I have come to the conclusion that interviewing for graduate programs in conservation is like a marathon: it takes commitment, discipline, and sometimes pain during the training; the actual event is exciting and nerve-racking and pushes you beyond your perceived limits; and, the finish is the most rewarding accomplishment, no matter how you compared to the other competitors. At least that was my experience with running a marathon, and interviewing both last year and this year.
Over the past 10 months, I’ve had to constantly remind myself of the lessons I learned during the 2009 Nike Womens’ Marathon (this relates to conservation, I promise):
1. The extra training will make a difference in the end. You’re tired, and super busy already, so that conference is that last thing you want to do, but the information you glean from those talks may help in solving a problem in the future, so its worth going.
2. Focus on the things you love, rather than the stress. It’s easy to be pessimistic when you feel weighed down by responsibilities, but there has to be a bright side, like taking an amazing art class or meeting people with the same interests as you.
3. Pushing yourself is great, but don’t overdo it. Do the best that you can, but work at your own pace and take breaks. Doing something non-conservation-related can actually improve who you are as a conservator and restore your energy to return to work.
I’ll have to keep reminding myself of these things as I prepare for both my interview next week and a half marathon this summer!