Life & Everything

Lessons Learned: Then and Now

January 8, 2014 | One comment


About halfway through my bachelor’s degree, I wrote a list of the things I had learned in college so far. I titled the list What my ridiculously expensive education has taught me.

1. If you hit your fist into a glass door, it’s going to hurt.

2. If vinegar is enough to make you feel nauseous, you should not be in a lab where 15 students are using concentrated acetic acid.

3. If you don’t keep your eyes on a test tube (containing an entire afternoon’s work), another student may steal it and pour your results down the drain.

4. If you don’t make sure that all the tubes in a water system are connected properly, you may accidentally flood the lab.

5. If your math teacher teases you for your accent, you will refuse to say another word in front of him for the rest of the school year.

6.If you are going to dissect a pig, you better be able to hold your breath.

7. If you answer a question on an exam in a language that the teacher doesn’t understand, you won’t get any credit, even if it’s the correct answer.

8. If you ask the people at the administration for help, you’ll spend the rest of the day being redirected from department to department to finally end up where you started.

9. If you don’t make safety copies of your hard drive, you will lose everything.

10. If you don’t plan ahead, you will end up writing every essay the night before it’s due.

11. If you don’t sleep during the night, you will likely fall asleep in class.

12. If you don’t eat something during the day, your stomach may make funny noises during afternoon lecture.

13. If you put an open bag of cookies in your backpack, you will find crumbs in all your books.

14. If the teacher tells you that you don’t need to buy the textbook, you will never open the book.

15. If you don’t pay attention in class, the teacher might tell you the wrong things.

16. If you have the right chemicals, aspirin is easy to make.

17. If you don’t bring a pencil to class, your notes won’t help you when studying for the exam.

18. If you don’t wear gloves when dying fabrics, your fingers might be yellow for several days.

19. If you dip your fingertips in concentrated hydrogen peroxide, they’ll turn white.

20. If you know more than the teacher, there’s no point in going to class.

21. If you have two classes scheduled at the same time, you will miss one of them.

22. If you skip one class, you will skip the rest as well.

23. If you have a take home exam over the weekend, you better stay sober.

24. If you never talk in class, the teacher will assume that you are stupid.

25. If the teacher tells you the questions beforehand, there is no excuse not to ace the exam.

26. If you act as if you know the correct answer to a question, people will think that you are right no matter what you say.

I am now about halfway through my PhD, and graduate school has taught me some arguable more valuable lessons.

27. It’s up to you to make things happen. You are responsible for your work, and only you can control the outcome. No one will hand you your degree on a platter.

28. Always trust your instincts and follow your gut. You know your topic and your data better than anyone else.

29. Take pride in your work, even in the tasks you don’t want to do. There is a reason for everything you do, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

30. Listen to your advisor, but don’t be afraid to question things. Even the most brilliant mind can be wrong, and ultimately you are the one that will have to defend your results and your interpretations.

31. Pick your battles. You can still win the war even if you lose some of them.

32. Don’t lose track of the goal. Remember why you started graduate school, and why you picked your research topic.

33. Stay positive. Things will not always work out on the first try. Be prepared to redo things, over and over again.

34. Nothing comes easy. Be prepared to work the extra hours. But don’t work yourself into the ground. Make sure to take time off once in a while.

35. Make sure you get enough sleep. Too many all-nighters in a row will decrease your productivity.

36. Prioritize. There will always be more tasks than time, and you cannot do everything at once.

37. Double check all your work. And then check it again. Sloppy errors is your number one enemy.

38. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not expected to know everything when you start graduate school. Don’t waste time reinventing the wheel (or banging your head against the wall).

39. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will finish, even though you might doubt it at times.