I arrived at UTA in January of 2016 excited to be a part of the freshly created Kinesiology doctorate program. It was my second major move in 2 years, I thought I had the stencil figured out for adapting to life in a new city. It turns out I was wrong, Arlington was more than a new city, it was a completely different world than what I was used to- life as a PhD student is markedly different than the previous roles I’ve been cast to as well.
My beginnings in academia were at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, my hometown. Edmonton was small enough, and I was well enough established that no matter where I went or what I did, I could always find a common link with someone I knew. That could mean making friends playing shinny, seeing the regulars at the local ski hill, or bumping into a mutual acquaintance mountaineering. It was easy to meet like-minded individuals and establish a social network. Between the tremendous opportunity to meet people through social activities and sharing experiences with peers thrown in the same situation starting university, I had no desire or capacity to expand my friend groups when I started graduate school (also at the University of Alberta). As a result I was almost entirely absent from graduate student life at the University of Alberta.
Then came my first major move, way down under to Melbourne, Australia. To set the stage, Melbourne in brief is a city of 6 million+ people, divided into several suburbs all of which have a remarkably local and home atmosphere. The lifestyle is incredibly active and social, and if I learned one thing from moving to Melbourne, if you visit in winter, bring pants. I was still a master’s student while I was in Melbourne, but under rather unique circumstances. I was not at a university, I had no classes, and was in the not quite finished wing of a research institute with a desk just on the other side of the wall from an MRI helium pump that went “pfew…pfew…pfew…” all day, every day. To say the least, graduate student life was non-existent. But, similar to Edmonton, you would meet people no matter where you went- couple hour drive to go surfing on the coast, cycle clubs, or even down at the park for après work wine and cheese.
So when I set off for Arlington in January of 2016, I was ready. I had already made the leap from relatively small Edmonton to big city Melbourne, and had made lots of really good friends, found my niche activities, and integrated myself nicely into the Australian way of life. As I said earlier, it turns out I wasn’t ready for Arlington, it was a serious case of culture shock- not the same nauseating culture shock feeling you get when you drive on the left side of the road for the first time, but the kinds when you have absolutely no idea how to act properly.
It’s only fair that I set the stage for Arlington as I have for Edmonton and Melbourne. Arlington is a city of half a million, just one of the cities representing the hyphen in D-FW. Contrary to popular belief, Arlington is not in the desert, and in accordance with popular belief, Arlington is scorching hot, taking the crown for most mundane weather with 4 months of consecutive 98 degree cloudless days followed by 3 other seasons that the rest of the world would describe as “mild” or “quite pleasant” rather than Fall, Winter or Spring. Opposite to more polar regions, summer is the season of hibernation, and space is anything but a concern. Being in a metroplex of 7+ million means a long drive to leave the city, without living in a big city.
Now, my usual integration strategy didn’t have the chance to work or fail here; 10 hours to the nearest Rocky Mountain and a flight to the nearest ocean wave, you’re not going to find all that many Arlingtonians making either trip. And between the fire ants and stifling heat, you won’t find them relaxing outside either. However, there are unique opportunities that have been presented by UTA.
UTA is widely considered a commuter school. This is certainly apparent between terms when the campus is a ghost town, save for the international students and graduate students (most of whom are international). This core of students can always be found on campus, and have found their niche activities. For myself this has been any number of the facilities provided at the MAC- the indoor climbing wall, indoor soccer arena, ping pong, beach volleyball, and fitness center. There’s always a friendly smiling face around or a pick-up game to join which makes the MAC a tremendous resource for maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as meeting peers with a shared interest. To me, these facilities are very underused, and I highly encourage more students to become cognizant of their health and social opportunities. These facilities are entirely free to you, use them!
Graduate student life within the department of Kinesiology is an asset, and one of the best aspects of UTA. The department highly encourages student involvement and healthy living, as healthy living is one of the department ideals. The department often sponsors or makes a presence at events and ensures graduate students are aware of opportunities to participate. The department boasts heavy involvement in events such as the Homecoming 5 Km race to student sport games, their positive presence is refreshing. Further, graduate students are granted the opportunity to interact with undergraduates at research days, and we are always in need of healthy control subjects for research so don’t be afraid to approach your TA and ask about research opportunities. Participation in research is one of the best ways to learn about research, and about your own academic interests and future opportunities.
Graduate student life in the department of Kinesiology makes you part of a small community of really phenomenal students, and provides you with the start of your niche, critical for your success. Although it is not widely talked about, your enjoyment inside and outside of school is absolutely critical for your mental and physical health; which in turn is critical for your academic performance. The department of Kinesiology and the MAC provide innumerable opportunities for this, I highly encourage other students to test the waters!
About the author
Rhys Beaudry is a current Kinesiology PhD student at UT Arlington, UT Arlington FitSTEPs for Life clinical coordinator and research assistant in the iCARE laboratory under Dr. Mark Haykowsky. His primary research interests are in human cardiovascular physiology and cardio-oncology, specifically, the study of heart failure related to breast cancer and breast cancer treatment.