Discussion for New Graduate Students

Discussion for New Graduate Students


Paula Wishart: Welcome to the University of
Michigan’s student to student discussion today, and we’re really pleased to have you join
us. My name is Paula Wishart, and I work here at Rackham Graduate School. I’ll be moderating
the panel today. Joining me today are six current Michigan
students who will share their insights with you on the transition to U of M. Also joining
is Natalie Bartolacci who will be moderating the questions you send us online. You can
send a question anytime. Let me let Natalie introduce herself. Natalie Bartolacci: Hi, I’m Natalie Bartolacci,
and I head up the student development area here at Rackham Graduate School. We’re really
pleased to have you join us today, and we hope to see many of you at Rackham’s follow
up information fair on August 29th. Paula: A little plug there. I also want to
add that we held a discussion like this earlier this summer for international students, and
a recording of that conversation is also available. We’re going to begin with an opening question.
For this opening question, we’re going to ask the students to introduce themselves and
share their perspectives on this question. From there, we’ll continue with the questions
that we have here, and the questions that you send us live. Let’s start. When you think
about your first week here at U of M, what were the things you remember most? Kyle Southern: I’m Kyle Southern. I’m a third-year
doctoral student in the higher education program here at Michigan. I’m originally from North
Carolina. In thinking about those first few days and weeks on campus, what strikes me
is that I had been working for several years after my master’s program. Coming here, having
to adjust back into being a student, there was a bit of a transition in that. I was very used to going home at five or six
or seven o’clock, and not having to worry about work anymore. Coming to graduate school,
you’re in class or doing meetings most of the day, and then nighttime is really a good
time to do reading and preparation for the next day. Adjusting to that was definitely
a transition. I also was trying to take care of the practical
side of life, so where was I going to get my groceries, or go to the bank, where to
get my hair cut, all those kinds of things. It was good to speak with my colleagues, with
other students who were a few years ahead of me, with faculty and other folks who are
close to me in the school of education, to get ideas on where to take care of those things.
That was a process for me of navigating both the transition to academic life, but also
to life in Ann Arbor. Chukwuka Mbagwu: My name is Chukwuka Mbagwu,
and I usually go by Chuky. I’m a rising third-year student in aerospace engineering, and I come
from Riverside, California. I think one of the things that really stuck
in my memory the first weeks that I came to Missions campus, was just the amount of people
that were here. It was such a lively environment when I stepped on the campus, because from
my previous institution, this school’s actually four times bigger. For a second seemed somewhat intimidating,
but it was really great to see a lot of people just out and about, see the great sports culture
for the homecoming games and things like that. It was a really good experience, different
experience for me, but something that expanded my horizons a little bit. Paula: Thanks, Chuky. Miguel? Miguel: My name is Miguel. I am from Mexico.
I’m a second year Master in OEC at the Ford School of [inaudible 03:23] . When I arrived
to Ann Arbor, it was surprising for me to find a really warm weather. I was expecting
a dry place or, I don’t know, I wasn’t expecting doing the jungle… [laughter] Miguel: …and that. There is a lot of nature
and so many places where — incredible when I arrived in August and I think the weather
will be pretty similar this year. Yeah, that was the great memory I have from Ann Arbor,
finding something really un-expectable for the first week. Kristye Russell: Hi. My name is Kristye Russell
and I’m from Louisville, Kentucky. I am a fourth year Doctorate of Pharmacy student.
What I remember most about the first few weeks being here at U of M was, one, it was busy.
Because I was trying to transition back into school and going to classes, taking quizzes,
because we had quizzes in the first week of my program. But also, just all the events that were going
on that allowed me to get to know people on campus as well as the people in my program.
Just getting to know my classmates and building the relationships and friendships. Katy Peplin: My name is Katy. I am a rising
fourth year in Experience Arts and Cultures PhD program. What I remember most from my
first couple of weeks here is I was actually a Michigan undergrad, so I was expecting to
come back to the campus and have full mastery. I remember coming back and everything was
different, there were new buildings, there were new people, there were new offices to
go to, and feeling really disoriented when I was ready to feel very confident. I wish that I would have taken time to figure
out where my classes were before the first day, because they were in a whole new building,
and I had no idea where I was going. Supraja Damotharan: Hi, everybody, I’m Supraja
and I’m from India. I am also a student in the Financial Engineering program. The next
semester is going to be final semester. The first few weeks that I came to University
of Michigan, the biggest feeling was I kind of felt lost because I was here by the month
of June, which is pretty early and there are not many students around campus. It’s a huge
campus and you have to find your way. Every turn I took, I forgot which route I
took. I would stop everybody on the way and ask them. Nobody would know, but they would
be kind enough to stop and use their smartphones and Google Maps and guide me in the right…I
did not have a smartphone. That was very helpful. That’s the biggest thing I remember. The first few weeks I did not have housing.
That was a big worry for me at that time. But I did manage to find housing. The thing
is that I got to know a lot of people who still did not have housing. If you don’t have
housing, you don’t need to panic is what I realized at that point. You have choices.
It’s not like you are going to be stuck in a really bad place. That was one thing. Then, since I am an international student
I have never been away from home, stayed at home all my life. This was kind of like being
alone for the first time. It was nice, but I was homesick as well a bit. [laughs] Then meeting so many people from so many different
countries, it felt like, “Oh, my God. This is why I came to University of Michigan, to
experience the diversity.” It’s here in Michigan. Paula: We’ve heard some of the things about
making that transition logistically that first week. What sort of advice would any of you
offer about that arrival on campus? Chukwuka: I definitely have a couple of things.
Housing was also mentioned earlier. I think that for all students it’s really important
to get that done early. Depending on your department’s admissions process and cycle,
you can gain your admission and ultimately make your decision anywhere from April or
later. Sometimes that can create some anxiety in
terms of whether or not you’ll be able to find housing. But the university provides
a lot of resources in terms of matching you with roommates and housing and find things
like that. I think just getting started on that process
really early is important. If you are able to visit the campus before you come here in
the fall, I think that’s really helpful in terms of seeing the place that you are going
to be living in or just familiarizing yourself with your classrooms, your department, and
all of those things. Just being able to figure out housing or getting
an early start, you really don’t want to push that too late. But even so, there’s a lot
of resources for you to get that done. Kyle: I agree with that. I also thought it
was valuable. I got here just a little bit before classes started. I had a few days with
not too much on my schedule. It was helpful to just kind of walk around
downtown, just kind of see where things were, learn kind of the grid, where are the major
streets, just kind of get landmarks not only on practical things, but also restaurants
or interesting things that looked like I’d want to check them out. Supraja: I would like to just add onto this.
Before you arrive at University of Michigan, it would be nice to get in touch with your
fellow students, because you will learn a lot of unexpected small things that you’d
arrive and then you would found out and it would be a surprise. But if you get in touch with your fellow students,
they will mention small things like housing, “These apartments are not good. Maybe you
can choose another one.” Small stuff that you would not realize but it would help you
out. That would be one thing. Paula: What are some other resources? Getting
in touch with your fellow students. You were sort of hinting toward some helpful resources.
What sort of things do you think would be good to check out ahead of time? Kyle: Definitely in terms of housing, there
is Northwood Housing, a website that helps put you in contact with other Northwood students.
There is also The University of Michigan off-campus housing website, which I found particularly
useful. I discovered it late, so I think this is great
that you guys would hopefully get a kind of advanced notice of this resource, because
it’s really good. It allows you to kind of identify and select your particular price
range, neighborhood that you want to live in, roommates, whether it’s up to two, three,
or four roommates, things like that. That’s really helpful in terms of housing
on site. Katy: I would say that in terms of off-campus
housing, a lot of Ann Arbor leases are for a year. But a lot of times undergraduate students
or either graduate students are away on fellowship or they are studying abroad. There are often
short term sublets that you can get for a month or two that would give you the chance
to sort of move in, at least partially, and then find out what neighborhood you want. I know a lot of people who have successfully
taken a short term sublet and then moved into a forever home a little bit later if they
didn’t know the city as well. A lot of times those are posted on the off-campus housing
website, so they are university students that could give you further advice. Kyle: I’m sure we could provide, after the
broadcast, links on a website for you guys to go check it out. Paula: Do you guy want to give any thoughts
on the different parts of campus, sort of how the campus is broken up? Miguel: Like [inaudible 11:11] , there are
three campuses-one in the north, another in the center of Ann Arbor, and another in the
south. In my case, most of my classes are in the central campus, but I live in the north
campus. I have to take one of the busses from the
university. There are two major bus systems in Ann Arbor. One is provided by the university,
and the other is provided by the city. Both of them are free. But in the university busses you don’t have
to identify yourself. Anyone can take the bus without paying a lot for it. I have to take a bus. It’s only like 15 or
20 minutes from the place that I take classes. Many people will say, “Oh, that’s a really
big distance. You are living in another campus, and you are taking multiple classes in central
campus.” But yeah, it’s a greater distance, but in
most of the big cities in the US that would be an incredible deal, only one bus and 20-minute
ride. Those are the main divisions. I would suggest
in case you are going to take most of your classes in one of the campuses that you look
for housing around those places, just to make it easier. But actually, it’s not a big deal. Katy: We talked a lot about housing, but we
didn’t talk a lot about getting to where we need to be. Getting home and getting to our
classes or getting to the library. I think it’s always a good deal to look at the bus
route, figure out how you are going to get from your house to class ahead of time. Also, if you want to drive, looking up how
to get a parking pass ahead of time, because parking can be a challenge on campus. If you
don’t want to be late to classes, then it’s good to know where you can park ahead of time. Supraja: I’d just like to add on to her statement.
Residence parking, sometimes some of my classmates, they park a mile away and walk, which does
not make sense. It’s better to take the public transport, the U Mich busses, especially during
winters. It would be better to just take busses rather than having to skip or something like
that. They are very frequent. Even the city busses,
during the week those are pretty frequent. As Miguel said, both busses are free. But
for the city bus, if you have an M Card you just need to swipe and it’s free. For the
university busses you don’t need M cards. Anyone is allowed on the bus. Paula: Your M Card is your ID card. Supraja: Yeah, ID card. Kyle: To give you some advice, when you arrive
to Ann Arbor, go to get your M Card. [laughter] [crosstalk] Paula: Does anyone have a card? [crosstalk] Paula: That’s the M Card. It will get you
into performances or… Supraja: Yeah. You get discounts with this
card. Katy: It’s a library card… Kyle: Everything. Supraja: I know this is right in between,
but there is this free bus service to try it out. Even that you can access using the
M Card. You just need to swipe and the ride is free. You can go into downtown Detroit,
look around, and then come back by the same bus. You use the M Card, and it’s free. Natalie: I did get a question coming in about,
“What is the best way to get to and from the airport?” [crosstalk] Kyle: The best service I have found is the
Michigan Flier bus, which runs from downtown and also from the Southside of town by the
interstate. There is a hotel where it picks up called Kensington Court. It leaves maybe
about every hour. It’s only $12 each way, in contrast to a cab would probably run you
$50-$60 to get from the airport to here. I would really recommend the Michigan Flier
as a good and reliable service. Paula: It’s a bus, right? Kyle: It’s a nice coach bus. There’s WiFi.
You just kind of hang out. They give you water. It’s a nice ride. Katy: Just to second the Michigan Flier. It’s
incredibly convenient. Supraja: They are on time most of the time.
If you have too many bags or baggage which you don’t think you can handle on a bus, you
can take a cab. But you can try to find somebody who is taking the ride to Ann Arbor at the
same time as you so that you can share the cab ride so it’s not that expensive. You don’t
need to take the cab for yourself. Katy: I’ve also seen people save money by
taking the Michigan Flier and then just a cab from wherever the bus stop is to their
location. It’s more like a $10 cab ride instead of a $60 cab ride. Miguel: I arrived here with my family. When
we arrived we decided to rent a car and it was a good deal. We rented a car in the Detroit
airport, so we just drove like 30 minutes and we left the car in Ann Arbor. For [inaudible 16:34] many times, this is
an option because you bring a lot of luggage and you prefer not to take a bus. It’s really
easy. It’s also useful for the first two or three days to have the car in order to buy
things, in order to go to the store. Chukwuka: I would also like to put out that
the Michigan Flier runs from 8AM to 8PM. There is limited hours. If you have a midnight flight
our off-peak hours, then you can use another service. Paula: Good suggestion. [crosstalk] Paula: You have a car? Katy: I do have a car. I have a car, but I
very rarely take it to campus proper because I can very rarely park close for anything
less than six or seven dollars, which if you are coming from New York City, it’s like,
“Wow! What a deal!” But if you do it three or four days a week, it really adds up. I do use the car for things like going to
the grocery story store. But I’ve also never lived in a place where I couldn’t also take
the bus. I have a lot of friends that don’t have cars, but I find that since cars are
a luxury, the people who have cars are pretty generous with them. There are people that either don’t have a
car in your department that will split a Zip Car with you to go to the grocery store with
you, or people that will say…I often say to people in my department that don’t have
a car, “I’m going to the grocery store. Do you want me to pick up anything or do you
want to come with me?” Because it’s often just an extra two or three minutes and then
they don’t have to take all of their stuff on the bus. Kyle: What is Zip Car? Katy: Zip Car is an online private car sharing
service. I think almost all of the Michigan lots have Zip Cars. But you sign up online
and you basically reserve a car and you pay by the hour. If you have just a short term one-off expense
or you really need to get to Birmingham for an interview and you don’t want to pay for
a car the whole time, it’s fully insured. It’s not the cheapest thing. But if you split
it with people for a one-time thing, it’s more affordable than renting a car. It’s often
more convenient. Paula: Birmingham, Michigan… [crosstalk] Paula: Because Ann Arbor is in the state of
Michigan, beyond Michigan, beyond Ann Arbor, what sort of things do you recommend people
check out when they get here when they have a little time to check it out? Kristye: One of my favorite things to do on
the weekend is to go to Detroit. I love going to Detroit. They have the eastern market,
which is the outdoor farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. It’s beautiful. There’s all kinds
of fruit and vegetables, crafts. People are performing. There are some great restaurants
right around there as well. I also recommend that if you are able to,
go to one of Michigan’s beaches. I just left [inaudible 19:31] City Beach. Beautiful. It
was a gorgeous place. If you can make it up there and get to see Lake Picaroon? Kyle: Detroit also has pro football, pro baseball,
pro hockey. The Detroit Institute of Art has a great art collection. Lot of great things
to do there, movie series, concerts. I agree. Then also towns like Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids
are not too far away. Those are a great day trip as well. Supraja: I’d like to add onto that Battle
Creek is the [inaudible 20:08] city. Maybe you can check it out. I’ve never done the
tourist thing at Battle Creek, but I think it’s a place to recommend. Katy: I go to a lot of state parks actually,
because in Michigan if you pay for a Michigan license plate, it often gives you free admission
to many state parks. It’s like a 15 or 20 minute drive to really good hikes that sometimes
it feels good to get out of the city [laughs] of Ann Arbor and see some trees. But there’s also good parks around Ann Arbor.
The Arb is sort of an open air botanical garden. It’s big enough that you can sort to feel
like you got away. I like that quite a bit. Supraja: If you want to get out of the city,
just go to the North campus of The University of Michigan… [laughter] [crosstalk] Paula: You mentioned something about the parks. Miguel: Yeah. I have two children, so I spend
a lot of time in parks playing with them. It’s just been amazing because in the beginning
of the summer we decided to visit all the city parks that are in Ann Arbor, not outside.
We haven’t done that yet because there are a lot of places where we can go with the kids
and to the playground. There are many activities to do if you have
children. Even if you don’t have them, many of those parks have incredible [inaudible
21:37] . You can row them in the river or you can also do a lot of nature stuff and
sports. If you want to go farther, you can go to Chicago
and it’s only three or four hours away. If you find a deal, you can go [inaudible 21:53]
. It’s a really good place to go and visit if you really want to go… Kyle: In Chicago the train is good and usually
not too expensive. You can also take Mega Bus… [crosstalk] Supraja: There are bus services too. Katy: Those will go to most of the major cities
in Michigan, too. You can take a Greyhound or a Mega Bus to Kalamazoo. Supraja: Sometimes busses are recommended
over trains because sometimes trains are slow. Busses are very fast. Paula: We’ve been talking about a lot of fun
stuff, and we’ll get back to that. But we also know that students are coming here for
academic reasons, too. What kind of advice would you share with them?
Maybe think of it from the point of view as when you came to graduate school, what was
surprising to you academically? What sort of things did you discover that you think
will be helpful to share with students who are just entering? Supraja: I’d just like to point out that academics
is quite rigorous. You should be prepared to give it your best. That was my thought
when I started school here. It’s not like you can have fun and get good grades. You
have to work really hard. You have to be prepared. That’s it. It’s not scary. It’s the reality
of grad school. But it is tough. Kristye: I might have a different experience
because I am in a health professional program. But when I came here, I had sat a year out
from school. I graduated from graduate school and then I taught school for a year and then
I came to pharmacy school. The sheer volume of work is I guess what I
remember the most, because right now I’m not in classes, but it was just the volume of
working, becoming acclimated to having my quizzes and exams weekly and every other day. If you can eliminate any type of worry. That
for me was getting my lunch ready at night. These are the little things that can cause
you to be stressed out when you have to be some place or in your class on time. Getting
my lunch ready at night, getting dressed, picking out my clothes, knowing where my car
keys were, knowing where my bus pass was, those type of things. Just getting a routine
and getting that established… Kyle: That’s so important. I would just add
that you can be working on things all the time, so it’s important to establish parameters
for yourself and to be mindful, as you alluded to, of self-care. Not to think, “Oh, I’ll
go exercise if I have time later this week,” because you can always talk yourself out of
that. If your face life is important, you need to
carve out time for that. It’s just important to keep a realistic perspective. It’s easy
to lose track of, I think, when you are coming in and getting involved with the work. But
you’re going to be better at the work if you are also taking care of yourself. Make sure
you are carving out that time, whatever is most valuable for you. Katy: The best advice I got was to treat my
graduate program like a job, because a lot of us are either coming from job experience
or we really need to make that transition. Feeling like I had working hours and then
non-working hours was really helpful for me, not just to make sure that I had self-care,
but to make sure that I was using those hours as well as I could. Because there is sort of an expectation and
so many different people will tell you that they are reading all of the time or that they’re
working all of the time that it becomes really easy to imagine that everyone is working always. In some cases that’s true, but they might
not be as efficient as they could be. When I would say, “You have two hours to get this
amount of reading done,” it let me know that I could stop at a certain point, but it also
made me more productive in those two hours, in the same way that my friends that had jobs
knew that they only had a certain amount of time to get that task done, and so they couldn’t
be taking every meeting. They couldn’t be having every lunch. They had to be strategic
about knowing their own limits. Paula: What kind of suggestions do you have
like that in terms of creating academic habits, whether it be yourself or how you reach out
to other people? Are there suggestions you have? Kristye: I like to make a task list. I found
that that helps me to keep track of everything that is due or even just the things that need
to be done in that day so it doesn’t spill over to the next day, and I’m running behind
on things. I always make a task list of all the things that have to be done or even just
fill out a calendar of assignments that are due or exams that are coming up. Supraja: I think, like she said, you have
to prioritize a lot, because during the academic year, you have to concentrate on your academics,
as well as if you are recruiting, you have to be sure you are at the company events you’d
like to work for. If you are doing research, you have to prioritize
that as well. I know a few people who just go to all these networking events and not
concentrate on their classes. You shouldn’t do that. You should strike this balance where
you pick the companies which you really, really want to work for. The classes, which are very
important, the assignments which need to be submitted, you have to juggle it all. Paula: In terms of reaching out to academic
support instructors in your department, some I know are department specific. Some are shared.
But do you have things that you’ve found really helpful, things you’d recommend? Chukwuka: Definitely. I think one of the first
things when you are out on campus that you should do is you should really get to know
your department coordinators and administrators. They are absolutely the number one resource
you can for your department or program specific needs. They know all the forms you need to fill out.
They know all the how to really interact with the professors and your instructors and even
connect you with other students if you need to work with a study group or things like
that. They are a really good resource. Very good
for funding, definitely for doctoral students. You can either come up with a package or you
can have some type of teaching fellowship or other things like that. They can help you
work all those details out, whereas you can sometimes feel overwhelmed. I think getting to know your administrators,
they are only there to help and they’ve been there for a while and they know everything
in and out. Getting to know them on a personal level is really important. They definitely
go out of their way to help you. Kyle: Even outside of programs, many people
will come in and have a statistics sequence or stats requirement. That can be a source
of some stress for students. I know it was for me when I came in. But there are regular
workshops on campus to help students through those issues. These are people who are [inaudible 29:29]
with packages and things and help you work through those and help you get it. Even if
you miss a little something in class, they can help explain it to you in a clearer way. Also, many students come in with some concerns
about writing and the Sweetland Writing Center on campus is a really good resource for a
lot of students to help them think for how to structure their arguments and be clear
in their language. That’s been a real great resource for a lot of people as well. Katy: I know that I am very fixated on the
email that Rack ‘Em puts out. It was every Friday during the school year. I think it’s
every month during the summer. [crosstalk] Katy: I found it really overwhelming when
I first got here how many resources were offered to me. I could have made a fulltime job out
of just accessing the resources. That digest on Friday was really helpful for me to see
and decide… I went to workshops on how to read more quickly,
how to fill out my FAFSA. They have really practical things as well as academic stuff.
Knowing that there was that one email that would have most of the important life skills
or academic core skills was really helpful to me to feel like I wasn’t as prodigious
and overwhelming. If you can find ways to be systematic about
looking for those things, it really helps cut down on the anxiety of, am I missing this,
or is this big important thing happening and I don’t know about it? Paula: Just before you jump in real quick.
Could you talk a little bit about what Rackham is? I’ll put you on the spot. You gave a good
definition of it. Katy: The way I think about it is that Rackham
is the bigger college office. When I was an undergrad here there was Undergraduate Office
of Admissions, there was the Undergraduate Career Center. Now that I’m a graduate student,
Rackham is the umbrella organization that covers many of those really important academic
skills that aren’t necessarily departmental specific. My departmental administrator is really great
for things like what format should my prospectus be, or when do I file. But Rackham has really
important information about funding deadlines, and taxes and writing. They’re also a great
hub, that even if they don’t…I find that the various offices are all really friendly,
so even if they don’t know the answer, they know where to point you next. In a system that’s as large and complicated
as Michigan is administratively…Like every department has its own administrator, every
school has its own organizational system. Rackham is a way to have one place that you
start and then branch out. Paula: People view Rackham in any other way
that they could… Supraja: She mentioned the Rackham emails.
Rackham organizes a lot of social events for the graduate students as well, like for them
to get together and find new people to become friends with. That email contains not only grant deadlines
and professional workshops and such, but also social events like a movie screening or an
ice cream social or something like that, which I think you should always make a point of
going to at least one because you meet so many different people. It’s always fun, in
my experience. Never unsubscribe from Rackham emails. You
get a lot of emails from your different schools as well. I’m from the College of Engineering,
and they send me emails about career fairs and some company events. If you unsubscribe,
you’re going to miss out on a lot of stuff. Never unsubscribe is my… Kyle: Rackham is also blessed with really
generous endowment. I would really encourage students who are coming in to visit the Rackham
fellowships web page and see the number of different opportunities there are for funding
from this school. I had a travel grant to go to a conference in my field this fall that
comes from Rackham. I’ve accepted to do a presentation. This summer, I had a spring-summer research
grant that’s funding me for these four months, which is great to have. I can work on my independent
research. There are pre-doctoral dissertation fellowships. There’s a lot of resources that
you can get money to help pay off student loan interest. There’s all kinds of little pots of money
sitting around Rackham. If you’re intentional about looking up what those are, and just
a little bit of legwork to fill out the applications, chances are you’re going to be able to benefit
from one of those pools of resources. Paula: We also are building. I’m just going
to mention that because we’re sitting in the Rackham building right now. It’s a beautiful,
beautiful building. You can study in it. We hold workshops, professional development workshops
as well as social workshops. Kyle: Major speaking events. Paula: Major speaking events, yes. Katy: I know that for me it was a big concern
about so many of the spaces on campus are filled with undergraduate students, which
is great, because a lot of them are very bound to the campus and you can see them everywhere.
But sometimes it’s a little bit… Kyle: You were one not so long ago. Katy: I was, and I still very often am mistaken
for one, but I found it really helpful to come to Rackham to study because there’s something
freeing about knowing that undergrads won’t come into this building really, and knowing
that if I’m really frustrated with something or grading, it was a little bit of privacy
that I didn’t get in my department, which also has an undergraduate program. If you’re feeling claustrophobic in your department,
which sometimes can happen, especially my department’s very small, so I find Rackham
to be a welcome oasis. The reading rooms are beautiful. They’re very quiet. Miguel: I will say that one really important
thing in the University of Michigan is to know really different people. Most of us come
from other schools together, to get specific skills and to learn the specific things. Rackham
is a thing where you can forget about it and you can just remember that there are some
people… In my case, I study public policy. It’s nice
to remember that there are people studying biology or other kinds of fields that maybe
you are not necessarily concerned about it, but it’s always refreshing to listen to them,
and seeing that there are many other things outside of you. Kristye: I definitely used Rackham to meet
other people because my program isn’t under Rackham, but Rackham still can serve me. One
of the way that it has is that it has allowed me to meet different people and people from
different disciplines and different departments. Natalie: Would you mind mentioning your involvement
with an organization? Kristye: Sure. I’m the Vice President of Students
of Color Rackham, which is a graduate student organization, of course. It’s meant to bring
students from all disciplines together for social and professional academic wellbeing,
and to provide a site space where we can all come together, meet, and get whatever things
that we need from each other. [crosstalk] Chukwuka: I’m the Vice President of Rackham
Student Government, which is the student faction representing all the schools in Rackham from
the four different divisions — humanities, engineering, social sciences, and… Kyle: The other one. Chukwuka: The other one. [laughs] I didn’t
say that, though. We really liaise a lot with the Rackham administrators here to provide
social events for the students, collaborate financially also, putting together the professional
activities and things like that. We really just try to work hand-in-hand to represent
graduate students’ voices and bring to them events that could be helpful and beneficial
to them. Natalie: This is great timing, actually. We
did receive a question. Does Rackham host social events? Since some of you were mentioning
that. Go to football games together, et cetera, was the question. Yes. Your particular organizations that you
mentioned. Can some of you talk about social outlets that you’ve plugged into maybe your
school or college or your department program, if your department or program has a student
organization within that that is active and getting students together. Supraja: I’m part of GradSWE. That’s the Graduate
Society of Women Engineers. It’s pretty popular on north campus because that’s where the College
of Engineering is placed. You can be a part of GradSWE on a country
level but you need to pay for membership. If you want to be a part of University of
Michigan’s chapter you don’t need to pay anything. The good part is that…I call myself a fake
engineer because I’m actually doing financial mathematics, it’s just called financial engineering. I get to meet all these women and men — there
are men in GradSWE as well — and they are from nuclear engineering and biomedical engineering.
When they talk about different things, it’s so interesting. One girl, she was talking
about nuclear reactors and how Michigan has one of the biggest…I don’t remember the
name. It’s supposed to be one of the best reactors of something. It’s very interesting to know that Michigan
has all this… Supraja: …one space where it’s all about
your cause. They also host fun stuff like pumpkin carving and apple picking, movie screening,
and bar hopping. I don’t know what you call that. [laughter] Katy: Bar crawl. Supraja: It’s fun. It’s not specific to engineers.
Since it’s called Women’s Society of Engineers, I know men who are part of the society as
well. It’s a very interesting thing. Paula: We sponsor things with SWE too, so
Rackham does do a lot of co-sponsorship with groups like that. Kyle: Both my program in higher education
and the School of Education have social groups that will organize very similar events or
football game tailgates in the fall, but also professional development opportunities. Speakers
will come in that they’ll host. We can also have a chili cook-off. It’s a
variety of programming that those two organizations will put together. Miguel: It’s the same in public policy. I
could not name how many organizations are there organizing things, because you can find
an event, even twice per week, or something like that, when you can do…As you said,
there are tailgates or a conference or a lunch with a speaker, or an afternoon meeting with
a professor of faculty. It’s amazing. You can really find a lot of things to do. Supraja: You have cultural nights as well.
If you want to experience different cultures, like you have the Malaysian night, and then
you have Indian festivals that are being organized. Like I said, those emails mention them in
their weekly updates. I learned a lot of stuff going to these cultural
nights. You have these assumptions about certain people, and it really does break…These events
help you forget about those clichés. Katy: I just want to plug the University Musical
Society. UMS is a huge organization on campus. They bring in truly an astounding caliber
of musicians. Students have access twice a year — once in September and once in December
— to the half-price ticket sales. You can get tickets to literally anything they put
on for half price. That could be balcony seats where you can
pay…I have seen world class musicians. The prices are cheap enough that you can say,
“Sure, I will go see an ancient Chinese violin symphony.” Kyle: Or the San Francisco orchestra. Katy: Philip Glass premiered the working rehearsal
of “Einstein on the Beach.” I’ve seen Yo-Yo Ma. I’ve seen bluegrass. I’ve seen amazing
things. It’s so accessible, and they’re always walkable to campus, which is really nice.
You don’t have to go into a city to see them. Paula: Kyle, you did a riff on what Ann Arbor’s
like. Do you care to do that again? Kyle: I just said that for the size Ann Arbor
tends to punch above its weight. We have those great cultural aspects here that are a great
benefit of being a part of the place like the University of Michigan, which attracts
that kind of talent on a regular basis. We also have the longest running independent
film series in the United States. That happens in March. Just next week Ann Arbor Art Fair
will bring something like half a million of people through town over the course of a four
or five day period. That brings artists from across the country and around the world to
send on our streets. You can walk around and see that and appreciate those kind of expressions. In a few weeks I’ll be at the Michigan Stadium
for the Real Madrid/Manchester United soccer game. They’re playing games in places like
New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, and Ann Arbor. It’s like, which one of these
is not like the others? It’s a really interesting part about being
here in that you have access to these world-class events in what is a relatively small but really
vibrant college community. Paula: You guys actually had a couple of things
that I want to talk about a little more, or have you talk about. UMS Art Fair, those are
unique Ann Arbor things. Let’s think about it, some of the things that we think about
as common language here but people may need to know ahead of time, or even come in habits. One is 10 after the hour. Classes always start
at 10 after the hour. If it’s 2:00, it starts at 2:10. Katy: That is called… Group: Michigan Time. Paula: But don’t be late for a faculty meeting.
If they say 2:00, then it’s 2:00. Supraja: Only classes start at Michigan time.
The rest are one time. Paula: What other things, if you can think
about, were surprising to you or new? Katy: As not a football or sports person,
I’m always amazed at the degree to which the city shuts down on Saturdays during the fall.
It’s almost impossible to drive anywhere near that area, which is a problem because there’s
a really good Meijer, which is a cheaper grocery store. There’s major highway access that way.
It’s almost un-walkable. Paula: Yeah, they literally shut down. Katy: They literally will shut down streets.
It’s something to be aware of, especially if you live near the stadium, that Saturdays
there will be people all over your lawn. They will be… The population of the city doubles on football
Saturdays, and it’s concentrated in a very small part of campus. Kyle: You can also see businesses around town,
their operating hours will say, “Except Saturday December 6th.” It goes through the home game
schedule. It really does overwhelm the place. Natalie: I’m sorry to interrupt you. Have
you any of you seen a Michigan football game? Kyle: Yeah, I’ve been to all of them. Natalie: Anything you’d like to say to students
who haven’t experienced that? Miguel: In my experience, I was amazed by
the size of the stadium. In Mexico there’s a stadium where it’s very famous all over
the world because it’s very big. When I arrived someone said, “Oh, yeah, the stadium is very
big.” I said, “Oh, yeah, of course.” Then I search on Wikipedia, and it’s bigger. It was awesome, and it was most incredible
to see how the town changes in one day. There are many people in the streets, and it’s not
only drunk guys. There are many kinds of people. They are all enjoying the game. Even many people in the stadium seem that
they not are understanding very well, but they are having fun, and they are having a
great time just sharing the time with the community. It’s an amazing experience. Kyle: Yeah, I would say even if you don’t
have any interest in football, just as a sociological experience. Going to a cultural athletic event
with 112,000 other people, and knowing that you are part of the largest group of people
doing that one particular thing on a given day in the world, it’s a special thing here.
I would say to give it a try at least, one time, at least for nothing else just for the
spectacle of all of it. Supraja: You see a lot of interesting things
happening on football nights. I once saw this… Kyle: Careful. [laughter] Supraja: Undergrad kids wearing just shorts,
late, fall, super cold night, running around shouting slogans like…It’s fun. It’s very
interesting. Chukwuka: I would absolutely piggyback off
that and just say if you are remotely interested in football, definitely get season tickets.
You’ve gotten the email by now I’m sure. Make sure you get that. It will save you money
in the end. Even if not, not a huge football fan just
like Kyle said, make sure you got to at least one. People will let you know what are the
biggest games of the season. Try and get tickets to those. To piggyback off of what you said as well,
it’s the largest stadium in all of the US for football. I would say for the homecoming
game that was my biggest experience when I came to Ann Arbor, coming from a school that
didn’t have as large of a sports culture. It’s definitely something to check out, if
once. Miguel: When I finish the game, people told
me in 20 years you won’t remember a single lecture of all the program, but you will remember
this game. I think he was right. [laughter] Miguel: It’s an amazing experience. Paula: That’s interesting. Things are defining.
It sounds like Musical Society is certainly defining, the sports program, the football
program, it sounds like. What other things do you think of as defining when you think
about Ann Arbor or the University of Michigan? Things that you think, well this makes us
a really cool place. Supraja: The restaurants out here are so diverse.
A lot of choices. I think that would be a big part of Ann Arbor. Kyle: In case folks who are coming here have
not heard, winter here can be a bit challenging. Literally defining elements. But for the struggles
of winter, through a good deal of snow and a good deal of cold wind that you need to
buy a big jacket for, this time of year, in the fall, really define Ann Arbor for me because
it is an impossibly beautiful place to spend these months. To run around time or to go to the arboretum
or to just be on the center of campus, which you should know is called the Diag, and see
the changing colors of fall. That’s a really special time. That also adds to, I think, the culture around
football, is that it happens at this time of the year where you just feel a special
energy about the place, where people have come back from the summer and everyone’s excited
to be here. In the wintertime we hibernate a little bit,
but once the spring starts and through the fall, it’s really a great place to be. Kristye: I want to say that winter gets a
bad rep, and I’m from the South, so I don’t like the cold. But I can appreciate the winter
here because just as much as the spring and summer is beautiful, the winter, although
at the end you might not feel this way, is beautiful as well. There’s still a lot of
things going on at that time. People like to ski. I’ve been to outdoor festivals,
like in Frankenmuth, where they have this ice thing going on. There are things that
are still going on. It doesn’t just stop. There’s still lots of things, and you can
appreciate the beauty of the wintertime as well. Kyle: It’s also important to note that I,
also as a Southerner, if we get two inches of snow, everything is closed. But everything
goes on here. I promise you the bus will be on time and school will be open and life goes
on. Katy: People just dress for it. Kyle: Get some big boots, get a good jacket,
get a scarf, get a hat, you’ll be fine. Kristye: We had a snow day this year, but
it wasn’t a snow day. It was a cold day, because it was severely cold, too cold to have students
on campus. I think that was the first… Katy: In like 50 years or something. Kristye: Yeah. Kyle: 1978 was the last time. Supraja: It was really cold. Kyle: It was. Katy: I will say that one of the things that
always surprised me after I had been to other universities is how short the break is between
fall and winter semesters. The fall semester will run until…sometimes I’ve had exams
on like December 23rd. Often times, there’s work over the break,
and it starts right back up again on January 3rd sometimes. But there’s four months of
summer. There’s a full four months, which is different, if you’re used to the quarter
system or even a sort of delayed semester. I find that the beginning of the winter term,
it’s cold, it’s dark, you haven’t had much of a rest, so it’s more important than it
could be at other places where you might get the chance to go home. I know a lot of, I have friends that are international
students that just don’t go home over the break, because it is so short. It’s an important
thing to check when you get here, to sort of plan, because I know, I’ve had friends
that have booked flight tickets home, and then had an exam four days later and couldn’t
make it. It’s an uncommonly short break in between. Kyle: Yeah, truth in advertising, we have
fall semester and winter semester. Which some people might know as spring semester, but.
We have winter term and we push spring-summer together in that moment. Supraja: She mentioned about, booking flights
in advance. A lot of professors are ready to change their schedules to suit you. They’re
not going to do it all the time. But they are willing to accommodate. A lot of professors, like, my class is 90
percent international students. A lot of them wanted to go home. When the professors give
the exams daily, it’s in the month of December. When, like a bunch of people went in to talk
to them. They were willing to reschedule the exams, so that happens. It’s something. Katy: It’s worth an ask. Paula: It’s worth it asking, [inaudible 53:50]
your faculty. Are there other academic norms that you were surprised by that when you got
here? Again, it’s hard to think back sometimes. Supraja: You have to register for classes.
That kind of can be a bit challenging, when you don’t understand in the beginning, but
then you get the hang of it. Like Chukwuka said, you always have to be
in touch with your coordinators, because they know the best and they know which class…like
the same class will be offered three times a week, so which would suit your schedule
best? There’s no time between the rest of your courses.
If you have any doubts, if you have an established relationship with your coordinator, all this
becomes nothing. It’s super easy. Kyle: I was very confused and remain confused
by the online platform that one uses to register for classes, Wolverine Access, which, frankly,
I find to be rather outdated and rather unintuitive, difficult to navigate. I would say to a new student, if you feel
that way when you come in to register for classes, you are not alone. That graduate
coordinator in your department could be a good resource. I know trying to navigate and
figure out, “Have I actually registered?” [crosstalk] Kyle: It’s an outdated system that I think
we should improve. But in the meantime, there are plenty of people who have found a way
to actually go to class and sign up for them. Don’t be afraid to ask people. Or don’t feel
like you are really missing something just because the system seems odd. Supraja: You have the course drop deadline
thing. I don’t know the exact timeline… Kyle: Three weeks. Supraja: Yeah, after classes start. Even if
you haven’t registered for a really important course, personally go talk to the professor
and he will try his best to accommodate you in his class, unless his class is filled the
capacity and there are no seats. I know classes, super popular courses, where
professors have allowed you to sit in classes, and not exactly sit, even stand in classes
sometimes so that they can accommodate you. Katy: I will say that registration is really
important because of a lot of student benefits that are tied to your registration. It’s a
really important thing in terms of your health insurance sometimes, the distinction between
are you a part time student or a fulltime student? It’s a really good question for your department
what constitutes as fulltime in our department, because there are differences even between
programs or between years in my department’s case. As much as your fellow students can often
be a resource, the requirements change. The health insurance can change. It’s always best
with something as important as registration to double check it. Paula: Talk about the grant coordinators or
the [inaudible 56:55] coordinators people call them too, important people. We haven’t
talked about faculty mentors and advisors. I don’t know if anyone wants to talk about
advice or suggestions they would give to maximize that relationship. Chukwuka: To start, I think one of the main
mindsets you have to come into graduate school kind of being aware of is that not only are
you going to be a student of the faculty and of the different instructors and professors,
but you’re also going to be, in many cases, during a research component, collaborators
and colleagues with them. In my opinion that’s a huge mental stepping
stone to really get that. Having that relationship be collaborative and back and forth will really
improve the dynamic, whereas you don’t really want it to be a dominant/subservient kind
of relationship. You’re obviously going to be learning from
them, but they can also learn from you. You have to be able to understand that you are
coming here to make a contribution, and they’re also working with you to do that. I think that’s really important, to put yourself
into the right state when pursuing your graduate degree and also making sure you meet with
them weekly, establishing the relationship. Have it not only based on academics, but be
able to talk to them about social things, sports activities, what they’re interested
in, how their family is doing. Really forming a relationship with your advisor or your faculty
that you’ll be in contact with is very important. Katy: Actually, to piggyback off of that,
I think it’s important to realize that not everybody’s advisor/advisee relationship looks
the same. I actually don’t discuss much of my personal life with my advisor. I got married
on the fly. [laughter] Katy: It just wasn’t part of our relationship.
I know sometimes it would feel overwhelming, because you would hear somebody talk about,
“I went to drinks with my professor, and we were talking about our kids,” and how amazing
that was. I’m sitting there thinking, “My advisor doesn’t even know where I’m from.
Am I doing it wrong?” To realize that different relationships look
different and it’s up to you. For me it was a really big step to realize that I could
have many mentors. I have one official advisor in terms of my dissertation, but I have many
mentors. Some of my mentors are better at other skills,
so I do have somebody that I can go to if I have a personal problem. I have career advisors.
Having “Team Katy” is more effective for me. There’s so many… Chukwuka: It takes a village. Katy: It does take a village. There are many
ways to get through a PhD. I know it was one of the big shifts for me, realizing that,
in my department…at times I still feel like everybody but me wants to be a professor.
I’m open to that, but I’m not sure that it’s exactly what I want. It was important for me to start reaching
out for people that could mentor me in a different career path if that’s what I wanted. Kristye: I want to piggyback off of what she… [laughter] Kristye: I find that it’s very easy to established
mentorship here. I actually am not sure if the actual clinical practice of pharmacy is
something that I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to do research maybe a more
public type of area. I have been able to go into the School of
Public Health and find mentors there. One of my greatest mentors is a physician here.
One of my other mentors is in dietary sciences. You are able to get the people that you need.
You just have to be a go getter. You have to be active in trying to establish those
relationships with people. A lot of people are open to that. Natalie: Can I ask you, how does one establish
a mentoring relationship? How do you find these magical people? What do you do? Kristye: I use people find other people. I
might find one person, and I start talking to them about what I’m interested in. That
person is like, “Oh, I know somebody who may be able to help you.” Then they introduce
me to somebody else. That’s kind of how I made my way around campus. Supraja: I’d like to add a different perspective
to this, because it’s a lot of research oriented stuff, advisors. I’m from a professional program,
as such, so we don’t have advisors assigned to us. I’m not even sure if we have like assigned
mentors as such. But we have the set of professors who take
classes regularly for us. Each semester, they take at least one course for us. It’s important to establish relationships
with those professors, because they have professional friends outside as well who can…They can
direct you to them or they can give you profession advice as well. Because they have experience
outside academics. Then, another big part of your relationship
with faculty is faculty have office hours assigned for each course. You should make
sure you go to those office hours. It may not be about the subject, you can ask about
the general area that you’re interested in. Or maybe you can approach them about a certain
idea you have and you want to research more on. You can ask if he can help you give more directions
to us. That’s very important. Officers are very important. A lot of people religiously write down those
office hours, but they never go. I used to do that as well. But then I realized the importance
of office hours. Paula: Taking action and going to office hours
when they’re not necessarily a need of a particular question, but to establish relationships.
Other sorts of things that you can think of creating those relationships. Katy: I find, in general, that if you go before
whenever your concern is a crisis is the best way. That it’s very hard to establish long-term
relationships with people if the only time you see them is when you’re in crisis. Not
that your mentor won’t be very important to you when you are in a crisis. Kyle: Not that crises are all that common. Katy: Not that everybody has multiple crises.
It’s important to reframe smaller problems away from crisis, because the language of
crisis is pretty [inaudible 01:03:37] , but I found that I am really nervous when I feel
like things aren’t going well, so I’m not best self. That’s not great conditions for
me to meet people out there. The speaker series has been important for
me. I go to different Rackham events and connect with students first and then use that if the
faculty seems intimidating. It’s sometimes easier to go through the graduate student
that you know already works with that faculty and ask, could you drop my name, and that
sort of softens the beach, so to speak, to making those connections. Even if you aren’t comfortable sort of cold
going to office hours…There are a lot of people who are willing to give advice about
how to navigate those relationships, you just have to be brave enough to ask. Supraja: I have a point to add onto that.
When we were talking about graduates to her coordinators and how it is important to establish
a personal relationship with your coordinator, I know a lot of the students who, the graduate
students who are having the coordinators that are after them about filling a survey or submitting
your resumes on there. But a lot of them do it in the last minute.
They have to be behind those people. But when they have something that they need, like this
letter that needs to be posted to some company or reference or something, they go and go
talk to the coordinator and think that the coordinator’s going to be like that, they’re
going to get the stuff done. But when you have this personal relationship,
when you’re prompt in replying to their emails, it’s human nature, they’re more willing to
help you. It’s always important that you don’t go only when you have a crisis. You should
always have this smooth, regular interaction with your faculty and coordinators. Chukwuka: I think it’s just a point to note
as well, that a lot of the methods that we’re talking about in terms of forming these relationships
are on ground, you would have to be here. But I think you can even try and start forming
those by sending an email right now to a professor or faculty that you’re interested in working
with. My experience is that they’ve been very receptive
to that, responsive as well. Even if that is not particularly the case, because all
faculty and all students and everyone here in the university is busy, because everyone’s
got a lot of things to do. I would just say don’t let that be a discouraging factor, obviously,
you just keep going and keep trying. Kristye: Sometimes I found that you may have
to send a few emails. Not to the point where you become annoying, but just so that you
can keep a presence. Because some people — we all get an overwhelming amount of emails.
If you can just drop a follow up email, a lot of times that does work, because people
check their emails and then they forget. But then, if you follow up with them, they
remember, “You know what, I need to respond to this student.” Katy: That’s important. [crosstalk] Paula: I want to just jump in for a second.
You had mentioned, Chuky, about doing some, “Before you get here” sort of behavior. Are
there other things that you guys did before you entered, before you were on ground, as
you put, before you got here? Kyle: I took a vacation. [laughter] Kyle: I came, most recently, from Nashville
and drove up with all my things, just threw everything into my apartment and, I think,
a day later, just went on a 10-day vacation. I went to the beach in South Carolina, and
saw some of my family and saw some of my friends. Not as a farewell tour, but more as a way
to just reboot. I had just finished about three years of working,
I just really wanted that time to step away and reflect a bit, and also relax and recharge
my batteries, knowing that I was going to be going into a pretty intensive transition
period and a rigorous program here. I also wanted to be really hot, when the cold came,
I would appreciate that as well. I wanted to be just as hot and humid as I could get,
so I found it in South Carolina. But I thought that was really great, just
to have a little bit of time. Not everyone’s going to have that luxury, but if you can
carve out a little bit of time, I think, in August, before things really get going around
Labor Day, I would really recommend doing that. Supraja: Yeah, that’s important as well. Do
you want to go first? [crosstalk] Supraja: Yeah, that’s important. Then checking
into minor details like housing, which I never did. I came here and I had to search for housing,
that’s important. Then, looking up into your insurance, especially for international students. In some countries, there’s no concept of insurance,
unless you really want to, you will take insurance. Otherwise, you don’t need insurance. That’s
a surprising detail that a lot of them don’t — just flies off their head. You should check into that. Then international
students, again…I’m kind of talking on the perspective of an international student, make
sure you have all the stuff you need, like clothes. If you need some medical supplies,
like medicines, prescriptions, that need to be filled, make sure you have that, so that
when you come here, you’re not in a situation where it’s kind of difficult. Paula: Those are great suggestions. In fact,
I think you’re backing up some of the things that were said in the international panel,
so we’ll make sure we link to that so that we get that out. I think they’re particular
things for international students, too. You were going to say something? Miguel: Yeah. [inaudible 01:09:34] was very
helpful to contact that person that was studying the same that I did. I just asked him a lot
of questions. First, I felt like, I don’t know, like so excited. I said, “Oh, I’m just
asking stupid questions, basic questions,” but they are the types of things that everybody
are asking themselves. He was very helpful for me. He helped me just
saying things like, “If you take this class and this class and this class, you will make
it. You should take another one, because it’s work.” That was a very good insight and I
think if you have another question, you could ask another student that he will give you
a lot of advice. Kristye: I came up here a month before school
started, so I was here July, well, almost two months before school started. It’s not
only important to contact people about logistical things like where you’re going to live and
things like that. But it’s also important, I’m sure many of you moved here without family.
It’s also important to make those social connections. Before I came here, I emailed other minority
students in my program, so that we could meet and greet before we got here. Because I didn’t
have anybody else here. I think that that’s important as well. Katy: I think that it’s really easy when the
school year gets started, especially the people that you see all the time, your fellow graduate
students…My program’s really small, there’s only 10 of us, total. It was very easy to
slip into all school talk, all the time. It was important, and we try and do it every
year, to have a day where we talk, as humans. Where we go to the beach or we go to the park
and school talk is sort of off limits, so that you know who these people are as people. Because it’s really easy to lose sight of
that, especially when there are things that are really important, like about this class,
to recognize that these are people that they have families, they have lives, they like
certain music. To be able to connect on things that are other than your immediate discipline
can be really enriching later on. [crosstalk] Kyle: Off the topic of things to do in advance,
but it’s important. I have a cohort of nine people, you do spend almost all of your waking
hours around some people from that cohort. But we [inaudible 01:11:43] things as well,
so we also make a point of once a month doing a potluck dinner or something. We appoint a referee, because, inevitably,
we get into talking shop about different professors in the class that semester say, “We’re not
talking about that. What’s the last movie that you saw? Please, talk about anything
that’s not…” [crosstalk] Kyle: Those are really good community building
times, too. Supraja: Yeah, those are really the important
ones, I think. Because, to be surrounded by your own classmates, you don’t get a new perspective.
When you meet new people, you get, “Oh, this is happening,” kind of feeling. One more thing about socializing is that a
lot of students tend to stick…For example, I’m an international student from India and
I tend to stick to…I’ve never done that personally, but I know a lot of people who
tend to stick to people from their own country, and don’t mingle with… That kind of limits the experience that Ann
Arbor has to offer. We can experience so much diversity, so much new experiences. I think
when we do that, we miss out on a lot of things that we will remember way later in life. It’s
important to mingle, is what I had said. Paula: You mentioned some things you do for
fun, sports, we know that’s [inaudible 01:13:08] . Are there other things you’d say that you
really look forward to or great ways that you find are ways to have fun here in Ann
Arbor that we haven’t talked about? Supraja: I am a part of the Ann Arbor Rowing
Club, which is not part of the University of Michigan. University of Michigan has a
rowing team as well, but I’ve never been a part of it. I joined this summer, learned
to row, and I’m a part of the novice team right now. I’m actually going to race next
weekend. That’s kind of exciting. I’m no pro, but it’s
tough to do, nice tough to do. I’m interning and then a good break would be to go for a
rowing class in the evenings. I get to meet a lot of different people. Now I get, not
only to meet students, but people who live lives, which are apart from University of
Michigan, who teach at Ann Arbor schools and work at… [crosstalk] Kristye: I signed up for MeetUp. It’s a website.
I get an email every week, just telling me what MeetUp groups are going on. It’s different
areas, so food and drink or club or religious affiliations. I peruse that every week to
see what’s going on, and then make my decisions from there. Paula: That’s cool. Katy: I actually have a writing group that
I meet with that meets off campus. I’m the only one doing academic writing. Actually,
everybody else is writing science fiction and fantasy novels. But it’s sort of nice
to have a place where I still feel like I’m working, but it’s in a coffee shop and I’m
not in the library. I’m going to also give a plug for the Ann
Arbor Libraries. They have a really great library system with great talks and authors.
I find it really helpful to read things that aren’t for school, that I am… Paula: That’s crazy. Katy: Crazy time. But I had a pretty difficult
first year. When I got here I sort of felt like everybody else was working all of the
time, so I needed to work all the time. I used to keep this notebook full of books that
other people referenced, which in the Humanities is a pretty big deal. Then, if I had any spare time, I would start
reading things on that list and it got to the point where I wasn’t doing anything else.
I really had to stop this summer afterwards and take stock of what I was doing. I actually have a firm cutoff time that I
don’t do work after a certain point, around certain days, or for certain weeks. It makes
me more productive, because I’m excited about that vacation, I want to be able to stop.
But it helps me feel like I am a real person, because you can, very much, let your identity
be some sort of subsumed under your… It can lead to really great work, but sometimes
at pretty great cost. Finding whatever structures you need to feel a little bit of balance… Supraja: I think that’s a very important point. [crosstalk] Natalie: I just wanted to mention that you’re
talking about this — we’ll definitely get to your point. Everyone around you is working
very hard, you’re at Michigan, the best and the brightest. Kyle: Leaders and best. Natalie: Leaders and best, sorry. I wanted
to hear from other people about how that realization came about for you and how did you manage
that, because I think it can be a difficult thing. Supraja: That is exactly what I was going
to add on, too. Natalie: Perfect. Supraja: It’s a kind of glow on your self-confidence,
in the sense…You constantly think that people are better than you, you’re not doing your
best, you’re not putting your best foot forward. It goes to a point that instead of focusing
on what’s important, it’s the fears that you focus on, “Oh, my God. I’m not doing this,
I’m not doing this.” You should think that 4.0 GPA is not the only
thing you are here for. You are here for a lot of things. You should focus on all. You
should have this right balance. You should always be confident about your abilities.
You might not get the best grade in your class, but it does not mean that you have no skills
at all. You have some of the skills, which are way
better than the others in your class. You should capitalize on your skills, on your
plus points. When you do that, you enjoy your entire experience, it’s not like this whole,
depressing stretch. Like she said, my first year was very difficult in the sense that
I was thinking, “Oh, my God. I’m such a loser. I don’t know anything about the subject.” Math was really difficult for me, though I
did an undergrad degree in math. Math was really difficult. But now I understand that
I might not be good at math, but I’m really good at business courses and my communication
skills are good, so I should concentrate on those so that I going forward I do better. Kyle: That’s what I did. Oh, go ahead. Chukwuka: It’s kind of reiterating some of
the points, but there’s a term for this, it’s called imposter syndrome. I think it’s prevalent
at any higher education institution. It’s just something that you really need to kind
of step back, breathe, and say, “Everyone has some type of struggle at some point.” Graduate school is a sign way that goes up
and down, there are high points, there are difficult points. But at the end of it, it’s
always… Kyle: You’re still here. Chukwuka: You’re still here and you’re working
towards a degree, just like everyone else. It’s just important to keep that perspective.
Any time you start to feel overwhelmed, which you will at some point in your graduate career.
But it is not the end of the world, you should have a support group that you can go to to
discuss these things, get yourself out of a funk, and keep going. If you have that there, it’s only temporary. Kyle: What I’ve told new students coming in
is that you know that our faculty people here are very smart and insightful. I said if you’re
on an admissions committee, they don’t make mistakes. Everyone who’s here belongs here,
deserves to be here, and has something to offer. I also advise them to…One thing that I’ve
found out was when I have those [inaudible 01:19:36] moments, I go back and look at my
application to come here. [crosstalk] Kyle: …my Statement of Purpose and then
my personal statement and I remind myself of why did I get into this? [crosstalk] Kyle: Every time I read it, I just sort of,
“Oh, right, I came for those three things and I’m doing that. I’m doing a pretty good
job and I’m still here. Let me just take hope from some of my original motivation.” You can kind of lose sight of that in the
mix of things that you’re being asked to do. But to go back, your foundational principles
for this whole enterprise is really important, too. Miguel: I think you can get from graduate
school what you want. You have to work hard and you have to work with your colleagues.
You have to do your best, and then feel at the end of the class [inaudible 01:20:30]
with their grade. That’s fine. If you get what you want, and if you get the skills that
you are needed to nurture for your life, in order to prove your ability for the future,
it’s fine. It depends up to you what kind of resource
or what kind of objective you want to get from here. Yeah, getting an A plus is not
always important. It’s more important to really learn what’s… [crosstalk] Paula: Go ahead, Kristye, because you had
something you had suggested last time that was real helpful. Kristye: I was going to say that it’s hard
sometimes when you find yourself studying and not getting the returns back on your studying.
You may invest several hours into studying for an exam or writing a paper, something
of that nature, and then you don’t get the grade that you anticipate getting. I know my program is very competitive. It
sometimes can be competitive amongst each other. I always have to remind myself, and
you all may have read this before in a book called The Four Agreements. One of the things
is to always do your best. I always have to remind myself to just do my best and my best
does not look like everybody else’s best, but I know that I did what I could. It kind of released the stress of feeling
like I’m not doing as good as everybody else, because I’m doing what I can do. I know that
my, as somebody already said, what I do may be better than what somebody else can do for
their skill set, but then they have something that’s better for them, that they can do. Paula: You had talked about the reading load.
One time you had shared that. I don’t know if you’re willing to share that approach you
take, because I think it helps people understand the realities. Kyle: I can only speak for my own program,
but imagine the people in the social science that many are like it in that we have a statistics
sequence that we go through, but there are also courses that are much more content-based,
in my case higher education. We can look at a syllabus, and there are far more pages for
a week of reading than you think are feasible to get through, and you’re right. I think over the first year you need to figure
out the best way for you to read, and the best way for you to contribute to your colleagues.
I think the way that we broke it down when we last spoke was there are six pretty dense
articles that I’m expected to read for a course. I’m probably going to really focus on three
of them, and take a lot of notes and think them through and think about connections across
them. Then on two of them I’ll read through them.
I probably won’t go as in depth and spend as much time with them. One, I’ll know what
it’s about and have a few marginal notes. As you get a sense of what’s in front of you,
you can say these are the things that I’m really most passionate about, and then these
couple of things seem relevant, and this I’m not sure is going to be that helpful in getting
me to what I want to know, but I know that someone will care a lot about this and help
me understand it better. If you really invest yourself in those three,
and then you have a good working knowledge of two, and then you have one where you just
take the hit, that really helps you move through. I don’t think that you need to go through
all 500 pages of whatever that is and fill them with red ink, with all your notes, everything
you ever learned, and things you’re never going to have time, even in a three hour class
session, to get through. Not that it’s all about performing in class.
It’s about identifying what are the most important parts of this week for you to help meet your
own learning objectives, and to where you can also contribute to the educational environment,
and to not ruin yourself trying to be all things every day, because that will burn you
out real quick. Katy: I do just want to point out that there’s
the imposter syndrome that I think almost everybody feels at certain points, and then
there’s also legitimate mental health concerns. One of the great things about this campus
is that there’s an amazing mental health network through various services. There’s one called
CAPS that’s in the union… Kyle: What does that stand for? Katy: The Counseling and Psychological Services,
where you can walk in at any time and speak to someone on a right now basis, or on a maybe
I can reach them next week basis. There’s also a psych clinic closer to this end of
campus that you can see. I actually was in a dissertation support group
that was less like therapy and more like, here are some of the problems that people
have focusing. It was an eight week how do I get through this massive beast of a thing
called dissertation, from a mental health perspective. It was really freeing for me to realize that
everybody felt what I was feeling to some degree, but there were people who were feeling
what I was feeling to the degree I was, and there was help for me and people who understood
that. Most everybody in graduate school at Michigan
understands that this is a high pressure, high stress situation that not everybody’s
ready to jump into that right away and that there’s going to be points where you might
need more help than other times and that there’s a network already in place for you here. You
are not the first one to sit at home and need help. Paula: Thanks for bringing that up, Katy.
There are a number of things…You mentioned Sweetland right at the beginning, of writing
support. Mental health support, statistical support actually right here at Rackham. There are a lot of things that you will be
made aware of when you get here. We’ll also have links to that, and at fall welcome there
will be a lot of representatives form those organizations here too so you can get an overview. Natalie: For sure. I think that’s one of the
things that a lot of students mention about U of M proper. It’s that there are so many
resources here. There seems to be almost something to support your every need. It’s a little
bit of an exaggeration. I think it’s good to know that they’re there,
but it’s also good to know that it’s OK to take advantages of resources. You would agree
with that. Because that’s what they’re there for. Yeah, we’ll definitely have some links
in this transcript. Paula: We’re getting to the end of our time.
Am I accurate? Natalie: Yes. Paula: My clock matches your clock. A couple things that had come up when we were
talking about doing this call, to shake it out and talk about it. Some of the things
that you’ll hear when you get here, like the Diag, the Big House is our football stadium.
Is anyone willing to share what this means? Does anyone know? [crosstalk] Katy: If you’re from Michigan, people will
use this to orient you within the state. We’ll use a double because they don’t want to forget
the Upper Peninsula. But for instance, if I were to tell people where I’m from, I say
I’m from here, just outside of Detroit, I go to school here, my family is from up here… Paula: Because the state of Michigan looks
like… Katy: Because the state of Michigan is a hand. Kyle: It’s a mitten. Katy: When people will say, “Oh yeah, it’s
in Kalamazoo,” they’ll gesture to their hand without thinking about it. That’s sort of
a thing. Supraja: I just found out yesterday. [laughter] [crosstalk] Paula: Any other sorts of things that you
think they’ll be fresh off the train, bus, flight and it might be helpful to know? Chukwuka: One of the first things that someone
told me when I came to campus was a lot of M, the Michigan M, plastered around campus.
On the ground, little plaques and everything. Apparently, you’re not supposed to step on
them before your first exam. [laughter] Katy: But there is a way to break that curse
if you accidentally do it. It involves running between Rackham and the undergraduate library
before the clock strikes 12, which means you have to do it at noon. I’m sorry. I guess
just avoid it unless you’re a really fast sprinter. Kyle: Fresh off the plane you also might hear
about Ypsi and wonder if that’s a real word. It’s not, but it is shorthand for the town
next door to us, Ypsilanti, which is home to Eastern Michigan University. It’s a little
odd that we’re the University of Michigan and just 10 miles down the road is Eastern
Michigan University. I would also say that downtown Ypsi is also
a good place to get out of Ann Arbor and try some different things. It’s a different vibe
there, but it’s a good place as well. Supraja: We have a lot of colleges that are
in Ann Arbor. University of Michigan is not the only university in town. We have community
colleges and small law colleges around. There’s this Washtenaw Community College which offers
a lot of courses about practical skills like… I know this friend of mine who took motor
biking classes. He took classes for two days and then he got the license for motor biking.
You can find things like that. Paula: Washtenaw is right between Eastern
and Michigan, so it’s right in between. Kyle: We are Washtenaw County. It’s a mouthful. Paula: We’re in the Eastern time zone. I’m
just going to say that. People always question it. Depending where you’re coming from. Supraja: The mall is beyond the South University.
It is the Briarwood Mall. It’s the biggest mall around Ann Arbor. It has most stuff you
need. Chukwuka: I’d also like to add the league
and the union refer to the Michigan League and the Michigan Union. They’re two different
buildings. You can probably explain it a little bit better, because I’ve only been to them
two or three times. Katy: The Michigan Union has…Both of them
are big buildings with gathering spaces, with meeting spaces, with ballroom. They also always
have fast foot in the basement, if you’re hungry. The League is the one that was only
open for women. Originally the Union was for men only, so they built the League so ladies
could congregate. I feel a specially affinity to the League. The speech that founded the Peace Corps was
given on the steps of the Michigan Union by John F. Kennedy. There’s a lot of cool history
around the buildings. I would recommend that actually…They don’t
do an orientation tour for grad students, but there are tours available through the
admissions office. I’ve seen people tag onto campus day tours just to get a sense, because
there’s a lot of history of the campus that you don’t get any other way. If there’s a
chance to take a campus tour, I would say do it so you can learn about the… Kyle: I’ll quickly toss in on that. We have
a new president who’s coming in. President Coleman just retired from that position, and
a new President Schlissel is arriving. We’ll have a big event here on September 5th, which
is inauguration. There will be hundreds of academic officials
from across the country and around the world who will come here for that event. That will
be a ticketed event, but I think that will be also open for students, everyone else,
in the main auditorium on Campus Hill. There will be a big celebration for that. That will
be a historic moment for the university, just our first week of class back. Paula: That’s a beautiful way to end this. Natalie: It is. That’s very nice. We are at
our time. Maybe we could end with something that you’ll probably hear a little bit, especially
if you go to a football game, is “Go Blue.” If we could say goodbye to everyone by saying
“Go Blue” I would appreciate it. On the count of three. One, two, three… Group: Go Blue! Paula: We’ll see you soon.

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