Professional Staff Training is in full-swing for me at Florida State University, and I’m sure that the same can be said for most of the schools in the SEAHO region. Being a second-year graduate student, I have a completely different mindset and focus, compared to twelve months ago. While the workload has increased, I have experience to draw upon, more clearly defined goals and self-expectations for the year, and a network of peers and colleagues to call upon for guidance and assistance.
In reflecting back on my journey thus far, I think back to my transition to graduate school and beginning work in Housing. There were a lot of firsts: I had never lived outside of the state of Tennessee, been nearly financially independent, had a long-distance relationship, or come to a place where I essentially knew nobody. I had no idea what to expect for the next week, three weeks, semester, year, and so on. There was no guide titled “How to Survive Being a Graduate Student in Housing” in our welcome packets upon arrival. Even if there was such a thing, I am not sure how helpful it would be.
Every new graduate student in Housing will have a unique transition and adjustment period, one that is different from any other grad in the SEAHO region. No one person can give you a completely accurate portrayal of what it is like to transition into a graduate position in Housing. We can try… but we’re not you. There are so many factors that can affect your transition, some of which are:
· where you attend graduate school
· how far away you are from home and/or your undergraduate institution
· how long ago you completed your undergraduate degree
· the similarity/difference between your undergraduate and graduate degree programs
· whether or not you have worked in Housing previously or lived on-campus
· personal factors, such as family and peer relationships and financial dependency
· social factors, such as meeting new friends, adjusting to a new city or different environment (for those who attend the same school for their graduate work), and work-life balance
· other factors, like being upheld to new expectations and holding a new level of responsibility
More than likely, most or all of these factors will play a role in your transition to graduate school, and some will be more prevalent than others. Managing all of this change can be difficult, but as a first-year graduate student, it is important to know that you are never alone in your transition. There are others around your institution, state, region, and country who know what you are going through and have successfully made the adjustment to being a graduate student and working in Housing. You can do it as well!
Here are four suggestions that I have for graduate students making this transition:
Smile and listen, then ask questions
You are going to learn a lot over the next two years, but especially over the next few weeks. There will be some moments where everything seems too much to handle and that it is going to be impossible to remember all there is to know about community building, supervision, crisis management, duty, etc. Nobody expects you to have a perfect grasp on everything during and after training, but it is expected that you are present in the moment and bring a positive attitude each day. Listen to what is being presented, so that you have an understanding of how things work at your new institution and how that might be different than your previous institution. Being engaged and positive show that you were hired for a reason and are willing to learn, even though the days may be long and tiring. Your questions, whether they are shared with the group or with your supervisor, will be perceived as you actively focused on learning a new system, and you will make a good first impression amongst your colleagues!
Define your priorities, or they will define you
In this time of transition, be sure that you have a solid foundation of who you are and what you prioritize in your life. Given your busy schedule, there will not be as much of the “you” time that you probably want in a new environment. (Introverts, you know what I’m talking about!) However, your personal growth and development is critically important during this time. Know what is important to you, and make it a priority to do those things. If you start off your graduate experience carving out time for everything that is important to you, it will be easy to keep this routine once classes begin and residents come to campus. Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Ensure that you know what you want for yourself and do the things that make you a better, more complete person.
Recognize your support system
You spent 4+ years at your undergraduate institution meeting so many wonderful people who have helped shape you into the person you are today, and now most of you are somewhere new where you may not know anyone. Being apart from your well-established support system may be one of the most challenging aspects of the graduate student transition (made somewhat easier, one can argue, with the prevalence of smart phones and video chat). Understand who you can talk to when things are great, average, or not-so great. Know who can cheer you up from anything and who can be a straight-shooter and give honest advice to you. But also, don’t forget that you have a new support system with other graduate students and professionals. In time, some of the Housing graduate students at your institution could become invaluable advocates for you. They can relate to everything that you will undergo and want you to be your best at all times, and they can sometimes be your strongest means of support.
Prepare for what’s to come
This is only the beginning of your graduate experience. Take the opportunity to get settled, soak in everything you can, and get adjusted to the mindset that you are a few weeks away from beginning your work as a graduate student in Housing. The possibilities you have to shape your graduate experience are as fruitful right now as they will ever be. What are you going to do to make these two years meaningful, purposeful, and unbelievable? Don’t sit around and wait for a copy of “How to Survive Being a Graduate Student in Housing”. Go out and write your own survival guide, and do more than just survive: flourish! Be the great graduate student we (SEAHO) know(s) you can be, and do not let anyone or anything hold you back.
Current 2nd-year graduate students and professionals: Do you have any more suggestions for 1st-years during their transition? Comment below and share your thoughts!
Andrew La Haie