It’s not an easy decision to go back to graduate school once you’ve been out for more than a few years, but I took the plunge about 10 months ago and applied for my Master of Arts in Public Affairs. Yay for me! I got accepted and today marked my first day of life back in the educational world – happy orientation day!
While the majority of the material presented in the morning sessions was pretty raw, general, and uninteresting I actually got excited in several of the sessions towards the end of the day. The first session I liked was on academic honesty and plagiarism. Before the professor began speaking I figured it would be the same boring speech you hear all of the time, but he was actually pretty engaging and humorous. At the end of the session, I decided he actually scares me so much that I hope I never get him as a professor for fear of him scrutinizing my paper to the degree that I will have inevitably plagiarized somehow, somewhere. Seriously, after listening to all of his stories I imagine him collecting student papers and sifting through each one of them so intensely that he wants to find academic dishonesty and call someone out on it. I think he not only derives pleasure from the whole process but it also gets his juices flowing. It is a hilarious mental image.
The second session that I really liked was about a personality and strengths test that all incoming MPA students had to take. Without getting into too much detail I realized that one of the things I respect most about this program is they individualize it to the degree that they build on each students’ strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses. I really liked it when the admissions coordinator said, “If you spent more time putting effort into honing and improving those talents and skills you are naturally good at, can you imagine the difference you could make in your field?” True story, lady.
Perhaps my most favorite session was the very last one. A lady from the career center gave a presentation on “personal branding.” For the record, I absolutely hate this name but really love the concept. Basically, it’s knowing what your strengths are and having an understanding of who you are and what you want out of life. The core questions you should ask yourself: what’s your purpose in your academic and professional career? What do you want to be known for? What’s your statement or personal mission in the world? Of course this would be my favorite session!
During this session we did a solo and group workshop where we were given a bunch of self-introspection questions like what describes you, what are you interested in, what are your experiences and what have you accomplished, what are your unique talents, and what benefits can you offer to the world? I sat in my group and within 5 minutes had all my points listed below each question. Everyone around me struggled to even answer the first two. One guy in my group told me he felt inadequate after listening to all of my responses. He said, “You really know who you are, I don’t feel like I’ve done anything to be able to describe myself so honestly and in that detail.” While I felt bad that my responses made him feel inadequate and unsure of who he really is, I have to admit I felt really satisfied that all of my hard work in exploring and understanding who I am and what kind of person I want to be really paid off. While everyone else was sitting there trying to come up with a mission statement, I wrote down the one created a few months ago. Live what you love and do what you desire.
Overall, orientation day was fabulous. Tonight, I am relishing in all the excitement I have about my future. A few months ago I talked about how I felt strapped and tied down in life – that I was way too settled for my age. And then today, listening to all the potential realities that existed out there, I felt like there was this big epiphany. Sure, I lead a relatively small, yet enjoyable, life; it’s not as grandiose as what I had in store even three years ago. But I am still so young and sometimes I forget that. Life has much more in store for me that where I’ll be in five years and who I will be as a person will be very different and (I hope) much deeper than where I’m at right now.