Monday, April 30, 2012

My 1st Poster Presentation

Saturday marked another big day for me.
April 28th, 2012 I presented my very first poster at my very first conference.
I presented as first author at the Western Psychological Association (WPA) conference.

Up until I did so, I did not honestly think much of it. I mean, I knew that it was important in the sense that being first author is not something to come by easily. Depending on your research adviser, you could go your entire graduate career without ever being first author on anything. Granted, this is just a poster, and not a paper or an article or anything, but it is still worth something.
I didn't think much of it until, when it was time to set up, we were walking in to the room and my adviser turns to me and says, "Hey... Congratulations!" and I awkwardly laughed and thanked him, but then I realized... this is something to be congratulated about. I have put a lot of work into this, and now I get some recognition, some end result of pay off for all my time and effort.
We didn't have too many people ask questions, but those that did were surprisingly interested in it. I myself was not that interested in the topic, so for me I was shocked other people actually found it interesting enough to ask further questions. Most people at poster sessions just sort of skim over it quickly when passing by, some may even stop in front of your poster to read further, but not too many people ask questions unless it is something they're interested in.
I've never thought of myself as a "researcher". I mean I barely passed Stats last year, it's just never been my strong suit.
But there I was, with another member discussing future research topics we could explore before we even presented our current data. Granted, we are motivated by external forces, i.e: APA convention is in Hawaii next year :) but regardless, we were actually getting semi-excited about possible research ideas.
No matter the reason, I never thought I'd be excited about research.
It's amazing what the right mentor can inspire you to do.
I have my annual student evaluation with my adviser tomorrow. Initially I wasn't looking forward to it, but I actually feel like I've accomplished something this year. :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Big news. Big changes.

So yesterday was the big Notification Day for practicum placement for our 3rd year of graduate school.
I had already been rejected from all but 1 site (or just not even given the time of day, no rejection, no contact whatsoever) so I knew there was only 1 possible phone call I would be getting, and even when I awoke yesterday,  I was still unsure of what my answer to the offer would be should I get one.
The way that notification day works (is awful, actually) is that beginning at 8:30am sites will be calling students to offer them a placement. As a student you must be available to take a phone call, because if you miss it, they do not call you back, they just go on to the next student in line and offer it to them. You also are only allowed to accept 1 offer, and if a site calls you that is lower on your list, you are able to put their offer "on hold" for 1 hour while you attempt to contact the site you really want to determine if they are going to make you an offer.
For people like me who only had one possible option that might call, it made the decision a little easier because I did not have to weigh my options between sites, I just had to decide if  I would take the offer from the one site, if given, or if I would opt out and take my chances at clearing house.
Clearing House... now that is a whole other story. Clearing House is basically when, after all the sites make their offers, those who still have openings, students who did not get offers or did not choose to take an offer get to look at the available sites and reapply all over again. It's like round 2 of a grueling process.
So my dilemma was that I had only 1 shot at 1 possible offer at a site that, while I did apply to it, it was one of my last choices. It was not working with a population that I wanted to work with, it had a number of reasons why I felt it wasn't a good fit for me, but there were also some things that I did like about it.
The night before I attempted to write out a "Pros and Cons" list to try and determine what choice I should make. I went back and forth about different things in my mind but in the end went to bed unsure of the decision.
The was a big decision to make because I would be committing myself for 1 year to a program, my future choices will be impacted by this decision as it determines the type of population I'll be working with, the amount of hours, etc. It also has an impact on a whole other area of my life completely unrelated to my career. My boyfriend will be moving down here this summer. The location of my practicum site would determine the location in which we would reside. I applied to a number of places spread out across the Bay Area and was left with one possibility of a site in Oakland, or taking a gamble on clearing house and ending up either much closer or much further away that I am now.

Yesterday morning I awoke at 8am, I wanted to make sure I had coffee in my system before possibly having to make any life altering decisions. As I sat there trying to inhale the caffeine, I still was unsure of whether or not my phone would ring, and if it did, what I would say.
I decided to pass the time on Facebook and checking my email while I waited. That was a horrible, terrible mistake. I watched the clock pass minute by minute, as soon as 8:30am struck people were posting on Facebook about "feelings of relief", "getting my #1 choice!" and "getting a placement", meanwhile I sat there, still half asleep, sweating with worry and staring at my silent phone. I found myself begging it to ring, so as to avoid feeling like a complete failure, all the while afraid for it to make a sound because that would mean I would actually have to make a decision and it wouldn't just be the universe deciding for me and forcing me into clearing house because I did not get any offers. I couldn't decide what was worse.
As the minutes dragged on, more and more people were congratulating one another, professing their excitement and relief, meanwhile people like me sat there staring at silence.
It felt like eternity, when in actuality, it was 9:01am when my phone rang with a "private number" calling. I saw the words, I heard the sound and still I thought "what are you going to say?" I didn't have time to read over my pros and cons list again to try and come to a conclusion quickly because if I missed this call, I'd miss any possibility.
I answered, it was the 1 site I still had a shot with calling to offer my a placement. Without hesitation, I accepted.
Immediately after I felt nauseous and regretted the decision.Stuck on the fact that other people were getting placed at their first choices, while I was stuck accepting an offer with my 7th (out of 8) choice.
I think I'm much too hard on myself though. Graduate school is all about rejection, disappointment, and fighting a losing battle to keep your head above water.
This is just yet another test of "how bad do you want it" and I've just got to pay my dues and prove I deserve a shot at it.
So with this practicum placement, comes the other big news: I'll be moving to Oakland.
I've lived in Mountain View now for almost 2 years, which has been nice, pretty dull and plain place to live but it has done the job for what I've needed it to be for me during these first years of graduate school.
Now though, with my boyfriend moving down here and us starting our life out together, it's time to move on from the security of Mountain View, and branch out to an adventure in Oakland. I actually have a pretty good feeling about this. Although the majority of my friends from school will be staying in this area and I won't see them as much, I'll have my boyfriend, and a place to actually call home and I think that might just be even better.