My second term of graduate school begins tomorrow!
That’s a bit crazy to write.
It hasn’t really felt like what I thought ‘graduate school’ would feel like – it’s more a continuation of my final year in undergrad. The main difference is that I have classwork that’s completely tailored to my interests as well as the massive, always looming, dissertation. I’ve made a lot of new friends both in academia and outside of it, but the biggest change this first term has been learning how to ‘do an advanced degree’ while living in London.
It doesn’t always feel like I’m in one of the biggest cities in the world, even with the skyline as a reminder each morning. I’ve found that University life here has created a bubble that I live in, and that the bubble causes me to explore the city in a different way – finding my favorite restaurants rather than checking off the top 10 tourist sites – and I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the things I can go do. I’ve been lucky enough to not only explore different boroughs but to go further out in England and travel a bit! I went to nearby Greenwich for a day, traveled to Glasgow for a conference and did a long walk in Sussex…so I’ve been getting around!
And it’s good to travel too. It helps me reset and get some energy in me, before a week of studying or an exam. Honestly, graduate school requires a lot more planning on someone’s part – especially when it comes to the dissertation – and those resets are necessary. When I was struggling with the details of my dissertation topic and emails with my advisor kept getting dropped, I was really disheartened. Hearing other classmates having projects sorted out made me feel behind and there was a lot of peer pressure to ‘get on track’ (even though I was), which was hard some days. Thankfully, the walk in Southern England came in the nick of time and I returned to University with a plan, more readings done and with excitement for the process ahead of me.
To be honest, there are aspects of University that I thought would be harder but aren’t, and things I thought would be easy but aren’t. I thought making friends would be easy, and it has been, but it’s hard not to notice the different maturity levels and age differences within my cohort. This wasn’t as apparent in undergrad and it does divide the cohort: some people have money and time to spare and others are more focused on school and lunches in. I also thought I’d be in Uni most of each day, probably stressed, but I’ve found myself having more time than that. Graduate school isn’t harder than I thought, it’s not easier than I thought, but aspects of it are different than my expectations initially were.
This coming term I have new goals for myself. Schoolwise, I would like to get my dissertation data collected and do well in my coursework. I’d also like to travel more, see more museums and take advantage of my community – join a football team, pick up kickboxing again, or do something creative if I can. Although I talk about more things I can do, when an essay or exam hits me in the face, a lot of these options end up going out the window. But I’m going to try harder this term now that I’ve settled in and made friends. I also have a trip to Spain planned with Tristan, one to Manchester with Amy and a trip to Hungary planned with my cousin. At the end of term, I’ll be heading home, for the first time in a year, and I’m already looking forward to it.
Overall, this has been a great few months. Bring it on term 2!