Lessons from my first semester as a grad student


by Dardanë Halimi

Lessons in the first semester

SUMMARY: Dardanë, an international grad student, learned a lot in her first semester at JMU and is ready for more!

Reflecting on the first semester as an international graduate student in the Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication program at JMU, I will share the challenges I faced, the goals I achieved, and the strategies that helped me succeed.

One of the first challenges I encountered was the language barrier. English, not being my first language, presented communication challenges both inside and outside the classroom. I felt like I couldn't express myself fully, fearing potential misunderstandings. However, I didn’t want to allow this to hinder my progress so I encouraged myself to have many conversations with native speakers. This not only provided practical language practice but also boosted my confidence in navigating conversations and presentations in class.

Initially, I felt overwhelmed by the extensive workload of coursework, assignments, and the challenge of integrating into a new social life. Juggling these seemed like a daunting task. However, to navigate through this, I adopted a proactive approach to time management. I created a weekly schedule, prioritized tasks, and set realistic goals. Creating a schedule and following it made me feel less stressed and more confident. It helped me handle my coursework while still having time for socializing and self-care.

In the unfamiliar academic setting, I didn’t know what is expected of students in many different situations, for example, I wasn’t sure if students attended office hours. Curious for feedback and a bit anxious about doing things right, I hesitated. Talking to classmates and seeking advice from professors helped me understand broader expectations. I started to actively join class discussions, attend office hours, and ask for guidance, when needed. This improved my understanding of subjects.

During these months, I actively used on-campus resources. I found quiet study spaces in Rose library, and corners in Taylor Hall that enhanced my focus and productivity. The writing center played a crucial role by providing feedback on my assignments and improving both my writing skills and overall academic performance.

Acknowledging and celebrating small victories was very important. Whether it was finishing a paper or delivering a successful project presentation, recognizing these achievements provided a sense of accomplishment and boosted my confidence.

These experiences have not only shaped my progress but also set the stage for continued success in my academic journey.

Other blog posts.

Back to Top

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2023

Last Updated: Friday, December 15, 2023

Related Articles