Lessons from the first semester of grad school

charles-zhouAs I pressed the submit button to turn in my “Is It Toxic?” paper for my introductory EHS (Environmental Health Sciences) course, it dawned upon me that my first semester of grad school was officially over and two weeks of frantically pressing the refresh button on my online grade report has officially begun. Now it’s time for me to reflect on the semester a bit and to make up for my lack of activity on this blog over the past month.

First of all, my graduate program seems to simulate the real world and the environments in which my classmates and I will be working when we graduate about a year and a half from now. A large part of my grades in three classes were based on months-long group projects, working with fellow students from different fields. As a science major, I don’t think I even had to do three group projects during my four years of undergrad. In addition to group projects, every single class that I took this semester emphasized writing in some form–press releases, blog posts, abstracts, executive summaries, you name it. I’ve written them all. None of this is really surprising though, considering that most of public health is effective collaboration and communication.

I’ve also learned that people–students, faculty, and staff–are very nice in general and are happy to help in any way they can. I’m pretty sure I would have had a much harder time passing one of my classes were it not for my friends setting up multiple study sessions the week before an exam. There are the professors and GSIs, who seem to always be available. And finally, there are people like Sue and Alexis, the EHS student services person and the SPH registrar, respectively, who have never turned me away when I show up to ask a question (or 30 minutes of questions).

When they’re not studying or working on a group project, public health students can be found doing something fun, whether it’s a night out with friends or a large gathering organized by a student organization. I learned that people in my subplan are pretty good at bowling. The EQH Dream Team, with matching hats, took third place at the bowling night organized by Women In Health Leadership! And we were all surprised, because none of us thought we were any good at bowling. The great thing about SPH is that while there are countless groups of really close friends (because that tends to happen when you have four classes together), there are also many opportunities to get to know people outside your program.

Speaking of being an SPH student, congratulations to those who were recently accepted to UMSPH (no worries if you haven’t heard yet–I hadn’t even applied at this point last year)! Welcome to the Michigan family, and I hope to see you around next year. To my fellow first-years, congratulations on surviving your first semester! Enjoy the break–you’ve earned it. And to everyone, I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season! See you in 2014!

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