My Second Year (and a Half) in Graduate School

Supposedly every year I write a reflections post looking back at what I did on the previous year. My last such post was in August of 2011, which means I’m four months past the due date :roll: . I only remembered because I decided to change the look of this blog, so this post will cover the last year and four months. So in the last 16 months, quite a bit has happened. I received another degree, and traveled around more than I ever had. Keep reading to find out more.

After the summer of 2011, my third academic semester began. It was a busy time for me because I had my doctoral qualifying exams and I had to finish my master’s thesis in that semester. I only took two courses (instead of three in the previous terms) to lighten the work load, but the pressure was there. The qualifiers came up first, and because my department had the toughest qualifiers in our school, I studied for about two months beforehand. The exam consisted of several oral exams in different subject areas, and the questions are at the discretion of the examiners, so there was some luck involved since some professors are much easier than others. Fortunately, I ended up getting enough “easy” professors to pass the exam. There was one subject that I didn’t do well on, but I passed overall so it didn’t matter.

By passing the qualifiers, I officially became a doctoral student, but of course I still had to finish my master’s degree first. My master’s project was an ongoing software related project, and software projects can always be improved, but I had enough material to produce a thesis that met the requirements for graduation. At 40 odd pages including front and back matter, my thesis was rather short, but my adviser approved of it and that was good enough for me to get the my diploma in January.

As usual, I returned home for winter break. In typical fashion, I didn’t do much. Just ate, relaxed, and stayed home to spend time with family mostly. Since I just finished my master degree, my boss didn’t immediately have too much for me to do. I did see some old friends from high school which was nice. After about a month at home, I returned to the states to start a new semester. Unlike the previous winter, the 2011-2012 winter was relatively mild, and we didn’t have that much snow nor was it so bitterly cold. Also, unlike last year, I had a car which makes the winter a lot more bearable. Because there wasn’t much snow, I didn’t even have to dig my car out.

Although I officially graduated with my master in December 2011 and received my diploma in January of 2012, my commencement ceremony was in May because my school only ran one ceremony per year. I think that’s the way most American universities work, as they run one big commencement ceremony for everybody per year instead of running a number of smaller ceremonies in May and December as UBC does. My parents visited me one again in late May/early June to attend my graduation and to travel around a bit. The commencement ceremony was pretty nice, and I dressed up in the graduation cap and gown and walked across the stage to shake the school president’s hand. Many of the people I knew graduated as well, including my roommate and his friends from the business school.

As mentioned at the beginning, I traveled more than I’ve ever traveled before in 2012. My parents and I visited New York City once again, and we also went to Montreal and Quebec City. There were a few conference trips as well. The first of which was to Orlando, which was a great destination, but unfortunately we never really left the airport since the conference was at the airport hotel. A later trip to Knoxville, Tennessee was better, and the highlight of the year was the trip to beautiful San Diego, California in the middle of summer. Southern California by the coast is just a great region to be in, and San Diego was a very nice city as well. In addition, I also went on a couple of short trips with friends. These include skiing for the first time, to Niagara Falls, a NY Giants Football game, Atlantic City, and Boston (for a Celtics game), and all of these were fun and enjoyable experiences. Now that I’m two years into my grad school, I’m starting to believe that I should take advantage of the flexible schedule I have as a student and go out to do more fun stuff. Once I start working for real, I probably won’t have nearly as much free time.

Of course, as a grad student I still spend most of my time on research and course work. After my master’s project, I’ve worked on a couple of other projects which hopefully would produce some papers. I still don’t know what my doctoral research project will be though, and hopefully I’ll find one soon. The target date for my PhD is May 2014, but who know what’ll happen a year and a half down the line. As for course work, I only take two or three courses a semester, so the load isn’t heavy. As I spend more time in grad school, my work load will shift more and more towards research.

Moving on to some miscellaneous items, my old roommate from the business school graduated and he moved out, and so I found new roommate. The new roommate is a new PhD student in my department. He is also a nice guy and fairly clean, and we’ve gotten along pretty well so far. In another item, I made some more progress in terms of my fitness and lost some more weight, especially over the 2012 fall semester. I changed my work routine to include squats and dead lifts to increase the intensity. I worked out three times a week, swam twice a week, and played badminton twice a week during the previous semester. The more rigorous exercise schedule made me a little slimmer than before. I’m probably lighter now than I was in grade 7 of elementary school, and my cardio is definitely better than before. I can now swim freestyle (albeit very slowly) non stop for around 700m, and this is something I could never do before. Strength-wise, I’m probably a little stronger and my arms have a little better definition than before, but I’m just not the type who can gain a lot of strength or muscle mass very quickly. I’ll keep on working on it though. Maybe eventually I’ll actually get a six-pack haha. Gotta keep my body and mind healthy so I can do well in school.

That’s about all I wanted to mention in this post. I’m back home again for winter break, and I’m happy and thankful for that. I hope for another eventful and successful next year in grad school, and good luck to everyone else stuck in grad school like I am.

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