Graduate school is not what you think. It probably won’t match your expectations. There’s really nothing that prepares you for this experience.
I graduated from an incredible undergrad experience with enough energy to take on the world. I thought graduate school was a good next step. It would delay me facing the realities of adulthood for one more year. I could enjoy the fun of college for two more years. “Why not grad school? It can’t be that different from undergrad.”
Or so I thought…
I moved from a small rural area where I went to undergrad to the big city of Columbus, Ohio to go to The Ohio State University. I thought it would be refreshing to start college again with new faces on an exciting campus. My excitement quickly turned to nerves.
Orientation was not fun and my first week of classes was terrible. I didn’t make any new friends within my program, I was a minority when it came to my beliefs, and I now lived many miles from my old friends.
The first semester continued to be a challenge. I dropped a class because I was struggling in all my classes and I just couldn’t do it. I seriously considered, I mean even filled out paperwork for, two alternatives 1)Drop out and 2)Change programs.
All throughout the first year, I hated everything about graduate school. I was miserable. My classes seemed irrelevant. Grad school was full of nerdy academics that just read books and published research and didn’t actually accomplish much. I didn’t want any part of that.
Towards the end of my first year, I landed a research fellowship with an organization that I love. This gave me a way of relating my coursework to the real world. It helped my perspective slightly, but I still was disappointed in graduate school.
Am I really learning anything or just getting by for the fancy letters after my name? Would it be stupid to quit halfway through? Does God really want me here if I’m so unhappy?
Year 2 was not much of an improvement, and yet here I am in my last semester of graduate school. I persevered through it. With the end in sight, I’ve been reflecting on this degree and if it was worth all the struggle. Lately in my classes, I’m starting to see some overlap of concepts and I realize I must’ve learned something. Things are beginning to make sense and I’m starting to understand some reasons why we’ve been studying the things we’ve been studying.
I started my capstone project and am finishing up my research fellowship. I am finally feeling like I may have gotten more out of school than just a degree.
I am glad that I will have a Master’s Degree in the field that I have chosen. Even though it wasn’t what I thought. It was a long, painful, and lonely road. While working on this degree the past two years, I have learned more about life, love, and who I am and want to become. It’s all starting to click.
I learned these 5 important things:
- You are not that important. – In undergrad, my professors were my family and they cared about the success of their students. Graduate school professors don’t usually have meaningful connections with students. Be Humble.
- Life is Hard. – This might sound cliche, but things were easier in undergrad and I wasn’t prepared for the difficulty of graduate school level work.
- Adult relationships take effort. – I always made friends easily before. I had some of the greatest friendships, but when you move to an unfamiliar city its hard to form new meaningful relationships and keep connected with old ones.
- People are unique. – Of course I knew this before going to graduate school, but it never personally impacted me before. I was now at a place where I was a minority in my beliefs and values.
- I need Jesus. – Growing up a Christian, I knew this too. But I felt that most of the time I could handle the little challenges in life. However, graduate school was a Goliath sized challenge and there is no way I would’ve gotten this far without Jesus by my side. I also know that I will always need Him through all of life’s challenges. In a strange way, graduate school helped me strengthen my faith.