Monthly Archives: April 2012

A World of Possibilities for International Students

As all you guys can see, the international students whether graduated with a M.S. in journalism or are still working on it, in J school are very few. From what I have known, there was a Korean, two Chinese, Boya Xu and Linging Hang, who graduated from J school in recent years. And now, Deepa from India, Magdalena from Poland and myself from China are still on our way to this degree.

OK. So let’s see what they are doing now after graduation with a Master in journalism as international students.

Lingbing Hang was a photographer in a Chinese newspaper before she came to WVU. She has rich experience in art photography and now is teaching an introduction class of photography in J school.

I know Boya Xu very well as we’re close in age and she helped me a lot when I prepared to come to WVU. She is about to graduate recently and maybe enter a PhD program this fall.

Deepa Fadnis will graduate this May and wants to be a journalist or a English teacher after graduation.

Despite facing the same problem of work or PhD after graduation with American students, international students need to decide whether they want to stay in America or go back to their own countries. I think most international students want to find a job or continue study in America which is quite obvious. But the problem is how?

In job hunting, international students in journalism major are not that competitive to local students whether in language-using ability, cultural adaptability and social relationships, unless we are able to find some jobs fit us and need our international backgrounds.

We have talked a lot about PhD programs in this blog. That requires you being very interested in research and theories, and that will take you much more time than getting a Master degree.

As for me, I will first try to find a job in America, and if that fails, I will go back to China, as home is better than any other places.



4 Strategies for Landing a Job After Grad School

When #gradschoolproblems first launched, Greer and I wrote about going to graduate to wait to the recession.  With my time in graduate school spilling out of the hour glass, finding a job once I complete my M.S. is a growing concern.  I came to graduate school to further my career.  I do not want to leave graduate school and return to the same dead end that I was trying to escape in the first place.  Here are the four strategies that I am employing to prevent this from happening, and I will gladly accept more ideas if you have advice to share.

1. Start with the end in mind.

This advice is taken from the president of California University of Pennsylvania, Angelo Armenti Jr., who took it from his friend Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I started graduate school with the goal of using my M.S. to land a job within my chosen field.  From my first day of class, I structured my every academic step to further my goal.  If I am assigned research, I make it relevant to my field and build upon previous research.  If I have the option to take an elective, I take electives that will develop my skill set and make myself more appealing to future employers.  With my end goal in mind, it is easier to fill in the space between with behaviors and choices that bring me closer to that goal.

2. Volunteer in your community.

Career search professionals are advocating more and more for strategic volunteering as a means of making yourself more appealing to potential employers.  At WVU, connecting with the community is become a more important part of University culture, making volunteer opportunities more visible and more accessible to students.  I have been taking advantage of some of these opportunities, and when possible, I try to do community service that is relevant to my career interests, like guest lectures and high school visits, to sharpen my skills while giving back.  Volunteer hours build experience and social capital, which could give you an edge over your competition.

3. Network with peers, mentors, and sources.

According to the Society of Human Resources, networking is the most popular way to find a job.  Networking does not come easy to me because I am a shy person by nature, but I am making a greater effort to make connections because of the potential benefits.  My fellow graduate students are intelligent individuals that are part of networks that are very different from mine, and when they graduate and progress in their careers those networks will grow.  Having that in with an old classmate could pay off.  Professors as well have well-developed networks that are resource rich, and even interview subjects can become contacts for future career opportunities.  Networking opportunities are everywhere.  Look for them.

4. Keep an eye out for contests and conferences.

At WVU, the Business & Economics College has an annual contest that provides start-up capital to budding entrepreneurs, and similar opportunities likely exist at your university or even on a state or national level.  Ideally, your research could be leveraged for these contests to maximize the return on your effort while minimizing the amount of time you have to invest.  On a similar note, submit your research to relevant conferences and journals.  Consider breaking up your thesis into mini-studies to again maximize your return.  These will look great on a resume and may open other doors as well.

What are you doing outside of the classroom to increase your odds of landing a job?  Please share.  We’re all in this together.

The Taboo #gradschoolproblem – Going Back to Work (In Journalism)

One of the things that seems to frighten journalism students (at all levels) the most is the thought of trying to find a job at the end of school. For the grad student cohort, many of us will be returning to the field, as in, finding a job after school is not a first-time experience for us. Still, we’ll be competing with hundreds of other grad students and thousands of undergrads across the country for the same positions.

Since the newspaper and larger media industry is in such a state of flux, it’s hard to try and guess how many positions will be available and how competitive those positions will be. I usually check fairly often, and it seems to go in cycles: one month, it seems like there are more openings than can be counted, and the next month, the options are pretty few. Moreover, it seems to me that most news outlets aren’t really concerned about the number or type of degrees a  prospect has; rather, hiring organizations are much more interested in the amount of experience of a candidate. So, a grad student who has recently been awarded his or her master’s degree, but has no or little real-world experience, is less valuable to a newspaper than an undergrad who has completed multiple internships and/or freelancing jobs. Simply put, a master’s degree never guarantees you a job.

Personally, I am one such grad student with prior staff reporter experience. So, in grad school, I am working on trying to keep adding new clips to my portfolio so that when I’m finished next May, there won’t be a two-year lull in my work when I’m trying to find a job. I’ve done this in two ways – freelancing and through classes like West Virginia Uncovered.

Also, it’s important to make new connections and save the connections you left before coming to grad school. Through classes at WVU, I’ve been able to meet editors and news staff at papers around the state, since even meeting or working with someone once can land you a position over another. At the same time, I’ve maintained my professional connections in the Great Lakes region, not just because those people are friends, but also in case I need to look for a job in that part of the country.

But regardless of how you go about continuing to produce new, quality material and/or maintaining connections to the industry, keep in mind that experience reigns king. If you have worked in the industry, be sure to tout it (though not being prideful) – that experience already sets you (and me) above a sizeable chunk of other inadequate less knowledgeable graduates. And that should be at least a little reassuring.

Fellowships for Fellows

There are a ton of options available after graduate school, many of which we will touch on this week. You might consider continuing your education and going for that doctoral degree or maybe you want to head into the workforce. And then there are the tons of options in between, fellowships being one of them.

What is a Fellowship?

What is a fellowship? It’s kind of a broad statement, but it generally refers to a short-term opportunity (a few months to a couple years) that focuses on professional development. They’re usually for graduate student in a particular field that can help you gain knowledge on a certain issue, explore a certain area, or help get involved with the community.

Fellowships are usually give to graduate or post-graduate students and are a great arena for experiential learning. They are structured in a way to provide the fellow with a good deal of work experience and responsibility in a short period of time. Basically, fellowships are kind of like “independent studies” where you get to focus on one thing that can help you in the future. And they usually give you a living allowance/stipend! And other incentives include health care, student loan repayment and housing stipends.

I actually had the opportunity to go on a fellowship to France two years ago. It was a great opportunity through a donor that allowed me to check out the French AP, attend a UNESCO conference and check out a French journalism school. You can check out the blog here. It was a great opportunity that gave me a chance to learn a little bit more about French journalism and how other cultures perceive the United States.

More Info

That particular fellowship was broadcast around the journalism school. But for other fellowship opportunities, check out:

You can also look at the places you usually look for jobs (c’mon, we all look) and search for “fellowship” instead. Anybody have any other ideas about where to find other fellowships? We could make a nice little list here!

Yo, Teach!

One of the many job opportunities that become available after completion of a Master’s degree is, of course, teaching.

For those of us that may or may not wish to pursue a PhD after graduation, teaching journalism is going to be an option. While the level and certification varies from state to institution, teaching is a profession that will be open to us. But this raises a couple of questions… Where can I teach – college and universities? Grade school level too? Besides a master’s degree, what other qualifications are necessary to bring in a decent salary to help me pay off my debt?

University-level teaching

WVU‘s Graduate Education & Life office offers its graduate students the opportunity to complete a Certificate in University Teaching. The certification is completed after a student finishes 15 (grad level) credits ranging from diversity in higher education to teaching experience. The Graduate Education & Life office says that this certification will help students develop the necessary needs to instruct classes at a university level, as well as prepare them for the academic job market. The full certification program description can be found here.

If you happen to be a current grad student at WVU, keep an eye on your inbox… Events like this one tend to come through fairly often and are aimed at helping grad students build their resumes in time for graduation.


Grade School-level teaching

In order to make this a little easier on myself, I kept this to the state of West Virginia, as there are varying degrees of qualification. The West Virginia Board of Education offers many different pathways down the road to being a teacher. Teaching with a master’s degree that is not in the field of education seems to be a little more difficult than I imagined, but it’s not impossible. There seem to be a couple of hoops that you need to jump through, but that said, we are still uncertain about what kind of job market we are going to be venturing out into over the next couple of years. In our case, the more options, the better.

Have you considered teaching with your master’s degree? If so, are you interested at teaching at the university level, grade school, or both? Why or why not?

Exploring American When Away From Home

When it was a holiday such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, weekends, I was not able to go home frequently as American students. So, my choice is to travel! Exploring America whenever I have time. It aways cost me a lot, but I enjoyed it and it seemed to be better than staying in a “dead” town as a “don’t-have-a-car” person during holidays.

Above is the map of the places I have been to in American since I came to US on August, 2011.

1. Pittsburgh. I went there so many times. Eating Chinese food there, shopping and catching flights in Pittsburgh International Airport — the most important things for my trips are the most things I do in Pittsburgh.

2. DC. I just went to DC once. There are lots of interesting museums there, and my favorite one is the news museum — Newseum, which I think every of us should go there one time.

3. NYC. I should say New York City is the city which looks like Chinese cities the most. Large population, crowds, messy, people from everywhere and delicious Chinese food make New York City unique to other American cities I have been to.

4. Boston. It is quiet and beautiful. Boston is a good example of the combination of historic and modern. A great place for shopping and history fans.

5. Los Angeles. In my memory, LA is made up of celebrities, money, fans, movies, Staples Center, tourists and Spanish. It’s convenient for tourists, but I don’t like it that much, as it is far different from my expectations.

6. Las Vegas. I believe everyone will like it and will have a lot of fun. It’s gorgeous and luxury. Have the preparations for losing, as “Las Vegas is built by losers”.

7. Grand Canyon. It is an amazing natural place that everyone knows that. You will feel so small as comparing to the great nature. The beautiful scenery makes people speechless.

8. San Diego. This is my favorite place in America. It has Beautiful beaches, nice people, clean environment and wonderful weather.  I especially like the ships and submarine museums there!

9. Orlando. I just came back from Orlando for Spring break. I went to Disneyland and Universal studio. Disneyland, especially the Magic Kingdom, makes me travel back to my childhood and real happiness from bottom of my heart. Universal studio has many of movie-related attractions with high-techs that was so fresh to me. I wish I can go there again!

What do you think of these places? And give me some suggestions for my next exploring trip!

The First Rule of Grad School Fight Club

In a previous post, I talked about how stress and inactivity can have negative, long term consequences for your health.  Though that post focused on commuting specifically, even non-commuters should be concerned about remaining active.  With desk jobs becoming a norm (and let’s face it, every graduate student is chained to their desks and shock-collared to their advisors), making extra efforts to improve your fitness are becoming more and more important.  Personally, I get my exercise by training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which is like wrestling except that your goal is not to pin your opponent but to submit him, to make him tap out to a choke or a joint lock.  I began this hobby as an undergraduate and have continued into graduate school.  Like all exercise, jiu-jitsu is a great stress reliever, and I highly recommend it to other graduate students.  Here are 4 other reasons you should consider adding jiu-jitsu classes to your course load:

1. Jiu-jitsu is a full body activity.  In sports consisting of limited movements, like running or soccer, you only exercise part of your body.  Even a weight lifting routine can neglect certain muscle groups in favor of others, and research shows that this have long term consequences.  The science says that muscle maintenance is not holistic.  Exercise only preserves the muscles that are exercised, so you need to exercise everything.

2. Jiu-jitsu builds confidence and reduces stress.  In addition to the natural benefits of exercising to reduce stress, jiu-jitsu itself is an exceptional outlet for aggression.  As much as you might want to throw down the gauntlet with your thesis committee, you can’t.  Jiu-jitsu gives you a way to relieve that tension in a healthy and a constructive way.  You will also find that stress will affect you less the more you train.  After all, how intimidating is a 20 page paper when you spend your free time getting beat up by trained fighters?

3. Jiu-jitsu is community-driven. In graduate school, your circle of friends can become extremely small, especially if you are not attending the University where you completed your undergrad.  Training jiu-jitsu will allow you to expand your network and interact with people that aren’t bitter about graduate school.

4. Jiu-jitsu is for nerds.  Jiu-jitsu is an intellectual pursuit.  The sport is complex, and the strategic depth of technique of the sport is often compared to that of chess.  If you browse a few jiu-jitsu blogs, you will see what I mean (The Jiu-Jitsu Lab, for example, is run by a purple belt currently pursuing a doctorate).  You may disagree that you’re a nerd, but you’re in graduate school.  You’re not fooling anyone.

5. You could be like this guy:

See you on the mat!

Get out of Morgantown!

We always have something to do in grad school. Always. Homework, research, doing things for our profs, dealing with displeased students…the list goes on. But, it is important to still make time to NOT be constantly doing work, especially for our own sanity. We are constantly given more and more things to do, and seemingly not enough time to finish. But that’s ok, as long as we find ways to relax and keep our cool. One such way is to put the electronics aside and breathe. For me, as a journo major and a grad student, my computer and phone have unfortunately become extra appendages out of the need to keep up with everything. Thus, it may sound difficult, but it really is important to get out of Martin Hall and our apartments (into the really, really, really bright sun – an effect of being kept inside) and get out of town!

Being in wild and wonderful West Virginia, we’re blessed with a great number of outdoor activities close by. Camping, biking, hiking and boating are all available within 20 minutes of downtown (assuming there’s no traffic). Here’s a breakdown of different places to go that aren’t too far, and won’t cost too much gas that would eat up our welfare check  stipend. Each of the next few locations has camping and hiking opportunities, as well as other outdoorsy stuff to do (boating, fishing, etc.) that can be found on each park’s website.

  • Cooper’s Rock is the closest option to Morgantown. The campground is open April to November, but be cautious about when to go – there are only 25 campsites, which may be in high demand at certain parts of the year.
  • Ryerson Station State Park, Greene County, Pa.: Ryerson Station is a bit of a hike  from Morgantown, due to its relative isolation from the main highways, despite being in our neighboring county to the north. However, that isolation (and limited phone service) is also great for escaping technology. But one of the biggest advantages to me is that Ryerson Station is open year-round, unlike pretty much every other state park in the area.
  • Tygart Lake State Park is just down U.S. 119 near Grafton. Obviously, the name gives away that the park is located on a lake, which is also evidently a great fishing spot. Camping is available mid-April through October.
  • Ohiopyle State Park, Fayette County, Pa.: Ohiopyle is one of the more well-known places to go in southwest Pennsylvania, and rightly so. This park has all the normal outdoor things to do, plus whitewater rafting and natural waterslides in the Youghiogheny River. Plus, Ohiopyle is a stop on the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, which I’ll get to below.
  • Garrett County, Md., also has a cluster of parks around Deep Creek Lake, which is itself a year-round vacation destination. Check out Deep Creek Lake State Park, Swallow Falls State Park, New Germany State Park and Big Run State Park.

But suppose you want to take a biking adventure? All of the above parks have some sort of biking facilities, but there are also nearby rail-trail bike paths in the area. Morgantown’s own is the Mon River Trails system, which extends along the Monongahela River from Fairmont to the Pennsylvania line, and east from Morgantown into Preston County along Deckers Creek. The Great Allegheny Passage is also an option, being just a short drive northeast of Morgantown. The GAP trail is also on former railroad beds, making it relatively level, just like the Mon River Trails. The GAP extends from the Pittsburgh area to Cumberland, Md. (eventually, the GAP is planned to connect to Point State Park in Pittsburgh). At Cumberland, the GAP connects to the C&O Canal towpath, which continues on to Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

Being in grad school though, not all of us have enough money to go out and buy fancy/shiny (expensive) new equipment for outdoor adventures. That’s where the Outdoor Rec Center comes in. The ORC is, I think, one of the best organizations at WVU. In addition to weekend and longer trips the ORC leads during the school year, the ORC also has a large variety of equipment and gear that anyone affiliated with WVU can rent for dirt cheap. The ORC also has longer trips for semester breaks. I went on the Texas trip on winter break and had a blast!

Nevertheless, for those of us who are nature haters city-minded folk, look at getting out of town for the day or weekend. Pittsburgh is just over an hour away, and Baltimore and Washington are around four hours. With the beginning of Megabus service to Morgantown, rides to Pittsburgh or D.C.  start at just $1, provided you book early enough. And, often-overlooked Amtrak provides service at Pittsburgh and Connellsville, Pa. A round trip Amtrak ride to Chicago can be as low as just over $100, and since the train runs overnight both directions, that can save on the cost of lodging.

But regardless of the travel choice one makes, the goal still remains: relax and get out of town!

View Get Out of Town Morgantown! in a full screen map

Lounging It Up

In the rare instance that graduate students have some free time (and I do mean rare), where do you spend it? Well, that depends on what your definition of free time means. By free time, do you mean time that doesn’t involve sitting in a classroom (but you’re probably still doing some research)? Or does your definition of free time mean when you’re actually not working at all? Sorry, but if you’re a grad student, that second option doesn’t exist.

Here’s a list of some of the best spots (chosen by fellow grad students) to get a little work done, but also get some relaxation in. In no particular order:

1. Side Pocket Pub

We journalism grad students have made Side Pocket a weekly tradition. If you need something quick and quiet and RIGHT on campus, look no further. With cheap food prices and a “secret” location (ahem, Mountainlair basement), it’s hard to pass up this gem.

Black Bear Burritos

2. Black Bear Burritos

A staple in Morgantown, this restaurant serves up fantastic dishes all while in a cozy atmosphere. What could be better than a burrito in one hand while finishing up that research paper on the ol’ MacBook? I can think of a few things … but this is pretty close.

3. Jay’s Getaway

First-year journalism graduate student Evan Moore already knows where he’s writing most of his thesis: Jay’s Getaway, his favorite local bar. This tiny bar has tons of craft beer and a relaxed environment that is great for unwinding.

4. X-hale Hookah Lounge

I can’t personally vouch for this one because I’ve never been there, but second-year journalism graduate student Katie Patton says it’s a great place to relax and clear your head. “I love it there!” she said. Located on Walnut Street, this hookah bar is close to campus and is the only one in town.

Blue Moose Cafe

5. Blue Moose

Also serving coffee, as well as yummy food, Blue Moose is a good option if you want to get away from campus a little bit but still not have to trek too far. With a calm environment, this cafe can keep you stocked on coffee until you finish that paper or blogpost…

6. Panera

I always think of Panera as like a breeding ground for gainfully employed, upward-bound yuppies who need to get some work again. Yuppie, I am. What beats getting half a salad, half a sandwich, free drink refills and wifi? Not much to this grad student.

7. Starbucks

Ditto to what I said above, but subtract yummy food and add coffee.

8. Jay’s Daily Grind

If coffee is your thing, I’ve heard this is one of the best in town. But quite frankly, I love going to the counter, ordering a fresh sandwich any way I want it and observing the busy Willey Street.

9. Evansdale Library

WVU alum Jared Crawford (and iPhone application iWVU creator) said his zen place was the Evansdale Library. “The Evansdale library is much more peaceful than the Downtown library. Study rooms in Basement and on 2nd floor are usually free,” he said.

Zen Clay

10. Zen Clay

Is it an art gallery? Is it a cafe? It’s both! And more. But you can get some nice vegetarian options here, all while claiming a table to yourself in order to crank out that thesis. If you need some inspiration, the place is decked out with fantastic artwork, too.

Where do you prefer to go for your home away from home? Anything else you can think of to add to the list – let us know in the comments or vote in the poll!

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Downtime in grad school? Is there such a thing? I would argue that I spend a good bit of my downtime complaining about grad school, but I’m sure that’s not true for everyone. The majority of graduate assistants at WVU work around 20 hours a week, while taking a minimum of 6 credit hours to obtain full-time status (a requirement for GA positions). Pile on the average weekly workload of homework and you’re left with downtime.

I live alone, and happen to know a couple other contributers to this blog do as well (Candace and Matt). I enjoy living by myself and consider the extra money I spend on rent as a monthly payment towards my sanity. I like having my own space and personal freedoms that I didn’t have sharing a dorm room with two other girls in undergrad. Just last month, PBS discussed the fact that more and more people are living alone, and those that do are more likely to spend time with friends, go to events, and even volunteer.  That being said, I don’t have anyone to share responsiblities with. Like taking my dog for a walk during the middle of a 10 hour day, for example.

While being a dog-owner and living alone can sometimes be a burden, a pet can also provide companionship in ways that a roomate can’t. I have been a pet-owner for a couple of years now, since I adopted my dog Ruby from my local shelter. She is hyperactive and needy at times, but often drags me out of the house for much needed fresh air. I was surprised at the amount of people I’ve met at my local dog park. People are often friendly and outgoing, and always eager to talk about their (and your) dog. I consider it a good excuse to get out of your house and meet some new people with like-minds. If you go often enough, you’ll eventually be known as a “regular”.

Trying to fit going home to let the dog out into my daily sporatic schedule is difficult, but I’m lucky enough to have a friend across the hall who also happens to have a dog. Her and I are on separate work schedules and share the responsiblitlites of dog walking. If you are thinking of adopting a dog, I would recommend finding someone you trust to see if they are willing to help you out every now and then. From what I understand, cats are less of a responsibility so if you are looking for the companionship with a little less work, cats might be the right route for you.

Do you live alone? If so, what would you consider the pros and cons?

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