What I learned on my (no) summer vacation

Thursday, August 28, 2014

When I wrapped up my spring semester, I naively believed that this summer would be relaxing and laid back.  I was really looking forward to the summer in order to recharge and prepare for my final year of grad school.  What I did not expect was that it would actually be the complete opposite.  I even started looking forward to the fall, which is totally not like me.  I love summer.  It's my special time.  But, not this year.  However, there is always a silver lining and I learned some really important lessons over the last few months.  And so, without further ado, I present my list of "What I learned on my (no) summer vacation":

1. Online classes are not for me | I expected online classes to be laid back and similar to regular classes in that there would be readings and assignments due once a week.  What I didn't expect was that they are actually very high maintenance and time consuming, including assignments due nearly every day and constant interaction with other students on the forums.  I also did not expect that the teachers would be so distant and view answering emails as optional.  I am not afraid to admit that I get extremely irritated and impatient when someone (particularly a professor that is essentially getting paid to answer my questions) does not return my email.  Since there is no class meeting, emails are the only way to communicate with the professor, and not getting a response is infuriating. 

2. Sometimes things do not live up to my expectations | During the summer, I had two internships.  The first lasted from April until June and was truly one of the best experiences of my life.  The second one was much different.  As opposed to the first internship (in which I took vacation days from work in order to get the required number of hours), the second one was after work on Fridays and required me to stand for long periods of time.  It left me completely exhausted for the rest of the weekend and I became a walking zombie.  But, that wasn't the reason it did not live up to my expectations.  During my first internship I was given important tasks to complete on my own and I felt like I had a purpose and job.  With the second one, I sort of shadowed employees and there was nothing to do to even help them.  I felt completely useless, unnecessary, and in the way.  Add to the fact that I was completing this internship "for fun", it was not necessary in order to fulfill my degree requirements, it began interfering with the full workload I was carrying from my online classes, and was becoming a big source of stress in my life, I decided to end it early.  It's always a little disappointing when things don't turn out as imagined.  But I understand not everything works out according to plan and do not regret my decision at all.

3. Be persistent | Another excruciating part of my online class experience was that one teacher expected the students to complete assignments with extremely vague guidelines.  I began emailing her, asking for her to be more specific.  When she responded with more non-specific criteria, I started to email her all of my assignments before they were due, in order to receive feedback and know that I was completing them the correct way.  Am I a pain in the ass?  Maybe (yes).  But, you know what, it worked for me.

4. Know my worth | I was given a couple grades that were not reflective of my work.  Pre-grad school Caitlin would have probably just let it go.  But now, I did not hesitate to email the professor and politely request an explanation.  Both times, she immediately adjusted my grade and I got the marks I knew I deserved.

5. If I want something, ask for it | I can be very reserved when stating my wants and needs.  However, I have gotten much better over the last few months at speaking up and asking for things.  The worst thing that can happen is getting a no in return. 

6. Incentives can be a good thing | Of course I would finish my homework on time no matter what, but it was always my goal to have it completed before the weekend (even if it wasn't due until Saturday or Sunday).  I created incentives in order to entice myself to get my work done early.  Whether it was going out to dinner for Thai food, getting away for a long weekend, or buying myself a special present(s) at my favorite place in the world, it worked every time. 

7. I can't care about everything | To put it mildly, I am extremely obsessive.  And although these tendencies will never leave me, I have gotten to the point where I know I can't care about everything.  For example, this time last year I was extremely aggravated by Dayv's belief that the lawn only needed to be mowed every other week.  To fix the problem, I would cut the grass on his off weeks.  It would take me over an hour when it takes him about 15 minutes.  This year, I just didn't care.  He mows the lawn whenever he thinks it needs to be done and I am always grateful.  

And there's my little bit of crazy from the summer.  Did you have any interesting learning experiences recently?  I'd love for you to share!


  1. This is a great list Caitlin. I can relate to a lot of these points. I have been trying to get better at speaking up for myself and asking for what I want too.

    1. thank you, love. it is so important to speak up for yourself. i'm glad we are both learning.


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