1-2-3-4-5 Things Grad School Taught Me

GO DAWGS, SIC EM’ WOOF WOOF

 

Two Julys ago, I took a leap of faith and uprooted my life to the all-American college town bounded by Lumpkin, Broad and Jackson Streets known as Athens, Georgia. That leap of faith was the best leap to take because it gave me a degree in a profession I whole-heartedly believe in, an incredible circle of friends and a set of invaluable lessons. And those lessons? Well, if you are interested in what it did for this 24 year old mind, here you go!


1. Advocate for yourself

I think I am not the only one who believes this is the theme song to our 20s. For me, I grew up as the spoiled deaf kid with a team of unfailingly generous advocates who fought for me to have a community that was accessible, inclusive and supportive – all without me knowing. And I say that because when I moved away from my stronghold, I was constantly reminded of my downfalls because I didn’t have my team standing behind me – advocating for me. I quickly learned that I had to fight for my community which meant teaching things to my peers, my bosses and my professors. Then of course, there were ignorant ones along the way and by glory, I am thankful for each and every one of them because they gave me the gift to advocate for myself by myself. 

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2. Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness

This is not meant to contradict with advocating for yourself because it is just as equally important to know that help is there if you need it. I am not speaking as just someone who has a hearing disability. I am speaking as someone who struggled with biostatistics, who battled with anxiety, who didn’t know what to do with a flat tire in the middle of a thunderstorm at midnight (special thanks to Quynh & Angela!) and so on. The crazy thing is we have all become so accustomed to believing that no one wants to help us when in reality, they do. We are all on the same team and we are rooting for each other to succeed because even if you’re Beyoncé, we have all needed someone to help us through adversity. I think Michele L. Sullivan says it best.

“We all need help throughout our lifetime, but it is just as important that we are part of other people’s support systems. We must adopt that way of giving back. We all obviously have a role to play in our own successes, but think about the role we have to play in other people’s successes, just like people do for me every single day.” – Michele L. Sullivan

3. Hold yourself and the people you love accountable 

In Sheryl Sandberg’s most recent book, Option B, she shares, “I learned that friendship is not only what you can give, it is what you are able to receive.” In the spirit of growing, I think accountability is the best thing you can give and receive in relationships because we all know what it takes to push each other to become the best version of ourselves. And I feel lucky to have family and friends who hold me accountable in all areas of my life – in academics, in work, in faith, in health, in kindness and in service – and that is a really good community to have.

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4. When in politics, respond with love

Many of us grew up with the notion that politics is not meant to leave the walls of our homes. In 2018, I think the conversation has shifted towards how to handle politics in company rather than shy away from it. It is easy to enraged or passionate when it comes to issues like foreign affairs, social injustice or healthcare policies but I’ve learned that aggressively arguing with one another makes it hard. As one who has cultivated friendships from all areas of the political spectrum, it has become increasingly important to me to listen first. When we create a space that allows everyone to share their story, we see them before their political party and that gives a healthy perspective especially in friendships. Now I got a Master of Public Health so I am in no way a master of this but it has shown me that when we respond with love, we understand a little bit more about the people we love and that of course, there are two sides to one coin.

5. Find the silver lining (my favorite one!)

This quickly became a recurring line of encouragement between my friends and I as we fought through the challenges of grad school. Whenever we found ourselves in difficult situations that demanded the best of us, we challenged each other to push away the dark clouds and find that silver lining. For example, we were all comrades in an on-call rotation where we were the point of contact for three communities of 2,100 undergraduate students and we got calls about fire alarms, sexual assault, suicide attempts, underaged drinking and substance abuse. We were presented with a challenge to turn a crisis into a resolution and to help our students reach a sense of calm in the midst of chaos. Our silver lining is that we came out of each call as stronger people who knew a little bit more about managing crisis, handling conflict and helping people. When we chose to find silver linings, it became our way of saying yes to a challenge.

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That’s five lessons and I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to have this adventure. That flagship university that nestles in the middle of the hills in Georgia pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best of ways and the worst of ways and I loved every minute of it. As for the next adventure? Well, I’ll leave you with the words of my all too favorite How I Met Your Mother character, Lily Aldrin, “You can’t design your life like a building. It doesn’t work that way. You have to live it and let it design itself.”

Now on to fight the good public health fight!

Con todo mi cariño,
Sita

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