Sunday, September 02, 2007

A first year student... again...

Becca and I after a long day of weeding and shoveling.

On the eve of the eve of the start of classes (I start Tuesday), I'm amazed that this is actually the last time I'll be a first year student. Sure, as we go through life we are first-timers at lots of things, but there are unique trials and tribulations of being a first year student. For example, I will never again have to find a new section of the university bookstores. (I had never found the School of Public Health books before - they are alphabetized separately, which is sneaky. All of the other sections - except medicine, which I have already found - are alphabetized by subject.) Additionally, I will never again be this in the dark about what my class schedule should look like. (The only confusing classes after this will be the 3rd and 4th years of medical school, and those are pretty structured and planned out. After that I won't have a "class schedule," even if I do attend classes periodically.) While some of the stresses of being the new kid don't change with the transition from student to not-student, I'm pleased to have checked off another milestone in my program.

In addition to the usual pre-class jitters, I'm excited to get started. I'm frantically hoping that I did well enough on my biostats exemption exam to be in the biostats course I want. (I did fantastically well on my practice exam, and am hoping I didn't freak out and blow it on the actual thing.) Apart from that I¿m looking forward to next week. I am taking the following classes: Social Demography, Biostats, Intro to Complex Systems, the required doctoral professional socialization seminar, and a brief MSTP-required ethics course. It should be a uniquely math-filled semester and although I'm a little anxious about that, I think I'll get through it and come out uniquely math-filled...

Jumping back a bit though, Thursday and Friday were orientation, and I learned a lot more about the specific requirements of the doctoral program (overwhelming and scary, but exciting), and got to meet the rest of my PhD cohort. There are 10 of us, which is a huge number! Also, we are all girls! I guess that shouldn't be shocking as public health is very female-dominated, but coming from the 50/50 medical school, and the unspeakably low fraction MSTP it was a bit of a shock. (As an aside, the MSTP works really hard to recruit women as fellows, but it's hard to get folks to come to the midwest...) Anyway, Friday was the "Practice Plunge" - the stated goal of which was to introduce new students to the practice of public health. We visited the Detroit Department of Health Promotion and Wellness in the morning, and learned about all of their programs. It was great to hear about the field from folks in it, and think about how research fits into all of those things. In the afternoon, we went to "Hope Takes Root," a community garden in Detroit. They provide resources to individuals in the community to help them grow their own produce. Some of it is sold at the various farmers' markets in the area, and some is consumed by the gardeners themselves. We weeded for a while, spread woodchips, and also shoveled dirt to level out an area that had previously held their fruit trees. It was intense work, and after a few hours, I was completely ready to get on the air-conditioned bus and take a nap.

On a happy note, it's cooling down in Michigan, signaling the start of my favorite season - fall (or autumn, if you prefer that). Still enjoying the last day or so of the summer, however, I'm off to relax and read a book.

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