Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: Summer Grad Life

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Grad Life

Hello Readers!
Happy July!
       As I was racing to make headway on a dissertation chapter by June 30th, I took a bit of time off from blogging at the end of June --  but now I am back and will provide the GSAS community with what I hope to be insightful and entertaining blogs about Grad.Life for the rest of the summer! I hope you check in periodically to see what is going on in the GSAS world!
       I was thinking that new graduate students, or family members/friends of graduate students, may wonder what a typical summer is like for a graduate student. It seems like a sort of mysterious segment of time from the perspective of someone who has never experienced it, so I thought I would devote the first blog of July to describing and investigating the "grad-life summer."
      After some thinking back on my summers as a graduate student, I guess the short answer is that there really is no typical summer for a graduate student. Unlike law students or medical students, graduate students don't always have a structured "place they ought to be" for the summer that is designated by their school, department, or program. There is no "best practice" -- like the way law students all get a summer job at a local firm or clerking for a judge. For graduate students, it definitely depends on your unique situation and department. Some departments require students to register for certain classes over the summer; some have the option to take courses; some take no classes at all. Some use the summer to write a thesis or dissertation or an article; and, sometimes there is funding available for these projects, and sometimes there is not. Some students teach the summer session; but courses are limited, so most do not. There is the possibility, but not usually the requirement, of a professional internship; yet, there are some graduate students that work a full time day job and so for the summer take "off" from being a graduate student while still holding down their full time jobs.
Students on an archaeological dig!
      In my experience as a grad student, the summer is time that is less structured than the regular semester periods, but it still needs to be productive in order to succeed in the program and as a scholar. It is a time to set and try to achieve both academic and personal goals. These goals could be oriented towards academic research or work -- trying to get ahead on reading lists for upcoming exams, catching up on reading journal articles published in your field, or committing to a personal project, clinical study, or field work. You may enroll in a class to try to get ahead in your coursework. On the other hand, these goals could also be more personal -- making money to help sustain you for the next semester ahead, or visiting family whom you haven't seen all semester, or catching up on pleasure-reading or a updating a personal blog, or starting or completing a personal writing project, or furthering a practice or enjoying a hobby. Summer for a graduate student can be a time that is really tailored to suit one's own personal needs -- it provides more freedom and choices than the fall and spring semesters.
       While grad students may have the freedom of less structured time in the summer months, the one thing graduate students don't have (usually!) is the freedom of having extra money. But the GSAS has, in recent years, opened up opportunities for Summer Fellowships that may make research in distant libraries, archives, and research sites possible. Information on these summer grants may be found at this link: GSAS Summer Fellowships. The deadlines for these grants are in December and March, depending on your specific department, so if you want to plan ahead for next summer, you can start thinking about your application during the Fall semester!
     Personally, this summer will be about maintaining my "day-job" while making great strides on my dissertation chapters. This will entail long afternoons and early weekend mornings of writing and researching, and some afternoons and evenings in the library.  Note about the library: during the Summer Session at Fordham, the library stays open on Monday-Thursday til 11pm. When classes are not in session ("Intersession"), the library follows a 9 to 5 schedule. This year, the Summer Session goes until August 2.  Here is a link to the Summer Session calendar and homepage!
     Overall, think about summer as a time when productivity may mean very different things to each particular student -- but productivity is a must! But don't forget to plan to enjoy the summer weather, too, and budget time in your schedule for enjoyment and leisure. As a graduate student, you one may feel like you always "could" be doing something to further your progress, and most of us feel guilty when we are not. But be realistic -- you need time for yourself, too. Summer is the perfect time for this;  plus, it's important not to feel cheated out of summer, because overall productivity for the year will suffer! And for the graduate student in your life, make sure you support them through the sunny beach days that make it nearly impossible to be stuck inside a library -- give them the encouragement to keep at it but also to take care of themselves and take advantage of the flexibility that the summer may offer them!
I'll be back with a new post soon, tackling some important issues for grad students that have evolved around the nation in the past few months. Keep reading, and enjoy the holiday week!
Til next time, Liza

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