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
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.
Maitreyi Kale, Human Factors Engineering M.S. Candiate
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?
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 @ears4peersfor 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!
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.
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
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,
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
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!