The (many) “perks”’ of being a graduate masters student
Stress, irritation, confusion and uncertainty
Five years ago, I enrolled in the University of Regina with the belief that once I obtained my degree, my life would be set. Not only would I know exactly what I wanted to do in terms of my career, but I’d also be well on my way to achieving it.
However, since convocating last spring, I’ve realized that this was unfortunately an incredibly naive belief. Being a university graduate student is not as easy as I initially thought it would be. Instead, it has been a time of constant irritation, confusion, and stress as I try to figure out and plan the next stage of my life.
Since becoming a graduate student, I have been so frequently asked what my plans are that I’ve lost count. Even though I appreciate your interest in my life and future, these types of questions are extremely irritating, especially for someone like myself who is still uncertain of exactly what I want to do. And I swear if anyone else asks me, “a history degree . . . what are you going to do with that? Are you going to teach?” I may likely snap.
Yes, I understand that the history field is narrow, but having a history degree does not mean that i want to be a teacher. There are other job opportunities within history other than teaching! No offence to my former history teachers and professors – you are great, I just don’t want to teach.
Although being an undergraduate student requires significant time management, organization, hard work, effort, and patience – and it was both physically and emotionally exhausting – there are still moments every day when I wish I could go back and be one again. I realize that any undergraduate student reading this will think that I’m crazy for saying that, but to be honest, I’m not.
As an undergraduate student, my life had security, comfort, and direction – all important elements in life I’d previously taken for granted and am now currently lacking. I will admit that attending classes and completing the required assignments, projects, essays, reports, presentations, and exams while trying to balance my personal and academic life to ensure that I could complete everything I needed was a constant struggle. There was always so much to do and never enough hours within the day.
However, at that point, I still felt as though I had a sense of security in my life. As a student, I knew not only what I needed to do, but also what was expected of me and could spend my time immersed in my schoolwork getting everything done.
Additionally, while the road toward getting my history degree was undoubtedly full of bumps, major obstacles, disappointing dead ends, and surprising twists, it provided me with a goal that I could work toward achieving. This goal of obtaining a degree was always front and centre, providing focus and offering motivation whenever life got difficult.
Unfortunately, the moment I convocated I felt like this previous comfort and security was ripped away from underneath me. In many ways, I feel even more confused and unsure now than I did when I first began university.
To be honest, most days I compare myself to an octopus, floating around with options and ideas, but with no clear direction, desperately trying to figure out what the hell to do with my life. While I can’t speak for all university graduates, I know that I’m not alone in how I feel as many of my friends and former classmates who are also graduates feel similarly.
In my opinion, I think that this confusion has to do with two main factors. Firstly, in today’s society, for some reason, the school system places so much emphasis on graduation very early on in a student’s academic life. Even though it is nice to be recognized for your accomplishments, this attention is often largely unnecessary – especially if you’re moving from kindergarten to grade one (yes, I know someone who actually had this ceremony, as ridiculous as it sounds), or even from grade eight to grade nine – when failing a grade is no longer an option.
When it comes to university, this emphasis on graduation is immensely hyped up from the ceremony (with all it’s complicated steps and instructions), the photos, and all the planning involved. While this graduation ceremony is more special than previous ones, since it marks a significant, major accomplishment, I still feel that this moment is ramped up and there should be more consideration provided to students in terms of what comes next.
Additionally, although achieving a degree is undoubtedly a successful accomplishment, it is no longer enough to graduate with just one degree. With so many individuals attending university, the job field/market is becoming increasingly competitive. In order to stand out, it seems that your education will never end because you are constantly working to pursue your masters, Ph D. and numerous other certifications. It also doesn’t help that the job market in our province is already extremely narrow.
People have told me that me not to stress too much because eventually I’ll figure things out and the pieces will fall into place. I honestly hope so, because this confusion, fear and stress is always on my mind and likely will be until I figure out exactly what I want. Undergraduates, enjoy this time while you can because even though it’s full of hard work and long days, you still have security and direction in your lives.