It’s official. I turn in my final policy paper in five days and will officially be done with my first semester in my Ph.D. program! Wowza. It’s honestly hard to believe that I have only been back in school for a semester because it feels like it’s been much longer. I find myself reflecting on the past semester and what my experience has been like.
This semester was more challenging than I anticipated because of time management. Silly, right? I talk with students on the daily about managing time, but this truly was my biggest struggle. In July, I accepted a new position on campus, so in addition to going back to school, I’ve been learning a whole new job. I love it – both my new job and school – but taking on two new opportunities at the same time definitely stretched me thin. It took a few months to really figure out how to balance work, school, and family.
The best advice I got related to time management was to schedule, schedule, schedule! I ended up scheduling 7pm-9am Tuesday-Thursday evenings to focus on homework. I put it on my calendar so it was part of my “official” day and Jason was totally supportive of this. This helped me feel as if I had a standing appointment on these nights and was obligated to do homework in the evenings. It took some adjusting, but this model really ended up working for me.
I loved being back in the classroom. This semester I took a class on higher education public policy. This is a subject I was incredibly naive about; I learned so much over the past ten weeks or so. Transitioning from “fun” reading to “class” reading required some adjustment on my part – it has been a long time since I have read with a critical eye rather than just accepting the words on the page. But I loved completing readings each week and then having a group of peers to debate with. This is really what I have been missing in my life that I’m finding my Ph.D. is providing me – a group of individuals who are invested in higher education and want to discuss it. I feel as if I’m constantly being challenged in my views and to consider issues from different perspectives and I love it. I feel as if it’s really helping me grow as a student, but also as a professional.
The community has been one of the best parts of going back to school. My cohort is amazing. I get to take classes with great people and have already begun to create friendships that extend beyond the classroom. I feel so, so grateful for the people I’ve met so far.
My first semester is officially done and I will have a whole month off – yay!! I’m looking forward to taking a break over the next month, but I also want to take time to reflect and consider what I want to research and what topics are really important to me. I’m finding myself drawn to adult/non-traditional/post-traditional students (ah, terms!) but really want to make sure I’m not just taking classes, but also tying my classes to my overall research goals.
Okay, five more days. Then I can say I’m officially done with my first semester!