Last week, I gave 3 major reasons why those contemplating graduate school should pause and really, really think about such a decision. All of those reasons were drawn from personal experience and hindsight at what I probably should have done before coming straight to grad school from undergrad. Well, today, I wanted to switch gears and share the good things I learned and the positive experiences I’ve had while here.
I ended part one by saying that I didn’t regret coming to graduate school (for a liberal arts/humanities-centered degree) even though I know that I wanted to be an industry professional. Overall, I’m glad I came to grad school because:
- I needed to grow up. This part has little to do with my academic life, but my real life. Although I went to undergrad in a different state, I went to a 4-year residential college and had never lived independently before. It sounds cheesy, but all I had to worry about was going to class and doing my assignments. Things like rent, utilities, and other bills eluded me. I learned how to manage a TIGHT budget (that’s a post for another day), become resourceful, cook all of my meals, and just be a responsible and disciplined adult with my time and finances. I wasn’t really frivolous before but it was here that I really learned what a budget was and the importance of being a good steward over my resources.
- I needed to become comfortable with myself by myself. I came to grad school with a strong core group of friends and strong ties to my family – both showing their unwavering support from afar. When I left undergrad, all my friends went on to pursue opportunities in different cities. I came to grad school only knowing a few acquaintances, and I think it needed to be that way. I needed the time to determine what I truly wanted to do with my life. In order to arrive at that decision, I first had to figure out what I liked, what I disliked, what was important to me, and how I was going to realize my goals. The only way I could do that was by spending less time with others and more time with me.
- I needed to become more adaptable. In part 1, I mentioned how my program didn’t offer much practical experience on the graduate level for my future career. Well, I could write a dissertation on how frustrated and disillusioned I could have become, but instead of dwelling on what I didn’t have, I occupied myself with finding a way to get what I needed. I realized 2 things: (1) I knew that I didn’t want a PhD, so I wasn’t going to continue to be groomed for one and (2) I knew that opportunities for experience weren’t going to be handed to me, so I altered my plan of study. I managed to land an awesome internship with my school’s public broadcasting radio and television station and worked for credit for 2 semesters on various projects. I went to career fairs geared toward undergraduates and visited administrators largely engaged with undergraduates in my college to figure out what my options were. Through all of this, I not only gained some practical experience for the industry that I will soon be entering, I learned how to navigate a murky path by being adaptable to my environment and the available people and resources. I was determined to enrich my grad school experience, even while I was counting down the time until graduation.
- I needed to be positioned in the right place at the
rightdivine time. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned during this experience is that I needed to be here. While I daydreamed about how far along in my career I could have been, I realized that I was right where I needed to be right now. I credit all of this to God. Let me take some time to brag on Him right quick: not only am I getting an excellent education from a great institution, I’m getting it for free while they’re paying me to do it. So, when I walk across the stage in May, I will be debt free. Yep, you read that right. That means no student loans. No credit card debt. I managed to get 2 degrees (B.A. and Master’s) without paying a dime. So, I’m grateful for that alone. Beyond that, I realized that I am being positioned and prepared for something great, which is why I needed to experience numbers 1-3 right here.
So, in a nutshell, graduate school was a life changing experience for me in ways I would have never imagined. I came here to pick up another degree and learn some more stuff about things I love to talk about – the media and culture, but I’m leaving with life tools that I’ll never forget.
I know you’re saying,”Wait! I don’t see anything above about what you gained academically.” I’m not discounting the book learning that I gleaned, but when you do something enough, you inevitably become more skilled at it. So, while here I did become more skilled at writing and researching. I didn’t mention anything about academics above because, at the end of the day, I really didn’t need my Master’s degree. Instead, I needed to experience the journey to the degree.