Search This Blog

Friday, May 31, 2019

Life's Little Triumphs: Scavenging Season Is Upon Us!

There is definitely a money-spending side of me, but there is also the side of me that loves getting something for free.  And in the summer, that free something could be berries!

Earlier this week, I was taking a walk with Scott when I noticed ripe berries on some mulberry trees.  Very fortunately, I had a plastic bag with me so I wasn't confined to just gobbling up what I could on the spot.  Mulberries can be tricky to pick since they're on trees and there are a lot of high branches, but I'm tall enough to be able to get some of them.  I went picking again today, and got a pretty decent haul.

I have special affection for mulberries because even though I'd probably seen them plenty of times in the US without realizing it, I first became aware of their potential as a food the first time I visited Syria in 2001.  I bought some juice from a street vendor that I thought (from looking at the source fruit) was blackberry juice.  It was delicious, and much sweeter than I expected it to be.  Someone told me later that it was probably made of mulberries.  I also saw some big, beautiful mulberry trees in Uzbekistan.

Later this summer, I'm also hoping to score some free wineberries and blackberries (hence the need to carry plastic bags with me).  Summer has its limitations, what with the humidity and the mosquitoes, but berry-scavenging is something I can get behind wholeheartedly.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Grad School As A "Nontraditional" Student: Second Semester Review

Cherry blossoms that I enjoyed seeing, but did not blog about!
Hmm.  So I guess saying "I never meant to neglect my poor little blog for so long" is a pretty common lament.  And my reasons are pretty much what they usually are:  I got very busy.  My busyness really came in a couple of stages this semester.  In the first stage, I had some time for going out and doing things on the weekend, but not really time to blog about any of the stuff I did.  In the second stage, I had time for neither doing things nor blogging.  And I really had very little to blog about, aside from whining about being so busy all the time.

I recently finished my second semester of my graduate program (my review of my first semester is here).  I won't lie.  It was a pretty bad semester.  In a nutshell, what I can say for it is that it's over with, and that I'm now 40% of the way done with my program (which sounds a lot better than being 20% of the way done a the end of first semester).  But I wanted to do a quick review anyway, both for myself for later on, and for anyone else who might be making a career change or considering one.  With a rapidly changing economy, I suspect that career changes may become more common, and I think it's helpful for us all to share our triumphs and struggles.

What was better this semester:  At least for about the first half of the semester, I managed to carve out a little more free time.  I think this was due to a few factors.  One is that I didn't get sick (I had a horrible monster cold that lasted several weeks in the fall).  Also, while my classes this semester were challenging, I didn't have any that I really struggled to understand, whereas one of my fall classes was very conceptually difficult (and consequently, took up an exorbitant amount of time).  Finally, I decided to take one of my classes early in the morning, which freed up more time in the afternoons (when I tend to be more productive) to work.  I still felt extremely busy, but free time is a huge morale booster for me, so even small pockets of it made this semester more bearable.

What was worse this semester:  I was so miserable at the end of first semester that I was seriously considering dropping out.  As a result, it was hard to start second semester with any sense of optimism at all.  And my pessimism was not unfounded.  Second semester was in large part characterized by having to fight with various people who control my academic/clinical fate in one way or another.  (I would say one benefit of going back to school when you're older is being more willing and able to advocate for yourself, rather than just being steamrolled).  The semester ended with me challenging a final course grade for the first time ever (but on the bright side, the matter was resolved quickly and in my favor).

What gives me hope for the final three semesters:  Several things, really.  (1)  I'm 40% of the way done.  At this point, I think the easiest way out is through.  (2)  I'm going to start spending a lot of time off campus in internships.  Even though these internships are unpaid, I think it'll feel a lot more like working again (which, ultimately, is my goal in all of this).  (3) So far, I've enjoyed the clinical aspect of my program, and I'm going to start spending much more time on that.

Is it all worth it?  Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing until I finish and start applying for jobs.  I will say that between taking my prerequisites for free and getting partial funding for my current program that I'm getting off pretty easy in terms of financial commitment.  I would advise anyone considering going back to school to think about the financial aspect of doing so.  There are never any guarantees of jobs on the other side, and the last thing anyone wants is a heavy student loan burden with no income to pay it back.