The spring semester started this week at Columbia. I’m a part-time student and halfway through the program. I’m also the president of a student group (SUMA Equity Alliance), so I’ve had to attend orientation events & “peer advise” new students. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite for giving rah-rah-you-got-this advice, so I’m writing this list to absolve myself. Hopefully this doesn’t come off like Elizabeth Holmes’ list ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

  1. ๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ You can’t and don’t need to know everything: Sustainability is a multidisciplinary subject. There is no way to know everything. You’ve tried that for the past 2 years, and where has that gotten you? Stop trying to “fill the gaps” & attending everything that “sounds interesting” for now. Focus on what will move you forward on your goals & projects. (Or at least have specific questions in mind before RSVPing to yet another event with some name-brand speaker on the panel.)
  2. ๐Ÿงญ Pick a direction: Maybe even set some goals? You’re halfway through the program and have attended hundreds of extracurricular events. It’s time to shift from “I’m exploring” to “I am focused on X”. X can, and will be, very broad! And you can always change what X is!
  3. ๐Ÿ•ธ Connect what you know: You probably know more than you think. You’re capable of remembering a lot of random stuff when you work with the information regularly. But if you don’t use it, it will evaporate.
  4. ๐ŸŽ Share what you’ve learned: You’ve done this a few times and it’s been useful! Write a summary, make a slide deck, diagram, whatever. It will help you synthesize things and it’s nice to have if you ever need to look something up. Especially since your notes won’t make sense to you after the class is over. Also, you hate speaking, so make an artifact that you can point people to instead of trying to explain things IRL.
  5. ๐Ÿ‘น Go to office hours: Meet the TA & instructors; they’re generally friendly! Try connecting with them at least twice. Ask the questions that you didn’t get to ask in class. This is why you are here and not just taking $50 Coursera classes.
  6. ๐Ÿงช Use group projects as management experiments: There isn’t enough time or structure in a group project to use your preferred management techniques. You have to try something new. Practice being more direct.
  7. ๐ŸŒช You can’t control everything: Don’t be all-or-avoidant. Try to give a consistent 80%. It’s much more fun than feeling guilty & then trying to figure out where you left off. Take breaks if you need to. If you’re taking too many breaks, then find a way to exit the project.
  8. ๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿผ Get used to being older than everyone: It’s not gonna change anytime soon. Own your experience! Try to remember what was good — let’s overwrite the burnout stories.

Thanks for attending my self-pep talk!

๐Ÿ˜ฎโ€๐Ÿ’จ honestly I just want to defer until COVID is over & work on carl.eco & figure out wtf I’m going to write for the fellowship.

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