Friday, August 17, 2018

 Summer Things to do in Pittsburgh:

Looking for fun things to do in Pittsburgh in the warm summer months? We have a list for you of what our students have been up in between their clinical rotations!

  • Legos. Looking for an indoor activity? Ever wonder how many legos it takes to recreate Degas’ Little Dancer? Try the Lego exhibit: Get your block on! The Lego exhibit in Pittsburgh. Held in the Carnegie Science Center: The Art of the Brick is the largest exhibit of lego art. And after, you can enjoy the rest of the Science center

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  • Views! While not specific to summer, you can take a ride to the 36th floor of the Cathedral of Learning. On a clear day, you can see up to 50 miles!

  • Yoga. Looking to relax? Go to yoga in the park! There are free yoga sessions Saturday mornings at Schenley Plaza. They’re led by yoga instructors from around the city. It’s a great way to start the morning!

  • Ice cream. Looking for a way to cool down this summer? Ice cream is always a delicious summer treat and Pittsburgh has several shops that are a real hit. Millie’s in Shadyside and Dave and Andy’s in Oakland or really lean into the Pittsburgh food scene by stopping by Ritas (custard and Italian ice)! 

  • Outdoor adventures. Kayaking at the north shore/the point. Are you looking for an adventure? Maybe kayaking will be your thing. 

  • Kennywood! Are you looking for roller coasters nearby? Did you know there was an amusement park in Pittsburgh?

  • Hershey Park. Have you NOT had enough amusement park fun? Are you willing to go for a bit of a drive? Would you love to load up on chocolate while riding roller coasters? Might we recommend Hershey Park?

  •  Love a good movie? Multiple parks in Pittsburgh offer an outdoor summer movie experience ranging from classic movies to newer releases. Once the sun goes down the movies in the park can start with Cinema in the Park:

Selective Focus Photography of Flavored Food 

  • Need a walk to work off all the festival foods? Maybe you can head to Fallingwater, just outside of Pittsburgh there is a Frank Lyod Wright house seated on beautifully conserved land. You can find out about one of Pittsburgh’s famous families and see their home away from home. 
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Friday, August 3, 2018

Summer Series: Back to school...Again Part 6

This summer the University of Pittsburgh Genetic Counseling Program introduced a summer blog series focusing on students who made the choice to come back to school after taking time off between their undergraduate or other graduate work prior to applying to the genetic counseling program. These students worked in a variety of jobs and each has brought a different perspective about coming back to school.

In our final blog of our summer series “Back to school…Again” we answer one final question:
What advice do you have for anyone who is considering going back to school? 

I would suggest having a very clear picture in your mind of what your ideal profession and lifestyle would be.  Make that ideal place your goal in your mind and work backwards from there. What do you need to make it a reality?  Another way to think about it would be to imagine yourself in your ideal position, looking back at yourself now.  Do you think you would be happy with the decisions you made along the way?  This always helps me when I have to make big decisions.
-- Sarah Brunker

Having held three very different jobs after college, I definitely am an advocate for taking some time off from school to explore your interests. It can be helpful to take a few steps in the wrong direction to confirm that it is not the right fit for you. However, I also think that at a certain point, you are “ready enough.” Brace yourself for some bumps in the first few months, and, invest in a good planner.-- Caitlin Russell

School supplies

Be confident in whatever you decide.  I was so sure there was one right answer when I was in undergrad.  I started teaching to give myself more time to find the perfect solution. But life happened and I realized that there are so many different paths to success and happiness.  You have to be sure you can see your life being truly fulfilled because of this next step.  I would also encourage you to be honest about what you don’t know.  Ask questions about program structure or things you think you should have “picked up already.”  Starting this process by being honest about gaps in knowledge will ensure you get all your questions answered and a great exercise in problem solving that you’ll be sure to draw on in grad school, no matter what program you decide!  --Kelsey Bohnert

A library might be the perfect place to do your school research!
Although it sounds simple, don’t forget to determine your own needs and wants in a graduate program. Genetic counseling programs share many similarities but they also have unique experiences to offer their students. It’s important to think about what you want out of your training and the things that are most important to you. This might be things like location, cost, clinical experiences, or program structure. Be sure to take the time to research the program and see how it compares to your wish list. --Alyssa Azevedo

Get Ready for Study Parties! 

It is really hard to say good-bye to a job, and a salary, and the ability to fly to Norway for a week just for fun. I had to uproot my life, and to move to take on graduate school.  My husband and I knew it was very likely that we would be changing cities (he would be changing jobs) so that's not a small thing, but I think the best advice is that there are always reasons to not do things, but there will never be a perfect time so embrace that this might be the right time. Also, invest in a nice backpack...computers are really heavy. 
– Natasha Robin Berman

If you have a break between graduating from a four-year program, and starting this one, take a class or two. It can never hurt, and will get you back into the swing of lectures and studying. Sitting in class all day, actively listening, is not passive; if you engage in a lecture (which I recommend), it is active: a conversation between you and the instructor. I underestimated the energy it takes to sustain that internal dialogue, so if you are in class all day and A.) feel totally exhausted, or B.) feel like you didn’t get much accomplished, remind yourself that good listening is hard work!-- Charlotte Skinner

Friday, July 20, 2018

Back to School...Again Part 5

We continue our summer series with our fifth installment. 
In the penultimate part of our series ”Going Back to School”… students continue to answer questions about what it is like to leave the working world to enter graduate school. We hope our experiences have helped others feel more confident about the prospect of going back to school. This weeks’ blog post asks: 
What recommendations do you have for surviving grad school?

I think the most important part is to know yourself and set yourself up for success.  Maybe take a class at night or online to practice being a student again.  Definitely know your study habits and find a steady spot (or two) ahead of time to get your work done.  A nice desk setup, coffee shop, or library spot is critically important.  Know what you need to succeed, be it a coffee maker, a nice pair of headphones, or a study buddy.  A set schedule or a gym membership may also come in super handy. – Sarah Brunker

Be patient with yourself. Appreciate that you are a different person than you were in undergrad and in any past work positions. This is a new experience with different constraints and goals. I initially tried to fall back on my old strategies for both studying and stress relief and realized that many were no longer a good fit. On the practical side, it is not a bad idea to take an in-person course over the summer before going back in order to get a refresher on how to take notes and manage assignments.-- Caitlin Russell

A sense of humor and humility are key here.  Being able to understand what you don’t understand and then reach out to the appropriate channels is just a grad school requirement.  The faster you can accept that this is a new day and a new challenge, the faster you’ll be able to embrace the process.  Keeping perspective has also really helped to alleviate some of the stress as well.  Unlike undergrad, I am more motivated by knowledge than points this time around. This has really given me the freedom to look further into topics presented in class and forgive myself for test scores that were a little disappointing.  In the end, grad school is about preparing you for your career, so being able to appreciate all the learning opportunities will make you a better professional. -- Kelsey Bohnert

Remind yourself that going back to school isn’t easy. It takes time to transition back and adjust to academic challenges such as sitting in lectures each day, studying, and taking exams. It’s important to be patient and reward yourself for your achievements (no matter how small).– Alyssa Azevedo

This is a really good time to readjust and try to integrate good practice into your everyday life, for me it is doing things like yoga or other important self-care - by making myself a priority now I know I’m creating good habits that I can use when I’m in the ‘real world’. I also think it is important to remember that while it is easy to get swept up in the small stuff, the larger picture is that I’ll get to be a genetic counselor at the end of this, and trying to get everything out of my time in school so I’m the most prepared I can be is the more important thing. I think really trying to challenge yourself in the safe space that is school and your training is really helpful, it is hard but at the end you’ll know you really gave it everything and with grad school (like so many things in life) you get out of it what you put in. 
– Natasha Robin Berman

Buy a giant desk calendar. In a rather frantic trip to Staples one night, after fumbling through my first couple of weeks, I found myself in line with a gigantic desk calendar. It proved pivotal in improving my time-management skills the first semester. Having the month out in front of me was instantly relieving. In a glance, I could budget my time week to week, knowing when I needed to buckle down, and when I could afford a day for self-care. Now, filling it out it is a monthly ritual. Secondly, carve out enough time for some exercise (even just a walk!), healthy food, and sleep- no matter how hard it may get (you’re not you when you’re hungry, or sleepy, right!?). Lastly, be kind, be curious, be bold, and be courteous. -- Charlotte Skinner

Friday, July 6, 2018

Summer Series: Back to School...Again Part 4

Today’s blog is a continuation of our summer series about going back to school. We have been asking some of our students who took time off before coming back to school a variety of questions about how they decided to come back and what it has been like. This week we’re asking one of the most important questions:
Would you do it again?

If I could do it all over again the only thing I would change would be that I would have started the process of going back sooner! – Sarah Brunker

100% - I have no regrets about any of the decisions I made that led me here. I really enjoy all that we are learning and cannot wait to envelop myself in it as a career. But, it required a lot of sacrifices and leaving a life that I felt I was finally settling into. While it was certainly a scary leap to make, I’m glad I did. --Caitlin Russell

Without a doubt.  I miss my old position, but I am certain this is the right choice for me.  I’m glad I took the time to try on a few hats before I settled on this path.  It has not only given me confidence in my pursuit of a Masters in Genetic Counseling, but it has also brought a unique perspectives to my studies. -- Kelsey Bohnert

Yes! I love being in the classroom again and working in a collaborative learning environment. Although leaving a steady job (and income) is terrifying, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m proud of myself for taking such a huge step and investing in myself and future! – Alyssa Azevedo

110% yes, I wouldn’t do it any other way! I think my coming back to school has helped me have perspective I otherwise wouldn’t have, and I hope it has been a useful perspective for my classmates. I’ve really enjoyed going back to school, and I’m even more excited to be starting in a field that I know I’ll love to work in. I know that this is a sacrifice in many ways, but one that I know I will always be happy I made. When one considers that if you work a normal 40-hour week you probably spend more awake time at your job than you will with your family, it should probably be something that you feel good about. – Natasha Robin Berman


Yes, I certainly would. I have been pressed, and sometimes super stressed, but I feel so confident entering the clinic now. This program is tough; some weeks, it can feel like a marathon. But when you finally look up, seeing how much you have learned and grown gives a sense of confidence like nothing else I have accomplished. – Charlotte Skinner

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Back to School…Again,  Part 3:

This summer we are sharing a series on our blog – we have asked the students who took some time off between undergraduate and graduate school to answer some questions about what this process was like for them.  In the third installment of “Back to school…Again” students answer the question: How has it felt to be a student again?

Being a student again has definitely made me more empathetic to my previous students!  I think the hardest part has been having to sit still for hours at a time, where I used to be up and about teaching for hours at a time.  I think (and hope!) that I’m doing a better job of being a student this time around.  I am much less shy, which has allowed me to engage more with the professors and get more out of the lectures and office hours than I did my first time around. 
– Sarah Brunker

It’s been both more humbling and more rewarding than I had anticipated. This program is such an immersive experience, and it has taken a lot of reflection to find the right balance. In fact, this is definitely still an ongoing challenge. My time out of school and my professional goals have shaped my perspective such that my coursework feels compelling in a way that my undergraduate career rarely did, as wonderful as it was. I’m learning how to manage feeling pulled in so many directions though, which seems to me like a generally good problem to have. – Caitlin Russell 

My students had a good laugh when I told them I’d be in their seats next year, and if I’m being honest, I’ve laughed at myself a few times since then too.  There have been some rookie mistakes—like choosing the freshman move in day to get my student ID—that have reminded me you will never truly be a professional student.  I think you expect to be better at it the second (or third) time around, but it’s important to remember to have a sense of humor and perspective about your return.  Because we’re human, there will be those times when you have to grab Dunkin for the third time that week because you keep forgetting your lunch or are really struggling to grasp a concept you know will be the main focus of the next exam.  On those days, it’s helpful to remember why you wanted to return and have some humility.  For me, empowering people in their healthcare decisions and having the constant opportunity for new knowledge were two of key reasons I applied.  I was able to remind myself that my struggle would be for my future patients and even the way we navigate our graduate school experience will inform our future practice. For the first month I had the urge to remind myself and others that I wasn’t “starting over.”  It was hard to feel like I hadn’t just walked away from a career and a salary to take on more student loans and be the newbie again.  It takes humility to be honest about the fact that in your previous life you may have been proficient in some things and in this new endeavor you are at the same level as everyone else who is starting the year with you.   Over the last year, I’ve been able to really embrace this semi-new beginning and soak in all that I can from my classmates and professors.  I have really enjoyed the opportunity to analyze and discuss topics I feel so passionately about. – Kelsey Bohnert 

It’s been a challenging and rewarding experience. I feel more immersed in school than I ever did as an undergraduate and I know the effort I’m putting into school will only benefit my professional growth and development. With that being said, it’s also important to find a balance, which I think is something the majority of grad students struggle with finding. I try to reward myself with a night off or something as simple as an early bedtime! – Alyssa Azevedo 

It has definitely been a change from having a 9-5 type job, because as a student you really always have something you should be or can be working on, so learning how to build time into your schedule for yourself can be hard (especially if you have a type A personality). I love to learn, so being a student again really agrees with me. In many ways it has been quite the change, because a full-time student schedule where I’m in class all day is pretty different, but my dog appears to be adjusting to my new schedule. – Natasha Robin Berman

It has been a stimulating and overwhelming experience. Entering the program, I hadn’t been a student for almost seven years- needless to say, I was a little rusty on note-taking and studying. It was an adjustment, but I started to treat it like any other job I’ve had, putting in the time and effort of 40+ hours a week, and it has paid off. Graduate school gives back what you put in, and I feel very strongly that I have gotten as much as I have given. I am a glutton for knowledge, so once I adjusted to school, I have been elated to be back in the classroom, soaking up the wisdom the amazing faculty at Pitt have to offer. – Charlotte Skinner