Sep 22

Reflections on the First Month

Alrighty, well it’s been a little over a month since I started this whole grad school experiment so I figured I’d offer up my experience thus far.

The other day I was considering how I should think about my work, my courses, and the social wackiness that makes up a graduate community. Often I would be sitting in one lecture and literally worrying about the NEXT ONE! While maybe other, more studious students have probably experienced this many times, I had not until recently. I’ve always had a very laid back approach to school in general, but now that I have so much coming at me all at once, I’m beginning to legitimately worry about my classes and maintaining my position at The University.

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Amidst all these considerations of school and scholarly work ethic, I have determined that I am not the first to go down this road and I’m certainly not the worst to attempt it. Some of my peers’ skills, knowledge, and experience have surprised and intimidated me. Initially that got me thinking that I was in the wrong boat.

Time spent in my research laboratory has somewhat quieted these fears because I know, if I let myself think rationally, that while some of the best students around me might know more about one thing or another, I am much more comfortable in my lab than they would be. This is not because I am particularly awesome at microbiology, but simply that I do actually have a passion for the kind of pure research that my lab is conducting and most of the others have interests that lie elsewhere. I’d hate to see the world of science if all the people were like me (or if people like me were totally absent).

On the same vein, inventing a social life from scratch has been a bit challenging. While I’ve been able to become close with most of my peers in CBMG, branching out much further has been a challenge to say the least.  Other grad students seem to pigeonhole themselves away in their labs and offices, making them hard to meet and harder to get to know.

There are seemingly millions of undergrads all over campus but there is this strange barrier that most of us grads feel holding us back from joining in their activities.  To some extent it feels like we’ve moved on to another level, and to some extent I think I feel like I’ve lost the chance to do what they’re doing.

Overall, I think the message of the first month is to slow down, take a step back, and get some perspective. While the exams are more important than maybe undergrad ones were, I don’t believe they’re anything I can’t handle and if I do run into trouble, I feel that the department and some of my peers have the will to help me through tough spots.  Socially, I guess I’m going to just try experimenting and seeing if I can carve out a little friendly space here in the wilds of Maryland.