After my three-week recess at home, I feel energetic and prepared for my third semester at Duke. Although I know many New Semester Resolutions end up unfulfilled, I still would like to make a few points about what I want to achieve in the next few months.
First and foremost, survive the PhD classes and learn the important stuff. I will only take PhD macro and PhD econometrics this fall. Duke is strong in econometrics so taking a course before I leave cannot be a bad choice. Overall, coursework will not be as intense as the last semester (I was DYING then), but it will involve deeper thinking. I hope to enhance my ability to put down my thoughts in a logical and sophisticated way. Economic intuition is important, but technical tools are also essential in doing research.
Second, build up my skills as an economist through independent and faculty-guided research. I am writing a China-related paper based on my term paper written last year. It will be completed in the form of either a thesis or an independent study project. I am lucky to be picked by Prof. Daniel Xu as his research assistant. And we will work on some China-related projects starting from this semester. I am already getting excited about this! I might also start working for a professor at the public policy school who specializes in development economics.
Third, go to seminars and talks and INTERACT with people there. Prof. Duncan Thomas, a development economist at our department, suggested me go to International Population, Health and Development Lunch (IPHD lunch). The subjects of the talks are extremely appealing to me. DuPRI also has a seminar series related to population, and they invite researchers from different disciplines to present their work. I have been going to seminars but rarely interacted with the speaker or the audience. And I definitely need to improve on that.
Fourth, apply PhD programs seriously and strategically. Now that I have a better idea of what I want to do and what I am good at, I can target the schools which are best fits for my skills and passion. The application process will still be tedious, but I am more confident than two years ago.
That’s all about academics. In terms of extra-curriculum activities, I was planning to take vocal lessons at the music department and went through an audition today. But sadly Duke places priority on its undergrads and I am not able to get enrolled in the class. It’s really frustrating when I mustered up courage to pursue something I love and then get rejected. Maybe the school also thinks graduate students should focus more on academics. Regarding sports, I was planning join the Duke Running Club in their running practice on campus, maybe three times per week. Hopefully a large enough group can give me a stronger motivation to do exercises. Update: I ran with them yesterday and they were too fast for me. I think I’ll stick with individual exercises. It will be an intense semester, but life is much more enjoyable once you know what you truly love.