Friday, October 31, 2008

tricks and treats for an aspiring ecologist

I think trick or treat is a great theme for November's scientiae blog carnival. I'm going to share the tricks I use to keep myself sane and the treats I enjoy as a grad student in ecology.

Taking time for fun- I make time for fun things like having people over, playing board games, and watching movies. I don't let myself stress out about work that I should be doing while I'm having fun. If it's going to stress me out that much to play a game, then I'll just work instead until I'm at a point where I can relax.

Regular exercise- I'm trying to be better about this in my second year. I have set myself the easily attainable goal of going to the gym at least once per week. I bike to school every day and have to carry my not-so-light bike up 2.5 flights of stairs so that also helps keep me active. I make time to go to the gym at least once a week even when I have a lot of work to do. I hope I can keep this up all year!

Income ingenuity- Budgeting carefully and spending wisely is crucial on a grad student stipend. Being creative is important to keep you from getting the blues about your empty pockets. I'm a huge fan of craigslist for acquiring just about anything except food. Several months ago I wrote a post about it for The Economical Academic.

There aren't very many deadlines in grad school. I find that applying for small grants is a great way for me to give myself deadlines. It forces me to think about my project more closely than I otherwise would, and I tend to blow off my self-imposed deadlines. I also have the grant deadlines repeat annually in my Google calendar.

Keep a blog! I think this blog has been really beneficial for me. It gives me a place to process my thoughts and even get some feedback. It's already interesting for me to look back at some of my posts from last year to be reminded of how different thoughts have developed. Also, the science blogger community is great! I'm not nearly as active as a commenter as many of you are, but I appreciate your blogs too!

Self-confidence and self-respect- Somedays I have to remind myself that I can get a Ph.D. and be a scientist, but deep down I have confidence that I can do it. Even when I struggle or receive strong criticism, I remind myself that I'm here to learn and no one expects me to know everything already. I also recognize and take care of my needs outside of school.

Travel- I get to go to Africa! Pretty awesome. No matter what you study as an ecologist, there are opportunities to work in interesting places all over the U.S. and abroad.

Romping around outside
- Studying ecology almost guarantees you get to spend most of your time for at least one part of the year outside (unless you end up doing theory at a computer). Classes almost always have field trips, too.

Eating free food- I think I've averaged about one free meal per week this semester. You might have to be strategic, but there's often free food on campus.

Academic community perks- There are so many fringe benefits to being part of an academic community. I get access to a fantastic student gym with free group fitness classes and a climbing wall, among other things. Universities tend to be much more walkable and pedestrian-friendly than the rest of the country making it possible to live car-free. I have access to a huge library and interlibrary loan. Plus I can occasionally pick up extra cash as a study subject for something.

Technology- My research gives me the opportunity to play around with things like GPS receivers and digital cameras. Buying research supplies with grant money is kind of like Christmas. But hands down my biggest perk to date has been my brand freakin' new MacBook that I'm using to write this post! It finally arrived yesterday afternoon. It is officially property of the university, but I intend to keep it for the rest of its useful life which perfectly coincides with how long I expect to be in grad school.

Schedule- I have considerable flexibility in my own schedule outside of classes and meetings. I can write for two hours in bed before getting dressed and going to school for the rest of the day. I also enjoy school 'vacations' even though there's always something to work on.

Thanks to Jane at See Jane Compute for hosting this month's carnival. I can't wait to see what everyone else has to say!

1 comment:

Knowledge is Power said...

Great tips !!

Ever been to Australia ??

Some great fauna and flora to see.

Great Barrier Reef, Kakado and Tasmanian old-growth forest and more.

Anyway, maybe you would like my blog.

Environmental bits and pieces.