Hello for one last time, reader!
That long-awaited and suspense-building milestone is upon us: I am, at long last, completing my graduate studies and receiving my Master of Fine Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Arts and Media from Columbia College Chicago! That said, I can’t think of a better time to reflect on what my life has been like for the last couple of years. It may be an injustice to their complexity, but I’ll do my best to condense these whirlwind three years for you here now.
Coming back to school after getting my undergraduate degree and settling into the professional world was no small feat for me. It meant putting a sort of pause on my comfortable adult life to hopefully better myself and come out an even more knowledgeable practitioner and specialist in my field. While the benefits of graduate education were clear, it was still worrying to relinquish to some extent the independence and security I had just begun to feel in my life. Nonetheless, I was able to take that leap with the emotional support of my friends, family, and loved ones.
Having made that initial jump, then, the next challenge was re-adjusting to the classroom and academia at large, which was another feat unto itself. I had to re-learn how to be part of seminar-style discussions, critiques, presenting, and talking about my work to mentors and colleagues alike. It sounds straightforward enough, but there is a certain art to all of these things, something that starts at the very basic level of speaking in the same “language” of academia.
All of this school transition aside, I was also facing new challenges as a Southerner now residing in Chicago. There was a lot to learn, including a new transit system (and no longer driving!), neighborhoods, and things as simple as the logistics of where to get groceries and how exactly I would lug those groceries home. This part, however, was facilitated by my moving up to Chicago slightly ahead of the start of my first semester at Columbia, a window of time that allowed me to get my bearings–if only slightly–before jumping into my new life as a continuing student.
This brings me to perhaps one of the biggest challenges of my last few years as a graduate student in Chicago: working while in school. For every year that I have been here, I have had at least two jobs, often simultaneously, and of course concurrently with being a full-time student. I must say that I had the good fortune of always finding places and employers that were considerate of and flexible with my school schedule, but it was and is not an insignificant labor to juggle multiple jobs and be a full-time grad student.
That, finally, moves me toward my final point: what I am looking forward to in these last days of and the ones following my graduate education. Echoing what I’ve written in the preceding lines, I am now excited to receive my family and loved ones in Chicago for my thesis reception, regain some of my day-to-day independence, and–quite simply–enjoy the fruits of my years-long labor. Thank you all for being with me along this process and I hope to run into Columbia’s faculty, staff, and students again soon!