This comic was born out of the pandemic-induced stress (of course). I am an international student from India, dealing with the crazy COVID situation there, topped off with imposter syndrome of a student who’s about to graduate. The comic signifies inner strength and the need for self-care, but in a rather wacky way. It is also one of my first attempts of turning my journal writing into a comic strip with personalized illustrations.
Written by Abigail Epplett, M.A. 2021 in Museum Education
Need to get away from campus for the day? There are plenty of things to do away from the hustle and bustle of Boston. If you love to spend time outdoors or learn about history, check out the region where I am from: the Blackstone River Valley. Extending from Worcester in south-central Massachusetts to Pawtucket in northern Rhode Island, this National Historical Park offers a wide variety of activities and destinations, from zoos and museums to hiking trails and bikeways. You might even check out the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at the Tufts University campus in Grafton, MA. As I continue to shamelessly plug my home region, here are some suggestions for what to do on your day in the Valley.
Worcester is the second largest city in Massachusetts, edging out Springfield by about 30,000 residents. While diminutive in comparison to Boston, the city offers art, culture, and history without the high price of parking or traffic. See fine art from around the world at the Worcester Art Museum, whose exhibits range from an enormous Greek floor mosaic and a medieval armor collection to special exhibits highlighting baseball-inspired fashion and early American folk art. Explore local history at the Worcester Historical Museum & Salisbury Mansion, where an entire exhibit is dedicated to Harvey Ball, the Worcester native who created the smiley face. If you’re traveling with children, or you’re young at heart, visit the eclectic Ecotarium, part children’s museum and part zoo. Be sure to say hello to my favorite residents, Salton and Freyja, the mountain lion siblings who live at the museum’s Wild Cat Station. If indoor adventures aren’t your style, swing by the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center in Worcester to check out the exhibits and grab maps of local trails before heading south for a day of biking & hiking. If you miss this venue, don’t worry! Similar visitor centers are located in Whitinsville, MA and Pawtucket, RI.
Biking & Hiking
The Blackstone Valley Greenway is a project to
connect Worcester to Providence through a series of bike trails. Currently,
three sections of off-road, paved trails make up seventeen miles of the
bikeway, with further expansion in progress. The path crosses through many of
the towns in the Valley and is a great way to get some exercise while touring
the area, with plenty of signage along the way. Visit the Captain Wilbur Kelly
House Transportation Museum beside the path in Lincoln, RI to learn more about
the Blackstone Canal and the Industrial Revolution.
Follow the remains of the canal by biking or
hiking on the historic towpath from Plummer’s Landing in Northbridge
to Stanley Woolen Mill in Uxbridge. Take note that some areas of this path are
badly eroded. If you want a less arduous trip, stick to the walking tour near the Canal Heritage State Park portion
of the trail. The visitors’ center at River Bend Farm also provides
parking and restrooms, along with areas to picnic, fish, and canoe or kayak.
Just down the street is West Hill Dam Reserve, which is managed by the
Army Corps of Engineers. The reserve permits dog walking and horseback riding
on the trails, and swimming is permitted on the beach.
For more easy biking and walking, head south to Lincoln, Rhode Island for two different outdoor experiences. First, you can roam the fields of Chase Farm, located between the Hearthside House Museum & Hannaway Blacksmith Shop and Historic New England’s Eleazer Arnold House. The blacksmith shop holds classes for smiths at any level on most Sundays, while both houses offer led tours. If you would rather stick to a path, visit Lincoln Woods, part of the Rhode Island State Parks. This slightly hilly three mile loop takes walkers and bikers around a pond suitable for swimming, fishing, and boating. When looking for more extreme outdoor adventures, check out Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton, managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Hike the trail through the chasm, or bring your own rock climbing gear to scale the walls. Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes and carry plenty of water. The hike back is longer than you think! If you enjoy long walks without a climb, try Douglas State Forest, also managed by DCR. This trail system connects to the Southern New England Trunkline Trail, which runs near the Massachusetts – Rhode Island border for twenty-two miles.
Even More History!
If you’re a tinkerer or inventor, you’ll love the Willard House & Clock Museum in North Grafton, MA. The small museum showcases over 80 clocks made by the Willard family during the 18th and 19th centuries. The building itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and retains its original character. The spacious lawn of the museum makes it an ideal place for plein air painting and photography. Museum of Work & Culture in Woonsocket, RI houses multiple exhibits on the lives of mill workers in the Blackstone River Valley, focusing on the experience of French-Canadian immigrants to the region. Life-sized reproductions of houses, a church, a parochial school classroom, and a union hall combine with video presentations and sound effects to create an immersive experience.
To see the mill that started the Industrial
Revolution in the United States, visit Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark in
Pawtucket, RI. The building is currently closed as its programs undergo a
transformation after its purchase by the National Park Service. Current signage
around the building tells the story of the mill, although it’s unclear when
tours will begin again.
Nature within Your Grasp
Animal lovers might hesitate to travel abroad to see their favorite species, but here in the Blackstone River Valley, exotic animals are never more than a few minutes away. You can see over 850 species from around the world by visiting family-owned Southwick Zoo in Sutton, MA. My favorite exhibit is the Deer Forest, where visitors can pet and feed tame fallow deer. While you can’t take a deer back to campus, you can bring home fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farms. Visit Wojcik Farm in Blackstone, MA; Foppema’s Farm in Northbridge, MA; and Douglas Orchard in Douglas, MA to buy locally grown produce, jams, and baked goods from an old fashioned farm store. If you would rather get your fruit directly from the field, Sunburst Blueberry Farm in Uxbridge, MA offers pick-your-own blueberries in July. Be sure to come early! Between the efforts of long-time local pickers and the birds, there aren’t many ripe blueberries left by the afternoon.
So Much to Do, and So Close By!
When you need a day away but don’t want a long commute, the Blackstone River Valley is the perfect place to take a break. Whether it’s learning the history of the region, exploring on a trail, eating fresh food, or simply relaxing at one of the many parks, you can be sure to find something that interests you. I hope you enjoy your next trip to the Valley! Be sure to tell them that I sent you.
Post-doctoral Researcher, Tufts University and Washington State University
There are two main reasons why I chose Tufts: collaboration and community. When picking my graduate school, I chose based on the Biology Department specifically. Now, after having been at Tufts for four years, I can say that these two reasons also apply to Tufts in general.
Collaboration: I loved that the Biology Department was collaborative, not competitive. Since we are one Biology Department, there is a range of expertise: from DNA repair to animal behavior, there is likely someone that can help with any project you propose. There are grad students that are co-advised and many labs collaborate. I am currently working on a project with the Wolfe Lab, a lab that studies microbial communities in fermented foods! I am working with the Wolfe Lab to determine if honey bee diet affects the community of microbes that live in the honey bee gut.
In general, I find the atmosphere on the Tufts campus to be a collaborative one rather than a competitive one. There are opportunities for grad students to collaborate with labs outside of their own department. Tufts even has an internal grant, Tufts Collaborates, which is specifically for this purpose! In my department, I know of biologists who work with chemists, engineers, and computer scientists.
Community: Even though we are divided into two buildings, the Biology Department strives to stay united. Every Friday, we have a seminar with cookies and tea before, and chips and salsa after. After seminar, I have the chance to catch up with faculty, staff, and students that work in the other building.
Outside of my department, the Tufts Graduate Student Council (GSC) strives to create a sense of community within the grad students. There are monthly GSC meetings where you can meet other grad students, hear about things going on, and voice your own opinions. The GSC also hosts academic, social, and community outreach events. Just last month, the GSC held their annual Graduate Student Research Symposium (GSRS). This symposium is for all grad students on the Tufts University Medford/Somerville campus and School of the Museum of Fine Arts. The GSRS is not only a place to meet other grad students, but it’s a place where you can learn about all the cool research happening at Tufts, and maybe find a collaborator!
A couple other reasons specific to me: I grew up in a small town and while I enjoy visiting the city, I am not much of a “city girl.” The location of Tufts is great for the small-town girl in me: it’s easy to visit the city but it’s also easy to find beautiful places to hike and enjoy nature. Just about an hour south of New Hampshire and an hour east of Central Mass, there are plenty of gorgeous hiking trails and mountains within a manageable driving distance.
Since I would one day like to teach at a primarily undergraduate institution, I also like that Tufts has unique teaching opportunities for grad students. There is the Graduate Institute for Teaching where grad students attend workshops on teaching during the summer, and then co-teach a class with a faculty member during the fall. There is also the ExCollege which awards Graduate Teaching Fellowships for students who want to create and teach a class on their own. This coming Fall, I will be teaching my own class on insect pollinators and applying basic science to conservation practices!
Written by Ebru Ece Gulsan, Ph.D. student in Chemical Engineering
Congratulations! You made it!
You are moving to the Boston area
and are possibly even coming from the other side of the world.
Your parents are proud, friends are jealous.
As time goes by, maybe they start to be more bittersweet. They think you are too busy living the dream life to FaceTime with them as often as you used to, but they have no idea how difficult it is to wake up at 5 am to make sure you call them at a reasonable time since there is a 10 hour time difference. You sound “annoying” or “displeased” when you complain about the tremendous amount of grad school work-load because your loved ones think you do not appreciate your opportunities enough. It looks so easy when you see the third-year international students, because they all seem settled down and have already built their communities. They are all incredibly fluent in English while you still take your time to construct your sentences in the most grammatically perfect way not to be judged by native speakers, and sometimes give up on speaking up because you are exhausted of overthinking.
I get it.
I moved to Boston from a country where America is only known for its fast food, huge cars, and “drive thrus.” Maybe also for TV ads of prescribed medications (like seriously?).
Even though I traveled abroad a bunch, lived in different countries and went to an English medium university, it took me a long time to feel comfortable with my new first language. I still remember the first time I landed at Boston Logan Airport and not understanding a word the security guy said to me. I was freaking out about writing a scientific article or a textbook chapter in English. The first research group meeting I attended was a nightmare – leaving aside the scientific content of the discussions, I could barely understand the language that they spoke. There is a difference between “native speakers who speak English” and “internationals who speak English.”
Language shock is not even the first challenge you face when you move in from another country. Yes, we live in a more global age and all of us are exposed to other cultures and understandings, but this does not necessarily mean that we will immediately adjust and things will go smoothly. There are so many small cultural differences and nuances, such as different gender roles, work ethics, and gestures that are not visible at first. You will learn how to write e-mails, how to flirt, or what to say someone who has lost a significant other in another language. Health insurance, contracts, financial agreements, leases; all these small things work differently, and now you have to read everything before pressing “I agree to the terms and conditions.” It is like learning how to walk again, although you thought you had expertise in it. On top of all these challenges, there is also the time you realize you came to this country all by yourself and you have to make friends and build your own community to survive.
The first big step to take is to accept the fact that you will need to put in effort. You probably will not find yourself in your perfect friend group spontaneously without making the first move. Luckily, Boston is such a diverse and international city. It is easy to blend in. It might feel strange or new to hang out with people with different backgrounds at the beginning, but Bostonians have been doing this for such a long time. Plus, you speak their language! This makes a huge difference because if you were to move in another country where the first language is not English, it would be much more difficult to befriend locals. Despite the fact that they can speak English if they want to, people will hardly give up on the comfort of speaking their first language to have you around. Are you not confident about your accent? Well, think about it as an ice breaker because you will notice that the question “where is your accent is coming from?” is a classic pickup line. So, own it!
There is a metaphor I really like: it is called “Peach People vs Coconut People.” You can look it up for more details, but briefly, it defines certain people as “peach people” and others as “coconut people”. Peach people are easy to approach, love small talk, yet they still have the core that they will only share with their core group of friends or significant others (this does not mean that you will never be a part of it). Coconut people are the opposite, with an annoyed resting face; but once you get to know them, they are ready to tell you about their aunt’s new boyfriend or why they chose a particular medicine. Just remember that people will be different, and keep this in mind to understand different reactions when approaching others and getting to know them.
Obviously, it is easier to connect with other expats. You will receive plenty of e-mails from Tufts International Center about upcoming events – attend them. If you want to bond with people from your country, find their communities and show up at their gatherings. But please remember that balance is the key. Keep your conversations and friend groups diverse. Of course you will feel homesick and will need your own people, but try not to call home every time you find yourself in this situation. Actually, you know what? You will soon realize that you see home in a different light. It will take time, but once you get there home will not be “where your heart is,” but instead might be where you can connect to the VPN.
Last but not least, know what you like to do and keep doing more of it. Pursue your hobbies and find others who share the similar interests. If you like scuba diving, become a member of New England Divers. If you enjoy photography, go take a course about it and meet others who enjoy it too. Do you need people to hike together? Just invite them and get to know each other during the hike while there is no distraction except the nature.
Do not forget that flux has no
season in a diverse and international city like Boston. People come and go all
the time. They all feel like a fish out of water at the beginning. Everybody
needs friends and there is not a “more normal” thing than the desire of being a
part of a community. Just be yourself, show up and bring your beautiful unique accent
and slightly broken English with you wherever you go!
I was fairly young when I
discovered that getting a doctorate meant something other than becoming a
medical doctor, which meant that I was fairly young when I decided that I was
going to get a doctorate. I’ve been working towards this since I was five, and
even though the path to get here was hard and full of unexpected gap years and
tough situations, I am very happy to finally be here.
But my story isn’t everyone’s story. Not everyone learns about doctoral programs when they are five years old and decides to get their Ph.D. before they even start going to full-time kindergarten. Some people might be considering this fresh out of undergrad, wondering if they need graduate school or even if they made the right decision to apply. So I asked some friends for their stories, gathered up ideas, and wrote a list of common reasons why people should (or shouldn’t) go to grad school.
You have a dream job that needs a graduate degree
This one is very common. If your dream job is to become a professor at a university and mentor undergraduates or graduates while working on your own research, it is almost guaranteed that you need a Ph.D. Similarly, there are many lab manager, industry professional, and administrative positions that require a master’s degree, at minimum. Research what you need in order to succeed in your field and go for that.
You need to advance in your career
On a related note, sometimes getting that master’s or Ph.D. will help you go further in a career you already have. That is awesome! I know many people, especially teachers, who go this route. Getting a graduate degree can help advance your knowledge of the field, increase your salary, or even land you a promotion.
Side note: don’t get more than you
need if the previous two reasons are why you are attending graduate school. If
you need a master’s, don’t go to a Ph.D. program. It will take at least twice
as long, is much more likely to be full-time, and may even make you
overqualified for your desired position.
You want the opportunity to improve your research capabilities
While there are plenty of industry jobs that require you to do research, they generally don’t give you the same educational support that grad school does. If you’re working on Project X for a company, you might learn exactly how to complete the necessary tasks A, B, and C. If you’re working on Project X in grad school, you might learn the theoretical backgrounds of tasks A and B, the reasons why task C is so important to the project, and how to do related tasks D, E, and F, along with the research another professor is doing regarding Project Y. And, maybe you work with them for a bit to see if that is interesting, and if it will help you develop Project Z for your dissertation. The breadth of knowledge and understanding you develop for your work is built into the graduate program. You might get this depth of experience in industry depending on your field, so it’s up to you to decide if a graduate degree will get you an education your field cannot provide you with.
You love to learn
This does not mean the same thing as “you like school.” Graduate school isn’t set up to be the same school experience as high school or even undergrad. It is more challenging, more demanding, and designed to expand your mind more than it is designed to teach you things. If you have a passion for learning and growing, and love what you are learning, grad school is likely worth it. This is the reason I decided to go to graduate school when I was five, and it is still one of my most important reasons for staying. I love being here, I love learning, researching, and growing every day. It’s hard, but I don’t regret it.
Of course, these are not all of the reasons to attend grad school. There are many, many, many more. And there are just as many reasons to not attend grad school. What matters is that you make the decision for yourself, based on your own desires and goals. You can talk to your advisor, your friends, current graduate students, potential schools, or your employer, but when it comes down to it, the decision is yours to make. Make sure that you know you are doing what is best for you, so that you are as prepared as possible should you decide to pursue applying to graduate school.
Graduate school — and in particular Ph.D. Programs — are strange because at times you feel like there is an indefinite amount of work to do and that you might just be in school forever. But at the same time, that feeling of permanence can be comforting. Once I settled into my routine, Tufts became my home and I’ve loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. And with that comes a whole bunch of emotions — the excitement for the next step, the sadness for leaving my Tufts community, and the stress of finishing degree requirements.
I am currently right in that sweet spot. Over the summer, I had the good fortune to accept a postdoctoral fellowship which will begin in early 2020. That means that I get the opportunity to finish my Ph.D. Without the added pressure of finding a job. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my success in finding a job is a testament to the experiences I’ve been afforded at Tufts. Not only did I receive world class mentorship, but the professional development opportunities (Graduate Institute for Teaching and the NOD Workshops) helped me hone my marketable skills. I am incredibly excited for my next step, but over the next few months I have a LOT to take care of — namely finishing all that writing. I’ve decided to give you some of my tips for getting down to business and finishing that pesky dissertation.
1. Schedule, schedule, schedule
I cannot overstate the importance of planning. When I have a lot of projects going on, it sometimes seems easier to just do things and be productive. When all you have to do is writing, it can be difficult to focus. Staring at a blank page and thinking about how you have to ill it up is… daunting. I have found that the best way to avoid this feeling of desperation is to have realistic, scheduled goals. Focusing on one section in the morning and one section in the afternoon has helped me not get bored with the material and continue progressing.
2. Write in different places
Although I love my desk, sometimes you need a change of scenery. Luckily, there are at least 5 different coffee shops within a 10 minute walk of campus. My favorite coffee shop for writing is Tamper: it’s nice and quiet, serves delicious food, and offers beer options for later in the day. I’m also a huge fan of working in Tisch Library. There’s something about being surrounded by stressed out undergraduates that motivates you to get your own work done. By switching up my physical writing space, I have been able to make progress even when it doesn’t feel like it.
3. Get the blood pumping
Most people know that when you are stressed, making time for physical exercise is crucial. This becomes even more important when you’re writing your dissertation, which should be a marathon and not a spring. I try to make time and head down to the Tisch Fitness Center or go on a run along the Charles River. These are great opportunities to clear your head, which always helps with writing.
4. Don’t forget to have fun!
Most importantly, I think, is remembering that writing your dissertation should have some elements of fun. This can be the hardest task, because you’ve spent years in your program and you might feel jaded with your topic. But after all, these will be the final months of your time at Tufts. For me, it has been the perfect opportunity to reflect and remember where my passions first began. Tufts has been a fantastic chapter of my life that I will remember fondly.
Written by Ece Gulsan, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student
After a long (actually very long) winter, the sunshine we have been looking forward to finally came. I still remember the first day of snow last November. I was thrilled and excited, but I did not know that the massive pile of snow would stay with us until late March! I almost forgot what the campus looked like without that white puffy layer.
And then it was 80 degrees outside.
Sun was up. The weather was hot and humid.
Jumbos, we made it. Summer came!
We still have a few hot weekends left to spend on a beach and work on our tans. There are plenty of beaches around which are accessible by MBTA, and all you need to do is to get a Charlie Card and hop on a train. Today, I am going to share my favorite beaches in the area, and what you should know before you head to them, or to bookmark for future exploration.
Tufts Boathouse at Upper Mystic Lake
My top choice is obvious for seasoned Jumbos, but if you are new to Tufts, you will be surprised by this beautiful hidden gem near campus. Located at 481 Mystic Valley Pkwy in Medford, Tufts Boathouse has two docks by the tranquil Mystic Lake with a gorgeous view. Bring your own picnic to spend the day, and if you have more time, stay longer to enjoy the sunset. The best part is you do not have to worry about entrance fee because it is all free!
Directions:Take the Bus 80 or 94 from campus towards upper Medford for a 30-minute ride, or bike there in 15 minutes. You can even walk in less than 45 minutes. I personally enjoy adding it to my morning run because it is super close to the campus.
Singing Beach at Manchester-by-the-Sea
If you need a “real beach”: the smell of ice-cold salty water and the warmth of a golden sand under your feet, Singing Beach is the place to go. The beach is located in the beautiful town Manchester-by-the-Sea, home of the very famous movie and the bookstore with the same name. The entrance fee to the beach is $7 for the day. There are also plenty of dining options in town.
Visit Cala’sfor their fresh fish tacos accompanied by a glass of slushy margarita. If you are in the mood for a more casual lunch, grab a delicious wood fired pizza to-go from Bravo-by-the-Sea and enjoy your meal on the beach. Do not forget to visit Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream Shopfor a sweet treat on your way back home.
Directions: Hop on the Rockport Commuter Rail Line from North Station to Manchester. The beach is 10 minutes walking distance from the train station. The MBTA offers an unlimited commuter rail weekend pass for only $10, which means you do not have to worry about paying for a round trip! If you leave early, you can even get to visit other towns (like Gloucester or Newburyport) on your way to Manchester, or you can take advantage of your weekend pass the day after by paying a short visit to Salem!
Front Beach and Back Beach at Rockport
Although it is not as isolated as Singing Beach, Front Beach offers a sandy shore with restaurants nearby. It is a perfect place to just lie down and spend the day under the sun. Alternatively, Back Beach has a more “sportive” vibe, which is the reason why I love that place. It is a hub for New England Scuba Divers. If you are a licensed Scuba Diver, you can join one of the diving communities in the area for their next “Scallop Hunt Dive” or “Lobster Discovery Dive.” If you do not have a diving certification, but want to have get one, there are many certified diving schools in the city. The summer is the best time to join to explore the marine life and you’ll have one more excuse to visit a beach on weekends! Plus, if you can dive in the ice-cold New England water, you can dive literally anywhere in the world.
Directions: The Rockport Commuter Rail Line from North Station will take you to Rockport. The beaches are approximately half mile away from the station. Do not forget to visit the city before you head to the beach!
Written by Alia Wulff, Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. student
I have completed my fourth semester here at Tufts and have taken nine classes. Every single one of those classes had unique insights and learning experiences that make them impossible to compare. So I’m afraid the title of this blog post, “My Favorite Class at Tufts,” is basically just clickbait. I can’t pick a favorite class. It would be like making me choose a favorite between chocolate chip cookies, waterslides, and cute videos of unlikely animal friends. How could I choose between things that are so different and all so amazing?
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to write about. I may not have a specific class, but there certain factors that I look for when planning my class schedule. The first of these factors that affects my enjoyment of a class is my comfort with class discussion. This is really important in graduate school specifically, as most (if not all) classes are seminars. Even for the classes that aren’t seminars, it is important that the students are able to comfortably ask questions and interact with others in front of the class. My public speaking anxiety has gone down since entering graduate school, but it is still nerve-wracking to voice an opinion in front of a group of people. Anything that lessens that anxiety helps me to find my voice and engage directly with others’ ideas and opinions.
Secondly, I find direct application to be really important. Whether it is to my research, my teaching ability, or even my life, being able to apply the information I learn to my own experiences is really important. Being able to get something out of the class beyond a grade is an essential part of keeping the class relevant.
Finally, it is really important that I’m interested in spending 13+ weeks discussing the topic. This seems like a no-brainer, but it actually is more important than I expected. My undergraduate colleges were on a quarter system, so our classes took a max of 10 weeks. Going back to a semester system like I had in high school, feels like a big jump. Making sure the classes can engage my interest for such a long period of time is an important factor when I make my schedule. If there is a subject you want to learn about but don’t want to spend a whole semester studying, check if you can sit in on a few of the more pertinent classes or find a related workshop or talk you could attend.
I have a pretty good system to assess these factors ahead of time when registering for classes. It’s very easy if the class is in my department. I generally know the professor and their teaching style. I know the people taking the class or can ask around until I find them. I might even know people who have taken the class in the past and can give me information from a student’s perspective if needed. This is probably the main reason why I haven’t taken any classes I haven’t enjoyed at Tufts: I spend time making sure the class is pertinent and interesting before registering.
It does get trickier when the class is in a separate department. I have only taken one outside of my department. The course was designed to be cross-discipline and therefore other members of my lab had taken it, so I didn’t have to do too much investigating. If your program involves a lot more interdisciplinary classes you may have to do more research to ensure the class is a good fit, but it will be worth it. One of the perks of graduate school is you don’t have to go through two years of “trying classes out” before finding an area you actually enjoy.
You may have heard that classes don’t matter in graduate school. This is not true at all, at least in my case. While research is important and takes more time, every class I have taken so far has directly led to me being a better graduate student and researcher. Taking care with my class schedule and making sure I will benefit from every class I take is essential to my learning. Take classes seriously and you will receive serious benefits, I promise!
Written by Alia Wulff, Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. student
I originally titled this “My Favorite Spot on Campus”, but then I just couldn’t narrow down my list to only one space. That is because of one simple fact: Boston weather is the least stable thing in the world. Honestly. I come from one of the rainiest states in the United States. There is a rainforest, a desert, a mountain range, multiple lakes, and over 150 miles of ocean shoreline, all with wildly different weather systems. I always thought Washington State was a weather marvel. But Boston weather makes Washington weather seem boring. For example: over a single period of three days in April I wore my huge puffy jacket with leggings under my pants, then shorts and a tank top, and finally a t-shirt with jeans. Non-meteorologists have no hope of preparing for the weather unless you were born here. That is all to say that my favorite spot on campus changes from hour to hour depending on what it is like outside, so I decided to include spots for every weather situation.
When it’s slightly drizzly without being too cold:
I love a gentle rain. Just enough to cool down the pavement and water the plants, but not enough to paste my hair to my head and soak through my jeans. This type of weather is ideal for heading to the graduate student lounge in Curtis Hall, as it’s not quite rainy enough to give you an excuse to stay in your office all day but also not nice enough to go outside for an extended period of time. There you can buy a snack, microwave your lunch, and then settle down onto a cozy couch to work for a few hours.
When it is pouring rain outside:
This is the weather that is rainy enough to give you an excuse to stay in your office all day. Therefore, when it’s raining so hard that my water-resistant coat is basically equivalent to a thin sweater, my office is my favorite spot. I have spent time making sure my desk has things on it that make me happy, like notes from my family, pictures, and little fidget toys. Listening to the rain while drinking a cup of tea, snuggled in my blanket, and getting some good writing in is honestly one of my favorite things.
When there is snow on the ground:
While I dislike the snow, I will admit that it is beautiful. So while I’m not going to make a concerted effort to go out in the snow, I do make note of the particularly beautiful visuals when it snows. My favorite spot when there is snow is the front lawn by the Memorial Steps. The beautiful old iron fence and brick buildings look so regal against the snow-covered ground and spindly trees. It is a good reminder that snow is not all bad.
When the sun is out and it’s too hot to be outside:
It can get really hot here. To be fair, I am a delicate flower who can’t stand temperatures above 70°F, but I think it’s not too presumptuous to say 90°F is pushing it for almost everyone. When this happens, I like to go into the Science and Engineering Complex, order an iced drink or smoothie from the café, and sit in the atrium. It has a ton of windows, so you can still enjoy the sunshine, but the temperature-controlled air and plethora of seating options means you can still enjoy your day.
When it’s a breezy and sunshiny day in March/April:
This is a very specific situation and there is a very specific spot on campus associated with it. Along the Memorial Steps sprout hundreds of daffodils and trees that grow pink flowers during this time. Sitting on the cement border of the stairs, feeling the breeze and enjoying the flowers, is an ideal way to spend a few minutes on a beautiful spring day. Not everyone likes plants or the sunshine or even the outdoors but stopping to appreciate beautiful details like these always puts a spring in my step.
We often find ourselves isolated in books and papers while in graduate school. It is easy to forget how to communicate effectively or openly with other people, but the one person you need to communicate effectively with is your advisor. I encourage graduate students to foster a culture of open and effective communication with their advisor. In my experience, communicating effectively with my academic advisor is one of the most important factors which will determine my success and happiness in my graduate education.
The first step towards developing an effective communication strategy is to define a set of ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ from your program. This may seem like a daunting task, but it will help you later down the road when you want to translate your experience from your coursework, group projects, thesis projects, and experiments into transferrable skills to list on your resume.
Ask yourself questions like: “After I graduate, what is my ideal job?” and “What skills will I need to be successful in that role?”. These are difficult questions to ask, but it’s important to take the time and think it out. As a result of this practice, I was able to adopt more open and effective communication methods with not only myself, but with my advisor. These methods have contributed to success within my graduate program. The more independent you become, and the easier you make it for your advisor to support you by communicating your wants and needs, the better your relationship will be. By becoming more self-sufficient in your graduate program, you will become more prepared for your future career.
In a culture of effective communication, it is important to be direct. It is essential to focus on work-related issues and state the objective realities that concerns you. Clarify your thoughts about the situation, and why it bothers you. Are you concerned that your project is not being completed properly? Is it taking too long? Is it too expensive? Is it difficult to get along with someone else on the project? Explain what your goals are and how you would like the situation to be resolved. Before the meeting, plan out your thoughts and ideas to make the most of your time.
As students, we can sometimes forget that professors are busy people. Most of them teach, serve on committees, write grant requests, travel to conferences, and mentor graduate students. While problems with your research and coursework are central to you, they are only one of the many items on your professor’s radar. This makes effective communication central to a working relationship with them. If you feel stuck in your research or academic work or the writing of a paper or manuscript, then it is time to utilize your effective communication skills and schedule a meeting with your advisor.