A semester (#3) wrap-up

Jen Xu
5 min readDec 25, 2022

Well, that was one hell of a semester. Everyone who told me that your PhD just gets harder…was very right. I mean, I knew it was true, but you don’t really get it until you go through it, you know? So, it’s time to take a look at all the goals I set for myself before the semester and see how I did with them.

How am I doing on my Year 2 goals that I set during my 7-in-7? This is a presentation all the PhD students in my department do each fall to show what we’ve done and what we’re planning to do — and we have to do 7 slides in 7 minutes. Here are the 4 things my advisor & I planned:

  • Finish my reliability study, submit abstracts to NATA & ACSM: hey, I did this! I finished data collection on my first-year project/reliability study, and managed to submit my abstracts to both of these conferences. I submitted the ACSM abstract on the due date…and started it about 5 days previously, so that was a rough few days.
  • Comprehensive project: I made some progress on this! I got to take a look at the data, and then we talked about what types of things I need to research to frame the project properly. This will be on my plate in the next semester, not so much right now because of the grant, which brings me to the next point…
  • Submit a grant: I did that! It was terrifying, grueling, and really hard work, but incredibly rewarding. I found out about it on November 8, debated about doing it for 3 days, then went for it even though it was going to be due November 31, and then a week into plugging away on it, the deadline had thankfully been extended to December 31. Luckily I was able to develop my project much more & I submitted what I think was a really great project. I remember being scared of even starting the process, so it was nice that I was sort of forced into starting it even though I had no idea what I was doing.
  • Begin planning dissertation stuff: This sort of happened by submitting my grant, so we’ll see how that goes, I guess.

How am I doing on my “requirements for sanity” that I set for my semester on my own?

  • Maintain gym/water polo schedule — oop. This did not pan out. It turns out that I can’t really do both, and I am going to stop doing both now because of my concussion history. I am going to coach, though — that’s the plan. But I was spending a lot of energy forcing myself to go to the gym & I wasn’t even really enjoying it anymore. So I took basically the entire semester off, especially after I fell off my bike, because I finally realized that I was running myself ragged. I was trying to do too much & moving & thinking too quickly, and it was time to stop & prioritize. It was the right thing at the time because now I’m excited to get back into the gym!
  • Maintain my comedy appearances — I did it! I actually dedicated more time to comedy than the gym this semester, & it made me happy. And that’s the most important thing. I went every Monday (except for when I was sick), and a few other days here & there during the semester. It was good to practice thinking differently & getting up on stage, though the more I do comedy, the more nervous I get to teach, oddly enough. Maybe it’s because I always think I should be looking for laughs when that’s not really how teaching college students work, oops!
  • Write at least once a week — here & there. But I’m happy with what I wrote, because the pieces were more well-thought out & better quality, which I’d prefer over just churning things out that don’t mean much. The goal is to keep up with these to track how PhD school goes for me, so hopefully I can be more steady with it as time goes on.
  • Develop my relationships more — it’s a journey, ya know? I’m constantly working on this. Could be better, could always be worse.

How am I doing on my actual goals that I set for my semester?

  • Office hours — oops. Ok, so this did not happen. But I think I overwhelmed myself slightly with work outside of classes…but this will need to happen next spring.
  • Start planning for industry collaborations or figure out how to do it — I…don’t really know what this is or how it works or what to do, or why I even wrote it, but it didn’t really happen. So, that’s on the docket for later.
  • Increase mentorship opportunities (as a mentor) — yes! I can’t say I necessarily did anything myself, but I was assigned to work with students & that was a nice way to start.
  • Consider how I might conduct research on Asian athletic trainers — I didn’t do great with this. I also might have to put this on the back burner for awhile as I try to figure out other research stuff, which is unfortunate, but I’ll get there.
  • “Write a lot of science stuff” — this is an example of the type of advanced writing that people are looking for from me. But I actually did a good bit of this for my grant, my abstracts, and a preliminary introduction section for a project, and it felt pretty good. I got some compliments, but I also got a lot of practice with proper sentence structure & flow by working with my advisor.
  • Train my dog more — I definitely did this! I got a lot of training sessions at Petsmart for her & we’ve been working to get her to settle down & just tolerate seeing other dogs. Honestly a large part of the reason I started skipping the gym was to work with her. I’d rather put in a lot of work on the front end.
  • Participate more on/in committees — I’m happy to say that I did this too. I mean, I definitely struggled to fit it all together in my schedule, so I need to do better with that, but I’m glad I’m achieving a good bit of my goals.
  • Get better at journal clubs — um, well, I don’t know how to tell if this happened, but I’d like to think so. My second one this past semester was at least better, I was more proud of how I’d done.

This is the first time in a very long time where I feel like I actually achieved things. A lot of last year was just learning how to be a PhD student, but I felt productive & very occasionally loved running around feeling like I was a chicken with my head cut off, in a weird way. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel entirely lost sometimes, but I still feel muuuuch better than I did last year. Plus, this semester I got a learning lab lecture accepted at a state conference, reviewed a paper, and started doing data collection for a DOD-funded project which is a super cool feeling. These were all things I’ve wanted to do, & I did them!

I’m really proud of myself. And I’m really proud of being able to be proud of myself, because that’s a really, really hard thing for me to do. Up next: one more semester of classes…and I am excited to be done with them, but it’ll be my last semester of classes ever, which is horrifying! More to come on that in a separate post because I’ll have a lot of different opportunities pop up for me…



Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, PhD student, coffee lover. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.