I have officially completed my first week of graduate school and there are some things that I’ve already learned. The first is that grad school is slightly different than undergrad. Here’s why:
I only have two days of class each week.
Seriously. I only go to class for three hours a day, two nights a week. That’s like no class time at all. It’s great!
On the flip side of that…I have TONS of reading assignments. The free time that I normally would have with two days of class is now spent reading and doing online discussions. I am still doing work for school even though I only have six hours of class each week.
I actually have to do the reading.
In my undergrad, I could get away with not buying my text books, not reading the ones I did buy, and skating through just fine. It’s not like that in grad level classes. If I don’t do the reading I fall behind. I miss out. I fail. While I am not necessarily proud to say that I didn’t do much of the assigned readings in my undergrad, I do have to acknowledge the fact that now I wish that I would have put that time and energy into it. It would have been good practice for this year. Instead of doing the work assigned to me, I took the lazy way out. I wasn’t passionate about what I was studying. I didn’t care.
Now, as a grad student, I find myself not only learning the culture of campus and the community, learning the material in class, but also teaching myself how to be a student again. I got away with underachieving for too long and now I don’t even know how to read, take notes, or be an attentive student.
People are passionate, intelligent, and driven.
I love going to class because I get to interact with people from all kinds of backgrounds and with vast experiences. Everyone is so intelligent and has something to contribute to the class and to everyone else’s learning. In grad level classes people want to be there. Everyone is engaged in class discussions. It’s great!
I am intimidated going to class.
I’ve never felt this before. How is it that I-the one who didn’t even know student affairs was a thing and never planned on going to grad school until 8 months ago-can be in the same class with the Vice President of Human Relations here at the University? One of my classes is even taught by the Vice President and Dean of Students. While it is great having university administrators in class with me because I have a lot to learn from them, it also greatly intimidates me. I am not really easily intimidated by people and it’s weird for me to feel this way. But I guess we’re not growing if we’re comfortable, right?
I enjoy being just another face in the crowd.
During my time at Northern Michigan University I was very well known on campus. I was actively involved on campus in many ways. It was normal for me to know every single person I passed in the academic mall on my way to class. Here at the University of South Dakota, I don’t know many people. Those that I do know are other graduate students. While I loved the attention at NMU and I loved my experiences and my involvement, I am finding a newfound love for solitude. It is comfortable walking to class by myself, headphones in, smiling at people as I pass them rather than striking up conversation.
Making friends is harder, but much more meaningful.
Since the time I turned six years old and finally started talking, I haven’t stopped. I have always made friends quickly and easily. I have always loved the challenge of making new friends and introducing myself to others. In undergrad making friends was an instantaneous thing for me. Now as a grad student it feels different making friends. It feels less natural, more forced, and much deeper.
Everyone always says that the friends that you make in college are those that you’ll have forever. I believe that. But I also believe that in the few short weeks that I have been in Vermillion, and the one week of class that I’ve had I have made such deep and meaningful connections with the people that I’ve met. I interact with other grad students. We are all older, and more mature. We know that we will only be here for one-two years. We are here to learn and grow. I think that because of all of these factors the relationships that we build during grad school are so much stronger and deeper than those from undergrad.
If you’re reading and are one of my many friends from undergrad, don’t think that I am saying that I don’t like you anymore or want to be your friend, quite the opposite, really! I could be totally wrong here. I could just be extremely lucky in finding an amazing group of people to surround myself with in the last few weeks. Maybe this doesn’t always happen to grad students. I’m not sure. I’m still new. I am just merely making an observation.
I still have the entire first year of my #SAGrad career, but I have already learned quite a bit from my experiences here in Vermillion. I can’t wait to see where this year leads me and what I get out of my time here.
If anyone has any comments or similar stories about their grad school experiences, feel free to reach out to me.