It’s been almost a month since the beginning of my graduate program. Time seems to have become part of a science fiction movie. When I look back over the month, I remember specific details that felt as if they were in slow motion. Orientation inched by, as I focused intently on remembering every specific detail about expectations, class schedules, and the new faces that became familiar after multiple rounds of introductions. Now, here I am in week three of classes with my first paper due Thursday, and a project due Monday. It seems almost impossible to keep up with the seconds, minutes, and hours ticking by.
If I could go back in time and tell myself to pause, evaluate, and breathe, I would. Since time travel seems a bit out of reach, for now, here are my tips for surviving the first weeks of graduate school:
1. It’s okay to slow down
For the past two years, I had been working as a professional in a Student Affairs job I had mastered. It was comforting knowing that I could be set free in my office to complete projects as I saw fit with my intuition as my guide. In my assistantship, this would be impossible.
Working in Student Conduct as a first year grad intern, I spent most of my time throughout my first couple of weeks reading and reviewing manuals, codes, and talking out our process with colleagues. I am used to going, going, going. It felt like someone had played a joke by saying, “Ready, Set, Slow!” This adjustment was hard. Learning that I needed to trust the pace of training, take a step back, and be okay with not being able to help during one of the busiest times of year was a test to my go-getter attitude.
Now, I’m grateful my assistantship is investing time into fully training me. I feel prepared and better in tune with the goals of my team. Without those couple of weeks of taking the time to review and read, read, read, I would not have grasped the overall picture of my office and my role that is so necessary to aid the student body.
2. Friendships are made during tornado warnings
Never have I seen my cohort’s group message as active as when Ohio faced a tornado warning. What began as a scary moment of dark skies turned into three hours of bonding. We gathered in groups to weather the storm (literally). My apartment turned into a simultaneous board game, weather-channel watching, life-chatting hot spot. I still find myself comparing my time in DC or California to my time in small-town Ohio with a sense of nostalgia. But I’m recognizing more and more that a small town with not much to do means that friendships and the quality of conversations will be much greater.
3. Two years will go by quickly, whether you’re paying attention or not
Feeling overwhelmed just by three weeks of classes makes me recognize that time will only keep speeding up as my two years go on. As my coursework increases its density and page lengths, so does my dedication to saving those spots on my calendar for working out, catching up with friends, attending school events, and exploring my new home. Finding that balance between cultivating relationships and ensuring I put the work in to graduate is tricky. The degree is important, but I’m determined to have more to show for my time in grad school than a piece of paper. I’d rather have folks along for the ride than moving so fast, I leave everyone behind.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Aracelis, Emalie, Felicia, and Patrick, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.