or entrepreneur career is not for everyone. Your talent lies elsewhere, and you can’t afford to be miserable for 2-5 years of your life. So go do you and be fulfilled!

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