They say it takes time to get acclimated in new environments and that once you get into the swing of things, you can fully immerse yourself in the graduate experience. If acclimation can be defined as, “becoming accustomed to a new climate or new condition,” do black women truly ever become accustomed to graduate school? How can we? After all, a certain level of comfort is required in order to acclimate. So, how do black female graduate students do this? The short answer is we don’t.
Instead, we find strengths that we never knew we had, we become self-motivators, we strive for perfection, become passionate about our future and suddenly aware of our environment with all its nuances; recognizing our differences from the people around us. We transform. While there’s no real blueprint for #blackgirlmagic, here are 5 ways to leverage your environment to support your transformation.
1) Find a tribe
I cannot tell you how important it is to secure a strong support system. These are the people who will pull you up when you are down, sit with you during an all-nighter and take you out when you obviously need a glass of wine. Don’t under-estimate the power of the tribe.
2) Find a bomb-ass homework group
Anybody can be in a homework group. However, the key to an effective homework group is in forming or joining a group where you will share and gain knowledge. There should be a balanced flow, an exchange of ideas where everyone participates at an equal rate. The group should be able to fill you in when you have to miss a class and support you when you have questions. In a great homework group, you can be honest about what you don’t quite understand and your group members should be patient and willing to help you figure it out.
3) Practice time management skills
At this point, multitasking is expected of you, which requires intense planning and goal setting. Enter calendars and planners—they’re your new best friends. If you have to, print a monthly calendar and tape it to your desk so that you can add milestones, timelines, daily tasks and deadlines. This will give you a high level of visibility into your schedule and help you mitigate the risk of overcommitting. It will also help you become the goal-crusher you set out to be.
4) Get Involved
Join professional groups that are related to your field of study, your social groups and community groups. This is a great way to network and gain new contacts (which by the way you can never have too many) since you never know when you’ll need to reach out to them for help. Plus, it’s a great break from the monotony of research, class and experiments.
5) Learn to be an Independent Thinker
There is no handholding in graduate school and for the most part, you will have to think of solutions on your own with little to no guidance. Remember to think outside of the box and learn to formulate your own solutions by thinking differently.
While each person is different, these five tips are ways to remedy some of the shared frustrations in grad school. As you forge your own path, being an independent thinker, getting involved, implementing time management methods, joining a homework group and finding a support system will help you navigate grad school with ease and hopefully inspire you to create tips of your own to pass along.
With our presence alone we are advocates. We are achieving so that those who come after us will continue to reach new heights. But evolution isn’t met without a series of trials and tribulation. The next step forward is always earned. We achieve to do more than assimilate. We achieve to transform.
Dr Grayson has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University. She is the second black woman in Cornell’s history to get a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. She personally mentors other minority women in higher education through her instagram page @blackgirlsguide2gradschool and is on the board of directors for Jelani Girls Inc, a cultural enrichment program for young girls. She is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc, SWE and NSBE. Currently, Dr Grayson is a Systems Engineer in the prestigious Future Technical Leaders rotational program at Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Dr Grayson is very passionate about motivating people to be the best they can be through inspiring posts and motivational speaking engagements.