5 Things I Learned in my Second Year of Graduate School
If you read my blog post about my first year of graduate school, you know I mentioned I would learn a lot more later on. Well, here it is. . . it’s later! I actually graduated in December 2019 and boy does it feel like time has flown since then. I did indeed survive the entire program and now I have a Master’s degree! This still blows my mind and does not feel real, but I have the diploma to show for it! Anyway, I also have what I learned in that second year (and a half) to show for it. I am happy to say I did follow my plan of action to become more organized. Having good organizational skills is so important not only for your work, but also for your sanity. I suppose this goes for anything in your life, not just graduate school, but it certainly helped. So! The five things I learned as a second year:
Networking is Crucial
So typically if you are in a two-year graduate program, you will be required to complete an internship in your respective field. For me, this looked like a counseling internship. While programs assist in placement and will help to guide you, ultimately, it is up for you to secure it. This is where networking is helpful. If you have friends or people you know in your field, they can be your go to people for help in securing a solid internship (or at least pointing you in the right direction). Get to know and interact with people in your field because they will be a good source of information when it comes to connecting you with others in the field, especially if they have been working directly in the field for some time! Make some friends!!
Imposter Syndrome is so Real
Speaking of that internship… Once you secure it and get started, things get real rather fast. When I sat down with my first client at my internship site, I questioned if I should even be allowed to be there. I thought, “ oh c’mon there is absolutely no way they believe I am capable of doing this work right now. The person in front of me is real. What if I screw up?” Well, while those feelings were valid, I recognized that I fused with the thoughts and feelings for a long time. I processed those feelings in supervision which was so important for me, but they were still so real and I could not shake them. I doubted everything, I felt like a fraud, and I surely thought I would be kicked to the curb. However, my studies did prepare me. We can never be fully prepared of course for something like this but I was prepared enough. I had the tools; I just needed to learn how and when to use them- the whole reason for an internship. I may have felt like fraud, but I was not. It took a lot of separating fear from fact, supervision, and self reflection to get to that point, but I did eventually overcome some of that. I will say though, imposter syndrome did re-surge for me in my first year of work, but that’s a different story.
Your Peers Care
Remember that support I mentioned in the first year blog? Yeah, use it! Being in a cohort immediately connects you with others, but as you continue on with the same group of people (give or take), you eventually become closer. I was in a smaller program so I feel as though this happened quickly, but nonetheless, these individuals are in the same boat as you. As you get closer to people, you will realize they too care about you and your needs. Again, those individuals in the same program, can understand and relate to you in a way others outside of the program cannot. Offering and receiving support from the people closest, can be a true game changer. Find your people.
You May Fall
Graduate school is not easy. You may fall, but it will be okay. One of the bigger picture takeaways from graduate school for me was, falling does not mean you have to stay down. Trust me, I sure could have stayed on the ground. But if I would have allowed myself to do that, I would not be where I am today. Falling does not equate to failure. There are “potholes” in life, and in graduate school, there may be a million. It is our job to carefully maneuver around them so we do not damage our cars. Boy, there are a lot of metaphors in here – sorry I can’t help myself! Simply stated, it is okay to fall, but be sure to get yourself back up. Getting up will look differently depending on the circumstances, but rest assured that there are ways to recover and you can stand tall. Sometimes it takes a good fall to even know where you stand.
The Finish Line is Motivating
When year two started, I was already looking towards graduation. I felt as though that first (seemingly long) year was done and over, and now I had my eyes on the prize. The next year and a half would move rather quickly. I learned that reminding myself of what I was working towards and why it was important for me, kept me motivated. There was a reason I wanted to continue my education and there was a reason why I got back up after falling a couple times in that first year. Looking at the timeline and seeing how close I was to graduation, motivated me. It honestly did keep me going and it reminded me that I was too far along to give up.
That, my friends, is all I have for you. Again, every experience will be different and unique, but you will learn a lot about yourself in graduate school. Whatever it is you are studying, you will face highs, lows and all of the inbetweens. However, with hard work and dedication, you can and will make it through. I did! And trust me, if I could do it, YOU can do it. I have not actually taken time to truly reflect on these past six months since graduation because I was so excited to begin working and got caught up in the excitement of graduation and my own life. Then there was quarantine. I have been just trying to survive! However, there is surely a lot I have learned since graduation (surprise, surprise I am always learning). Perhaps we can discuss that at a later date. Until then, take care and thank you for reading!