This post is for the first-year graduate students who are new to their programs, their institutions, their states. For the students who are first-generation, are underrepresented in the field of higher education, are in a constant battle with imposter syndrome, and are having a hard time finding the light at the end a long first semester. For the students who left home to pursue an educational degree to empower others even when it’s difficult to empower ourselves. I’m here to tell you that I’m with you – and that we are almost done.
Graduate school has challenged me thus far in ways that I wasn’t expecting. I am challenged to look at things not from the lens of a top undergraduate student leader, but from those mentoring these leaders. This transition has challenged me to adjust culturally, even more so than I did throughout my undergraduate experience. Graduate school has challenged me to engage in more self-care; and be intentional about it. I have started to say “no” and to critically reflect on what is working for me and what is not. I’m surrounded by people who I love, but still, for some reason, feel lonely. The sense of security that I had throughout my undergraduate career and at home is gone, affecting my adjustment to my new “home”.
I’m trying to grant myself grace and tell myself that my decision to leave home once again and come to a new state to pursue a master’s degree is the best move for me professionally and academically and that this is just a phase, part of the transition. This doesn’t seem to help, though.
I turn to social media to help get my mind off things. I scroll on Facebook, only to find statuses from peers that reflect similar emotions as the ones I am experiencing. Statuses reflecting feelings such as loneliness, feeling inadequate, homesick, tired, burnt out, etc. For a hot second I feel sad – sad knowing that my colleagues seem to be struggling through their programs. However, I find myself turning that sadness into a sense of empowerment and connectedness.
Connected because I know that I am not the only one having difficulty navigating through the graduate school transition.
Connected because I know am not the only one who sits as the only person of color in their classrooms.
Connected because I know that I am not the only student who feels like they have additional pressure placed on them for being the first in their family to pursue a higher education degree and making sure it is acquired successfully.
Empowered because I know that I have a network of folks surrounding me that I am able to feel vulnerable around and share my experiences through storytelling, confidently. I know that through our connectedness, we’ll finish strongly, together.
So, for all of you first-year graduate students who are struggling with the transition, haven’t found your “place” yet, left home and are feeling homesick, are constantly battling with the imposter syndrome and feel the need to over-perform in their assistantships to prove yourselves, who are underrepresented in our field, who have additional pressures to take on from home: I see you. I hear you. I’m with you.
If you haven’t yet this week, please take the time to give yourself at the very least 20 minutes to do something you ENJOY doing. Take time to call home and talk to your loved ones. Take the time to have a conversation with a cohort member about how you both have been transitioning. If it’s not a cohort member, talk to a mentor, supervisor, college friend, etc. Go eat ice cream. Whatever it is, give yourself that time you need to support yourself mentally.
The semester is coming to a close soon.
We’re almost done, folks.
Keep pushing, keep being resilient.