Graduate Ambassador at Cornell University
Hometown: Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Graduate Program: Human Development, Ph.D.
Anticipated Graduation Date: 2022
Institution: Heidelberg University
I'm a first-generation female graduate student from a small, rural town in Germany. I hold three degrees in Psychology and am currently working toward my Ph.D. in Human Development (Developmental Psychology). I would be happy to talk to you about what it means to be a low-income/ first-generation scholar, an international student, a woman in science, or living with chronic disease.
I chose Cornell over other schools because the community in my department (Human Development) as well as other relevant departments here (i.e., Psychology) is friendly and welcoming rather than competitive. I also love that Cornell's graduate school and Cornell University offer a lot of career development opportunities and great resources to improve my graduate school experience and career trajectory. This includes programs like "Engaged Cornell", the "Colman Leadership Program", the Bronfenbrenner community engagement/ research skills workshops, "Future Faculty" programs/ workshops, the graduate teaching workshops and teaching fellowship program, and other opportunities. Finally, I was surprised by how much I love Ithaca - the area is beautiful, Ithaca is quaint and quirky, and there is more to do here than I have time for (e.g., Ithaca hosts a lot of festivals throughout the year, etc.).
My research interests span risk perception, decision making, lifespan development, and health. For example, I have am doing research on age differences in information seeking, information avoidance, and information construal relevant to making health-related decisions.
I first came to Cornell as a visiting graduate student in 2015/2016 and chose to return to Cornell in 2017 to pursue a Ph.D. Although I initially had a different graduate school in mind for my Ph.D., I chose to return to Cornell because the community among the graduate students was the best I had experienced, the research fit was great here, and I just feel at home in Ithaca and at Cornell. I will be honest: When I first moved to Ithaca in 2015, I did not expect to love Ithaca as much as I do, and I was worried about the harsh winters. However, I really fell in love with the area and enjoy all of the seasons here! I was actively jealous of my Cornell friends when I left in 2016, and excited to come back in 2017.
The most important thing to consider is your advisor - you need to find somebody whose interests you share and who will be enjoyable to work with for at least 5 years of your life. Try and find out if the advisor's current or past students are happy, whether they published with the advisor (and whether those publications were first-author publications), if they ended up where they wanted to go, and if they continue to work with the advisor after they graduate. I would also recommend only considering schools where there is more than one person you can see yourself working with (in case your advisor moves, goes on sabbatical, or things did not work out). I switched advisors after my first year and am very grateful I had somebody else in my department whose interests were a close match to mine! The other very important thing to consider is your well-being. Don't move to an area you hate or to a program where the students are unhappy or the community is competitive and toxic. Graduate school is hard even under the very best circumstances. Don't make it harder on yourself by going somewhere that you are not looking forward to. I have the great luck of attending the same university as my partner, which proved invaluable to my well-being.