A new Blog Series that will take course over the next several months regarding my journey towards graduate school. It will be featured once a month alongside my other posts.
Part One: The Spark
What causes someone to think that taking the next step in their academic or professional career is graduate school?
Is it because of the path they have chosen? A focus in STEM fields, perhaps? The desire for higher income? The urge to become an expert in their specialty? Did hitting a brick wall in their current position cause them to think that it may be time to move towards the next level?
Or, was it because you were slapped in the back of the head by reality and realized your life wasn’t going anywhere with just your bachelor’s degree?
That last one is definitely close to what caused me to finally, after five long years from undergrad, prepare and apply for graduate school.
In my family (which is large… like if I count all of my aunts, cousins, uncles, grandparents and my mom… Its over 30 people at this point), there are currently six individuals (including myself) who have received a bachelor’s degree; only two have post-secondary degrees (At the moment. Someone else is working towards it as I type).
Of these six, two are in mathematics, one in physical therapy, one in criminal justice, and the other is going towards non-profit management/public policy.
Then you have me…. The oddball who majored in Anthropology (I still get asked by family members what the hell that is).
Honestly, it did not start out that way. In middle and high school, I had already established what I was going to do. Major in business (international once I hit junior year of high school), with a focus in marketing and hopefully by the time I was 35, have my own business. I took and excelled in business courses in high school, along with enrolling in school organizations that offered opportunities for me to attend conferences and competitions.
When I moved on towards college, life began to lead me right into a black hole.
My grades in my business courses were horrid. I was failing accounting and economics courses, which was a breeze in high school. My personal life was in turmoil (for reasons I’d rather not disclose) and I had lost all focus.
I had fallen out of love with the idea of business. The interest of owning my own establishment had drifted away. I was in undergrad with no idea of what to do.
Then, while driving in the car with a friend of mine for lunch off campus, we got into an interesting discussion of major switching and “finding our passion” in college. She told me that while she always thought Anthropology/Archeology was her one true passion, cryptology specifically, she was falling out of love with it entirely. There were certain things in the courses that she did not agree with, the practices and methodologies did not suit her mentality. However, the more she talked about it, the more interested I became.
Studying many different types of cultures? Observing subjects for a critical purpose? Writing papers on varying topics? Collecting data and analyzing it to present specified results? SIGN ME THE HELL UP!
I took a cultural studies course with her next term, just to get a glimpse of what it could be like if I decided to switch.
I excelled in it, getting high B’s and A’s on the homework assignments and research papers, while she averaged out at low B’s and C’s. After ending that course with an A in comparison to her C, I decided at the end of my sophomore year to switch my major to Anthropology.
Granted, those 2 years were not easy with two part-time jobs, a full-time course load and my personal life slowly changing for the better (after a bout of chaos). I finished four years of undergrad with a sub par GPA and (thanks to my earlier years as a business major) with a BA in Anthropology.
What I failed to notice and think about was this: What in the world could I do with an Anthropology degree?
Considering the area I was living in, there were not a lot of jobs in the market for anthropologists. It also did not help that the market crashed the same year I graduated, so I was hit with chaos from all sides.
I worked odd jobs for the past 4 years, just to make ends meet and attempt to pay back on my student loans in a timely fashion. I searched for that so-called “passion” that I thought I had found in undergrad.
Then, in 2014, I had lost a very good position I had strived so hard to get with the local city government. The reason for my dismissal? I was “too outspoken, not inclined to follow set rules and too opinionated with a very critical mindset.” I always thought these traits were important in any job (save for the following rules part). Nevertheless, when you have a ruthless dictator with unlimited influence and power ruling over the department, any form of conflict is not normal to them. I was not a mindless robot and I had to be removed.
For a month and a half, I sat unemployed, wondering what I could possibly do with myself. I had no direction and no desire to even work. But, that’s not an option in this society, so I had to find something.
At that point, I decided that it was not going to just be any job. If I was going to work, then it was going to be something that I would enjoy; in my field of study that I pursued in undergrad: Anthropology or any form of social science.
With that, I wrote down in a notebook all of the jobs I ever had since my first one in the 8th grade. My job history was long: 20 positions over 16 years. I wrote down all of my tasks and assignments, highlighted my pros and cons, and figured how long I stayed in each position. From there, I picked the jobs I enjoyed the most and the ones I loathed.
At that point, I figured out that I needed to be in a job that catered to the non-profit sector with a focus on community outreach, education or urban development. I also had experience with working with youth and data analysis.
With this focus in mind, I searched for jobs in these areas. Within that month, I had found two amazing jobs that I still have to this day: A Youth Development Coordinator position and an Intern for research with a STEM centered non-profit. There may have been days where I was tired and frustrated with these jobs, but I honestly enjoy going to both of them daily.
While working these jobs, the urge to want to excel in these positions and possibly do more in them came to mind. However, I felt there was one component missing from this: a master’s degree.
I figured there was no way I could go any higher in these establishments without a post-secondary education. Alongside my desire to work in areas I love (which I did accomplish), I began the frustrating spiral towards attaining something I never would be possible to get: a graduate degree.
I’ll be uploading part two of this series sometime in July. Let me know what you think about it and look forward to another post next week! I’m back on my regular posting schedule, so look forward to some new content.