Graduate School is a Major Change of Pace -- By Lauren Susco

With each year that passes, I've grown both physically and intellectually. I've learned new things, and I've expanded my horizons. Many times I've even surprised myself with what I can do and with what I know. My parents always taught me that as long as you try your hardest then nothing else matters. Thus, that is what I do. Yet as I transition from grade to grade and school to school, I have trouble believing that I've accomplished so much. I say to myself, "That was really hard. Next year can't possibly be harder than this." Unfortunately, this mantra has never held true. Each year it continues to get harder no matter how much I try to convince myself it will be otherwise. However, I continue to follow my parents' advice and apply myself. So far having just completed my first year of graduate school, I've always been happy with the results.

I came out of my undergraduate institution having played on a highly competitive Division I soccer team, holding a job, and still having time to succeed in my studies. I was juggling a lot, and I didn't have much spare time. As I prepared for the beginning of graduate school, I knew that I wouldn't be playing soccer at such a high level any more. Plus, I decided I would start without a job. Therefore, with only my studies to focus on, I figured I would have some time to relax and work out at my leisure.

Once again, I was proven wrong. My first week of classes showed me this was going to be no joke. The time I thought I would have to work out and watch television was quickly filled with studying. As the weeks went by, I even stopped cooking for myself, and I was forced to eat cold cereal or anything that was fast. Since I wasn't working, I also started to notice that my bank account was taking a large hit. I started cutting back on things, and I would only buy the food on sale. Ten items for 10 dollars became my new best friend!

As midterms came and went, I decided I needed a job, because my funds were running out. You know it's bad when you have to sell back your text books to the bookstore to make your next rent payment. However, I was doing well in school, and I figured I could handle the extra commitment. To make a long semester seem short, I finally made it through my finals extremely ready to enjoy my long winter break. My dreams were dashed when I discovered my break would only be for two weeks. We were told that this was supposed to ease us into the real world. After my short reprieve, I returned to school hoping my second semester would turn out to be a little bit easier than my first semester since I knew what I was getting myself into this time around. Well, it was harder as I should have expected.

But not everything is bad. My favorite thing about graduate school is the fact that I'm treated as an equal in my pursuit for knowledge amongst faculty and peers. I've never experienced this before now. It puts school in a whole new light.

I've just begun my second year of graduate school. Currently, I have learned to make time to do my work, exercise, hold two jobs, relax sometimes, and excel in all of these areas. I've also come to accept the fact that I will be in debt for a long time after I graduate school, quite possibly until my first born child goes to college. I keep telling myself if others can do it then so can I. I still try using my mantra of "Next year can't possibly be as hard as this" to no avail. Well, you know what they say: "Third time's a charm." Unfortunately for me, I passed up that third time many years ago. However, I always keep my head up, and I look forward to tomorrow never doubting my abilities.

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