It’s tough to not have any expectations, but they really can get in the way.
When I started graduate school last August, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing. I felt confident in my choice of program and grad assistantship and I thought I knew what I was about to commit to for the next two years of my life.
I was wrong. And I’m so glad I was. Here’s what I didn’t expect.
I didn’t expect that I would learn more from my cohort than from our textbooks. Student Affairs is an experiential field, so sharing experiences with your cohort can be the most applicable advice you receive. It also helps to bounce ideas off of someone on your level. These people are the start of your professional network, so invest some time in getting to know them!
I didn’t expect to find (or even need) a mentor. But I met an amazing professional through my assistantship who I admired, felt that I could learn from, and who was willing to invest her time in me as a new professional. Building a relationship with her has been so rewarding (even when she gives me homework!) and I now consider having some kind of mentor relationship vital to professional development.
I didn’t expect to be faced with a job opportunity I couldn’t pass up. It required walking away from an assistantship where I felt I was truly learning and contributing. It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. At any institution, there are countless opportunities available. Figure out which ones are your priorities and go after those experiences. But also know what your personal needs are and don’t sacrifice more than you feel is possible.
Lastly, I didn’t expect that I would experience the death of a student. I had lost fellow classmates in my own college years, so I knew what death can do to a community. But as a staff member, especially in a setting where student safety is priority #1, it is an experience that will teach you more than you thought you were ready to learn. No matter what your professional experience hands you, face every day with a willingness to learn – and you will.
Did I have an easy first year of grad school? No.
Do I wish my experience had been different? In some ways, maybe.
Did I learn more than I ever could have expected? Absolutely.
#SABeginnings is a month long series that asks SA grad students and 1st year pros to share a piece of their journey with the entire SAC community, new and seasoned. We believe in investing in the future of our awesome profession here at SAC. For more information, check out the introduction post written by Alex Fields.