Take a Break: Spring Break

Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. candidate

Spring break is a much needed mid-semester rest that everyone should take advantage of in some fashion. There are many ways to spend your spring break, whether its going somewhere warm, somewhere adventurous, or just staying home and relaxing! Regardless of what you do, it is a perfect time to prioritize rest and to do something that you enjoy.

There are plenty of vacation spots you can travel to (via car, bus, train) in the northeast, including Kennebunk, ME; Portsmouth, NH; Burlington, VT; and New York City, NY! The first two are quaint cities along the coast, with beautiful views and cute streets lined with shops. In Kennebunk check out Rococo Ice cream and the Marginal Way Walk (in adjacent town of Ogunquit, ME). In Portsmouth, make sure to go to Popovers on the Square and get some popovers to go! Burlington, VT is a little further north and you will see a picturesque city with breathtaking views of nature. Make sure to check out some of the thrift stores there for great finds! New York City is a bustling city full of life, especially at night. Go to Times Square, take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, or go up to the Top of the Rock for an amazing view!

If you are looking for a staycation, there are so many things to do in the Boston area. Go to some of the many spas and treat yourself to a massage, facial, or body scrub! Some of these include G20 or the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Spend a day in the North End and eat your way through all the delicious restaurants, my personal favorite being the Bricco store for a sandwich during lunch and Euno for dinner (checkout the basement). Visit some of the museums, such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, zoos, such as the Franklin Park Zoo, or the New England Aquarium (students free or discounted) in Boston and surrounding areas! Get out of the indoors and go for a hike at Blue Hills Reservation in Milton.

For my spring break, I am staying in New England and going to do a spa weekend to relax and rejuvenate! In previous years I have gone to NYC to see a show on Broadway and Washington, DC to visit friends!

No matter where you go, take some time to rest, relax, and have fun. Use this time to recharge and finish the semester out strong! Enjoy your spring break, you deserve it!

Escape the Imposter Syndrome

Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. candidate

Do you ever feel like you’re not supposed to be in a graduate program? Like everyone else is more qualified than you? Like you somehow fooled everyone and you won’t last undetected any longer? This is the imposter syndrome, and you are not alone in that feeling.

The imposter syndrome can be defined as “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.” This is something not only graduate students experience, but professors and post-docs feel as well. These feelings may come and go in high stress environments and may be all-encompassing.

I have had my own share of imposter syndrome, normally during times of stress or near an important deadline. I remember one of the most convincing times was during my qualifying exams. This is an exam that lasts about three weeks and includes critiquing a peer-reviewed research paper, writing an essay on it, and then presenting in front of the entire department. And to make it even more stressful, if you fail twice, you are dismissed from the program.

I was feeling overwhelmed, underprepared, and frankly like I was in way over my head. I wasn’t able to shake the feeling that I had somehow fooled the entire department into admitting me into the program. However, I talked to someone else in my cohort and she told me she felt the same way now and then and told me “It’s the imposter syndrome,” which was the first time I had heard of this term. I still feel like an imposter sometimes, but every time it’s because I’m doing something more challenging than I’ve done before.

Sometimes it’s easy to sink into this mindset and let it consume you, but you have to change your perspective and have courage in your own abilities. You did not fool admissions into letting you in, or your professors for passing you or giving you good grades. You worked and studied for your accomplishments and put yourself in the position you are in now. You deserve to be here! You are in graduate school to learn, become more independent, and challenge your thinking. You may feel out of place and confused sometimes and that is normal. In uncomfortable situations we grow and adapt.

Sometimes just knowing that your feelings of doubt are a common thing amongst your peers may settle your nerves, so talk to your friends about this and you will be surprised at how many of them tell you they have felt the same way.

Winter in New England

Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. candidate

If you’re not used to winter in Boston, or even if you are, it can be pretty tough to bear sometimes. Below freezing weather, unexpected snowstorms, and high winds can lead to some negative feelings about the season. However, there are some really fun things to do in the Boston area that only can be done when it’s cold outside!

Whether you’re an avid ice skater or a novice, like me, ice skating at Frog Pond in Boston Common is a wonderful experience! Bring your own skates or rent them there, buy some snacks or hot chocolate to keep warm, and skate for as long as you like! They also offer college nights from 6:00-9:00 pm every Tuesday, which gives half-price admission with your student ID! On February 7, 2023, Tufts University students get free admission! Check out more information! For another fun skating spot, head to the Rink at 401 Park for skating and a beer at Trillium Brewery.

If you’re not into ice skating, there are a ton of nearby options for skiing and snowboarding! Wachusett Mountain in Massachusetts, and Mount Sunapee and Gunstock Mountain in New Hampshire are some notable local spots. They offer a variety of different slopes for all skill levels, equipment rentals, and lessons.

For warmer experiences, head to some of the many restaurants in Boston that offer igloo dining! Enjoy dinner or drinks from your own private igloo. Check out the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton in Cambridge or Envoy’s igloos and Ice Boxes in the Seaport for these fun spots to hang out with friends!

Winter in Boston can be a beautiful experience if you find fun things to do with friends and bundle up when your outside!

Why Tufts?

Elijah Mensah,  Environmental Policy & Planning M.S. Candidate

Hi Everyone, my name is Elijah. I am an international student pursuing an MS in Environmental Policy and Planning here at Tufts! I aspire to acquire knowledge and practice in the field to contribute to the policy and planning of cities. First, I would like to speak briefly about where I am from.

A country located on the west coast of Africa, formerly known as the Gold Coast during British colonial rule, and now Ghana after independence in 1957, is one of the best places to live in Africa! The country was called the Gold Coast because of its vast Gold reserves and other minerals. This played a crucial role in attracting European businessmen to the country until the slave trade became the next lucrative commodity. Fast forward to modern Ghana, we are known for being affable, welcoming, and peace-seeking people. Today some of our most significant trading commodities remain gold, bauxite, diamond, manganese, timber, petroleum, and cocoa.

Life in Accra Central, Ghana    Credit: Muntaka Chasant, Wikimedia commons, 2019

I was born and have lived all my life in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Due to school and other engagements, I have had the opportunity to travel around the country. I completed my elementary education in rural Accra, Senior High education in the Volta region, and my undergraduate degree in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Growing up, I was puzzled by the environmental issues making headlines in the news and radio discussions. I was interested in how I could contribute to addressing the notorious littering, poor waste management, and flooding in my community. I witnessed firsthand human actions that lead to garbage and plastic waste clogging waterways and flooding during the wet season, which caused destruction of properties and sometimes claimed human lives.

Research studies in the country have attributed poor waste management to the outbreak of cholera and malaria diseases, which has dire impacts on public health. All of these influenced my decision to pursue a BS in Natural Resources Management. Later I teamed up with friends and colleagues who found the current waste management and climate change crisis a significant threat to our country. We worked together to cofound a community-based nonprofit called “Keep Ghana Beautiful.” Our mission was to educate community members and school children on the issues of poor waste management and climate change and encourage them to reduce, reuse and recycle waste and plant trees to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Through my nonprofit organization, I was selected as a fellow for the Atlas Corps Program. It provided the opportunity for emerging nonprofit leaders around the world to come to the US to hone professional skills and develop hands-on learning in a national nonprofit for 12-18 months and then return to their home countries to utilize the skills. I was privileged to have been stationed at “Keep America Beautiful,” a US national nonprofit with over 65 years of experience in addressing the issue of littering and promoting recycling through its over 700 affiliates across the US and Canada. Throughout the role, I lived principally in Stamford, Connecticut and traveled briefly to 10 states across the US. My thoughts about going to grad school started sometime during the pandemic when I worked from home. I first started broadly researching via the internet in the field I wanted to develop and focus my skills. I then narrowed the search to MA or MS programs. I was fascinated by Tufts’ academic success stories and its location within the Boston Metropolitan area. I found the prospect of pursuing an excellent graduate program in one of the top-notch schools in the US an accomplishment to begin with living my American dream.

Upon returning to Ghana after my fellowship, I began an application to Tufts. After some months of waiting I was surprised with that sweet congratulatory email of admission to the MS in Environmental Policy and Planning. After the back-and-forth issues of immigration and securing a visa, here I am living the dream! I am currently taking four classes this semester and I feel great about it. I like the immersive learning culture where students engage weekly in small group discussions with instructors. I love the discussion forums on the course Canvas site where students share their weekly journaling to the class. These stimulate conversations among students to learn of other perspectives on a specific topic. I think it is creative and transformational. I can’t stop without talking about my department building- the Brown House. This is home where all of the bonding and fun happen. We use it to connect with colleagues, study, organize events, meet our professors and administrative offices for assistance. One of the best parts for me is always free sncks in the kitchen. I love the community!

I want to use this platform to thank and send a shout out to my mentor and professor Julian Agyeman, at the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP), Tufts. He has been phenomenal in guiding and supporting me throughout my journey. Also, I would like to motivate someone out there that it is possible when you put in the hard work and seek the support you require. I tried many times to further my education but got rejected. On the occasions I gained admission, something may have changed in my life and stopped me from proceeding. 10 years after completing my undergraduate degree, I accomplished a near forgotten dream. Don’t be surprised to see me completing a PhD in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, stay tuned for more!

Books on a Budget

Maitreyi Kale, Human Factors Engineering M.S. Candiate

I firmly believe that acquiring books and reading books are two different and perfectly valid hobbies. Whichever one you’re after, the unfortunate reality of being broke college students is that we probably cannot afford to shell out hundreds of dollars at bookstores or on Audible to build the personal library of our dreams. Thankfully, there’s plenty of free or low-cost sources of books as a college student at Tufts/in Boston, and in this post, I’m going to introduce you to some of my favorite ones.

1. School Libraries

As a student, it’s easy to forget that Tisch Library and Lilly Music Library (and the SMFA Library in Boston) are not just great study spots but also, well, libraries, i.e., excellent sources of free books! Use JumboSearch to look at the library catalog or check books out in person. A fun and less well-known hack is that if Tisch doesn’t have a book you want to read, you can actually recommend a purchase, and I promise they want you to use this resource!

2. Identity Centers

The Women’s Center and LGBT Center on the Medford/Somerville campus have mini libraries with books on topics relating to women, gender, sexuality, and more. While these collections definitely fall within a more a niche theme, they’re an underrated source of new reads from educational, to self-help, to cute queer romance books and much more for the Tufts community.

3. Public Libraries

When I bring up this resource, people often groan because they think getting a library card is a long-complicated process that involves visiting the library in person and talking to human beings, but… guess what! There are other ways! As a resident of Massachusetts, you can sign up for a free eCard at Boston Public Library. This eCard gives you access to BPL’s massive collection of ebooks and audiobooks, which you can access conveniently through an app called Libby (see item 4). Of course, you can visit the library by taking the T to Copley Square or Back Bay and acquire a physical library card and borrow resources like books, DVDs, museum passes, etc. in person.

Another library to keep on your radar is the newly renovated Somerville Public Library on College Ave, which is super close to campus. On your next walk to Davis Square, stop by Somerville Public Library with some form of Photo ID and proof of address and ask to sign up for a library card at the front desk. Fill out a quick form and walk away with a library card that allows you to borrow not only from SPL, but also from any other library that is part of the Minuteman Library Network! You can sign up for a temporary card online, but you must go in person to obtain a physical library card. Alternatively, you can visit Medford Public Library in Medford Square, which is also within the Minuteman Library Network.

4. Libby

This is by far my personal favorite resource (when combined with the one above), and I still cannot quite believe it’s real. Download the app Libby on your smartphone or tablet, enter a library card number, and instantly acquire the ability to (virtually) borrow from your chosen library. Libby makes it easier to find your next read through features like filters, curated lists, and smart tags, that will help you navigate Boston Public Library’s extensive collection of ebooks and audiobooks! You can listen to borrowed audiobooks on the app, and ebooks can be read directly on the app or sent to your Kindle. In true library fashion, you do have to wait to borrow books sometimes and your (extendable) loan ends after 2 weeks, but if you’re indecisive like me, you’ll appreciate this natural narrowing down of options to choose from. I also always look out for the “Lucky Day” shelf, which lets you skip the line and borrow from a list of fairly popular books instantly.

Maitreyi Kale

5. Little Free Libraries

If you’ve walked around the Medford/Somerville area, you’ve probably come across one of these cute tiny wooden house-shaped bookshelves on sidewalks. The concept is simple: take a book or leave one! I always feel like a winner when I find a free copy of a book that’s on my to-read list in a Little Free Library, but also equally so when I discover treasures, I might not have come across otherwise. Sometimes the books in LFLs have little annotations or dedications penned by previous owners, which always add a bit of meaningful magic to the reading experience. Find Little Free Libraries near you!

Maitreyi Kale

6. Used Bookstores

This section could be its own blog post, really, because there are several used or secondhand bookstores in the Greater Boston Area! You can also sell copies you own in exchange for bookstore credit that you can then use to purchase your next read. I’d recommend googling used bookstores in the area and planning a visit (maybe with friends!), but here’s some of the popular stores: The Book Rack, Raven Used Books, Book Wonder, Brattle Book Shop, Brookline Booksmith, Harvard Bookstore, More Than Words, etc.

7. Community

I know Facebook feels like old news, but if you’re a college student, you probably use your account to access Facebook Groups, Pages, and Events specific to your school. If you’re looking for a particular book, consider posting an in search of, or “ISO” post on a Facebook group. Chances are, someone will comment or reach out saying they have the book you want, and maybe you’ll even make a new friend to discuss that book with! If you live on or around campus, I’d also recommend joining either Everything is Free Medford or Everything is Free Somerville, because these Facebook Groups are excellent for ISO posts like these and will significantly expand the reach of your request beyond just the Tufts community.

With the help of the above resources and more, I’ve managed to expand my personal collection of books, broaden my reading taste, and do some serious damage to my to-read list without emptying my wallet in the past three years, and I hope they help you achieve your bookish goals too!

Mentoring at Tufts

Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. candidate

Often times as a graduate student you are tasked with mentoring undergraduate students. This may be a daunting task to some while others view it as an easy assignment. There is a lot of time and consideration that must go into mentoring other students. I think one of the biggest things overlooked is that the whole point of mentoring is to teach or inspire the student, and that goal needs to be constantly considered when you’re in this position.

I work in a research lab at Tufts where graduate students can mentor undergraduates on their projects. There is nothing official about the process, its more or less just finding students (or them finding you) that are interested in your research. They help with various aspects of the experiments including design, execution, and analyzing data. However, its beneficial to keep in mind that there is a learning curve, and they are there to learn and not necessarily to contribute right away. If they know that you want them to learn and practice instead of just being an extra set of hands, it takes a lot of pressure and expectations out of the relationship and keeps it purely educational. If they make a mistake in one of their experiments, they’ll be honest with you and you can solve the problem together.

To be a good mentor is to be human. You have to be empathetic and understanding. You have to want to teach them something they are interested in, and help them in all areas of their professional, academic, and personal development when asked. If you can be a good mentor to undergraduates, then you can learn something about yourself and develop your communication and teaching skills along the way.

I have found mentoring to be extremely rewarding. I have taught my students the value of research, and they have become better scientists and have learned about their own personal interests and dislikes. I have learned about myself as well, including how to act in a leadership position and how not to act. Relationships like these have the ability to shape both participants in various aspects and can be such a gratifying experience.

Why Tufts?

Qi Pan, History M.A. Candidate

As a student in the humanities, I am a book lover who likes to read all kinds of books, and my entrance to Tufts was a result of serendipity because of two books. The first, a collection of prose essays by Haruki Murakami, refers to his time teaching at Tufts. It made me curious about Tufts, and led me to search for Tufts online. And I found out that the Tufts motto is Pax et Lux. The unique mention of “peace” in the motto—which I understood from my one year of Latin study—was attractive to me as a humanities student. The second book was recommended by my good friend who studied history in a famous Chinese university. My friend and I are both interested in feminism. In a women’s history course, her professor led them to discuss the book Crossing the Gate to investigate daily life of ancient Chinese women. Coincidentally, this book was written by Xu Man, a professor at Tufts. I was excited that a Chinese scholar could be so proficient in English academic writing about Chinese history while gaining a high reputation in China. This definitely motivated me to apply to Tufts. Ultimately, Professor Xu Man has become my current mentor in the Department of History at Tufts.

Besides these two books, coming to Tufts was also out of practical considerations. My undergraduate program focused on liberal arts education, so I took many courses related to politics, philosophy, and sociology beyond my history major. Although my interest in a wide range of subjects enriched my experience and thinking, it also made me want to gain more skills in the area of historical knowledge acquisition. Therefore, when application season came, I decided to apply for the history master’s program to learn transnational history and historiography more systematically and improve my academic skills. At this point, Tufts’ MA in History program came into my consideration. Compared with the one-year programs in the UK and Singapore, Tufts’ two-year program gave me plenty of time, with more complete academic training. As one of the top universities, Tufts also holds rich academic resources and provides abundant opportunities in academia. My mentor from my bachelor’s degree also highly recommended Boston as a city to study the humanities in. Therefore, I finally decided to come to Tufts to experience this top academic training opportunity.

Although there are only ten new students in the History department, all of them have diverse backgrounds and different research interests, such as European history, women’s history, history of ideas, etc. In the mandatory historiography course, I have listened to the speeches of classmates from Harvard College and marveled at the questioning ability of doctoral candidates. As the only Chinese student, I was initially nervous in and out of class, but my professors and classmates were all friendly and open-minded. They have encouraged me, praised my presentations sincerely, and invited me to the party warmly. In addition to studying history, I’ve also taken part in a writing workshop held for international students from which I got to know some master’s and doctoral students from different disciplines.

Since coming to Tufts, I’ve been to Boston several times, taken a duck boat ride with friends, and gone whale watching. There are many opportunities to see musicals, concerts, baseball games, etc. in Boston, which made my Chinese classmates envious. Life in the suburbs of Medford is good and being at school is comfortable as well. As I am a liberal arts student, I am frequently in Tisch Library to read books and search for sources. When I am tired or stressed, I usually take a slow walk to enjoy the beautiful campus scenery, see the squirrels and rabbits on the lawn and take a nap in the chairs under the shade. The campus under the sun in September reminded me of summer dreams in many books, and the red leaves in autumn are also so pleasing. Thanks to my decision to Tufts, I am satisfied with my study-life balance in a foreign country.

Tufts Campus, Qi Pan, 2022

Need an Ear?

Maitreyi Kale, Human Factors Engineering M.S. Candiate

Have you ever wanted to scream into the void about your problems? Vent to someone who’ll never gossip about you? Freak out about adulting in secret because everyone else seems to have their life figured out? Or just have a listening ear in the middle of the night?

One of the many perks of being a Jumbo is that you totally can! Ears for Peers is Tufts’ anonymous, student-run peer support hotline, and you can call or text Ears every night from 7 PM to 7 AM about absolutely anything. I’ve been a part of Ears for Peers (E4P) since my freshman year (Fall 2018), and it is by far the best most meaningful thing I do on campus. Why am I openly talking about being an Ear, if we’re supposed to be anonymous? This year, I am one of the Faces of Ears for Peers alongside the wonderful Libby Moser, and we are the only two non-anonymous members of the organization. You might see us around campus tabling for Ears, spreading the word about Ears as a resource and giving out free merch. I love being Face, because it means I get to talk about my favorite organization after having been anonymous for three years!

A lot of students don’t know this, but E4P is available as a resource to graduate students, too (and we sure do need it). So if you need someone to talk to, you can call us at 617-627-3888, or text us at ears4peers.herokuapp.com/ every night from 7 PM to 7 AM. We’re working on making it so you can text the number as well, so follow us on Instagram @ears4peers for updates on when that becomes possible! All Ears are Tufts students like you, so calls usually feel like chill conversations with a friend; we try our best to match the energy that you’re looking for! Since we’re fully anonymous and confidential, we’ll never know who’s calling or texting us, and you won’t know who you’re talking to, because our systems hide identifying information.

Ears are trained to handle a wide range of topics. With over 600 calls just last year, we’ve gotten calls about everything from relationship problems, to homesickness, academic troubles, to mental health struggles, and so much more. We’re familiar with Tufts resources on campus (and many off campus) and can provide personalized recommendations to callers if they’re interested. Despite being an Ear myself, I’ve called the line when I wasn’t on shift, because in bad moments, it’s comforting to know that I’m confiding in someone who doesn’t see me as a “burden”. 

Curious about what it’s like to be an Ear – besides gaining access to a secret group of actual superheroes as friends? Ears take 4 shifts per month, either from 7-11 PM or 11 PM to 7 AM. Shifts are taken in pairs, so you’re never alone, in a secret room that has beds, desks, computers, snacks, etc. so you can do homework, go to sleep, or exchange life stories with the other Ear on shift. When the phone rings or the text line goes off, you pick up, help someone out, and experience the fulfillment that comes with it. Sometimes, you end up having a great, hilarious conversation with a caller and get mad that you’re anonymous and cannot be best friends with said caller. And every now and then, your friends might ask you where you’re headed in the middle of the night when you’re on shift or attending a meeting, but it’s a secret, so you get pretty good at thinking on the spot, I guess?

Being an Ear has made me feel so connected to the Tufts community. I love talking to our callers and texters and hearing about their lives, being trusted with their most vulnerable selves. Sometimes, we get callers who reach out frequently throughout the year and it is a privilege to watch them grow over time and support them through their Tufts journey. Sometimes, Tufts students call us because they’re worried about a friend and just want to help. Every day as an Ear feels like a celebration of the inherent goodness of human beings! Every so often, a caller is hard on themselves about difficult situations and emotions, and you end up saying something to them that maybe you needed to hear yourself. I remember being devastated about the end of my first relationship ever during my sophomore year at Tufts, and while on shift, I received a call from someone going through a breakup. In supporting the caller as they processed their breakup, I found myself telling them “It’s okay. I know it’s not okay right now, but some day, it’s going to be okay, and that’s what makes it okay” and realized that I actually believed that I’d be okay for the first time since my breakup… I’d really needed to hear it myself. 

My favorite Ears tradition is The Gritch, which is a journal that sits in our room for Ears on shift to write in. The Gritch brings us closer together as a group, because we vent and respond to each other’s entries, and some Ears have even found love through writing to each other through the Gritch :’) Since Ears has been running since 1989, we have some Gritches from thirty years ago, and it’s super interesting to read first-hand accounts of what Tufts was like in the past! Like, I know it’s frustrating for us to deal with SIS to enroll in courses every semester, but did you know that in 1995, Jumbos used to line up outside Eaton Hall to register for their classes in person?! Can you imagine waiting in line for hours and only to find out that that course you really wanted to take filled up by the time it was your turn? It’s also fun to see what previous generations of Ears are up to now; Josh Wolk (A91), the founder of Tufts’ humor magazine The Zamboni, was secretly an Ear and wrote some of the funniest entries in the first Gritch ever. When I internet-stalked him (as one does), I found that he’s published a hilarious book called Cabin Pressure, which is about the time he returned to his childhood summer camp but as an adult counselor. A copy of that book now sits in the Ears room! 

Many people ask me why I decided to continue doing Ears during my master’s program, with everything else grad students tend to have on their plates. In an effort to end my history of overcommitting and overbooking myself (classic Tufts undergrad behavior), I promised myself to only give my time and effort to things I cared about most this year; Ears for Peers has contributed immensely to my growth as a person and my understanding of the human experience, so continuing to be an Ear during grad school felt like a no-brainer to me. As a bonus, some of my closest friends at Tufts were/are Ears, and our bonding nights spent playing board games, doing paint and sips, chatting around campfires, are some of my most cherished Tufts memories.  

Growing up in India, around a culture of shame and stigma surrounding mental health, I craved a community that acknowledged its significance and supported each other through these “hidden” difficulties. I feel proud to be going to a school whose students have set up such a unique, wonderful resource to support its community. I’m sure I speak for all Ears when I say: I know from personal experience what a difference it makes to have someone be there for you through a rough time. So, if you ever need anyone to talk to, know that we’re ear for you!

Tufts StAAR Center

Cyrus Karimy, Biomedical Engineering M.S. Candidate

Even before my master’s program officially started, I knew I would need to up my game. I have always worked hard in my academic career. However, I felt like I needed to work smarter to succeed. Success for me now is more than grades. It’s overall positive mental health (and having time to focus on it), having time for my loved ones, going to the gym multiple times a week, truly learning the material at hand, and succeeding in my laboratory work. I felt that working hard without the addition of working smart did not leave enough time in my schedule to do the other things that make me a complete person. 

In the second week of school, I decided to get ahead and schedule an appointment with the Student Accessibility and Academic Resources (StAAR) Center. The StAAR Center offers academic support through one-on-one academic coaching, writing consultations, tutoring, study groups, study strategies, and discipline-specific workshops. I went into my meeting knowing what I wanted, more time to do things that were important to me, but I didn’t really know how to get there. The StAAR center tutor was so kind and patient with me. In the first half of our session, we talked about who I was and what I was looking for. She quickly evaluated that I needed better time management, self-assessment, and breaking skills. 

Self-assessment was step one. What do I need to succeed and feel ready each day? Figuring these out and having them as non-negotiable activities would keep me in a place I needed to be. It’s important to know what you need in your life so that you don’t burn out while staying as happy and fulfilled as you can. For me, it was asking myself who are the people that take me out of the capitalistic matrix we live in? What are the activities that bring me forward toward my career, mental, physical, and spiritual goals?

The activities I came up with are:

  • Developing a proper morning routine to help me get in the best mindset I could for the day (stretching, journaling, etc.)
  • Going to the gym at least 5 times a week keeps my confidence and health in check
  • Making time for fun with friends and loved ones on the days when I don’t have classes brings me a lot of joy
  • Time to work on each course during the week so I don’t fall behind on my classes
  • Dedicating time to going to the laboratory for training
  • Developing a nighttime routine that would help me prepare for the next day, and having activities that calm my mind so I can fall asleep easier (meditation, staying off social media, writing my schedule for the next day, etc.)

Now that I have my activities set up it’s time for step 2. With time management, I now take all the activities I mentioned above and plug them into my new schedule. I had been carrying around a small calendar and trying to squeeze my agenda into every little box that represented a day in the month. The tutor saw that and actually gave me a new calendar book, that had the month laid out on one page, as well as additional pages that allow you to really dive into detail with what you want to accomplish that day.

The setup I chose for the overall calendar (image 1) was only to write the big due dates and events going on in my life. I’d go into detail about what I was going to do each day in the focused daily calendar (image 2). This helped me stay aware of what was coming in the future while allowing me to focus on what was happening day to day in an organized and visibly pleasing fashion.

Step 3 is breaking skills (how to take breaks efficiently). This one really got me. The first thing my StAAR Center mentor told me is “don’t go on your phone, especially using social media as a break.” This pointer has definitely helped me the most, I didn’t realize how draining absorbing content is. I’ve been trying to look outside my window, go on walks, or text my loved ones instead of going on Instagram, Youtube, etc., for my study breaks. This hasn’t been the easiest adjustment because I’m so used to going on these apps for my study breaks. I wish I knew beforehand that this was not actually resting my brain. 

Overall, I can see myself succeeding more in my classes and life in general. I’m getting good grades, I’m able to see the people that make me happy, my sleep has been better, and I’m going to the gym more than before! My planning skills allow me to get all the things done that I want to. It has taken some trial and error though. I’ve been learning how much time certain tasks are going to take. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and that’s ok! That’s life really, because nothing is perfect, including us. But what I’ve learned in these past few weeks is if I try my best to generally prepare, I can’t ask more of myself, and that’s good enough for me. Thanks for reading, until next time!

Why Tufts?

Christine So, Diversity & Inclusion Leadership M.A. Candidate

Tufts Memorial Steps, 2022

To be completely honest, I never imagined myself going to graduate school and furthermore to end up at Tufts.

Prior to being a graduate student here in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, I was at Michigan State University for my undergraduate degree doing a BA in Music with an Entrepreneurship minor. I originally thought I wanted to do a degree in Oboe Performance, but eventually found myself doing a BA in Music as I had a wide variety of interests within the classical music industry/fine arts.

My oboe professor at the time encouraged me to consider graduate programs as she felt I would be a good fit in the arts administration route. However, to keep my options open, I looked into programs that I felt also suited my other interests within music. Within the classical music industry, there are a lot of issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ). I became passionate in my undergraduate institution as a student leader advocating for DEIJ-related issues. As a marginalized person with intersecting identities, I became very passionate about bettering the communities I was a part of to better the student experiences. This passion continued into my career path, which leads to why I am here at Tufts.

When looking at graduate programs with a DEIJ focus, Tufts is one of the few in our country to have an actual master’s degree. Globally, the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Program is one of 14-15 master’s programs. Most institutions offer a certificate in this field, which Tufts also offers, but very few have  a master’s degree option. Despite Tufts being extremely competitive, I decided to shoot my shot and turn in my application. After about a month of feeling both nervous and excited, I got my acceptance into the program!

“O Show”, Student Orientation, 2022

When I saw the class that was accepted into the program, which was about 15-20 students, I knew I had to come to Tufts. To be 1 of 20 individuals, I felt Tufts wanted me to be here because I deserved to. The work in DEIJ is never done and I was excited to see what the program could offer me to further my passions in being an advocate in the spaces I care for. I was also accepted to be a Resident Assistant in the Beacon Street dorms for first year BFA students at SMFA at Tufts as well as the SMFA Student Affairs Graduate Intern for Programming.

It’s only been a month, but I’m excited to see how the rest of the semester goes. I have met amazing people in my program and at work and the Tufts campus is so cute. Coming to Tufts, I’ve realized more and more that I belong here with my peers and have worked hard to be a fellow Jumbo.