By Christina Barnes

Hi there! My name is Christina Barnes and I am a Graduate Student Ambassador! Here at the University of Arkansas, I am in the Experimental Psychology Ph.D. program focusing on cognition and development of young children.

I’m originally from Fairfax County, Virginia just outside of Washington, DC. I went to college at Christopher Newport University (Go Captains!) in Newport News, VA where I studied Psychology, Biology, and Spanish. I was also an involved member of the Study Abroad Office and a proud member of the color guard with the CNU Marching Captains. If you can’t already tell, I absolutely loved my undergraduate university and as a result I feel like I made the most of my time and really defined my significance.

So when I decided to go to grad school, I knew I wanted to find the best place to continue my education as well as make a contribution to the university and society.

Teaching Assistant Orientation

From Virginia to Arkansas!

At this point, you may be wondering, how did a long-time Virginia native make her way to Arkansas?

At first, the University of Arkansas was not really on my radar but my undergraduate mentor actually earned her Ph.D here and thought it would be in my best interest to at least put in an application. I wholeheartedly respect this individual and her values and believe she is a great person to emulate – so I figured it couldn’t hurt to follow in her footsteps. I applied to other schools of course, but to my surprise, there weren’t many that felt as welcoming and inclusive as the U of A. The variety of courses offered, the potential challenge and the well-rounded experience I desired were all factors that drew me in and after meeting my advisor, I was sold. Big Time! Of course, I had to be if I was going to move over 1,000 miles away from my home and my family.

Although I have only lived in Arkansas for a few short months I’ve had guides and student mentors who have been kind enough to show me the ropes. With them so far I’ve been to countless local haunts and have been given recommendations for countless others, either mainstream hits or hidden gems. Everything else I take on with an open mind and a desire to experience as much as possible! Even more so than the locations though I think I find life in the people here. Even a bad place with good company is still an experience worth having and after meeting some people over the last few weeks, I’ve definitely decided that finding life in Fayetteville is easy.

What’s It Like to Study Experimental Psychology at the University of Arkansas?

I love being a grad student in my program because of the close relationship we have with our faculty. Each instructor is incredibly approachable and I know if I ever needed help or guidance I would be met with warm reception. The same could be said for my fellow graduate students. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company and support each other academically and personally. The environment in the department is never competitive and, as a result, I am learning from each one of these people every day though observation, demonstration, and collaboration.

A typical day for me is a mix of class, meetings, and office hours. I am usually on campus for at least 7 consecutive hours before I am able to head home. Grad classes in the Psych department can be any time of day but seminars and statistics classes tend to take place in the afternoon. In addition, nearly all grad students in my program will be a Teaching Assistant (TA) for at least one class which will likely bring you to campus for student meetings or office hours. Finally, I have lab meetings or research obligations that take up a few hours of my day. Any time in between is when I work on my homework or research.

I’m sure you can tell that my life is pretty busy as a grad student and you might be wondering how I make all of this work! I try to take each task as it comes and try my best not to procrastinate. When I’m on campus, I usually do more “work” and when I’m at home I focus more on the “study” part of grad school. I think it’s important to remember, though, that your role as a student always comes first. Sometimes it feels like as a grad student you cannot say no to a task that is given to you, however, if you ever you feel overwhelmed by the work aspect, talk to your supervisor and let them know! I’ve done that before and my advisor simply adjusted our timeline so I didn’t feel so stressed. That’s the best way I’ve maintained that grad student work/life balance!

Interested in Experimental Psychology? Here’s a Few Pointers!

Don’t let the fear of failing keep you from trying! Yes, it is true that grad school is a challenge, but if you are passionate about the psychological sciences, the difficult tasks feel worth it. Each course you take, class you TA for, or participant you run will bring you closer to your end goal (whatever that may be). Even the more mundane activities are a chance for improvement! My advice is to maintain a growth mindset and keep focusing on your passion because if you keep on trying, eventually you will be successful.

I’ll be at the U of A for a few years so hopefully as time goes on I’ll have more nuggets of wisdom to share and more importantly, things that will help you love the U of A just a little bit more. Until then!!

Christina Barnes