With school right around the corner, I can’t help but think of when I was getting ready for it to start – buying supplies, setting my schedule, cracking open that brand-new planner…. While those things all make me wish I was back in school again, thinking about actually going to class and taking exams changes that really quick! Rather than continue on with more advice posts for students, I thought I would share a little about my own time in school, most recently graduate school!
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My grad school experience was different than most because I went abroad for a year (Scotland to be exact). I graduated from Louisiana State University in May of 2015, and at that point I had only heard a “yes” back from 1 on the 7 graduate schools I applied to. I was still waiting on one more school – the University of Dundee in Scotland. Fast forward to the end of August – I got in to my dream school, finally got my student visa approved and sent back to me, and I was packed and ready to go. My dad even got me a cake that said “Have fun in Scotland. Learn something.”
My mom traveled to Scotland with me to help me move, though honestly it was probably more of an excuse for her to travel abroad. Either way, I thoroughly appreciated having her there with me! She was such a help with getting everything together, and we had such a blast exploring Dundee and Edinburgh right before she left.
After my mom took off, I had a serious case of culture shock and homesickness. After all, this tiny flat was going to be my home for the next year, and I wouldn’t see my family again for almost 4 months. My roommates were thankfully amazing and one was even in the same program, so we became pretty close by the end of it. Once classes actually started it was easier to ignore the feeling of homesickness and I slowly got used to walking everywhere, the town itself, and made friends with the girls in my program.
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Out of all of us there, only 3 were actually from Europe or the UK, which meant we were all pretty much on the same page in terms of missing home. My birthday was during the first week of school, and my roommates had such a nice surprise waiting for me when I got back to the flat that afternoon!
Classes were pretty crazy. It was definitely a huge change from what I was used to – instead of choosing my own schedule, we were all given the same one. Classes generally started at or after 9am and ended by 3 which was pretty nice – I could sleep in and finish early in the afternoon and have plenty of time to study. It was the actual material that was tough. I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t know as much of the background information as most of the other girls, which meant I was playing catch-up on top of studying the new material. After the first few weeks I was pretty much good, but it was pretty tough at first.
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After finally getting into the swing of things, it was time to pick a topic for our thesis. We would start doing our research at the end of the second semester (in April/May) and with our projects due in August, we didn’t have very long to get everything done. So queue the stress! What the heck was I going to do research on, especially in such a short period of time? After thinking out the logistics of dozens of ideas, I finally settled on one and I was in love with it. I pitched it to our supervisor, it got her seal of approval and we were good to go! Or so I thought…
Fast forward to the middle of our second semester. We were finally assigned our project supervisors, and starting to actually work out the details of each of our projects. My advisor loved my idea and looked into making arrangements for me to use specific lab equipment. The next afternoon I get an email from her – there was a problem and I needed to meet with her to talk about my project. As it turns out, I wouldn’t be able to use any of the equipment I needed to do my experiment. After much talk, we decided on a few options for me to consider. Honestly, I hated all of them. But I was insistent about not doing a literature review (no data collection so it would be a large research paper), so I finally settled on one. We worked out all the kinks, I submitted an outline and I was good to go again! Or so I thought…again.
The next wrench in my project? My advisor was fired. A few days before I was supposed to collect my data and only a week before I was scheduled to fly back home to actually write my paper. So I (along with everyone else she advised) was handed off a new advisor. My new advisor scrapped my project. They didn’t think I would be able to do it in the amount of time I had left. Instead of collecting data from several samples like I had planned, I was cut down to just one. Which, if you have any background in science and research, you would would know that is basically useless. You can’t prove anything with a sample size of only 1, so I was basically doing pointless work. By the time I finally submitted my project, I was so sick of it I wanted to throw it across the room.
BUT. At least it’s all done and I have my master’s degree (even I don’t actually use it). Despite all the issues with my project, UoD was still the best option for me at the time. If it wasn’t for the amazing ladies I met while I was there, I would have had such a rough time. Though we still keep in touch, I definitely wish we all lived close to one another again! We always made plans to get together throughout each semester, and I definitely miss that now that I’m back home.
Are you in grad school? Thinking about attending or have any questions?
Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!