The new school year has officially begun. Naivety and underestimation is in the air. And as a graduate of the wild, free, memory-making undergrad, you become more aware of the beauty of being a freshman again. You also become more aware of how old you truly are. There is no turning back because as a graduate student you are not allowed to be naïve, irresponsible, or lost.
So as you walk the campus looking at all the young students milling around, you realize 1) you’re lost but don’t want to ask an undergrad where a building is because you will look dumb and 2) you are lost in more ways than one that no undergrad could ever help with. It is a big change being on a campus as a graduate student (law or medical student included). Even if it’s a familiar school and familiar grounds, something deep down within you feels changed. Don’t try to ignore or deny it, it’s a part of life now and you need to accept and adjust.
But there are some things you will never adjust to. Like when you’re looking for your classroom on the first day of the new semester with that practiced, fake smile like you know exactly where you are going, and suddenly a new undergraduate student asks you for help. It went a little something like this:
Female Student: “Excuse me, miss, where is Bryan Hall?”
Me: “Yup you’re almost there” and walk away.
Total shut down. And wait, did she just “miss” me?! That means I’m old to people who are only 4 or 5 years younger than me. Then it suddenly sinks in how the university campus world sees ME now…
Just when you think the worst realizations have occurred that you will have to deal with, you finally do find your classroom and sit in those rickety chairs with the desktops that flap up from the side. You look around the room and see faces of people who really are older than you: people already in the work field, those who have been in their profession for many years, those who are married with kids, those who have already figured out their life. It’s then that you suddenly feel like a child again…the child that one of these real adults brought along with them, a child who should be writing in crayon and having a coloring book rather than a textbook.
Then you start mentally freaking out that this is not the right decision. You shouldn’t be here. Grad school isn’t for you. This life isn’t for you. I just want to stay at home and play with kittens and puppies all day. You went from being the oldest person on campus to the youngest and dumbest person in the room within 15 minutes.
In the midst of your mental breakdown, the professor starts speaking and introducing himself or herself. Only to then inform you to call him/her by his/her first name. Say what now?? I don’t think that’s even in my biology to call a professional and my elder by his or her first name.
After explaining the syllabus and how it will all work there’s a final realization….
So in conclusion, you’re screwed… but everyone around you is in the same boat, just in different phases of life. You are not the dumbest in the room. You are not the only one who feels misplaced. You are just part of this whole new world called “graduate school” and expectations are higher. But that means you need to play the game and fake it until you make it, baby!
And we’re right back to the child thing again. Stay young, my friends!