Saturday, August 30, 2008

A new beginning

Have you ever felt like you have made a great decision? That you are on the path you are meant to be on?

During the past week, as I have begun classes and started my new job as a teaching assistant, I've been filled with the feeling that I made the right choice all around-career wise and school wise. Only a few months after my college graduation and I find myself once again spending hours studying and preparing notes for papers and now for my own class to teach (a scary thought!). At the same time, however, I feel renewed in the choices that I made the get me here, and the hard work I put into getting myself to graduate school.

For years during college, as I agonized over some hideous calculus assignment, horrible econometrics project, or endless economics paper, I questioned my choice to double major in a subject that used math so heavily. Practical math is fine with me- but once I ventured into abstract calculus I feared I was a goner. I worked hard to finish in four years with two majors and studying abroad, and during my entire senior year, I wondered if my choice would come back to haunt me. The economics department at my college had a different grading scale than other programs: you needed a 94 for an A-. And don't forget that this is economics, and not exactly the easiest program to begin with! So after four years of working really hard, I feared that I had sacrificed a less than perfect GPA in the name of my dual degree, and that I would be tossed aside in consideration for graduate school. I knew that if I had only majored in political science, my stronger subject, I would have left RMWC with a near 4.0 and no math classes needed. But I also would have been bored, and I like a challenge.

Especially during my senior year of college, I almost regretted my economics program many times. Like the time I had to change my senior paper topic five days before the proposal was due when the department told me they couldn't help with data. Or the time I had the change my econometrics paper topic 7 times due to data availability. Or when I realized that I never actually needed calculus because I never once did a derivative outside of calculus class. After my senior economics paper presentation, during which the professor let other students speak far longer than the 20 minutes we were allotted, making one student late for an honors society meeting and myself late for a Miss Virginia related appointment, my professor said that I looked like I was ready to be done with it. And he couldn't have said it any better. The joy I felt in handing over that final paper was bizarre- economics was killing my love for learning.

Last week, however, as I sat in my political research class, I realized that I had a leg up on all the other students. there were only five other MA students in the class, and the rest of the class included PHD candidates from other programs. The professor started talking about using regression analysis, studying materials with data, and using computer programs that I was very familiar with (perhaps just from sitting in front of a computer and saying to the computer program "Why aren't you working properly?!", but nonetheless...)

She asked us to list our previous training in statistics and other people were asking if it was okay to list classes you took twenty years ago. In that one moment it all became worth it. All those awful moments wondering whether I made the right decision. If nothing else, economics taught me how to work through things backwards, approach things with a different eye, and it certainly taught me to be a better political science student.

So I breezed through the first week of graduate school, fully confident that my undergraduate education, both in the state and abroad, armed me for the challenges I might face here. As both a student and now a teacher here, I am living out what I have wanted and I'm living my dream. I'm so grateful for every challenge I've faced in the past because I know it has prepared me for this!

Perhaps one of the few graduate students thrilled to have as much work as I do, I must get back to the grind!

1 comment:

Lydia said...

Sounds like grad school really is your calling! Isn't it nice to finish undergrad and realize that you really do have a great education? You'll have to let me know if you ever have Jong Ra for any of your classes--he might only teach undergrad at VT, but he's a poli sci professor there and was my fav. teacher ever! (He also is a full time prof. at Hollins)