Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ramping Up

What is different about this semester from last semester? I'm in a synchronous class that actually allows me to see my fellow mates. I'm trying to sign up for 12 credits as opposed to 9. I'm not stay at home, working on school stuff every day of the week. Yes and no. These are all right. But something else feels different. I can't put my finger on it.

I guess, I'm thinking to myself that I've made it through the first semester. I've done it! Yay. But wait, there's more? What do you mean I've got something like six-plus more semesters. I have to put forth this self-directed effort for the next how many years? Wait. Really?

So the first few months, I was settling into my routine. My routine's changed a bit and I am still trying to get a hang of it. But there is so much to do. Other than keep up in my classes, I've got this research practicum to work on, which requires me to travel about 30-40 a day to the local University and do work over there. And I've got to do some field work in an environment involving older adults. And I've got to continue to look up papers related to my research interest. *sigh* But you could say that I'm doing this to myself, and you would be absolutely right. And then, you could ask why? 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Head Start

I'm trying to get a jump on things early. But, I can't decide what to start on first: stats, grant writing.... The problem with working ahead is that you risk not getting important information from future classes that may be useful to your work. But then, you get the work done early so you can focus on more time-consuming and taxing future classes. Is the work 100% quality then? Perhaps at the time you initially worked on it, without the knowledge or perceptions that you would have developed in the later classes and discussions. I think I'll wait. Besides, I'm not really that motivated right now anyways.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Learning from Far, Far Away

So, we had our first "class" yesterday. I put it in quotations because it's sort of a virtual class room. You can see your instructors and maybe any students that are actually living in the area and attending in person. But you can't see any of the other non-locals. Well...unless they press the talk button to chat. Anyways, much to my relief, it all went quite well. There are only about 4 of us in the course. So maybe we have to push that talk button more often than not.

Distance learning is a challenge. It's not for the faint of heart, or the weak of self-motivation. You have got to set your time aside and stick to your schedule. It's so easy to say to yourself, "nah, I'm going to watch that NCIS marathon, and get to the stats homework later." Later could then turn into tomorrow, and then the weekend, and next thing you know, you're scrambling to get the work in before that midnight deadline. Not that I do that, mind you. No, never. Actually, I like to try to get as much done earlier in the semester as possible. One could say that is because traditionally, semesters get much progressively busier. But the truth is that I get progressively lazier as through the semester. The laziness and inertia slowly creep in after week number 5 or 6....insidiously infecting my grey matter, making me think that whatever marathon may be happening on the USA channel is far more important than finishing that grant proposal.

But this semester ends with a bang. We have to give a presentation on our research topic to the faculty and however many students that decide to show up. I'm already experiencing tachycardia. More on this later.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Week One, Day One

So, as anticlimactic as it may seem, today is the start of the new semester. Let me explain. It's anticlimactic because nothing is really happening today. See, I'm in this distance program, and I don't really have "in-class" time, so everything's really self-directed and self-motivate (uh-oh). Last semester, I didn't have any regular meet-with-your-peers time, so my mates and I basically chatted over the phone periodically and caught up, or whined, or groaned, or wallowed in a pit of self-pity and loathing over how silly we were to sign up for this whole graduate school thing again.

This semester, we have a regular, weekly virtual classroom day. It will be interesting because 1) I wonder how my internet connection will hold up to 3-6 hours of constant "on-ness," 2) I wonder if I have to wear anything nice below the waist, since most people won't be seeing that (i.e., can I wear my jammies and a nice shirt?? what is the etiquette here?), and 3) well, it will just be darn interesting to actually see and converse with my peers, even if it's through the ether.

Another fun fact about this semester: we have an in-residence week. Well, it's more like 3-4 days. But during that time, I have to *shudder* give an oral presentation. Okay, so to most people that doesn't seem to bad. But I haven't told you about my dislike, nay, aversion, to standing up in front of people. It wasn't always like this. But that story is for another time. Let's just say, I have a physical and psychological response akin to excessive, debilitating distress! So, while others are trying to get on top of this semester and plan ahead, I am sadly counting down the days and hours until my trial. Literally.

One would ask, why would you chose to pursue a degree where the final product is a rather large and drawn out oral presentation, and which entails a career of public speaking? Good question. But don't judge. Maybe I can explain in a later post. For now, I have to lie down and take some deep, calming breaths.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Decisions, decisions

It seems like time is really moving quite fast. My advisor pointed out to me the other day that I will be practically half way through with my course work at the end of this semester. My first semester was only a few months ago! So, with this in mind, I am trying to decide on my dissertation topic and format. Well, I actually know the topic/focus of research that I would like to study. I think it's really the design that I am struggling to decide upon.

I am asking myself: how can I possibly know 100% what I want to do for my dissertation? I've only been in for one full semester! I suppose, though, it does help that I had an idea of what I would like to research prior to applying to the program. Note to other future doctoral students: know what you want to study before you apply. This will make your life as a doctoral student a little less stressful and may even cut time spent in your program. 

So, the question is: primary research or a meta-analysis? The head scratching begins.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


One by one, instructors are starting to post syllabi, coursework, schedules, and assignments on Blackboard. I admit, it's somewhat exciting. I'm sitting here planning out the semester to see where I'll be swamped by readings and assignments, and where I will be able to take a breather.

I also admit, that I am moderately excited to take the statistics course. While I may regret that statement in a few more weeks, right now I feel pretty good about stats. Last semester's stats class was okay...even though it felt almost like a self-taught course. And maybe because of the fact I was able to complete the course with my sanity intact, despite hours of frustration, expletives, and elevated blood pressure, I am hopeful for the next level. Also, the stats book looks pretty exciting. Yes, I did say the word stats and exciting in one sentence. Don't believe me? Click on one of my links on the right there...the one on the author of the stats book. At least he has a healthy sense of humor.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Second Semester

Spring semester is almost upon us. One more week to go. And in believing that there will be more time for personal writing this semester, I thought I'd start up this blog. So, to catch myself and others up to speed, I will summarize Fall semester. Took courses on research ethics, theory in nursing research, basic graduate level statistics, and an independent study. I got to present a poster and publish a paper in the process (well, it's in press actually), and I'm learning a lot about the research world and the doctoral student world. All in all, a good semester.

What does Spring 2011 hold? More statistics (actually, the textbook looks quite interesting!), a grant writing course, and a gerontology focused course. I'm going to try to present that same poster at a conference in San Antonio, TX. And I have my fingers crossed that I get the Hartford pre-doc scholarship. Also scheduled for the next few months: a half-marathon, a trip to CO during spring break to visit a good friend from my last round of grad school, a trip to AK, and one to MN to celebrate a wedding. Action-packed indeed. Amidst all of that, I also should decide on my dissertation topic and format, select a program committee, update my Graduate Student Progress Report, fill out the necessary forms for the Graduate School, keeps my eyes posted for any research experiences I could apply for locally, and plan for the Summer.

So maybe, I won't have as much free time as I thought.