My first semester ended relatively well. Here are my reflections on the beginning of the long journey.

First, graduate school is stressful. Time is limited but coursework material to be coverred is seemingly endless. I saw the struggle in even the finest students (i.e. those who learnt some of the material before). I struggled at the beginning with microeconomics and mathematical statistics. It is good that everything turned out to be fine. My recommendation to survive graduate economics courses is to skim through the material before class, review class notes after as soon as you can, do homework (and extra problem sets if you can manage), and group study with economics graduate students. Looking back, I cannot stress enough how helpful group studying is. I also had notes after classes and discussions and they were helpful for review during the semester. You can get them here. You should also exchange notes with other classmates. Sometimes they have good points that you are unaware of. Those who did well in the classes are also those that had excellent notes (I don’t imply any causation here).

Second, it is not early to start thinking about research. It appears that the job market weights your research heavily and since it takes like forever to get a paper out, it is better to do some research-related things early on. This may partly explain the stressul part when starting a graduate program. I feel like each person has her own way to start doing research but the most common way is to discuss papers and ideas with professors whom you are assigned RA to. I am fortunate that both of whom I am assigned to are helpful in discussing papers and ideas. The discussions have given me insights into what academics seek in a paper, what aspects should be investigated deeply and what questions or problems should be addressed to make a paper convincing. I know that coursework takes most of time in the first semester, and sometimes all the time, but it is necessary to start reading papers and initalizing ideas. Seminars with guest speakers were also good occasions where I could learn how academics present papers and answer questions and chat with them about academic career. The information I have gained let me form some realistic expectations about writing papers and the job market.

Third, having some friends to share and talk about daily academic obstacles is vital to your mental survial. I know some can get through the stress that graduate school generates on the solitary basis, but I am one of those that can’t. I am fortunate that I have a helpful cohort mate who go through these together. We talk and encourage each other and I personally feel very grateful for that. It will certainly be harder going forward but I hope that both of us can overcome whatever obstacles ahead.

If you are in a graduate program, you might relate to some or none of the above. Nevertheless, I hope you are doing great. If you are entering a graduate program, you might take some of the above for preparation. Anyhow I hope you will be doing great.

Happy New Year and Decade!