One year ago I was sitting on my couch, wasting some time on my computer, when I received an email telling me that I had been accepted into UIC’s Biomedical Visualization program. The past year has been pretty crazy, so when prospective students started coming through the department to interview for this coming year, I started to reflect back on how much things have changed for me. I’ve adapted to life in a new city and have just started to get the hang of this whole grad school thing, so I thought I’d share with you all a few of the things that I’ve learned after being part of the BVIS family for one whole year.
1. Take pride in your background.
Biomedical visualization is a diverse field that allows you to explore almost any topic that interests you – that’s one of the things that makes it so great. Everyone in the program has a very different educational background, but we all ended up here for a reason. Be proud of the experiences that brought you here and learn from the interests and experiences of the people around you.
2. Keep track of your time and consider this your full-time job.
Keeping track of your time can help you work effectively and efficiently.
In grad school, your time and energy are very valuable, and learning where to concentrate your efforts can go a long way. If you start tracking your time you’ll learn pretty quickly where you’re wasting your energy and how it might be better spent.
3. Figure out when and where you work best, and set up a pattern for yourself that will best facilitate your success.
This goes right along with the last point. Once you know how you should be spending your time, it can be useful figure out exactly where and when that time is best spent. Is there a specific time of the day or week when you’re most productive? Is there a location where you tend to get more work done? One of the most important things I’ve learned in the past year is that, to my horror, I’m actually a morning person. It’s not necessarily easy for me to get up in the morning, but I am much more productive. It can take me an hour to finish something in the morning that would have taken me three hours to finish at night. If I have a 9:30 AM class, I’ll wake up at 6 or 6:30 to get a few hours of productive work in. Obviously everyone isn’t quite as crazy as I am, and would never get up at 6 in the morning every day if they didn’t need to. The point isn’t necessarily to wake up early, but that understanding your work habits can be very useful.
4. Coffee is a great thing.
Before I started school here, I worked at a coffee shop for two years where I had unlimited access to as much free caffeine as I could possibly want. I drink more coffee now.
5. Start building your reference library now.
Seeing other illustrators’ work is incredibly important in this field. The more work you look at and analyze, the better your work will become. Start gathering visual references now that will be beneficial to you for your career. This means textbooks, atlases, charts, photographic references, etc.
6. Take advantage of the fact that we live in an awesome city…especially after your first semester.
First semester can be a bit rough, what with gross anatomy and everything, but don’t forget that Chicago is a great place with a lot to do. Give yourself a break once in a while and allow yourself to experience the city.
7. Don’t hide the fact that you have room to grow. Be open to learning new things.
If I look back at the work that everyone in my class did just last semester, I realize just how much we’ve all learned and improved over an incredibly short period of time. If I look at the work the second year students are doing right now, I realize how much we all still have to learn and improve. If we didn’t have room to grow, we wouldn’t be students here, so the sooner you accept that you don’t know everything yet, the better off you’ll be. There is a lot of opportunity here to learn new skills and programs, so take advantage of that while you can.
8. Everyone here wants to see you succeed.
Unlike other graduate school horror stories you may have heard, no one is here to try to weed out any of the students. Through the application and interview process, it has already been determined that you have the capabilities to succeed in this program. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.
9. Ask for group hugs.
One of the best things about this program is that you are essentially given 20 new best friends the day you walk in. This is a small profession made up of people that all have the same strange obscure interests that you do. We all came from different backgrounds, but we’re all just a little bit weird in exactly the same way. The support given to you from fellow students is some of the best support you can possibly get.
10. Get a good coat.
Winter can be a bit rough.