Grad School: A Survival Guide

Published May 14, 2012 by heatherksmith

So, I promised a year ago that I would start blogging again.  The Grad School Gods disagreed. So, this has actually started to become more of a yearly blog as opposed to weekly, monthly or daily.

Well, I’m hoping that is going to change.  I’ve finished all of my graduate courses, and am now only working on my thesis (please don’t take the “only” in that sentence too literally).

While my spare time is still sparse, I’m hoping to be an active member of the blogosphere once again.  And to reinstate my blogging license, I would like to offer all of you my fool-proof steps to surviving grad school as a full-time young professional.

That’s right, I was taking full-time grad classes, along with a full-time career.  What I wasn’t doing full-time was sleeping.

Anyway, my  Five Fool-Proof  Steps to Survive Grad School

  1. Start a caffeine addiction:
    Starbucks, the cup of joe at the office and the occasional soda should saturate your day. I know after your 10-hour day, you probably did homework until 1AM. How else are you going to make it through the day today without face planting on your desk and being shook awake in a puddle of drool by your boss? It’s 2012 everyone expects you to have some sort of addiction anyway. Just ask TLC.
  2. Sleep, Just Say No:
    You know that saying “you can sleep when you’re dead”? Live by it. There is no way you’re going to finish 2 literature reviews and do three chapters of reading by sleeping 8-10 hours every night.  Who needs sleep anyway? We have caffeine to counteract it (please refer to Step 1).
  3. Date Someone and Have Friends Just as Busy:
    Your boyfriend/girlfriend and friends aren’t going to get irritated with you ditching because you have a paper due or hanging out with them with homework in hand if they have an equally hectic schedule. This just means you’re all boring.  That’s ok, you’re also smart. Keep telling yourselves that.
  4. Let Yourself Go A Little:
    I always like to have my hair and make up done my first few days of class. This is just for proof that I can look attractive. It’s all down hill from there. By cutting out primp time in the morning, you’ll get in another hour of sleep (Refer back to steps 1 & 2, I know you’re already lacking in this area). Be prepared for people telling you that you look tired, which they may as well be telling you that you look like crap. Just remember, you ARE tired! And you’re also going places in life.
  5. Wine-based Study Groups:
    My friends can agree, cramming for a test is always better together, and it’s even better with a box of Franzia. Don’t laugh at this, my friends and I all pulled A’s in the most difficult class in the department. For this, I thank you Franzia.
Ok, so the above steps are a little ridiculous, even though I did follow them to some extent. (Or to a full extent).  But here is my one true and probably only healthy tip:
Friday Night=Fun Night: Feel free to switch Friday with Saturday. So you’re not sleeping much, you’re hyped up on caffeine, and possibly more stressed than you’ve ever been. TAKE A BREAK!  You will begin to hate your life if all you do is study and work.  A night of doing nothing is completely necessary and OK! You got into grad school, you’re passing your classes, you’re going to eventually get your Masters Degree even if you do take the night off.
Well, I’m off to bed. I’ve got a full day of work tomorrow and a night of editing a thesis proposal. Doesn’t sound fun to you? Well, it does to me. I guess that’s another tip I have for you. No matter how tired or stressed you might be, if you truly love your job and you picked a Master’s that fits your passion, you’re really not going to mind getting out of bed everyday to a full day’s work and full night’s study.
Good night, I’ll see you at the Starbucks drive thru tomorrow.

Long Time, No Post

Published April 22, 2011 by heatherksmith

It is official…I’m that horrible example of how NOT to use social media. Well, at least in one aspect: No regular updates.

Who would have thought full time work and a full class load as a grad student would take away from my time to blog? I’ve missed my time typing about my random thoughts and experiences. I’m sure some of you (and by this I refer mainly to my brother and mom) have missed it, too.

Anyway…Expect to see more posts soon. However, due to my severe case of nerdom and regular tendency to fill almost every hour of my day with some sort of responsibility, I make no promises on frequency.

Until later,


The New Beginning

Published September 12, 2010 by heatherksmith

It’s official. I’m no longer a VISTA. Even though I’m happy to say bon voyage to food stamps and living below the poverty line, I loved the experience and highly recommend it. You’ll see me volunteering again soon.

Life changed drastically since my last post. I left the desert and set up camp in the Rockies. I start graduate courses at the University of Denver on Monday and start a new job about a week later. Not only that, but I finally have wheels again (on a car that is, not my bike). No more five-mile pedals to work in 100 degree weather.

So, once again, new place, new people, new life. I’m excited to see how it all works out.

An ‘Expert,’ Huh? Who Isn’t These Days?

Published August 2, 2010 by heatherksmith

Do you ever wonder what constitutes an ‘expert?’ I considered my professors in college experts, I trust my doctor to be an expert, my mechanic, my two year-old niece an aficionado of cuteness, you get the idea.

Other than my niece whose expertise is self-evident, most experts carry some type of credential. A degree, license, certification. But there’s a plethora of ‘experts’ rising out there without any specific diplomas or alma mater that prove their so-called proficiency.

Enter social media experts.

Once social media became more than sites for high school and college students to procrastinate during finals week and evolved into an effective tool for marketing, advertising, and public relations, everyone jumped on the bandwagon. But no one had mastered steering the wagon.

I open invite after invite to social media webinars, workshops, and conferences. All of which presented by an ‘expert.’ There’s always debate about the proper use of Facebook, Twitter etiquette, LinkedIn strategy, etc. I often wonder how many of these debaters actually understand what they’re talking about. How many actually HAVE and USE a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIN Account or write his or her own blog?

The best lessons I’ve learned in social media are from people who refuse to call themselves experts. They work with various forms of social media everyday for a variety of businesses, nonprofits, organizations, associations, etc. They spend time studying, reading, and testing best practices while working to find a way to measure its success.

They’ll tell you there is no ‘cookie cutter’ method behind social media. Let’s face it, there isn’t. What’s effect for one person may be completely opposite for someone else.

If you’re looking for a tutorial on the social media ropes, seek out someone who fits your needs. Are you in the travel and tourism industry? Medical field? Education? There’s probably someone who fits your niche. Take Beth Kanter for example, she’s an expert on nonprofit technology and just wrote a new book, The Networked Nonprofit. She’s well known in the nonprofit world because she knows what she’s talking about.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some pretty capable people out there. But don’t be fooled be everyone who has ‘expert’ on a business card.

I’d Like to Leave a Message for Karma, Please

Published July 12, 2010 by heatherksmith

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted. But believe me, I have good reason to have neglected so long. Here are my latest adventures from living below the poverty line.

Health Coverage Shenanigans: Being below the poverty line qualifies me for state health care. When I first moved here, I still had my regular insurance, which ended coverage in December. In November, I went to the doctor and presented both my insurance and state health care. My regular insurance covered part of my cost. Turns out the doctor office never turned the rest into my state health care. For over 8 months, I’ve been on the phone with the doctor’s office and the state health care office to cover the  remaining $130. Perpetual phone tag. Sigh.

Kitchen Knives and T-Shirts: I found quite the surprise in the front yard. No, it wasn’t that pony I’ve been asking my mother for since elementary school. It was an 8-inch, non-serrated kitchen knife wrapped in a men’s T-shirt. The police tried to convince me someone just used the deadly piece of steel to drywall. If only I were naive. I would have been able to sleep for the next 2 weeks.

What’s Worse Than Living in a House with Mystery Knives? Being Kicked Out of It!: I recently learned the importance of leases. The last 3 years, the tenants in the house had lived under a ‘gentleman’s agreement.’ No lease, no deposit. Wow! What a great deal, right? Well, two of the four of us moved, and the landlord started to lose money. Gentleman’s agreement off. The remaining roomie and I almost got put up in the Budget Suites, known for meth labs and the occasional prostitute.  Luckily, things worked out and we ended up getting to stay in the house.

The Perpetually Immobile Monte Carlo: Eight months later and the transmission angels still haven’t decided to bless my car. You know, the same car that suffered a smashed driver-side window. I don’t usually mind the daily pedal, but the infamous Phoenix heat has arrived. Over 100 degrees with no breeze (Unless it feels like a blow dryer).  It’s like a steam room, but not near as relaxing.

Life has been chaotic. But what my VISTA service has taught me is that it could be worse. Doctor bills give me slight migraines, but at least I was able to get check out. Even though the lawn seems to grow blades of steel instead of grass and ‘gentleman’s agreements’ aren’t so gentle in the end, I still have a roof to sleep under.  If all else failed, I could have camped out in my broken-down car. That’s more than some people will ever have.

I think karma is kicking in. After all, I haven’t found any weapons in the yard lately! I’ll let you know how things turn out.

Just So You Know…You Sound Like A Total Jerk Right Now

Published May 23, 2010 by heatherksmith
I try to live by the advice my mother gave me that “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I’ll admit that sometimes that’s easier said than done, but I give it my best effort.  But some people don’t try as hard as I do, if they even try at all.
A good amount of people seem to think that adding one of the following phrases into a sentence makes any comment he or she makes OK. Guess what, it doesn’t. I may not be a communications expert, but if you often use this lingo in every-day conversation, I highly recommended you stop. Check it out:
  1. I’m just being honest……
    Has this sentence ever been followed or preceded by something nice? You never hear, “I’m just being honest, but you look great today!” Nope, it’s always nasty. Before using this phrase, think to yourself, am I being honest, or a total jerk? Is it a fact that girl is annoying, or am I just in a bad mood today?
  2. Just so you know…..
    Again, does good news ever follow this?  Nope, never. Think about it, “Just so you know, your boyfriend is cheating on you,” “Just so you know, your butt looks huge in that.” Just so you know, when you use this phrase, you’re being an ass.
  3. I would want to know…..
    Yes, I’m sure you would wan’t to know that your hair looks terrible that way or the sound of your voice resembles nails on a chalkboard. This seemed like a good idea to you why?
  4. Bless his/her heart…..
    I love this one. It’s usually used to make saying something mean behind someone’s back perfectly acceptable. By all means, go ahead and verbally degrade someone, just as long as you ‘bless his/her heart’ afterwards.

I’m just being honest, but I these comments never make for a good conversation. Just so you know, you should probably take my mom’s advice. After all, I would want to know if I was being a jerk. I hope you liked this post. Bless your heart.

7 Reasons You’re the Best Mom

Published May 10, 2010 by heatherksmith

Today is for all the moms in the world. Where would we be without you? All of the kissed ouchies, the proud hugs, the shoulder to cry on, and the advice have been everything we ever needed and more. Moms, you are amazing.

I, of course, have an unfair bias to one mother in particular. My mother, Janelle, is the world’s greatest in my eyes. So Mom, I’d like to let you know what makes you the best.

  1. Ravishing through the jungle of curls that were my hair as a toddler. Yes, I had those gorgeous little ringlets that were totally cheek-pinch worthy. Can you imagine trying to comb through those on a 2 year-old? Thanks for not shaving my head, Mom.
  2. Spider Seek and Destroy: Thank you for all the nights of saving me from the spiders the size of a penny or smaller. What would I have done without you!
  3. Doctor Office Therapist: Mom, I can’t thank you enough for all the times you held my hand (or even held down my entire body) every time I had to get a shot. Not that that has changed much.
  4. My Biggest Fan: You cheered me on at everything you could-The concerts, the pageants, the FCCLA events, the plays, the basketball and football games, the cross-country meets. I swear you must have had a clone to be in so many places! How did you do it?!
  5. My Handkerchief: You did more than your fair share of wiping my tears throughout high school over broken hearts and gossip. Thanks for all of those late night chats, pep talks, and hugs.
  6. Doing the Work of Two: You got us through some rough times, Mom. Now that I’m older, I look back and realize how truly amazing you were. So many people would have just crumbled and given up. But not you. God blessed Justin and me by giving us you as a mother.
  7. The Best Friend: I couldn’t ask for more, a mother and BFF in one. No one knows me better than you. I have more fun with you than anyone else in the world. Not so many people can be so lucky.

I love you, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day! I hope I can be a mom just like you someday!