People always say that the first month of something new is the hardest. Time goes the slowest. Nerves are the strongest. Change is never easy and I haven't had this much change since Jack was born.
The first week or two was a whirlwind of getting my apartment set up, of figuring out the best way to get to campus, of finding my classes, and of swallowing my nerves to actually show up to class and (maybe) even contribute. It is an intimidating atmosphere, with super smart professors and uber motivated students with pedigrees. I don't know if I expected any different, but there is something about small classes (5-10 students) all ready and eager to learn, to discuss, and to disagree. You absolutely have to come prepared to class. There is no hiding because everyone can tell you if you haven't done your reading or your work. You can't fake it.
Coming into the program, I was most nervous when it came to my writing. It had been 7 years since I had written anything of the academic variety and I was afraid I had forgotten how. My first two papers I labored over each and every sentence. I woke up in the night with visions of seeing big fat "F's" and a "please come talk to me about your writing" scrawled in that red ink. Well, I am happy to say that writing is kind of like riding a bike in the sense that it all really does come back if you put in the time.
One thing I wasn't prepared for was the sheer amount of work. I think I was comparing it in my mind to my Master's degree, but there really is no comparison. The amount of reading, for example, is almost humanly impossible. Speed reading has become my friend and you have to adapt your thinking in order to capture the critical parts. The PhD course load is preparing one for their "comprehensive exams" which are the big tests (written and oral) that you have to pass in order to go on to the dissertation part of the program. The tests make sure you know your field and are able to teach the material. So everything I read, I will be tested on.
I am also a TA this year, which means I help a professor with a big lecture type class. I do all the grading and I fill in while the professor is gone on trips.
|The class has about 120 students. This particular day we were watching a movie about the Iraq War|
I'm a month in and feeling a whole lot better about things. I am getting into my groove. A nice and unexpected blessing is that I've been able to go home each and every weekend. My schedule provides I have every Monday off this semester. I spend a lot of hours in the car, but it is worth it for me to even be home for two days. I always feel refreshed after going home to my boys and ready to tackle the week. Also, my family and friends have gone above and beyond to check in on me and make me feel loved, even when I was away from home on my birthday. I feel the love and support and it's made all the difference.