Between the Hours: Dealing with graduate school

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS student

Whether you are contemplating grad school, about to begin a new program, or already there, this post is for you. It is about the place where one discovers his true self through an exhausting journey of successes and failures which often brings many to their tipping points. But, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up”.

Deciding to pursue a graduate education is an important step as we have to ask ourselves many questions – is it really the best way forward for me, am I ready to spend the next 2 years or more working on really specific problems? Does the research track enthuse me to work tirelessly on it? Is the advisor I am looking to work under a good fit? Even after we plan ahead, enter grad school and take the beast head on, it does become overwhelming and impossible sometimes to break off the vicious circle. During these times, it is important to remember subtle things like staying focused and time management which prove as invaluable tools to tame the beast.

Just one of those days…

The worst enemy of any grad student is procrastination. Time and again, we find ourselves in a position where we have to complete our thesis proposal, devote hours for teaching assistant duties, complete assignments and projects for the courses, and work on publishing a paper for a research conference all together. Though sometimes, it is not entirely a student’s lackluster work ethic, most times it invariably is. We love to live under a delusion that our responsibilities are trivial and can be done in no time. Closer to our deadlines, we come to terms with reality and make our lives a mess. Eating at regular intervals, maintaining personal hygiene and completing daily chores go out the window!

Appreciating baby steps is a proven motivator!

Having said that, a grad life is rigorous and challenging. Managing a healthy work-life balance becomes increasingly complicated, more so for PhD’s. Discovering a favorite past-time or hobby becomes more essential than ever, just to blow off some steam. Be it watching Netflix or playing a random instrument – trust me, you would need  it. Also, never hesitate to ask for help/advice when you need some. You have to always find solace and encouragement from the fact that many around you have endured the same phase that you are going through. At least at RIT, help is always one email away!

 

The Week Before Classes Starts

by Ami Patel, Imaging Science MS student

I know it’s such an overwhelming time, the beginning. You have reached RIT, but what exactly are you supposed to do now? Let’s go through various things you need to do before classes start:

Offices:
1. Getting your RIT ID card: You should visit the Office of Registrar, located in the George Eastman Building to obtain your ID card.

2. Transcripts and/or Degree Certificate: You will need to visit the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services, located in Bausch & Lomb Center to get your Transcript and Degree Certificate scanned for the official records.

3. Student Employment Card: In case you have signed the employment papers with any department on-campus, you need to visit the Student Employment Office, located in University Services Center to obtain your Student Employment Card.

4. Getting your i20 signed: If you are an international student, you have to visit the International Student Services, located in the Student Alumni Union Building to get your i20 signed by one of the officers.

Orientation:
1. Graduate Student Orientation: This orientation event provides information on how to smoothly transition into the grad life here at RIT. The registration link will be emailed to you soon.

2. New Student Orientation: There will be a lot of activities and information sessions about your resources and getting used to the RIT spirit.

3. International Student Orientation: If you are an International student, there will be an entire day of events with a mix of important sessions, social events and maybe a party to meet new fellow students and make some new friends. You will need to register for this.

Traditions/Fun stuff:
Okay, let’s not forget some post arrival traditions at RIT.

1. Take a walk on the Quarter Mile: The Quarter Mile at RIT is a 0.41-mile long walkway that stretches between the dorms and the academic side of the campus. Almost all the important buildings would be on this walkway, so it’s a great way to explore the campus.

2. Photograph with RITchie: If you are still unaware, RITchie The Tiger is RIT’s mascot. There’s a Tiger statue right in front of Eastman Kodak Quad on the Quarter Mile. It’s one of the most popular photograph spots on the campus.

3. Ice cream on Friday at Ben & Jerry’s: Yes, we have a Ben & Jerry’s on-campus. If you receive any email regarding 50% discount, don’t miss out on the opportunity.

4. Join at least one club: One of the fun events to attend during the Orientation week is the RIT Clubs Resource Fair. All the 200 club representatives will be there to provide you information and how to get involved with them. It’s a nice way to immerse yourself in the community.

In case you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me. Thanks.

On-campus vs Off-campus Housing at RIT

by Ami Patel, Computer Science MS student

This is an important debate for new students and especially those who aren’t from the Rochester area. There are so many factors and facilities that play a role while finalizing the housing. As someone who has lived both on and off campus here, I feel my perspective can help you out a little. So here are key factors and comparisons of how the options defer.

First thing, what do I describe as on-campus? Any housing communities owned by RIT, whether on campus (Riverknoll, Colony Manor, Perkins Green, Greek Housing, Residence Halls) or situated few miles away from RIT (there are two in this case which is The Racquet Club and RIT Inn). Also, there are two other privately owned communities on the RIT campus. The rest of the housing options I mention in this blog are off-campus accommodations.

Now that we have outlined the terminology, let’s jump to different factors. It always starts with the cost. Rent for the on-campus resident halls and apartments range from $500-$1000/month per person. You can check the rates for individual options here. It’s difficult to draw a line for off-campus options, but I will say you will generally find this between $300-$700/month per person.

Next thing that follows is the privacy – shared or private bedroom. You will find both options at both the places but off-campus tends to be cheaper for both the options. You will also need to consider the cost of transportation. For some cases, with transportation costs, it might cost same as on-campus.

So that brings us to the commute factor. All the on-campus options have access to the RIT Shuttle services, which run from 7ish am till 1:30ish am. Some of the off-campus options are connected to RIT through the city bus transport or by their own private bus to RIT. If you have our own car, off-campus options get much better. Public city bus transport costs $1 for each trip regardless of the distance.

Furnished vs unfurnished – Of course, furnished ones will be on the pricer side. It will be cheaper to furnish on your own than paying that extra money every month for a furnished option. If it’s off-campus, unfurnished is more idea and cheaper.

Well, the last one is quite abstract – amenities. If you are living on-campus all the RIT resources are accessible all the time. Off-campus apartment communities will have some kind of amenities, but, if it’s a private house, there won’t be any. For more resources, you will have to come to the campus.

From my experiences, I feel off-campus is cheaper and a good option if you have your own car or if you are okay with the commute time. On-campus is more convenient for people who prefer better & quicker access to the campus, not plan on having a car or aren’t used to the type of weather Rochester has.

Also, I would like to add how to go house hunting. For on-campus options, you can check here. For off-campus options, it will be best to join RIT Housing group on Facebook. Once you have shortlisted options based on your preferences, you can proceed with the application. In some cases, you will need to find your own roommates, which, you can find on the Facebook group mentioned here. The best time to finalize housing is June & July for Fall semester and November-December for Spring semester.

Thank you for reading through this and I hope this article provided a better outlook on the dilemma. You can leave a message here if you have more questions.

You Paid Your Deposit: Now What?

by Kexin ‘Coco’ Wang, Visual Communications Design MFA student

If you have already paid the deposit, congratulations! Your spot in your program at RIT is guaranteed. But now what do you need to do next? Here are some steps that you need to follow.

First you’ll get a chance to create your personal RIT computer account. It’s a student Gmail account that will become your preferred email address in the school system. And this Gmail account will help you get all sorts of information from New Student Orientation, Student Financial Services, Housing Operations, Financial Aid & Scholarships, and academic departments, etc. You could visit Google Apps at RIT to access your account.

All new incoming students attending RIT are required to submit the Health History Form and Immunization Record via the Student Health Center Portal at least 30 days before classes begin. And again, you will need your RIT Gmail account to login to the system. For more information, please visit: https://www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/studenthealth/about/forms.

You’ll also have to submit your final official transcript once you finish all your current classes. If you are attending or have attended a school in the U.S., you should have the registrar to send your transcript to you following the instructions and then you can mail it directly to RIT’s Office of Graduate Enrollment Services. If you are from an International school, an official degree certificate in both English and the original language with the transcripts is required. And you may have this transcript and degree certificate forwarded directly to the office as soon as you have completed your undergraduate study.

If you are an international student, you need to provide additional documents to apply for a student visa. you’ll then need an original bank statement showing the amount available for their education, as well as a letter of support from the person owning the assets (if the funds are not in the student’s name) to RIT. More details can be found via this link: https://www.rit.edu/emcs/ptgrad/pdfs/International_student_visa_info.pdf

You will be encouraged to attend New Student orientations: graduate orientation and International orientation. Activities and further details can be found via the links. You’ll just need your RIT username and password to log in and complete the registration information. Orientations really do help set the tone for your transition into the next level of your academic career.

And if you are interested in finding housing (both on and off campus) before coming to school, the international student services have provided some good resources on their website, which could also be helpful to the domestic students. And the link is here: https://www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/iss/life-at-rit/housing

The very last step before you start your school will be to pay your bills and authorize access to RIT eServices. Usually, the bill will be generated during the beginning of July, and you’ll get different payment options. You may visit Student Financial Services for more information. And there are also various types of graduate student funding that you could find online, including graduate scholarships, graduate assistantship, campus jobs, cooperative education, and educational loans, etc. Check out this website for more info: http://www.rit.edu/emcs/ptgrad/apply/costs-funding

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you will find this information helpful and good luck with your preparations for new semester at RIT!

#myRITstory – Syed Sajjad Haider

Program: Electrical Engineering MS, expected graduation fall 2019

From: Islamabad, Pakistan

Syed learned about RIT through his local EducationUSA Advising Center, where he was researching prospective graduate programs in robotics and artificial intelligence. His search for the perfect program and research opportunities led him to RIT’s Engineering and Computing programs. He ultimately chose RIT because of its strong emphasis on Co-Operative Education. (You can read more about RIT’s Co-op program online.)

In July Syed will begin a six month co-op placement at Abiomed in Boston, Massachusetts. He was hired as Lifecycle Electrical Engineer and will work on the design and analysis of testing automation for various Abiomed consumer products.

Says Syed about his search for a co-op position – “I found a Co-Op in Boston, MA through the Handshake platform RIT just introduced. All students in RIT are strongly encouraged to attend the two career fairs organized by RIT each year and to apply for various opportunities on the handshake platform. The Office of Career Services at RIT is very helpful and useful. I got my Resume reviewed from them and also participated in a mock interview event. These small things really help you prepare for the real interview.”

Syed will return to RIT in January 2019 to complete his MS program. In addition to his coursework and extracurricular activities, Syed has also worked part-time for RIT Dining and for RIT’s Reporter Magazine as a staff photographer.

 

 

Bird’s eye view of on-campus employment opportunities

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS student

As a student, managing your finances can be an arduous task at the very least. International students have their work cut out when it comes to this. To be honest, we all love that little extra inflow of cash to help pay for housing or just simply to buy that fancy pair of shoes which all our friends rave about. Whatever the case maybe – RIT has got you covered!

RIT is unique in a way that students essentially are one of the most important cogs in the wheel that they paid for. Almost all departments and offices employ student workers to ensure smooth operation. There are over 9,000 on-campus jobs to be found and anyone who wants one does not have to look far. One of biggest department that is run almost entirely by student employees is the dining services department. RIT has a plethora of on-campus dining options and all of them require student workers. Just some of the dining options include Gracies, Salsaritas, Crossroads, Ritz, Ctrl-Alt-Deli and so on.

Gracies Dining Hall

Roles may involve cutting and slicing of meat and veggies, servicing the dishwasher, cooking, maintenance and upkeep or that of a cashier. FMS or Facilities Management Services is another department that hires a lot of student workers. Responsibilities here include mostly everything related to building maintenance like inspecting doors and windows, replacing faulty light bulbs or checking if locks work the way they should. There are loads of other jobs like lab assistants, front desk assistants and so on. The list is endless.

How do you find such jobs? While you can look and apply for jobs on the RIT job portal

Crossroads

Handshake (which is obviously a great source), there are many jobs which are not explicitly advertised. The mantra to find that job is really simple enough – go and ask in person! I have seen so many of my friends getting a job from the unlikeliest of places on campus because they went ahead and asked about it directly.

 

Graduate Assistantships are also a great way to earn money which is more technically and academically oriented. While these positions are not as many as the other options many students do get offered the positions of a Research or a Teaching Assistant. A paid RA position depends upon your graduate advisor, his funding status and your area of interest. TA positions are always paid and they require you to be in the right place at the right time. In all the engineering departments, you can TA an undergraduate course if there is an availability and you have a sufficient background in that area. Talking to a Professor of a course you would like to TA for would be a good idea in this case. The other way to grab a TA position is having taken a course prior, building a solid background in it and informing the instructor you are interested if there is an availability.

All in all, RIT is a place where you can always earn a little pocket money if you need to and is one of things I admire about my University. So buckle in and enjoy your time here – it is a great place to be!

Time to Plan Your Summer Vacation!

by Kexin ‘Coco’ Wang, Visual Communications Design MFA student

With warmer weather fast approaching, summer is just around the corner. While preparing for the end of the semester final exams, students must also be thinking about plans for the summer. Would you like to fill your summer with travel? Or you’d like to take some summer courses to get some extra credit? Or maybe use it to gain some internship or job experience? Summer at RIT is 12 weeks long, and I’m here to give you some suggestions on how to make a fun and meaningful summer plan.

If you want to take some classes during the summer, RIT offers a wide range of subjects both on-campus and online, which means you can also go home and take the courses online. Studying abroad during the summer is also an exciting opportunity for some students. I personally think it’s the best time to experience a new country or place with new outlooks, customs and activities. You may check out Summer @ RIT and RIT Global for more information.

And if you are looking forward to working for the summer, the student employment office has some notes for you:

Students who meet the following criteria are eligible to work up to 40 hours per week during summer semester if the following criteria are met:

Must be matriculated, and registered full-time status Spring Semester AND at least one of the following:

  • Must be registered for at least 4 credit hours for summer session
  • Are registered for 0 credit hours for summer, but are registered for at least 3 credit hours for fall
  • Are registered for at least 3 credit hours for both summer and fall
  • Are registered for 0 credits for continuation of thesis for summer and/or fall that can be verified via STARS

And if you are doing a co-op program, you must be registered for co-op for summer session. Please check out the student employment office website for more information.

For those of you who are staying in Greater Rochester area, and who happen to be interested in some summer outdoor or indoor activities, here are some suggestions for you:

  • Roseland Water Park – a water park facilitated with a giant wave pool, adventure river, splash factory, tube slides and body slides, located in Canandaigua, NY.
  • Roseland Wake Park – the only Cable Wake Park system in the Northeast, with thrilling water board sports.
  • Corn Hill Arts Festival – a festival that exhibits an array of beautifully handcrafted art and crafts from over 300 artists from across the US and Canada.
  • Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival – a music festival that stages a series of concert performances by outstanding local musicians.
  • The Taste of Rochester – a food festival that is designed to designed to get people and food purveyors together to get to know each other.

In addition, there are also bunch different activities listed on Rochester Events, make sure to check their website and plan ahead of time!

Hopefully, I have given you some idea about your summer vacation, if you still don’t have any plan in your mind. As for me, I will be traveling for a bit at the beginning of the break, and then heading to New York City to work for 10 weeks as a multi-media designer. I am super excited about the traveling and my internship opportunity, and I also hope that you could come up with an awesome plan to make the most of your summer!

The ‘American’ life: In the eyes of an international student

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS Student 

What is the American life? I used to think it was utopia on Earth – the ever illusive ‘good life’. The kind of place where you turn off the lights and wake up to a perfect morning where all your problems have magically disappeared. Wading through the deceptively clear waters of a semester here has led me to realize how wrong I was. Stick around till the end while I describe an intriguing process of self-discovery and introspection.

It was on a freakishly cold day when I arrived in the land of the free and home of the brave. Being used to the other extreme of the temperature scale it was a surreal experience for someone who had never seen snow before. A 5 minute wait for a cab out in the open to take me to my apartment felt like ages. But I was still completely oblivious to what was in store for me. My heart kept telling me that the proverbial bling life was still to come.

Reaching my apartment, I was excited to meet the new roommates with whom I would be spending the winter with. I was starving after an exhausting journey but they said it would be another couple hours before food would be made. Without knowing how to get around town, I snacked on leftovers from my journey. Tired as I was, I had to clean up my room before I could get any kind of respite as the the guy from whom I subleased it left it in a mess. In a few days, reality dawned on me. Pampered since childhood with never having to worry about my own well-being for a second, I had to look after everything now. Some days were bearable while some days were not. Coming home weary-eyed and zoned out after a long day, you suddenly remember that it was your day to cook or do the dishes and you have an assignment due the next day which is still incomplete.

A picture worth a thousand words.

But as all dark clouds have a silver-lining, my story had one too. I had some of the most wonderful professors who guided me through every step of the way. Sometimes, we would engage in enriching conversations about my progress that not only helped me to focus on areas I was weak in but also develop a new perspective of the course. At times when I needed to blow off some steam, I would just drive off into the pristine countryside. Life is way different in smaller towns and ranches and feeling those vibes were just what I needed to recharge my batteries.

So, what exactly is the American life? Is it having all you ever wanted at your fingertips? Is it the peace of mind to never break a sweat about anything? To me it is the freedom to carve your own fate and be the master of your own destiny. The power to make your own choices and the undying spirit to see it through no matter the sacrifices. The unwavering grit to hold on to the values of mutual respect and inclusiveness despite the threats. As the Statue of Liberty says – “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”.

 

 

RIT’s Financial Wellness Conference

by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS student

RIT Student Affairs and Student Government have offered a Financial Wellness Conference on April 8th as part of National Financial Literacy Month which has seen participation from a lot of students at RIT. The conference was held to raise awareness about the importance of financial literacy which is one of the most important topic as believed by several millennials. The conference had an interesting concept of holding several sessions which are a 50 min long and students get to choose 3 sessions between 2-5pm. The conference kicked off with a keynote address by retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, John C. Ninfo who shared his thoughts on financial IQ. I choose the three sessions “Track the Flow of Your Money”, “Health Care Benefits 101”, and “Planning for Retirement”. In the first session “Track the Flow of Your Money” we got introduced to how to manage a budget and then also the allocations that need to be made in order to maximize the value of your paycheck. Later, I got to attend the session “Health Care Benefits 101” where the speaker talked about the various health

care options that companies offer to the employees and suggestions for comparing the options and choosing the best one. This session has particularly helpful as I am joining a company soon full time and I need to choose a healthcare plan. Finally, I attended the session “Planning for Retirement” which was about different instruments to save your money in order to plan for your retirement. The speaker spoke about stocks, mutual fund, bonds and several other instruments. In conclusion this was a great conference and is very helpful to students both undergraduate and graduate which will hopefully be conducted for years to come.

Procrastination- The struggle is real

by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS student

Graduate students often have more independent work than the amount of classes they take in a semester. This gives them ample time to do research or work on their classes but this is also very tricky. There is a lot of time, but making sure you don’t waste a lot of time is not something that I was great at when I started school. The biggest problem I faced was that I felt the work I had needed only so much time so I could get to it when I am closer to the deadline. That is the #1 mistake that any student can make as our brain says that the tough part can be done later and for now you could watch some Netflix or hang out with your friends. There are tons of things that people do without realizing they are procrastinating, so I felt as a Master Procrastinator I could point out some of those in hopes that you don’t end up doing the same.

#1 Untidy House: I sit down at my desk to start working on my thesis proposal and I look around to see that my house is suddenly very untidy. My head says you can’t work with an untidy house so first finish cleaning up and then get to your work. I start doing that and end up being very tired by the end of the day and just go to sleep. Yes, I know keeping your house clean is very important but I bet the house has been like that for a couple of days and I didn’t bother cleaning it because I wanted to watch Netflix instead.

#2 Netflix/YouTube: The funny cat videos on YouTube are just the beginning of a marathon of useless videos that I start watching before I get to my work. My heart sometimes subtly starts hinting that I am running out time and approaching the deadline but my head tries to convince that I am a genius who just needs a fraction of time projected by everyone else to get the work done. PS: I am definitely not a genius.

#3 Social Media: My friend tags me in a post and there starts another marathon of me reading all my friends posts and realizing how long it has been since I met some of them. Now I message them in hopes to reach out to my friend from middle school who probably doesn’t even remember me. But wait the bottom line is not that I miss my friend, my head just needs to convince me that friends and family are more important than the impending deadline. I know family and friends are important but I am pretty sure they could wait for a day if they waited all these days.

#4 Sleep: When I sit down to do some work and get some work done I realize that I am sleepy and remember I forgot to get my 6 hours the other day. Suddenly the sleep debt becomes the most important thing and I need to get a couple of hours before I get back to my work. Also, chances are the reason I didn’t get my 6 hours is because I was busy binge watching The Office.

#5 Grocery Shopping: I am working and I realize I am hungry so I got my kitchen and open the refrigerator only to realize that I ran out of groceries and that becomes my priority.

#6 Emails: I have to check my emails and make sure that I have answered all of them

So these are only like 6 out of a hundred things that I do on a daily basis and I think that you understand the bottom line. I realize I am not being productive, my head convinces my heart that all these things are very important. Although they are important, there is a time for getting them done and that is not when I have my proposal due in a day.

PS: I had to submit this post 3 days ago but guess what I procrastinated because well like I said, I am a Procrastinator.