Jaymee Lewis, WIU graduate student
2nd Year College Student Personnel
After the end of my first year of graduate school, someone dear to me shared that grad school should not be hard, it should be challenging. Well, the English major in me thought those words were synonymous and that I would not be able to escape either. However, I quickly came to realize that what is hard may not be what you are most interested in. The hard part is making your way through it because you really are not that invested in it. Yet now that I look back at the first year, College Student Personnel is challenging. But it is the challenge that excited me and kept me looking forward to my second year.
My hope is not to offer words of inspiration that will elicit temporary excitement but to paint a real picture about what graduate school could be like for you, in any program!
- Your experience will vary from everyone else’s. But what is great is that you can speak highly to just how unique you are. Just like that first day of college when you decided that it was time to leave your parent’s home (or to continue your education after some time living the dream), you will meet new people. However, you came with your own luggage and so will they. Taking time to reflect on what you are bringing with you can make the challenge more enjoyable. If you left family or if you took time away from a great job or maybe you are wondering how you will find work during this time to pay for school, everyone’s toils vary. Embracing who you are and what you bring makes the load a lot easier.
- Yes, the reading gets a lot tougher. It is not unusual for me to have hundreds of pages a week to read for classes. However, being able to prioritize your work and try new ways of keeping up will help you in the long run. If you are not that Type-A personality then find ways of organizing your life that work for you or consider hiring a personal assistant. What has worked for me is trying a new study skill over a period of time and seeing how it works. If it doesn’t, I remind myself to be open to trying something else. Use whatever works for you to be successful.
- You will most often see and spend time with those in your department or in your cohort. Taking time to get to know them is great towards building your professional network but do not forget that there can be peace in taking time away. Getting to meet and enjoy the company of others can be as simple as attending an event hosted by the Theatre department or inviting someone for coffee at Sullivan Taylor Coffee House. I am sure they would appreciate getting to know you as well.
- Who says graduate students do not get involved?! WIU has so many free and discounted events happening around campus that rarely does a week pass by without a signature event being hosted in the University Union or in the residence halls. Check out the Office of Student Activities and get to learn more about how you can get involved as a volunteer or attend the upcoming Rocky After Dark! It’s coming up soon so check out http://www.wiu.edu/student_services/student_activities/RockyAfterDark.php for more details. There will be free food, giveaways, rides, games, and live entertainment throughout the evening. The event is family friendly is a great way to start your year as a grad.
- As students, we also pay fees that allow us access to all of the privileges we had as undergraduates. Being the smarter and wiser ones that we claim to be, why not utilize the Campus Rec or Library every now and again? Not only does the Rec offer my favorite event, the Big Pink volleyball tournament, but it also has everything you need to maintain a healthy body and healthy mind. I’m sure I do not need to boost the reputation of our library. Let’s just say that floors 5-6 are my favorite on a Thursday night.
Just thinking about graduate school can be a chore but once you make the decision, the rest is up to you. I would encourage everyone to learn more, do more and invest in more. We only have these years for a short time. WIU has the resources to help that time be great. If you are ever wondering how to get involved on campus, visit the Office of Graduate Studies (116 Sherman Hall or firstname.lastname@example.org) and they can direct you to the right place to go. The challenge is truly in gaining a well-rounded experience, but I am sure you can do it!