Chapter 2: Settling in at Grad School
[Editor’s Note: Elizabeth Brown ’13, Jessie Lillis ’13, Kyle Ruedinger ’13, and Amy Browender ’13 are writing alternating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]
Going to graduate school is just like going back to college in the fall — except that it’s not really. Much of it is still the same: packing up all your personal belongings, sorting through your half-used notebooks to assess usability, emptying your checking account into Amazon.com and the bookstore, sighing at the list of summer reading you didn’t finish, and aimlessly wandering around the toilet paper selection of the store as you try to decide whether to invest in the 12 pack, or the 24 pack (it’s a common problem). However, it’s also like starting over from scratch and you’re back to a new city and a new school.
Sounds like a fresh start right? As I wandered the Illinois campus that is so large it eclipses two cities in its size, I realized just how big this place really is. Looking down at a group of friends in the outdoor swimming pool of the massive recreational center, I also realized something else. I have no friends here — yet. Seriously, there were people that I knew on campus, but I really didn’t have any friends and the metaphorically termed activity of “hanging out with friends” really wasn’t an option. No pity party happening here though, it’s just more of a realization. Fairly soon I’ll probably be too busy for that anyway.
I can’t say I wasn’t warned though. Those who have gone before me have said, “Graduate school is a lot of reading.” So I arrive with the expectation that things will get harder and there will be more reading, and likely more writing as well. However, after the first day of class when I finally have the syllabus in hand, I still can’t suppress the large gulp after seeing the weekly reading assignments. I try to remind myself that it’s just the first day; it’s the syllabus for the whole semester and it doesn’t all need to be done by next week. However, there’s still the initial panic reflex, which will eventually wear off. Or, I hope it will wear off.
One thing that I have to keep in mind though is that I signed myself up for this. There was definitely a decisive moment in which I made a conscious choice to be here. However, because the program is very directed toward libraries, the reading is interesting and very relevant to my future career. I’m also really enjoying my GA position in conjunction with classes, and it will likely yield many opportunities for me to apply the skills I’ll be learning in class.
Before classes started however, I was able to explore the Urbana-Champaign area and the activities the cities have to offer. One such exploration involved winding up at a Sweet Corn Festival where select individuals wandered the streets in corn suits and little kids tugged at their parents when they saw the pony ride. The number of venders illustrated the community activity, but also the university-student relationship and how interconnected they appear at a glance. Perhaps that’s not the case, but from my initial observation, they’re pretty tight.
Another interesting fact: the University of Urbana-Champaign has over 25 libraries and 13 million printed volumes on its campus! Establishing a meeting place as “let’s meet at the library” is probably going to need some further specification.
Elizabeth H. Brown ’13
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