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Wisdom from MIT graduate students at the start of a new semester

Twelve Graduate Admissions Bloggers provide sage advice for fellow students and others at MIT — and beyond.
Headshots of MIT graduate students, arranged in two rows of six
The 12 graduate student bloggers featured include (top row, left to right) Allison P., Alex O., Meggan D., Kathleen L., Paul G., Tatiana N.; (bottom row, left to right) Morgan J., Hyunjin P., Hsin-Yu L., Rumya R., Kristan H., and Pervez A.
Photos courtesy of the students.

Whether you’re returning to the MIT campus or coming to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the first time, one thing is certain: You want to bring your whole self with you. In the case of MIT’s graduate student population, there are nearly 7,000 such selves from all over the country and around the world, each playing an essential role in supporting teaching and research.

To help every student start strong, take care of themselves, and to make the most of this semester, here are 12 articles — covering everything from the curious MIT vernacular to tackling burnout to making friends and building networks — from MIT’s graduate student bloggers. Even if you are not pursuing a degree, the posts present a snapshot into the vibrant life at the Institute.

MIT 101

If you’re new to campus, Allison P.’s “MIT-isms: Crack the Code to MIT Conversation” and Hyunjin P.’s “Navigating MIT: How to Survive in the Forest of Numbers” will help you orient yourself. And if this will be your first New England winter, don’t miss Paul G.’s advice on navigating Cambridge’s cooler months.

On belonging

To know you belong here, read “Fitting into MIT: How imposter syndrome gave me a sense of belonging” by Kristan H. “To this day, I sometimes walk through the archetypal MIT dome to my lab in the mornings, look up at the stained-glass ceiling, and have a sense of disbelief that I made it here. However, now, instead of doubting how I made it here, I feel grateful for the opportunity to challenge myself in new ways and work with brilliant people.”

Welcome to Massachusetts

To explore New England, read “A Journey through time: Voyaging into Boston’s ‘other’ history” by Pervez A. “As graduate students, we come here to learn, and to teach, but what we can also do in Boston is experience — through the writings of history’s greats who have walked this city’s streets, and been molded by its character. Boston’s ‘other’ history is an opportunity for MIT students to step beyond ourselves, and immerse ourselves into the beauty of what’s right outside our door step.”

Preventing burnout

To fight burnout, read “Dousing first-year burnout: The importance of making MIT your home” by Alex O. “If you’re like me, it’s easy to get caught up in the challenge of a graduate program and to think you’re not allowed to focus on anything else, but feeling like part of a community makes a world of difference in your mental health and ability to learn.”

Setting and meeting goals

To reach your goals, read “The buddy system: How checking in weekly can keep your goals on track” by Kathleen L. “Graduate school is overwhelming and lonely at times. In addition to producing good research, graduate students have to balance networking, taking classes, staying updated on advances in their field by reading papers, and managing personal life goals. … To address this issue, my labmate and I have started a weekly check-in routine that has helped me grow personally and professionally during graduate school while also combating loneliness.”

Finding the light

To find inspiration, read “small silver slivers: finding the bright spots in a dark time” by Rumya R. “Because, after all we’ve been through, maybe that was what I missed the most — the chance to make someone new smile. The fleeting interactions and human connections that reminded us that we aren’t alone in this world. A reminder that, despite how dark it got, there was always a small, silver, sliver of a lining, even when we didn’t believe that it was there.”

Keys to networking

For tips on making new connections, read “Networking for introverts: How to break out of your shell” by Morgan J. “Networking. For some of us introverts out there, it’s a dreaded word. … I used to absolutely dread networking. However, throughout my college years and the graduate school interview process, I began to crack the code to networking confidently and productively.”

On being mindful

To find time for what matters to you, read “What a poet taught me about sitting still: Building a mindfulness practice into a busy grad student schedule” by Meggan D. “It’s funny, isn’t it, how we feel called to be busy all of the time? In school, and then in life after school, and on weekends between our work? Am I the only one who wakes and wonders immediately how I will fill my days? This is quite the habit to be in — with what was I filling my time?”

Supporting mental health

To hear about resources for prioritizing your mental health, read “Ask and you shall receive: How grad school put me on a healthier path” by Tatiana N. “To the current and future first-year students in similar situations, who question their self-worth, their place at MIT, whether they are smart enough to get an A in that class or to join their dream lab, here’s my advice: it is never too early or too late to get help. Grad school is difficult, but taking care of your mental health during this time does not have to be.”

Use your imagination

To find your own superpowers, read “Practice imagination in MIT Hogwarts: Where empathy and compassion are the real magic” by Hsin-Yu L. “To me, imagination is the magic that does not only empower a person, but spreads its spell. Embrace the challenges, unfold your imagination, and welcome to MIT Hogwarts.”

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