First Week Reflection: Getting a Feel for Graduate School

First Week Reflection Featured Image

Now that I’m officially back in the swing of things, I wanted to share a little reflection on my first week.

Table of Contents

By the Day

Why don’t I start off by sharing a bit of an overview of each day during my first week? Then, we can dig into how I’m feeling.

Monday, August 20th

Luckily for me, I didn’t start school until Tuesday, so I had a nice short week. That said, I still had a few events to attend on Monday.

To kick things off, I went to the Columbus Welcome for grad students. When I got there, I made two quick acquaintances: Sam and Qing. Neither of which were very happy with the fact that we were just sitting around. Apparently, for everyone who came early like us, there was a meet-and-greet for about an hour.

Eventually, they took us into the basketball stadium to learn all about Columbus. While we did learn about Columbus, I learned a lot more about the type of school I’m attending. Apparently, OSU is famous for giving away random stuff with all the tuition money they get. We were lucky enough to win one free scoop of Jeni’s ice cream.

The Inside of the Schottenstein Center

Following the Columbus Welcome, I joined the huge group of freshman in a hike to the football stadium. From there, we walked through the stadium and received pizza on our way out. At that point, we stumbled right into Buck-I-Frenzy which was another huge event with giveaways. In fact, I managed to snag two free preseason tickets to a Blue Jackets game.

Unfortunately, on my way home, I managed to lose my headphones. I guess you win some, and you lose some.

Tuesday, August 21st

To kick off the first official day, I went to my first class, Realtime Rendering, taught by my advisor. Based on that class, I got the feeling that the course is going to be pretty manageable. In fact, I already know most of the material as I’ve already taken a graphics course. The only challenge will be learning JavaScript and webgl.

Following my first course, I ran home to take a nap. For whatever reason, my biological clock was not ready for an early morning. Also, the social interaction was a bit tiring.

Later that afternoon, I had to head back out for my first algorithms class. I’d never taken algorithms in undergrad, so I was a bit worried about this course. As it turns out, this class is going to be tough. I hardly remember anything from discrete math, and all we do is prove algorithm running times.

After that, I ran home to grab my trombone for my first ensemble in over a year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time as home was in the complete opposite direction from the ensemble. By the time I arrived, I was quite sweaty.

If I hadn’t already mentioned, I joined University Band which is one of the only ensembles that don’t require an audition. That said, I still had to audition briefly for chair placement. After that, I met a freshman interested in architecture, so that was cool.

By the end of the day, I made Morgan pick me up because no one was around to store my instrument. Unfortunately, my phone died shortly after the text, so Morgan ended up getting pretty lost on her way over. As we’ll see moving forward, the phone battery issue continues to be a problem.

Wednesday, August 22nd

By Wednesday, I was starting to get pretty nervous. Algorithms seemed tough, and the impostor syndrome was kicking in as I got closer to teaching my first class.

Luckily, I started to feel a little better once I attended the Foundations of Programming Languages course. After all, I feel like I have a strong foundation since I maintain the Sample Programs repoOpens in a new tab..

That said, I still had to teach my first class which crept up on me slowly. After the programming languages class, I had a little over an hour to kill, so I decided to check out my classroom. Unfortunately, there was a class beforehand, so I had to wait.

In the meantime, I decided to try to tackle my algorithms homework on my iPhone 5S, a 4-year-old phone. Naturally, the battery died rather quickly. At that point, I was lucky to get two hours of idle use out of the thing which was causing all kinds of stress for Morgan. Of course, I wasn’t exactly enjoying it either.

At any rate, I finally got to teach my first class. For those that don’t know, I’m an independent lecturer for an Introduction to Java course. At the moment, I have roughly 40 students, so I had to get comfortable with working with that many students.

For the first class, I had to rapidly cover course policies and the syllabus as well as computer basics which was a bit problematic. In the struggle, I managed to run over about 5 minutes which caused many of my students to walk out.

Despite the quick exit, I felt like the lecture went well. I tried my hardest to “limit teacher talk time” as I’ve learned through TEFL and other places like Ben Teaches English OverseasOpens in a new tab.:

Videos like this are helpful for any type of class in my opinion.

Following the lecture, I ran home and grabbed my trombone. Once Morgan got home, I had her run me to campus, so I could store my horn. After about 30 minutes, we ran back home before hiking back onto campus for dinner. I think we tried out Blaze Pizza for the first time.

Thursday, August 23rd

By Thursday, I had experienced a little bit of everything. At this point, I just had to get accustomed to the grind again.

Up first, I had my second lecture for the Real Time Rendering course. For this lecture, we spent the whole time discussing graphics hardware. In other words, we learned a lot about the modern Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and computer hardware in general. In fact, we even traveled back in time to chat about old monitors.

After that, I had some time to kill, so I ran home briefly. By the afternoon, I had to race back on campus, so I could catch my first programming lab. Talk about a shit show.

The first lab was supposed to be pretty simple. All the students had to do was setup Eclipse on their lab machine. Unfortunately, there were a second major problems.

First, Eclipse was on each machine, but the shortcuts did not work. As a result, students had to create a custom shortcut which ran Eclipse properly.

If students were lucky enough to get their shortcuts working, they probably had an issue with missing the Java Runtime Environment (JRE). In other words, the students were able to write code in Eclipse, but they couldn’t run it.

Naturally, we had a lot of trouble getting everyone up and running, so we had to offer everyone an extension.

Following the lab, I had some time to kill, so I ran around turning in some medical and retirement paperwork. Then, I ran off to my second algorithms course. Fortunately, I was starting to feel a little better.

After that, I ran home for some food and ran back onto campus for my ensemble. This time we actually got to play music, and somehow I earned first trombone. To be honest, it felt a bit weird to be playing again considering I hadn’t touched a horn in over a year, but I really enjoyed it.

Friday, August 24th

My first grad school Friday was nice and light. Everything was kicked off with the usual lecture on programming languages. After that, I went home for the day.

While home, I figured I’d play around with scheduling a few appointments. After getting an eye exam scheduled, I couldn’t figure out how to schedule a regular medical checkup, so I called Student Health Services.

By the end of that call, I scheduled a physical for that day. Within an hour, I was in the doctor’s office getting my first checkup in probably ten years. The checkup went well, and I even got my blood tested.

Afterward, I met up with Morgan, and we ran to a grad student picnic. By the time we got there, all the good food was gone, but we did manage to make a couple new friends. At least now we’ll have some familiar faces on campus.

Finally, we finished off the day with our usual grocery trip before coming home for the night.

Saturday, August 25th

By Saturday, Morgan and I made the executive decision to finally upgrade my iPhone 5S to an iPhone 8. Of course, this didn’t come cheap as this was my first phone since contracts. As a result, I’m stuck paying the full price for the phone over the next couple years.

That said, I think it was worth it. My phone battery currently lasts all day. In fact, it hasn’t dropped below 50% since I’ve gotten it, but we’ll see!

After we got my new phone, we decided to eat and run home for the day. Then, we spent the rest of the day getting work done. In fact, I spent most of my Saturday fighting with my algorithms homework. Go figure.

Sunday, August 26th

For the final day of my first week, Morgan and took a hike to the North Market. Unfortunately, it was pretty hot and humid. Also, we didn’t exactly eat healthy when we got there. An order of pierogies and a Jeni’s ice cream cone made for a painful walk home.

When we got back, I spent most of my day grading and lesson planning. Meanwhile, Morgan was doing much of the same.


Overall, I’m pretty excited for school. I enjoy being busy again because the variety of activities keeps my life interesting. If I’m not grading, I’m teaching. If I’m not attending class, I’m playing trombone. It’s a pretty sweet gig.

That said, I’m very nervous about my algorithms class. I do not feel prepared for it as it’s been at least two years since I’ve done any sort of theoretical math. As a result, the homework has been less than kind to me. What does it mean when a function is asymptotically nondecreasing? What if it’s monotonic? How can I prove a function is both? That’s about where I’m at.

As for my other courses, I’m pretty excited. I’m really enjoying both my graphics course and my programming languages course. I don’t think either of them are going to be too tough except maybe for exams.

In terms of teaching, I’m loving it. That said, I’m not in love with the curriculum. To be honest, I think the course needs to be 4 credits. With only two lectures a week, I can’t possibly get through all the fundamentals before we start scaffolding, and I can already see it’s hard on the students.

In fact, I might even completely rearrange the curriculum to keep the students away from Eclipse until they grasp the main method and classes. Unfortunately, I can’t really pull that off since the labs correspond with the lectures. Oh well, we’ll do the best we can!


While this article was written shortly after the first week of classes, it won’t be published until early October. By then, I’ll be able to look back on this article and get a feel for how my thoughts have changed over the course of the semester. At that point, I’ll consider writing a follow-up to reflect on the semester.

In the meantime, if you’re experiencing grad school right now, let me know how you’re feeling in the comments. I’m interested in seeing how experience varies by department and institution.

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Journey to a PhD (49 Articles)—Series Navigation

As my current career trajectory shifts away from engineering, I find myself in a peculiar position as a PhD student. As I explore the latest concepts in Computer Science, you can find that journey documented here in my series titled Journey to a PhD.

Jeremy Grifski

Jeremy grew up in a small town where he enjoyed playing soccer and video games, practicing taekwondo, and trading Pokémon cards. Once out of the nest, he pursued a Bachelors in Computer Engineering with a minor in Game Design. After college, he spent about two years writing software for a major engineering company. Then, he earned a master's in Computer Science and Engineering. Today, he pursues a PhD in Engineering Education in order to ultimately land a teaching gig. In his spare time, Jeremy enjoys spending time with his wife, playing Overwatch and Phantasy Star Online 2, practicing trombone, watching Penguins hockey, and traveling the world.

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