The past semester has been an interesting transition. Before this academic year, I was an undergraduate without an explicit job and responsibilities that didn’t extend far beyond clubs and classes, and a little bit of research. Times have changed this year, however. Graduate life is a different beast.
The first thing I’ve learned about the transition to a semester where a good amount of my credits are research: research takes a solid amount of time. I’m not talking about a few credits of research, or a project for a professor that you put in two to four hours a week for, the day before your meeting, and call it done. I’m talking about having a deadline for a thesis looming (three-ish months to go), and knowing that you aren’t anywhere near as far along with the coding as you’d like, and that physically writing the thesis is a hazy, delusional future. It’s a completely different state of mind.
I know that my experience isn’t unique to me, and it certainly isn’t unique to graduate school. I know there’s plenty of undergraduate research that goes on at RPI that takes up plenty of time, just like my thesis does now. It’s just a transition that I wasn’t fully prepared for—I knew it was going to happen, it just didn’t set in until the time is really running down.
The big change that comes with introducing a major new time commitment is having to accept the fact that you’re just going to have to phase out some other involvements in your life. In my case, the involvement I’m slowly phasing out is my involvement in The Poly. I know, I know, if I’m phasing out my involvement, why am I writing a notebook for it … as I said, slowly.
Last semester, I was still Senior Managing Editor and Ads Manager, two large roles on the paper. I hate to admit it, but I know I didn’t put in as strong of an effort for it that it deserved. I’m not proud of it. But I made a commitment to it, and I stuck it out through the end, and it didn’t end horribly. That being said, I was skeptical about throwing myself into any similarly large (or even half as large) commitment on the paper again. It wouldn’t be fair to me, for one, and I think I have every right to be selfish about it. But it also wouldn’t be fair to The Poly. It deserves better than that, in terms of someone willing to put in more effort, but also in terms of someone new stepping up the ranks and bringing something fresh to the table. Everyone wins!
I’m still around, clearly, and I still spend a good deal of time there on Tuesday nights. The focus is more on working on research there than working on the paper, though, and socializing less and staring at my screen more. It may seem sad, but it’s not—I stepped back and came to the balance on my own. I’m happy that I can still help out a bit, and spend time with friends that helped define part of my life for over a year and a half, and also maybe, just maybe, do some research. An entire awesome Master’s thesis worth.