Dear First Year Tiffany:

Tiffany Jantz, 3rd Year, CCN Area

In a letter to herself:

Dear First-Year Tiffany,

This is third-year you writing to say congratulations.  You did it!  Despite what it originally felt like, the application and interview process did end and you were invited to attend one of the best universities in the world!  I know you are going through a whole range of emotions ranging from excited, to nervous, to hungry, to worried, to thrilled, and probably back to hungry as you prepare to leave your comfy, familiar home in California and settle down in Michigan for the next half of a decade.  I know you’ve never been to Michigan, and that you needed to search for it on Google Maps to remind yourself exactly where in the Midwest it is located.  You are going to say goodbye to your friends who get all of your jokes, and goodbye to your old lab where you knew everyone and everything, and goodbye to your old school where you rocked at getting good grades, to wander 2,356 miles across the country.  I’m not going to lie: the transition will be tough.

And that’s OK.  It is a huge life change and huge life changes get to be tough.  Just because you are uncomfortable at first does not mean you don’t belong there.  You are going to make new friends.  You know Jordan, Myrna, and Steven, the people you interviewed with? You guys are going to go to sushi and then have an epic ping pong match that will devolve into a game of don’t-let-it-hit-the-floor.  And remember Ziyong, the grad student with whom you stayed during your interview?  She becomes one of your closest friends who gives you great advice, from what classes to take to how to navigate advisor-advisee relationships, over your semi-weekly lunches at Revive.  The administrators that you have been corresponding with will be priceless when it comes to answering just about any U of M-related question that comes up (Ummm… how do I get into my office? Wait.  Where is my office?).  And sure, during the first few months it is a little tricky getting used to the new lab space and procedures but before you know it you’ll be confidently showing new grad students around.  There end up being a ton of resources at your fingertips that you will use to prepare to teach, to become a better scientist, and to prepare for your career.

The hardest part of the transition you are going to face is coming to terms with is that you will not be able to finish every task by its deadline.  I repeat: you are NOT going to be able to finish every task by its deadline (self-imposed or otherwise).  As the popular internet meme states “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”  Even if you stay up all day and night, there is always more to do, more to read, more to tweak, more to edit, more to apply for, more to analyze, more, more, more.  By the time you reach your third year, you will be practiced at the art of prioritizing, but try to avoid spending your first year trying to do it all, and do it all perfectly.  Once you begin to integrate the Facebook company motto of “done is better than perfect” into your approach to your coursework, your life will be much easier and your research will move much faster.

So good luck on your pursuit of the Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology.  The word doctor comes from the Latindocere which means ‘to teach’ and the word philosophy originated from the word philosiphia which means ‘love of wisdom’.  The people you meet during your time at UM will be from all different walks of life but your shared love of obtaining and sharing wisdom will lead you to create bonds that will last long beyond your time in Ann Arbor.

See you in a few years!  Until then, I have some work I need to do…

Third-Year Tiffany