When I started my doctoral program last fall, I was anxious about being a student again. Rightfully so! I had completed my master’s degree in 1995 and hadn’t taken any writing-intensive courses since a one-off class on addictions in 1997.
I actually took another class in 2005 but a studio course on artist’s books doesn’t quite count, since the purpose was to deconstruct the idea of what a book actually is and remake it as we saw fit. I have a glorious bookshelf full of my creations (below), but they required less writing and more envisioning and assembling relevant creative elements.
I probably should keep that concept in mind when I start my dissertation, shouldn’t I?
Except the “less writing” part, of course.
Anywho, I was anxious. I simply wasn’t used to being a student anymore. I’ve worked in higher education/student affairs as a college health educator for 20 years and I consider myself a life-long learner, but it’s definitely not the same kind of learning which occurs in a formal credit-bearing course, let alone an entire degree program with the biggest writing project of my life on the back end of it!
Now with most of four classes under my belt, I can honestly say I do remember how to be a student. And damn, I’m good at it…4.0 GPA, so far!
Fortunately, the introductory courses in my program are structured in a way to keep
us in the feels. It helped ground me in my own emotional reactions to both the curriculum and to my adjustment to studenthood. (Is that a word? It is now!) My classmates contribute as much to the teaching as the professor does because we all bring so much into the classroom with us which informs the discussion. We are treated as experts on our own personal and professional experiences, which is so essential to the study of human sexuality.
The first time my professor gave me props for the contributions I had made to class that day felt like getting wrapped in a big love burrito of praise! I was a student! And I was an educator! I could be both! Maybe I could actually do this!!?!??
But I digress.
And sorting out that I actually know my stuff helped immensely, too. Good portions of what has been covered in my classes is familiar. Or, in the case of some activities we’ve done and articles we’ve read, very familiar because I’ve used them already in my own work. I got the refresher on familiar material, have had many new elements and experiences added, and feel supported by the structure of and the people in the program.
Makes me wonder why I didn’t do this sooner.
Oh, right, because I wasn’t ready. I was anxious. I wasn’t sure I could be a student again…while working full time and commuting from Chicago to Philadelphia for weekend classes, and attempting to have some sort of life outside of work and school. I’m still struggling with that last bit (and will probably rant about that constantly). Regardless, I am finding being a student again to be within my comfort zone, even if the curriculum pushes me right back out again at times.
And that has made all the difference.