In the past year, I have been astounded by APAGS members' work in science, practice and advocacy. Psychology graduate students apply for — and win — competitive grants. We develop innovative research projects, take classes, teach others and sometimes even supervise undergraduate students. Many of us take on leadership roles within our training programs and professional associations — and some even find time for hobbies. With all these demands, what is it that keeps us forging ahead?
For many of us, the answer is our support system of family, friends, peers and mentors. Without these people, I know I would find the academic terrain to be confusing and even grueling.
My classmates have been especially invaluable in helping me navigate the academic terrain. While I prepared my dissertation proposal and defense, I tapped my classmates for their advice. Many were kind enough to share their experiences defending their proposals, provide feedback on my topic and even volunteer to participate in a mock proposal defense. Perhaps most importantly, my classmates helped alleviate my anxiety and supplied me with chocolate — lots of chocolate — during this time.
Peer support can also ease the way as we reach other stressful milestones in our academic journeys, including comprehensive exams, preparing for internships and completing our dissertations. Classmates provide the much-needed "I know what you're going through" perspective that sometimes only another graduate student can give.
Mentors are another important part of many graduate students' success. Throughout my academic journey, I have often been spurred on by people who saw some spark of potential in me and gave me courage and guidance. While some of these mentoring relationships were formally structured through an organization or program, most have been informal, struck up through my leadership involvements, research, clinical placements and advocacy projects.
As a result, I have come to see mentorship as an integral part of graduate school success. Having multiple mentors who are experts in different facets of psychology has proved invaluable to my professional development.
Recognizing this, APAGS supports and sparks mentorships through our convention programming, awards and programs targeted toward racial and ethnic minorities and other groups. To tap these resources, check out our Web site.
Undoubtedly, I would not have gotten as far as I have in my academic pursuits without the support and encouragement of family and friends. For some graduate students, finding the balance between work and personal lives is, through concerted effort, achievable. I have yet to strike the perfect balance. During one year of my studies, I could count on my hand the number of times that I was available to family and friends. Sadly, I was often too preoccupied to enjoy those times. Even the thought of having a hobby or reading books outside of my field seemed too much of a luxury.
It's taken a few stumbles for me to understand the importance of striking a balance between my work and personal life. For inspiration, I look to how other students have managed to find time for family, friends and outside activities. In this issue of gradPSYCH, you can read about ways other students stay motivated, as well as how they balance work and play.
Peer relationships, mentors, family and friends have all enabled me to continue forward in my academic journey. What has been the key to your success? E-mail me to share your journeys, successes and challenges. As APAGS serves as a professional home for psychology graduate students, I would like to hear your stories and what we can do to ease your way.
By Konjit V. Page