I’m a graduate student! How did that happen?!?

Last week we shared a post from Kathleen Moore, new, full-time Phd Student, who reflected on her first few weeks as a full-time PhD student in Higher Ed. Today Clare Gilderdale shares some thoughts. She is a first year, part-time MA student in Higher Ed at OISE. Clare is the  Alumni Relations Officer in the Office of Advancement at U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science and is interested in examining the ways in which post-secondary institutions can most effectively connect a diverse student body with opportunities for engagement. Her thoughts on starting an MA program, balancing work and busyness 

It wasn’t so many years ago that I finished my undergraduate degree and professed that I was done with school and had no plans to return. And yet here I am, one month into my MA in Higher Education and juggling a (sometimes more than) full-time job, part-time course work and, oh yes, I almost forgot, life with family and friends in the outside world. So, what have I learned in my first month as a graduate student – or perhaps more accurately – what am I trying to learn?

1. Don’t be afraid to ask your professors for guidance.
As I write this, I have to admit I’m afraid to ask my professor for his guidance. So this definitely falls into the category of a lesson I’m trying to learn. I’m far less afraid than I was as an undergraduate but the thought of asking a ‘stupid’ question still worries me. So, my goal for this week is to approach my (very lovely and approachable) professor and ask for his advice about my first assignment.

2. Sometimes, you just have to say no. Or yes. And that’s okay.
But it isn’t easy. I recently listened to a CBC episode of Tapestry titled ‘Crazy Busy’; it provided an interesting insight into our society’s need to be busy. Since listening to it, I can’t stop noticing that I often answer the question ‘how are you?’ with the words ‘really busy’ and that I sometimes wear my busy-ness like a badge of honour. The truth is, I like to be busy; or more accurately, I like my days to be filled with things that matter to me.

The lesson here is that there are certain things in life that you have to do; some things in life that you want to do; and other things that you really should do – I’m working to find the balance between these competing priorities and trying to teach myself that sometimes it’s okay to say no to things that ‘matter’ and it’s equally okay to say yes to things that ‘don’t matter’. It’s important to remember that giving yourself a break from the daily grind helps to provide that elusive balance which is vital in our fast-paced world.

3. Feeling overwhelmed? You’re probably not alone; don’t be afraid to talk about it.
Last week one of my classmates announced that she was completely overwhelmed by our upcoming assignment. As soon as she said it, people started opening up about their concerns and fears; for many of us this is the first assignment we’ve ever had in graduate school and some of us haven’t been in school for what feels like a long time. The simple act of telling my peers that I’m also stressed out about this assignment made me feel better and it seemed to help my classmate to hear other people say they were feeling the same way. So I’ve learned that some of my peers are as anxious as I am about being a student again and that it helps to talk about it.

So to recap, I’m hoping to ask my professor for advice, enjoy a beer (or two) with friends and share my worries with my peers. Then I’m going to push forward and get things done. Happily, one thing I have already learned from my experience in the foundational course for Higher Education, and at OISE in general, is that everything seems designed to support success, learning and growth. So, will my first assignment be perfect? No. Will I learn from it and figure this grad-student stuff out? Hopefully. And even though I may sometimes wonder what I was thinking when I took on this challenge, I also know that the joy of learning and growing through grad school will ultimately trump any reservations I may have.

– Clare Gilderdale

Remember, you can come and learn more about the programs at OISE and how graduate study can enhance your professional practice at our upcoming open house on October 21 at 5:00 in OISE 5-210


2 thoughts on “I’m a graduate student! How did that happen?!?

  1. Pingback: The joys of not knowing, the dog eating your homework, and taking your own advice: 3 thoughts on life as a part-time Phd student | Supporting Student Success

  2. Pingback: Taking The Plunge: Going to Grad School and Working Full-Time | Supporting Student Success

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