To Those Starting School…
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Breathe. If no one else has told you this, let me say it now: you belong here. You may not feel like it and that’s ok. This is a big transition, whether you’re going from high school to college or undergraduate to graduate work. It can take some time to find your footing and imposter syndrome is a real thing. I guarantee you everyone else in your cohort is feeling just as nervous, anxious, and maybe a little confused. Give yourself time to adjust.
You belong right where you are. It may feel like others in your year group know more than you do, but I’m betting they don’t, or if they do, rest assured you know just as much in your own area of expertise. I remember when I was doing my first MA, I kept thinking that everyone knew more than I did, and sooner or later they’d figure that out and realize I didn’t belong; and then one day I overheard a couple of students talking in the bathroom and I realized none of us knew what the hell we were doing. We were each finding our way. So, relax and trust the process.
Yes, the language of academia can be weird. Think of it like its own dialect. That’s one of the things you’re learning and no one expects you to speak it fluently from day one. When you come across books or articles by scholars and you really like the way they’re written, save them and try to read more by that person. The more you read, the better a scholar you will be, not just because you are reading more information, but because this is one of the ways you will develop your own academic voice. That takes time and a lot of practice.
If you haven’t found it already, go buy the book “The Professor is In,” and check out the blog by the same name. This is the book I wish to Gods someone had given me when I started graduate school. It’s been tremendously helpful.
Do not leave your required language exams until the last semester. You will hate your life. Get on those things from day one.
Be present in your department for social things now and again. It makes a difference and you’re all in the same boat after all.
Most of all, try to enjoy what you’re learning. The world will not end if you get a bad grade. Don’t be afraid to approach your professors. They’re human, they’ll talk to you. For those starting their undergrad or graduate careers via zoom, I know this isn’t the academic world you expected, but try to make the most of it. Hopefully next semester we’ll all be back to in-person learning again. Most of all, welcome back to school. It’s exciting regardless of whether we’re in person or not. ^_^