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Reflections on graduate school


The decision on whether or not to go to graduate school is obviously filled with apprehension and uncertainty, especially when weighing the cost and grim job market. For me, at least, it was a decision that really capitalized on an inner struggle. For those lucky enough to get into a funded PhD program, the decision might not be so hard. But for those of us who did not, and instead had to pay for a Master’s degree prior to thinking about continuing on to pursue a PhD, the struggle was very real. I finally did choose to attend a Master’s program, even though I was worried about what I would do upon its completion, as well as the cost to attend.

The struggle did not end with the decision of whether or not to go to graduate school. Once I got there, the self-doubt that arose amid my seemingly brilliant peers was overwhelming. I say seemingly brilliant because although they were, at times they certainly fluffed themselves up to appear more brilliant than they actually are, which is not atypical in academia. Even still, the caliber of students around me was more than intimidating. While this feeling of not-being-good-enough-to-be-there got better as my program progressed, and I started to find classes that I really enjoyed and felt more comfortable in, the expectation to be brilliant remained present. This kind of pressure is obviously not for everyone, and I’m not sure it’s for me. But I tried to cast it aside and focus on the interesting material of my classes.

In the end, despite the struggle of deciding on whether or not to go to graduate school, as well as the continued struggle throughout graduate school, it was definitely worth it. The exceptional, sometimes world-famous, professors you get to study with is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What you learn from your peers, even if they are intimidating and smarter than you, will stick with you and make you strive to better yourself. The friends you make, yes I said friends, who will not only serve as a support system as you’re struggling with your thesis and term papers, but also as fun distractions from the unrealistic amount of work that is expected of you, will last you far beyond the span of your program. This was something I was not expecting to come away from grad school with at all. I thought people in grad school, especially the one I went to, were really serious, studied all the time, and didn’t have any friends. But the friends I made in my program are some of the best friends I’ve ever made, and perhaps it is because of the intense, difficult nature of grad school that we became so close.

So here’s what I’ve learned from graduate school – you might not know exactly what you’re doing there, and you might not always enjoy it because it really is difficult, but it is important to try to soak in all you can because the vigorous intellectual stimulation and plethora of opportunities to feed your brain is something you will never be surrounded by again, unless you continue on for a PhD.

To do, or not to do. That is the question…


Sometimes you just need to embrace the unknown. This is really difficult for me because I am a low-risk person who doesn’t like to do things not knowing what the outcome will be. But this is not a productive way to live one’s life. SO, I have made a bold decision to go to graduate school next year, and although I was so nervous during the decision-making process, I am very happy and relieved to have made the decision, which I believe to be the right one after all. Whew! Once you have overcome the painstaking decision-making process, you can move forward with delight and anticipation, which is exactly what I’m doing!

The Plague


I am plagued by indecisiveness. I always have found it difficult to make decisions, from little things like picking what movie to watch to big things like choosing what college to go to, and it has become more of a problem lately as I have been faced with really important decisions that affect the rest of my life – i.e. picking a career and deciding who I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Why do I cringe when I hear the word passion? You would think that it is very easy to decipher what your passion is, but it’s not for me. I have been trying to identify my passion for a long time and it is becoming more and more evident just how important it is to do so now that I am part of the ‘working world’ and no longer a student.

The thing is, once you have identified a passion, you have to evaluate whether or not that passion is what you want it to be – whether or not you like it and can be proud of it. Sometimes I feel like I have succeeded in identifying my passion, but then when I think about it it’s not really something I would be proud to tell people about; or not necessarily that I wouldn’t be proud of it, but that perhaps in some way it’s not as worthy or as ‘good for society’ as some other careers.

It’s hard for me to let myself just feel what I feel and accept a passion without feeling the need to exert control over it. I feel like I’m constantly trying to control how I feel or what I want to feel and justify my interests before I let them turn into passions. I guess you can say I have control issues – not necessarily when it comes to other people, but more so with myself.

Decisions, Decisions


Sometimes making decisions is so difficult, it’s easiest to stop thinking about it and let the decision make itself. Sometimes we must pull ourselves away from the situation and let it work itself out. And sometimes decisions are made by circumstances that are beyond our control. These instances, although perhaps disappointing, are easier because they don’t require us to make any sort of decision, but only think about the repercussions either in sadness or in joy.