The Best and the Worst from the First Year of Graduate School

In order to understand my favorite experience from first year you’ll need a little background about me.  I had spent the two years preceding graduate school as far from academic science as you can get as I had been working in Nevada as a waitress.  The time away from academia was a good choice for me because it solidified my dedication to continuing graduate education and research, but I was completely unprepared for how nervous I would be about the first test of the year after two years out of school.  I studied incredibly hard for that test. When I received an A  in return it not only helped my grade in the course but it also reassured me that I had made the right decision in coming to graduate school and that not only could I pass but that I could excel. It sounds cheesy but that first A gave me a wave of confidence and motivation that sustained me throughout my first year.

My worst experience was, hands down, having to choose my mentor.  Choosing a mentor is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions you make as a graduate student and since I have a hard time deciding what to eat for dinner it felt like the most daunting decision in the world.  Thinking back on it now I was fortunate to have several fantastic labs with great mentors to choose from, but in the moment it felt overwhelming, formal, and permanent.  Luckily OHSU is an environment where I felt comfortable (and still do) bouncing my thoughts off faculty, staff, and other students and that support enabled me to choose the right mentor for me.  It is a strange experience reflecting back to first year because my perspective has evolved so much in four years.  However, in the light of my current challenges in lab, it is a nice reminder of how much I’ve accomplished in that time.