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So what's it REALLY like?

The whole reason I wanted to start a blog on here was to try, as realistically as possible, to answer the question, "so what's grad school really like," on this platform that seems to be mostly consumed by "so how do I get into grad school?". Admittedly, when I first started this blog, I had the best intentions of posting more regularly than "those other guys." So here I am, a year later, attempting to make up for it. So here we go, I'm going to break it into sections for the sake of readability. PLEASE, keep in mind, all of this is from my very limited perspective of a first generation, first year, queer, man of color, from the South, living in a major city and attending the only grad program I applied to. 

Moving cross country to a new city

As a general personality trait, I'm a huge fan of change. I get bored easily and like to mix things up. So for me, moving across the country, to a city in which I didn't know anyone was just a huge, exciting adventure. I know that for some people, change produces a ton of anxiety. So for those readers, you'll probably want to take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Anyways, the move was great! I ended up really lucky in the housing search and used Craigslist to find both of the apartments I've lived in here. Exploring the city and getting into a routine of going to this grocery store instead of that one and this park being my spot to relax and destress, was fun. Seattle quickly became home for me.

Building Community

One of the best decisions I made when moving to Seattle was finding housing with folks not in my program, or associated with my school at all. I also joined a church pretty early on. My program has a strong focus on community development and it's pretty easy to make friends within, but for the sake of emotional sanity, it's been great to have friends who have no idea what I do for 8 (or more) hours a day. I'd definitely recommend other folks going to grad school in a new place to invest in a community outside of your program, if possible. 

Personal Life

Despite the media myths of grad school = buried in books and nothing else for the next x years, I've spent more of the past year intentionally building relationships, exploring my interests, and just enjoying life that I ever have. Though, this could very well be contributed to the location of my program in a major city. 

With my program being pretty small (about 60 folks in total) I have noticed that the internal drama can be exhausting and pretty ridiculous at times. Granted, my field is a very personal one and the culture of the university calls us to bring out whole selves (baggage and all) to the table.

Academics

In some ways, the classroom experience was exactly what I was expecting, in some ways, it's less than I was expecting, but in other ways, it's way more than I was expecting.  

As expected, there are lots more reading assignments than I was accustomed to in undergrad. But most of the time, I'm fine as long as I get the drift of what the assigned reading was about. It's less than I was expecting because I often find myself feeling like my classes and those responsibilities feel like an unnecessary addition to the work I'm doing with students in my assistantship and internships; that's pretty disappointing. But at the other extreme, there have been many times when I've had conversations in classrooms that I didn't think could happen in such settings and have genuinely changed the way I think about the world. I live for those conversations, and that's why I'm okay with spending more money than my mom makes in a year for tuition. 

Financials 

This is the one area in which I, admittedly, should have done more research before making this huge life decision. Seattle is EXPENSIVE. And, in my particular case, the coveted GA position doesn't cover living expenses, much less living and tuition. This has led to me working part time for a period, and taking out more loans than I expected. This is probably the biggest downfall of my program, but I was privileged enough to not have to take out any loans for undergrad so it's not a huge deal for me and I probably would have made the same decision if I had then, all the information I have now...although I probably would have been a bit more careful about how I spent my savings during my time off between undergrad and grad school.  

Future Perspectives 

I definitely feel like my chances of getting a job in my chosen field have increased tenfold in the past year. I've learned more than I could have begun to imagine, and it's made me even more excited to start my career. Also, necessary sidenote, I've reluctantly to see the benefit of strong alumni networks and I'm definitely grateful that my program comes with one of those. :)

Did I make the right choice?

100% yes. If I could go back, I wouldn't change anything. There was definitely a time when I wished I'd applied to more programs, there were times when I wished I would have gone to a program that was fully funded and in a cheaper city, there were times I wished I would have stayed closer to home. But if I could go back in time, knowing all that I know now, I would do it all again. This experience has been, by far, the most life changing year ever, and I'm excited to see where the next one takes me.

 

 

 

 

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Please, feel more than welcome to send me messages about student affairs, Seattle, moving cross country, or anything else. I'm not as acitive here as I once was, but I will get back to you!



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Hi! 

Thanks for sharing! I am currently waiting to hear back from Portland State University any day now,which is my top school. I am from the east coast and I will be moving west coast if I am accepted to Portland. How did you manage seeing or staying in touch with family or friends? And when you lived in Seattle, was it on your own or with somebody? Was working a part time and handling grad school course work with internships hard to do? I am worried about affording living, school on my own. I have done it for my undergrad all four years by working two part time jobs, president of a club, an internship and the full course work but I'm still nervous because it could potentially be somewhere new and with no roommates or family/friends close by. Don't get me wrong, this is something that I need and really want to do but there is a slight nervousness that comes with the big leap. 

 

Thank you! 

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MPhipps, 

I recently was accepted to the University of Portland's graduate program for Engineering and will be moving up to Portland in the fall. I completely understand the nervousness, especially when it comes to housing in the Portland area. When you get accepted if you're looking for a roommate please let me know, I am looking for a roommate to help make living expenses as low as possible. 

 

Good luck!

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vestigialtraits -

This post is very insightful and inspirational - thank you! The graduate program at Georgia Tech to which I've been admitted is expensive, as is living in Atlanta, and any current positions I have will fail to assuage the damage to my finances. For me, however, the experience is one which I have aspired to endure and I am excited for the process. That said, I am certainly glad to read posts such as yours, as each counters my doubts to degree. Always remember: any choice you make can be framed as a success!

All the best with you current (and future) adventure(s)!

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I would agree with this take as someone who went to grad school in the Mountain West twelve years ago. Although I will probably never get a job in my field, the experience was so worthwhile for the reasons you mentioned that it was totally worth it for me (it's worth mentioning that I was 100% funded).

Edited by chocolatte_

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I live in Portland, Oregon, and can say that there are no graduate schools around that cover the cost of what it is like to live here. I moved here for graduate school and their artistic community, which has been fantastic! I have to have an extra part time job, but still make it to openings, lectures, and still travel to Los Angeles every year to see contemporary art. Our program Oregon College of Art and Craft has paid positions, but it is very hard to find housing in Portland, Oregon. Word has it that rent is going down, but you won't find anything in the city for less that $1200 a month. It has been very hard for my partner to transition to a new community and get a new job in his field. I needed to go to another city for more space and time away from family to work. This has been the best part about moving away for graduate school experience. What I think is most important is giving time for you and your fellow students. So many students hole up in their own worlds, they get no partnerships, no community, and they leave school wondering why they can't find a job or no one is calling them. You need to make time to build connections and create projects with your peers, elevate your own experience.

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