So, you made it through hours of poring over application documents and weeks of waiting to get a “We are pleased to inform you…” email. Now that you are in grad school, you need to make the best of the few years ahead of you. Without further ado, these are our ten tips for settling into grad school and actually enjoying it!
Make good use of seminars, workshops, and any other avenues for learning that are organized by your school. Lectures aren’t the only way to get some of the education you are paying all that tuition for. Seminars, conferences, and other related academic gatherings are great ways to learn from and connect with people who share the same area of interest.
Make friends. “No man is an island” might read like such a cliche but it never ceases to be true. This doesn’t mean you should cozy up to everyone you come across in grad school. However, don’t stay in your shell either. Remember how secondary school or undergrad had its lows, but even those were made bearable or even fun because of the people you shared those experiences with? Be open to good vibes!
Attend introductory talks. These might not be compulsory, but they can go a long way, especially in answering a lot of the questions you have had from the minute you saw that admission letter down to when you got on the plane to your new educational experience. You might not attend all of them, but you can choose those that seem most helpful.
Join an association or union. Unions are a great place to make friends, participate more actively as a grad student, and possibly use as a platform to advocate for causes you are passionate about.
Explore the campus and surrounding town to get acquainted with your new home. As tempting as it must be to some of you hermits, do not make your entire post-grad experience a room-to-lecture-hall existence. Go out, find and do something new.
Of course, stay as faithful as you can to your coursework and research. It is important to formulate a plan that works for you from the beginning. If you don’t quite get it right away, you can try and switch things up until you find what works for you. A planner is a great idea. Don’t forget: PROCRASTINATION IS THE SCHOLAR’S DOWNFALL.
If you are in a new country, where you don’t know much about the currency, do some looking around to familiarize yourself with prices so you know how to create a budget that will work for you. The tip of this point (pun intended) in one word: BUDGET! You DO NOT want to be broke your first month in, or any month at all for that matter.
If it is feasible, try to get accommodation as close to the campus as possible. You will be spending a lot of time there so it helps to live close enough to walk even. This will save you a lot of stress not just in the long-run, but from the very beginning.
Following up on the above tip, find out what discounts apply to you as a grad student. Many cities have special discounts and bargains for students such as discounted transport fares. You cannot take advantage of an advantage you don’t know about.
SELF CARE: The degree does not come first, YOU do. Admittedly postgraduate life is demanding. It can become easy to get so lost in chasing that qualification that you forget to take care of yourself. Allow yourself time to breathe, to relax, to de-stress. It is different strokes for different folks when it comes to self-care. The important thing is you know what makes all the crazy go away and settles you.
Grad school should be memorable, and in a good way. It is a means to an end of course, but the journey can be almost as good as the destination.