The First Week – Belonging


I stood by the elevator, looking at the building directory. There was the dining hall, the book store, financial aid. I scanned the listings, and I stopped at the Department of Journalism and Media Studies. My eyes moved to the right to find the room numbers, and it took me a second to stop myself.

Oh, I thought. That’s not me anymore. I’ve never had to know myself outside of the communications world, but now I do.

It’s Friday morning, which means I have officially completed my first week of school and my graduate assistantship. Actually, I should be doing homework right now – I already have a three-page paper due next week – but I wanted to recollect my thoughts from this week.

My days on campus are concentrated to Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – the nights I have classes – and I’ve built my GA schedule so I only have to come downtown for those days (Roosevelt is in the Loop). Tuesday was not only my first day of class, but it was the day I received by GA assignment. I decided to go to school a bit early so that I could get my student ID and my U-Pass (as part of my student fees, I pay for an unlimited CTA pass, which is a nice student perk), and explore campus a bit.

I suppose I don’t need to state that Roosevelt University, an urban university with 2,700 students and a commitment to social justice, is different than South Dakota State University, a land-grant school that takes over an entire town with 12,500 students and my alma mater, but it is. Roosevelt is composed of just two interlocked buildings, which makes it slightly more confusing to navigate. All I had to do was find the registar’s office, but it took me 10 minutes and I eventually needed to ask for help. As I wandered through the small hallways amongst the other students in their shorts and sweatshirts, I became homesick for SDSU, for the familiar. I wanted to see the Campanile, Yeager Hall, the Barn. I wanted to go back where I belonged, which wasn’t at this campus where I looked more like a teacher than a student.

Eventually, I got my ID and UPass, went to the GA meeting and met those I will be working with, and finally, had my first class. To my surprise, it was just a syllabus class, but it was helpful in getting an idea of what to expect this semester. I came home exhausted and overwhelmed, but excited for the next day.

Eleanor Roosevelt quotes are scattered throughout the university. I found this one on my first day and think it is an appropriate motto for the year. 

The following two days were more introductions to my classes and meeting the others in my cohort. There are about 38 individuals who are in the clinical mental health and school counseling programs, and these will be the people I will have all of my classes with throughout the duration of my program. There was one woman I sat next to in each of the three classes completely by happenstance. Walking into that first class, and seeing my cohort for the first time, felt very similar to when I met my Peace Corp groups for Niger and Lesotho. There is a lot of expectation that these people will become like family to you, but you will undoubtedly have complicated, intense, loving, emotional relationships with them over the course of the next few years. A big insecurity for me is that I am older than most of my classmates, by at least 10 years. However, there are a few in their 40s (I can’t tell for sure, but I may be the only one in my 30s) and the age difference will only become an issue if I let it. After three rounds of introductions, I am excited to get to know everyone a bit better, and as our professors tell us, we definitely we will do that much.

For my grad assistantship, I will be working 17 hours a week within the College of Education. Some of that time will be spent helping admissions staff and the rest as a TA in an undergraduate education class. The work shouldn’t be too taxing, especially coming from the professional world, but I am already a bit overwhelmed about how to get those hours in each week in addition to my class time and course work.

The last couple of weeks have given me a misguided perception as to what graduate school would be like. I figured I would have all this free time during the day to write, work out, take Annie on long walks, but the hard lesson I’ve already learned is that I am going to have some really long days. I don’t mind that, but I guess I had a slightly romantic idea graduate school life and now I must adjust. The good thing, though, is that I am really excited about what I will learn this semester.

After last night’s class, I knew my way out of the building. In just a few days, I’ve come to like the school’s dingy, narrow hallways – they remind me of the NFA basement. I had assignments for the weekend and even chatted with one of my classmates. It was the first time all week that I felt like a student. As I made my way to the train, people hustling home after a long day at the office, I smiled. I was right where I was I meant to be.

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