As of last week, I have officially completed my first academic year of graduate school. Over the past nine months I have learned more about myself and who I want to be than I have in all of undergrad.
I did not exactly have the stereotypical path to get to where I was. I applied to five schools and only was accepted into one, without pay. Which in my field if you are not being paid to go there, it is not necessarily worth it. One of my professors saw a job opening for an atmospheric chemistry graduate student after all the schools had expected to hear back from me. Long story short I was accepted, with tuition and a stipend.
Now, in all my applications I spent close to $1000 on all the various fees. That was not something I was aware of going into the situation, no one tells you how much it is going to be to just begin applying. Not to mention the awful time that is spent waiting to maybe hear back from schools.
I think there is this conception about grad school that is not necessarily true. I thought grad school was about learning more and taking classes. From what I have seen and learned that is not farther from the truth. If you are part of a research team, classes come second and then the only thing you should be learning must be directly related to your research.
That was very difficult for me, I am a lover of learning any and all things. There were times I sat down with my research advisor and she said I need to stop going to broad and go deep with my learning. Also, getting a livable balance between school versus research was difficult with professors expecting 100% for their class, but your advisor expecting 200% from your research.
The next conception is that grad school is hard, it is yes, but not in the way you expect. To some extent the academics, assignments, finals, and school is general was easier than undergrad. The thing that was overwhelming difficult? The business side of it all. This entailed writing proposals, being aware of costs with you being there, making sure you are meeting x, y, and z requirements, blah blah blah, and figuring it all out by yourself because all your professors expect you to know it all already. There were so many times when I wanted to quit because of this side grad school I knew nothing about and had no practice doing.
The last few months of my year was also unconventional. I ultimately decided that this was not the place for me. I have decided to shift my research to planetary sciences, meaning I will be reapplying to schools and beginning this process over and over again.
I just have to keep telling myself this is all worth it. I just keep picturing my vacation home on the coast of Spain, of which I found on HGTVs beach front bargain hunt. HAHAHA.
Until next time,