The title says it all. But even more than just the end of a semester, it is also the end of my first year in a doctoral program and I have a lot to unpack. Although I won’t share everything here, I think it might be useful to reflect on this.
I remember walking into this program academically confident with maybe a hint of arrogance but all of that has quickly been stripped away. I’m now learning first-hand the levels of intellectual capacity and unwavering dedication needed to compete in the field of academia.
Looking at professors as peers is a lens that carries heightened responsibility and anxiety. Now, my thoughts and work must compliment or expand on the work of leading scholars in the field…No pressure!
But this challenge is why we enroll. To test the limits of our knowledge and contribute to discussions in our respective areas of interest. I’m learning to accept the challenge and feel confident in my ability to succeed.
Lessons Learned from the Semester
In this blog, I want to share three quick lessons learned from the semester: use the faculty, manage your schedule, and build your profile.
1. Use the Faculty
In the same sense that seeing faculty as peers can be intimidating, there is also a slant to this that can be beneficial. By having experienced faculty members partly responsible for your academic training offers a certain level of insight to knowledge that might be unattainable anywhere else. For example, an outsider wanting to submit a grant proposal to a funding agency might have to rely on his/her own skills set when formulating a submission. However, if you are surrounded by good faculty, then a couple will most likely have been on a review panel and know exactly what other reviewers in the field will be looking for. Such a resource is invaluable and can lead to individual advancement if engaged properly.
2. Schedule Management
During this semester, I’ve worked 3 part-time jobs while taking 5 graduate level courses and managing to fit in personal affairs. Even as busy as I think I am, I always consider that there are much more important people than myself who have crazier schedules and this motivates me to better manage my time.
The calendar is becoming more of a reality. It used to be something that sounded productive but at this point it is a necessity that provides many benefits. I actually want to challenge myself to stick to my calendar more rigorously and see what changes might come. Imagine if one could create a calendar that strategically led to desired results. Meeting goals and objectives would be nothing but a matter of time. I’ve seen some initial benefits and want to see what more I can accomplish.
*Included in your calendar should be adequate time for reading more than the required materials.
3. Build Your Profile
As a professional in any field, its important to understand your personal mission and characteristics of your profile. Aligning this professional profile to your current and future career work seems to be an obvious strategic priority. For example, me being in a Comparative and International Development Education program track directly aligns with my interest in the field of higher education internationalization. As I develop myself and better understand specific areas in the field, the two tasks build off of one another.
I am fortunate to have been awarded a fellowship for the upcoming semester as well as offered a position to work on a summer program that will boost my credentials. These opportunities have been strategically sought out and pursued. In recognition of the potential rewards and benefits, I will seek to secure additional sources of external funding and professional development opportunities.
Overall, I am ending the semester on a positive note with high hopes for the future. Even though my time is short in the program, if I continue to critically reflect on my experiences then I’m sure it will be well spent.
To be honest, I feel like this journey is tough and there may be areas that I do not do as well in when compared to others. Yet, with persistence I will eventually learn enough to graduate.
Feel free to share your thoughts and/or experiences in the comments.