My First Semester As A #SAGrad.

Well well well…the time has come for me to start packing for my trip home to Michigan for Winter break.  I have a few small tasks that need to be completed before I leave but I am so so so ready for some time at home.  I am craving adventure, Mama Superior is calling me home, and I could go for a Michigan beer.  This will be the longest break that I have had in a few years and I am looking forward to catching up on sleep, relaxing by myself, and spending some time by the water (yes, it is freezing, but it is needed).  As I wrap things up here for my first semester of #SAGrad I have been doing a ton of thinking and reflecting on the last few months.  Here are some of the thoughts that I have been having.

  1. Is this program for me?  I can’t believe how much classes have sucked.  I thought I was done with crummy classes in undergrad.  I am actually studying something that I care about, I am supposed to love class.  I am supposed to be motivated to study and love the academic part of this journey.  But I don’t.  I truly haven’t felt like I’ve gotten anything out of my academics this semester.  I haven’t felt the passion that I thought I would, and I haven’t felt motivated to do the work, so I haven’t produced anything of high quality.  I think my grades will reflect that; this worries me.  This may be the first time that I fail something.  I am worried that I am not getting the academic experience that I was hoping for.  So what can I do?  I am still trying to figure that out.  I have contemplated leaving and going back to Michigan.  I have contemplated taking a semester off.  I have contemplated applying for jobs now and going back for my degree later.  I don’t know what to do.  But I am not a quitter.  I hate to leave something that I have started and I would hate to miss out on all of the amazing opportunities that have been provided to me since coming to South Dakota.
  2. I love my job!  If you had asked me a year ago if I would be living in small town South Dakota and working in Sorority and Fraternity Life I would have said “heck no”.  If you had asked me a year ago what I was doing with my life after graduation I would have said “I don’t even know where to begin”.  Just a year later and my life has changed completely.  I LOVE living in a fraternity house!  I love the men and women that I work with in this community.  I love the challenge of advising students.  I love the relationship building opportunities that this job provides.  I love the opportunity to guide students through the ups and downs of their own college experience.  My job is definitely the biggest and best part of my experience thus far, and it is what is keeping me grounded.
  3. Students are the key.  I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the interactions that I have had with the students that I have worked with this semester as well as in undergrad.  I have been so impacted and fulfilled by the work that I have done with them.  I have built relationships with some incredible young people.  I have watched tremendous amounts of growth and development occur among these students.  I have been challenged by my work with students.  Positive and negative challenges have provided me and my students the ability to problem solve, delegate, and compromise.  The learning that comes each and every day from my students is truly something that I cherish.
  4. Student Affairs professionals are crazy.  Seriously, to do the things that we do every day…we must be crazy.  Just look at the SAP Facebook page and it is evident that we’re crazy.  How is anyone supposed to look forward to working in a field like this when you look around at your peers and colleagues and see negativity, hate, and crazy talk around every corner?  It’s tough.  But I think about the passion that people must have for the work that they do to get so worked up that the craziness that is occurring is clearly visible to outsiders. It is a positive thing that there is this much craziness in our field because it means that people care about something.  If dialogue can be created it means that people have feelings and emotions and opinions.  It also means that they feel safe expressing them, whether this is appropriate or not is a different story, but hey, the conversations are happening.  This is something that we as professionals need to work on.  But knowing that there is so much passion coming from these professionals gives me hope in all of this craziness.
  5. Take advantage of every opportunity.  Grad school has offered me the opportunity to be the live-in adviser for a fraternity chapter, to advise a student group, to attend a regional conference, to help present and write curriculum for a leadership series, to facilitate sorority and fraternity New Member Education, to create a more individualized academic program after not feeling fulfilled this semester, and so much more.  I could have moved to a new state, new city, new school and only attended classes.  Instead I am choosing to make this two year adventure worth my while and am involving myself in as much as possible.
  6. Do I move up or move out?  After getting to know more and more professionals in my field and learning about the field in general I have realized that it is nearly impossible for someone to make a sustainable living in an entry/mid level position.  I also know that the work that entry/mid level professionals do is exhausting, time-consuming work that is often 24/7.  This work is also sometimes the most meaningful work that offers the most reward.  The impact that you have on students is rewarding and the changes that your students make in your life are forever.  Right now, at this point in my life, I see myself wanting to stay in this realm of work.  I don’t know that I want to move up.  I love interacting with students.  I am young, energetic, single.  I have time and energy to put into working in these positions.  But will I always?  Will I suffer from burn out?  Will I get “too old” to work in these positions?  These are things that I think about.  I know that it is lonely at the top and the higher up you move the less connections with students and colleagues that you make…but it is these connections that I love.  I know that I should not be worried about this now, while I am still in grad school.  But how can I not think about my future?
  7. South Dakota is cold.  When I moved here, I did not know that the city an hour away from me is ranked in the top 5 coldest cities in the United States.  I did not know just how incredibly cold it was going to be here.  Hailing from Northern Michigan, I am very used to cold Winter weather, but the bite of the wind in South Dakota is one that could kill you.  I hate it.  Like, seriously, it’s still early in the season and I am already thinking about heading south.
  8. Where is all the water?  OK, to be fair, the Missouri River is literally in my backyard…but it just doesn’t quench my thirst for being near a body of water.  I just struggle with the concept that there are people in this world who don’t know what it is like to live on a lake.  I just don’t know how they do it.
  9. Grad school is tough.  It is hard to balance classes, work schedules, social life, self-care, maintaining long-distance relationships, and trying to find your groove as a student in a new environment.  I have really really struggled with this.  Transitions are not easy.  But be honest with yourself and tell someone you trust how you’re feeling because no one will survive this alone.
  10. You’re young; remember to have fun!  Honestly, I feel old.  At only 22 I feel like an old soul.  I am tired, I work hard, and I am years behind on sleep.  There are days when I don’t feel like crawling out of bed.  It is OK to feel this way.  But, remember that you’re never going to get another chance to be young, to go out with friends, stay up all night, sleep all day, and go grocery shopping in the middle of the morning.  Do these things now, even if you feel tired and old.  Remember to have the time of your life and not to get caught up in work.  Everything will get done.  I am still working on this myself.  But I am learning to just take it easy.
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2 thoughts on “My First Semester As A #SAGrad.

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