Reflecting on the First Semester

So, one semester of graduate school is done..one out of four checked off. It’s crazy now to think about how quickly it went by and how I’ll be starting the second semester in a few days. Before I get into sharing my experiences and lessons learned, I want to share something that I wrote early in the semester. I wrote down a couple thoughts, and this one is my favorite and still has some truth to it.:

It still hasn’t quite set in…this notion that I am now in graduate school and am a graduate student. I always had this view of people with undergraduate degrees as individuals who were educated and ready to take on productive jobs. That’s how I felt after getting my bachelor’s..”here I come world, I can find a productive job that will make some decent money and won’t have to resort to food service anymore!” With graduate level people, I always viewed them as individuals who were conducting research, making vast changes to society, finding breakthroughs in science, and the like. So, to now place myself in this category of people that I have this perception about is kind of mind blowing. Since beginning college, I’ve known that I wanted to eventually make my way to graduate studies but never seemed to link myself with this group of people and all the associations I placed on them.

Thinking about this now, after having completed a semester, I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that I’m a graduate student. I can distinguish myself from the undergraduates and notice that I don’t have much of a feel for what goes on outside of my program (the notorious black hole where graduate students seem to get sucked into their program). I’m still not sure if I classify myself with all the associations that I have of graduate students (i.e. making huge changes in society, groundbreaking research). Maybe this will eventually happen, or maybe my perceptions will change. I guess time will tell as I continue on in my studies and future work. But, one thing that really amazed me was how much is possible to learn in one semester. I had points during the semester where I struggled, particularly the beginning, midterms, and finals, (go figure) but as I wrote my final papers and had to pull materials from all my classes, everything began to click. The materials from one class completely tied into another and I could begin to see a bigger picture unfold. It was in those last moments that I realized how much I had grown and learned in one semester…kind of a mind blowing, light bulb lighting experience!

Lessons Learned

Over the semester, I’ve certainly learned many lessons and dealt with many uncomfortable and difficult situations. One lesson in particular that I had to learn, which was a pretty hard one, was that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did coming into the program. Doing as well as I did in my previous job as a case manager, and having amazing supervision, I felt like I knew quite a bit. And, I still think I do know quite a bit….about case management. Coming into the program, during my first few class sessions, I felt like I had really good answers to most of the questions and cases presented by my professors. However, as the weeks went on and I heard answers from my professors and classmates and worked on assignments, it became pretty clear that I had a lot to learn about social work, therapy, development, etc. While this kind of shook up my world a bit, I know it’s good for me to get a wake up call. There is always more to be explored and learned, and I probably needed to be reminded of this. Having this experience made me feel as though I had lost much of what I knew and had to start over…like a regression in knowledge. Maybe that’s what I needed, though..to push some of what I knew aside to come back to later and to forget some to replace it with something better.

My internship also isn’t going quite as I expected, but this has taught me how to speak up about what I need and want and forced to me to look at things from different angles. While the small child in me gets frustrated at not getting what was expected, I’m learning how to look at things in a positive light and find ways to still get a meaningful experience..even if that experience isn’t what I planned for.

I’ll also say that the coursework was far more than I anticipated it being. I had talked to some people who were in social work programs before moving and some said that it was pretty easy, they had tons of time, and the teachers seemed to give you a passing grade regardless of your work product. While I will say that my professors genuinely seemed to want all of us to succeed, they certainly did not all give me A’s, and I most definitely did not have tons of time and found the workload to be easy. Maybe I misunderstood their definition of easy and tons of time, or maybe this program is just different. Either way, I had a bit of a wake up call when I found that I couldn’t get to all the readings that I was supposed to have completed by the next class. See, so many lessons without even getting into the actual meat of the program.

Relocating…No Idea Where Anything Is!

With the transition of relocating…I will say that moving to a big city in a new state and starting graduate school was fairly difficult. There are so many things to get adjusted to (funny how difficult it can be to find a grocery store), but my surroundings are feeling more and more normal, and I’ve become far less anxious or worried about daily things. As time passes, it seems that life, in general, is falling into place nicely out here in Boston. There are bad days where I get anxious, question myself or this path, and struggle, but that’s just kind of life in general and certainly life for a graduate student..at least I’m hoping I’m not the only one. As I’m finding my place within the Boston College community, I have a couple of potential projects that I hope to report on later, and I couldn’t be more excited about some of my future classes as they delve farther into specific topics.

I’ll leave you with a funny story and some pictures of campus…

During the first month or so of starting at Boston College, I was asked by many, normally the freshman as we found ourselves lost together and attempting to find our way around campus, if I’m a freshman too. My favorite answer so far has been, “I’m a first year graduate student, so basically, yeah, a freshman.” My scattered brain and new surroundings failed in keeping my cover. These days, as I’m not getting lost..as much..this question has stopped being asked, but it is kind of funny how as a graduate student you tend to just seclude yourself into your program and have little knowledge of what else is happening around the campus. If there’s something going on outside the program or somewhere I need to be outside my normal buildings, it’s going to be a confusing day. I don’t remember that being the case as an undergraduate, but shoot, life is too hectic to be paying attention to everything that’s going on.
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Quick thank you to everyone who’s reading my blog. I love taking you on this journey with me, and your support means so much! I can’t wait to share some new experiences in the upcoming semester and year. With love, Kelly.

One Reply to “Reflecting on the First Semester”

  1. This so gave me a rush of meemly pride. Even though I am not your actual mean, I am still claiming rights to being able to feel meemly pride. 😉

    “as I wrote my final papers and had to pull materials from all my classes, everything began to click. The materials from one class completely tied into another and I could begin to see a bigger picture unfold. It was in those last moments that I realized how much I had grown and learned in one semester…kind of a mind blowing, light bulb lighting experience!”

    All those things that you perceive a grad student being are within you.

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