“Week Five” marks the halfway point of my first quarter within my first year as a first-time graduate student. Both unbounded excitement and complete overwhelm compete inside me for my attention each day. While it feels like there is not much time to reflect blog-style at this peak point in Fall, it is important to write about my experience for both myself and any prospective or incoming students who may be curious of one student’s honest journey thus far.
I moved across the country a little over a month ago, just in time for new student orientation and one free weekend of unpacking necessities before classes commenced. I gathered my belongings from both New York City where I had most recently settled and Ohio where I was born and raised, and I road tripped to New Mexico with my newly retired mom. Tip 1: I recommend arriving a solid month before classes start, if you can. I was unable to do this and feel it was too rushed of a start, but I am making the most of my memorable beginnings regardless. Depending where you come from, there are adjustments to be had such as the altitude, the desert climate in general, the Santa Fe pace, and your specific living situation. Tip 2: Do the assigned readings before the first day of the first quarter of school….also, Tip 3: make plenty of room for reading when scheduling your time.
Orientation is a great way to meet new people, and it was the first time I realized that so many students (around 75% in fact) come from outside of New Mexico. I no longer felt so solo: A lot of us are in the same boat forming new friendships and adjusting to new ways of living. August and September festivals are fun ways to familiarize oneself with the community if you enter in the Fall quarter, such as the Santa Fe Indian Market, Burning of Zozobra, and many of the Native American feast days. Tip 4: Explore Santa Fe & New Mexico while you are here…it is an amazing place to live! Tip 5: Apply to be a Graduate Assistant. This role not only offsets some tuition costs in exchange for work, but yields an opportunity to get to know faculty and staff further along with an automatic network of seasoned second year students.
The biggest challenge I have had adjusting to graduate school is managing my coursework along with my graduate assistantship and day job of being a photographer and photo editor. The amount of reading assigned in each class is ample, and with the content so rich it certainly drives me to carve out time to read every word I can. Writing papers has been a part of classes too, both reflective style and APA-style (American Psychology Association style), and if you are on an Art Therapy/Counseling track there is some art making in and out of the classroom.
Self-care is imperative as a counseling graduate student, and while I have yet to be consistent with that necessity, I am certainly working on it. Tip 6: Certain courses meet once a quarter on the weekends so be aware of that upon registration and discourage family and friends to visit on that weekend to prevent overwhelm (oops!).
Finally – the most important tip – Tip 7: Always remember you are not alone. The incredible professors, courageous classmates, supportive staff, and sensational Santa Fe sunsets all have your back. Just be open and ask!