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When Grad School Feels Like a Fire Hydrant

Written by Amiee Brassart

For obvious reasons, my life changed in August of 2014 when I began my HESA journey. Being the undergrad girl that never pulled all-nighters, the girl who would always enthusiastically start a planner but neglected it towards the end of the semester, and the girl who believed in the 25-minute “study then break” idea but never truly followed through, graduate school definitely woke me up! In our position as both a Baylor student and a Baylor professional, our calendars can at times be classified as tiring. You know the phrase, “It was like drinking out of a fire hydrant”? As I have reflected on my own “fire hydrant” experience, all of the “stuff” I had to do wasn’t the fire hydrant. I realized that I was the fire hydrant; not calm, but gushing and feeling like I was giving, giving, giving with no end in sight. It seemed like responsibilities just would not stop gushing. I mean, really, how much can fire hydrants hold? A lot.

Just the other day, I was driving down South Valley Mills, a road you will come to know very well if you like going to Target or the movie theater. At a red light I saw a fire hydrant spewing into the road. Beginning to panic about the future of that intersection, I remembered that it would be taken care of, and it was.

Feeling like this during my first year of grad school was exhausting and I felt like I could not be sustained – until a few things changed. I built a strong relationship with my supervisor, got out into Waco, and built good friendships within my cohort. Here is my advice to be on top of any potential “fire hydrant” gushing that may happen to you:

  1. Build that relationship with your supervisor that is deeper than just checking things off of the work to-do list and having small talk at programs or events. Before my 1-on-1s, I would write out an agenda. Each agenda had an organized list of the points I needed to have addressed regarding work, but the very first bullet point was always “catching up,” “how are we doing,” or something else that would get us chatting about life outside of the job. That included school for both of us. (She is in the process of getting her PhD. YAY, Jasmine!) Sometimes, that first bullet took thirty minutes. We might have gone quickly through the work points, but eventually we got there. I also felt more supported and equipped to do my job because I felt known by my supervisor as Amiee and not merely as her GA. I also now know her as Jasmine, not simply as my supervisor.
  2. Get out and explore Waco (or wherever post-grad takes you!). My parents came to help move me in, and they studied several guides of the best spots in Waco for us to visit. We visited a few great places that are still on my frequent list, but then they left and I was on my own to venture out into my new home. Do it. Whether you are by yourself or with people. Ask colleagues in your department to offer suggestions. The weekends can be set aside for homework, but you should also include something that will lift you up after the busy week has passed. If you are worried about venturing out by yourself, read my third point.
  3. Get to know your cohort! You will be with them for 22 months going through the same highs and potential some of the same lows. For the first couple of months, I advise proposing opportunities to hang out as a whole group. I know our cohort benefitted from this greatly. Naturally, you will click with certain people and those friendships will begin to form. That is okay. The next two years are simultaneously going to feel long yet fly by. You need individuals you know will help refresh you and encourage you forward. Just remember that it is okay to not be best friends with everyone; however, I still believe that making multiple opportunities to connect as a whole group will set your cohort up for success!

I have just shared three things that helped me tame the sensation that my grad school life was a constant fire hydrant gush. My hope is that you take away an understanding that grad school will be hard, it will challenge you, but that you have all of the resources you need to make it through- not just surviving, but thriving. My advice to ease the waters of grad school? Befriend your supervisor, get out in Waco, and build relationships with your cohort. That, my friends, will make all the difference!


Written by Amiee Brassart, 2nd-year HESA student


megan_lamb • November 29, 2015

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