What I’ve learned from my first year of grad school

Well, it’s been more than 11 months since I began studying a Masters of Health Services Research at the Institute for Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation at the University of Toronto. I realize this statement may be a surprise to some of you, as I’ve not mentioned my studies in any previous blog posts. I’ve been studying part-time while continuing to work full-time at ELLICSR, which explains the severe lack of new posts over the past year. I’m of the belief that when a blog falls silent for some time, it’s not for lack of things to say but rather a lack of time in which to say them. That’s been my case.

This past academic year has been full of self-development and learning, and I didn’t really notice the changes as they were happening. It’s only in reflecting on where I was last year at this time compared to where I am now that I start to see how much I’ve grown.

And although I’ve learned new facts, techniques, and skills through the 3 courses I’ve completed so far, the majority of my learning has been about myself. Given my last three posts, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that this year was full of that.

  1. I’ve got the chops for academic writing. Before starting with this program, I had had some experience researching and writing for academic publications, but the majority of my experience had been in writing blogs or articles in plain language for the general public. All of my courses required an academic essay of sorts, and, when all was said and done, I feel really proud of the work I submitted. One of those assignments is currently being prepped for publication, and a second assignment is on my To Do list.
  2. There’s a reason why I gravitated toward Medical Anthropology instead of Biomedicine. The real eye-opener of the year was my Introduction to Qualitative Methods course. We started off the course with an orientation to ontology and epistemology, and the instructors urged us to think about where our beliefs about the nature of reality lie. It’s no big surprise to discover that I’m much more a constructivist than a positivist, but this realization felt a lot like having a breakthrough in assembling a puzzle. So much of my picture made sense afterward. No wonder I preferred Medical Anthropology to Biomedicine, even though many of the courses were the same. No wonder reading research about validated surveys bored me, while learning how some very specific group of people pass on property had me gripped.
  3. I enjoy research. A lot.
    Before taking the Intro to Qualitative Methods course, I wasn’t convinced I would feel passionate about research. Now that I have a better understanding of qualitative research methods – in the most basic terms, research that is based on observing and talking to people rather than research based on numbers and surveys – I can see research being an integral, but extremely enjoyable, part of my future. Research is a puzzle. Research is art mixed with science. And that makes it really exciting.

In a few weeks I’ll be starting my second year of grad school. I wonder what I’ll learn?

One response to “What I’ve learned from my first year of grad school”

  1. Beautiful reflection on your year of learning, Alaina. I’m especially bewitched by this statement, “Research is art mixed with science.” That is exciting indeed!! Nice to hear such confidence in your written voice about your skills and chosen path – inspiring to the rest of us to ‘get some of that’ by reflecting on our own year, thanks 🙂

    All my best to you over the holidays too, I hope to re-connect with you soon!

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