Time flies. My first semester and winter break here at UIUC have passed. It has been several months since I left home. Because I also studied alone in Taipei, Taiwan, a different city rather than in my hometown during my undergrad, it seemed that to some extent I was supposed to be accustomed to this lifestyle. However, I would go home at least once a month and would also return home during long vacations at that time, whereas I seldom had long travels after starting my new journey here in Champaign-Urbana. Living in a foreign country can sometimes inevitably make me feel lonely. To overcome this, in addition to video calls with family abroad or friends in other states, I also travel, cook, exercise, gather with friends, or participate in the school’s activities. Those activities have gradually made Illinois a "Home Away From Home."
Winter and summer vacations are the breaks that students look forward to the most. Many people have already been travel hacking and planning their vacation travels before the break officially starts. Since mid-December, I saw many beautiful photos of my friends traveling when scrolling social media. But even so, I chose to stay in the Urbana-Champaign area, hoping to explore this area more deeply during the winter vacation.
Student teaching as a young music education major can be rewarding, but it comes with many challenges. The picture accompanying this post is from my semester of student teaching grades 6-8. It was not the fairy tale adventure that I thought it would be, but it was a great learning experience.
The first few days to weeks of graduate studies are already stressful enough. So, why then would we want to worry about the level of our playing in addition to everything else? We don’t want to be worried about the consistency of performance on our instruments when we are trying to do things like adapt to a new environment, fit in with our new community members, start new courses, and perform ensemble auditions. There may seem to be lots of solutions to this wealth of stressors, but I am going to focus on just one preventative action step that you can do this summer to increase your consistency in performance, reduce your stress, and come into grad school feeling confident in your playing. It’s really a simple solution. Take the time now to develop an effective warmup routine and get your fundamentals locked down!
Walking into graduate school on day one can seem freeing, and in other ways overwhelming. Finally, you have the practice time you have long desired. Finally, there are no advisors and professors telling you exactly what you should be doing all of the time. Finally, you are given most of the deciding power in what kind of music you want to play, and what you want to say through your music. However, with this newfound sense of freedom, most new graduate students can feel lost, confused, overwhelmed, or unmotivated once they are left to do things on their own. Believe me, I have been there, and I still struggle with these same feelings. It is my hope that some of my successes and failures can come to guide new graduate students in “choosing their own adventure” that will set them up for a sustainable and enjoyable career in the arts. Here are some things to think about that may help to enlighten your path as a new graduate student:
I really should be working on being able to explain and explore chapter one of my dissertation, but it seems that writing a blog took priority over that today. (This is what Dr. Barrett calls, “dissertation avoidance behavior” and I am AWESOME at it!)
Most weekends I have a LOT of work to do and it is almost impossible to do anything at home. My kid is there, my wife is there, the couch and the television are there...need I say more?