My third week of grad school is winding down, and I just realized that I still haven’t written anything about my experiences so far. So I figured I’d take a quick study break to share a little about how things are going.
First of all, yes, I have been studying for about an hour so far this morning. Everyone who warned me about the workload in graduate school was almost completely accurate. This week, I have probably spent about six hours a day, every day, reading and doing research, in addition to actually going to class. And honestly, I feel like I’m not doing enough. There is always more research to familiarize myself with, more theory that I need to learn, more papers I could write for potential publication. I suspect that I’m going to have to get comfortable with the guilty weight of a perpetually unfinished to-do list.
But while the workload is every bit as heavy as I was led to believe, it’s not nearly as unpleasant as I was expecting. I think that’s because all of my professors have done an excellent job of tailoring the workload to be practical, so that I feel like every assignment I complete puts me that much closer to being a successful professional. It also helps that I’m studying subjects that I would choose to read about in my spare time anyway, but now it feels like I’m actually being productive. I’m finally reaping the rewards of my nerdiness.
Getting to know the people in this department has been such a joy. The professors are all so helpful and encouraging, and I truly feel like they want my cohort and I to be as successful as possible. And my fellow students, both my cohort and the more seasoned graduate students, have been a big part of why I feel so well-adjusted. The older students have given me more encouraging advice than I know what to do with, and deserve most of the credit for helping me shift my perspective of this program from oh my gosh I’m going to be miserable and fail and life is going to suck to this is going to be challenging, but I am more than capable of tackling that challenge head-first (most of the rest of that credit goes to Chad and my parents). And my own cohort is full of fantastic people who recognize that we’re all in this together, like a band of brothers and sisters, ready to tackle the relatively-unknown.
I think the best, and simultaneously most intimidating, part of graduate school so far has been my freedom to study whatever interests me. I love the idea of contributing to the field, and hopefully creating knowledge that will serve people outside of academia as well. I finally feel like I’m using my talents and passions to their full potential. Unfortunately, when you’re interested in everything, it’s hard to figure out what you want to focus those talents on, specifically. When someone asks me my research interests (which is the grad school version of “What’s your major?”), I have to make a conscious effort not to spend the next five minutes listing off every subfield of Sociology. Also, my response changes every time I get that question, mostly because I feel like cycling through my long list of answers.
(In case you were wondering, my biggest areas of interest are in religion and gender, followed in no particular order by education, victimization, criminology, racial inequality, politics, et al.)
I won’t lie, there have been days when I’ve seriously questioned whether this was the right call for me, or if I should be teaching instead. But those days are getting rarer as I overcome my insecurities about the program. I actually feel surprisingly well-adjusted, which, like I mentioned earlier, is probably because I was fortunate enough to be encouraged by the older students before I started the program. And I don’t know if it’s because of my hiatus from Facebook, the medication I’m on, or the fact that I am getting more comfortable in my role as a grad student (it’s probably all of the above), but I’ve been happier and more productive in the past two days than I have been in a very long time.
So my verdict as of three weeks into the program? Life is good.