Returning to school after working for 3 years to pursue a Master’s degree, which is in a different major, does bring a lot of opportunities to learn and grow both academically and personally. I have completed my undergrad in Electronics & Communications Engineering, from a reputed university in India. Later I moved on to work as a full-time developer at Infosys. While I had the chance to work on various interesting technologies, an instance of automating a ticketing service that effectively reduces manual effort sparked my interest in Artificial Intelligence. By the time I reached UTA, apart from fueling my passion for AI technology, I wanted to be a better student than I was in my undergrad. To get more involved in campus life. To network better, try new things and learn new things from fellow graduates. But my plans didn’t turn out the way I expected.
The first two months of my graduate life went by in a blur with lots of fun events like pool and foam parties, movie nights and others. While I had the chance to network and meet fellow graduates in these fun events, I soon realized that my purpose of joining a grad school and how I have been spending my time have been out of sync.
For someone with work experience and a stickler for daily to-do lists, I found that my daily goals are not getting checked-off that often. I also observed that I am not performing well with the assignments related to my coursework. In the process of getting used to a new student life, fitting in, trying a myriad of happening things on and off campus, finding GTA/ GRA opportunities and summer internships, the focus on my coursework had shifted significantly.
It brought my morale down that I couldn’t even concentrate on courses I felt confident about. But doing well in my first midterms made me realize that, I had completely ignored my accomplishments while trying to keep up with the unrealistic expectations I had set for myself. On the bright side, I did score an on-campus job within two months of joining UT Arlington with no referrals but by my own skillset.
Once I arrived at this clear perspective of where I stand, I started to plan things as efficiently as possible. Bringing productivity in the work I do every day has been a motto of mine and I intend to follow it in my graduate life as well. I have started to plan my day with simple yet effective 15-minute tasks of learning about the practical applications of my coursework, solving a problem or two given in an assignment, looking out for internship opportunities on LinkedIn, Indeed and other similar websites. I have also started to take time for hobbies that relax my mind like reading, cooking, and journaling, which motivates me to do and be more.
All these simple adjustments I have made, hardly take a couple of hours while letting me engage and enjoy what the campus has to offer. It is so often that we confuse movement with progress. As fascinating as the student life is, taking time to analyze where we are spending our time, how well we are utilizing the resources we are handed and how we can try to be our best, will help us achieve our dreams.
About the Author:
Rathna Sindura Chikkam
A current graduate student in Computer Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. She also works as the IT Governance Student Assistant at the Office of Information Technology, Davis Hall, and has been an active member of Graduate Student Senate.