Reflecting on My First Semester as a Grad Student

iStudent Blog

Published: January 18, 2023 by Kesheena Doctor

In my last blog post, I recommended writing a reflection of the fall semester to help provide closure, identify gaps in productivity, and celebrate successes. For this blog post, I’d like to share my reflection of my first semester at the iSchool with you all! 

Recap

For my first semester at the iSchool, I took four classes; INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 203 and INFO 204. I learned from the SJSU Facebook student group that taking more than six credit hours a semester was too heavy a workload, but I found it manageable, even after I started working more than 30 hours a week. I found that I was successful in managing my course load by carefully planning out my weekly schedule at least one week in advance. When I received my syllabus for my registered classes, I wrote down every assignment’s due date in a monthly calendar, then mapped out which days I would focus on assignments to ensure all of my study time was adequately used.

I also utilized study tools like the Pomodoro Technique to help me stay on top of assignments. One critical skill I picked up was to switch my study activities if I wasn’t able to focus. Some mornings I would be too tired to read assigned chapters, but I would try to push through. By doing so, I would take 2-3 times longer to read a chapter and waste valuable study time. About halfway through the semester, I changed this strategy and worked on other assignments. If I was too tired to read in the morning, I would watch video assignments instead while doing light stretching to help me wake up and focus on the material. If I had writer’s block or needed time to digest the material learned before writing an essay, I would clean my house for an hour or take a short walk. Engaging in these small physical activities would give me time to think and draft the beginnings of a paper rather than forcing myself to sit before my laptop and write. 

Overall, these small changes greatly improved my productivity and reduced my stress levels, as I didn’t feel overly pressed to complete schoolwork in a short amount of time. Being flexible with study time while still engaging in productive activities was very helpful for me to accomplish all the tasks I had both as a student and in my personal life. 

Successes

One facet of the iSchool curriculum I dreaded was group work. Though I had experience doing online group work at my previous job, I was reluctant for the requisite group assignments for INFO 202 and INFO 204. However, both experiences were overwhelmingly positive and I felt more connected to the iSchool by regularly meeting with these groups throughout the fall semester. Though we were initially very formal and respectful, over time, we became more familiar with one another and discussed our fears and hopes as MLIS students. I got along well with everyone in both groups, but especially bonded well with my INFO 202 groupmates, eventually moving our conversations and engagement off of the SJSU platform. For any future classes, I plan to be more proactive about socializing with groupmates as I found these peer relationships greatly enrich the course work. 

Overall, I found that being prepared for the semester really helped me succeed and alleviated a lot of potential stress I would have had. Before fall semester began, I made sure that I had all information available that might be important, including spring registration dates, conference dates, the iSchool’s student group meeting dates. I also made sure to attend as many peer resource meetings and workshops before the semester began. I also joined the iSchool’s social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) and the iSchool student Facebook group. While all the information was initially overwhelming, I was able to utilize the info to best suit my needs and could focus on school work, knowing that any potential events or networking opportunities were known well in advance. 

What didn’t Work

Despite all of my successes, I still fell into a cycle of procrastination that I had developed as an undergraduate. I work extremely well under pressure and would often use the motivation of a looming deadline to produce quality work. The iSchool and fellow classmates all recommended starting INFO 203 as soon as the course was available on Canvas so it could be completed by the time all other classes began. While I started INFO 203 when the course was made available, I only started the first module and quickly neglected it. I thought the course would not take very long to complete and so I procrastinated. When I finally decided I would complete the course a week and a half later, I realized that INFO 203 involved a lot of work, including meetings to attend and some group work. Although I did complete the course within two weeks of the beginning of the semester, juggling four classes after a hiatus from academia was very stressful and arduous. However, I learned to heed any suggestions the iSchool and/or fellow students offered.

Looking Forward

As the start of spring semester nears, I’m very excited for my new courses and learning more about my future role as an academic librarian. I feel rejuvenated and eager to continue my studies and complete my MLIS degree. If you have any experiences from the fall semester that you’d like to share, please comment below. Best of luck for the spring semester!