Saturday, June 25, 2016

Day 25: Research Interviews

To be a research assistant was never on my to-do list nor did I know that being a research assistant was a thing until I had received an email from my psychology adviser that there was positions open. My initial reason to become a research assistant was to step out of my comfort zone. I knew I wanted college to be different than how I spent my years in high school and I wanted to make sure that in college I was getting the best experience possible as an undergraduate. So when I sat down with the application open to apply for my first research assistant position, I had no idea what I was getting myself into and yeah I was stressing out as I would normally but from the back of my mind I knew if I did not follow through this opportunity I was going to be regretting and wondering what would of happened if I only submitted my application. I also never thought about how I would feel if my application got rejected so I came in with such high hopes for a new beginning. A few days passed since I had submitted my application and one of the graduate students emails me back an email introducing himself to me and how my application stood out especially for that fact that I was a freshman without even stepping into college yet. A part of myself was making sure that this was actually happening and the other half was kind of anxious and curious about what would happen next. Within the first few weeks that classes has started I scheduled my interview appointment to go meet up with the person who had given me feedback on my application. Which to this day I still find weird that I had the ability to schedule when I wanted my interview and at what time...

The psychology research labs at my university are located in the basement of the psychology building and walking downstairs for the first time to the basement was pretty creepy and unexpected. You have to open a door to get access to the stairs and even then the stairs were dimly lit, one wrong step and who knows where would I end up. There are still times where I will miss a step and nearly fall down those stairs, so knock on wood that my day does not come. In the basement of the psychology building though the lights were bright and if anything all you can hear is the hum of the furnace. The rooms down in the basement for the majority time are closed and are only open if someone were running labs or waiting for their participant to come participate in their study. Well I sat down outside of the room where my interview was going to be held at and I kind of just stalled. I knew that I was early and I felt like my anxiety was kicking in because my thoughts would be on loop. "Ok... in ten minutes I will get up and knock on the door" "Alright in five minutes..." "In a minute..." until I had to actually knock on the door, I would just think about at what time I would knock on the door. With enough time to be considered early and on time, I gave a loud knock. 

The interview process was oddly really casual. There was even laughing and side stories included like how statistics just gets more and more alphabet as the content advances. I sat down in the adjacent seat by him and we just spoke. The only technical thing that I was asked to do is to get certified as a research assistant by doing the online trainings that were found on the university's website and on the National Institute of Health website. I was expecting like a proper eye to eye, seat table seat, interview. I remember what I had worn that day, I had ironed my sleeveless white shirt with crosses and had on tight khaki jeans. And as usual with my potato sack Toms to complete the outfit. I do not remember if I had a resume on me at the time because I had just gotten out of high school so I did not know how to make a college resume if I did not have any experience to write about. Even with that, I was given the position. Except what I have come to realize that so far all of the research assistant positions that I have applied and been interviewed for, I was never told a direct answer that I was accepted as their research assistant. I had to assume that I was accepted when my interviewers started talking about how they should contact me and when they would ask about my schedule details. 

On my second interview, the interview went even more casually because I had already known my interviewer since she was the teacher (or is it teaching?) assistant to my former Statistics class and she would teach our class on Fridays in the afternoon. In the first weeks that I have started college, I was concerned about my future and I already know what you are going to tell me that I am still too young to be concern about my future but that is what anxiety does to you. Makes you worry more than you should and the only way I was going to stop worrying is if I handled my concern. I did not know my Statistics TA that well but my first impression of her was that she was funny, awkward, and friendly. I knew that that was enough for me to put my trust in her that she would help me out with my situation. I wrote a thorough email explaining about graduate school and research. Soon throughout the week that I had emailed her, she replied back with such warm words. For someone who did not know me she sure accepted me pretty quick and offered her assistance to me. Half through my first semester of college, she emails our class about how she was looking for research assistants to come help her out in her research lab. I remember her mentioning in an email or in person that she was waiting for a response for me since I have been interested in doing research. Well on the day of my interview I sit down and we talk like it was just another day. And again she starts asking for my schedule without even telling me directly that I was accepted as her new research assistant. I am starting to wonder if this is a trend that happens to interviewers and their interviewees. 

My most recent interview was before I left home for the summer, I had decided to do apply for another position only this time I was not alone. During my tutoring session for Research Methods my Supplemental Instructor mentioned to my lab mate and I that there was an opportunity for us. The opportunity he has been talking with us for a while and it was that we had the chance to create our own study. Maybe we won't run the study but we would be able to learn the process in making a study and what it takes to get one starting. Since both my lab mate and I were first year college students he saw a lot of potential which was really sweet of him to mention when he had given us both good words of acknowledgement to the professor that he was doing research under. On the last week of school I meet up with another graduate student and although I did not know my interviewer personally, I did hear about her and from what I have heard she seems like a good person to get along with. In which she was because the interview went so smoothly, it did not like feel like an interview like my previous interviews. 

Reflecting over my research interviews and how much I have gone through as the lost college student to the less lost college student, I feel super grateful for taking the chances when I could. I had stepped out of my comfort zone and I carried my anxiety on my shoulder to all of my interviews. Even though I was nervous, I put on a smile and went in with a positive outlook. If you get the interviewer to laugh with you, then you should be golden which has been my goal in all of the interviews that I have had this year. Sometimes we forget that our interviewers are just like us, with experience and a upper hand, but they are people too. I know that I have so much to learn but at least I feel comfortable knowing that I have wonderful mentors to guide and support me along the way. I am so excited about what happens next in my research labs!

Update: I am no longer a research assistant for my first interviewer but I am still continuing with my second and third research positions. I have also found a passion for research so in the end I feel like I came out like a winner and soon a paid winner. 

In what field would you like to do research in?

xx Chavelita

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