Two weeks as a graduate student

Yesterday, my university sent out an email warning us against bacterial meningitis (one student has already been diagnosed with it). The email listed the common symptoms of the disease:

• Fever
• Headache
• Stiff neck
• Nausea or vomiting
• Acting confused, or being hard to wake up
• Sensitivity to light (bothering a person’s eyes)
• A rash that looks like red or purple spots on the skin that do not go away when touched
• Seizures – a seizure can make people pass out, or move or behave strangely

A senior masters student refers to some of them as “graduate school symptoms”. This does reveal some truth. Life as a graduate student is no longer as colourful as an undergrad. On the one hand, academics requires a lot more efforts; on the other hand, people are all working hard fo their goals so it’s quite competitive. Graduate students tend to have a concentrated and intense lifestyle (there are outliers but they don’t usually enjoy a happy ending).

What I learned from my first two weeks at grad school:

1. Never underestimate the pace and the difficulty of the class. Always study the materials beforehand.

2. Join or organize study groups. It’s a great way to learn about the course concepts as well as about your own strengths and weaknesses. It’s also about establishing friendship with your classmates.

3. Do not hesitate to ask questions in class. It’s always better than postponing (and elevating) your confusion.

4. Eat and sleep well. I have to give credits to my lovely roommates for their enormous passion in cooking, which makes me the beneficiary of this positive externality!


This road is not going to be easy. Just like paddling for 40 miles, graduate school is also about “pushing one step further” (quote from Adrian, a graduate from our MA program).



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