Adventure is out there

Illustration by Justine Liang.

After speaking to Dr. Christina Johnson last week, I set out on an mission to find my next adventure – the ideal graduate program. And I think I found it.

When I woke up at 5 a.m. last Saturday after working 13 hours for John Muir College’s annual music festival Muirstock, I thought I was out of my mind. Here I was, a second year, attending the Southern California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education. Yeah, I really knew nothing about the graduate school process, so this would be helpful. But did I really have to go now? Wasn’t this supposed to be something you do your third year? Either way, I hauled myself across campus to the bus to Pomona against the blistering 6 a.m. winds.

Aside from the $20 security deposit and free Princeton Review GRE course I hoped to redeem, I wanted to attend this conference because I needed direction. As an only child and the first one in my extended family to pursue higher education in the United States, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. When it comes to undergraduate education, I felt like I knew more about the application process and what was expected of me – score a 2400 on the SAT, secure glowing recommendation letters and write Pulitzer Prize-winning application essays. For graduate school, I had no idea where to begin. Do I get a Master’s or go straight to a Ph.D? Am I supposed to write a personal statement or take a GRE? And most importantly, where should I apply – what do I even want to do?

Come lunch time, I was prepped with background information from the general sessions and was ready to talk to recruiters. This was the most anticipated part of my day. I wanted a goal – I wanted direction for my future. Armed with my free Subway and a list of schools, I hoped just to see what kind of graduate programs were out there so I could get a better idea of what I needed to still do to be fully prepared for the application process. I never expected to fall in love.I was so excited by what I learned that I made an appointment with the Career Services Center the following Monday to hash out the details of my next steps.

While I’ll skip the details of my love affair (you’ll hear about them in a couple of weeks, don’t you worry), I realized that I would not have had this opportunity our school had not placed such high value on graduate education. Every graduate program is unique and has different requirements, so not being pre-med, it’s hard to know what the next step is. It’s through conferences like the one I attended, and the resources of the Career Services Center, that you can figure out which path to take. I’m not saying it’s that “simple” – by no means is self-discovery simplistic. But have hope, because adventure is out there. You just need to know where to look.