One year ago I was hung up on getting into graduate school, and it seemed too far and impossible to achieve with my GRE scores and the chaos that was hanging above me as my life was falling apart. Whether I was on the east coast or in Manila, San Diego just felt like it was always far away and impossible to reach. Even when I was physically there on campus at UCSD, it was not farther from me, but further, the metaphysical, metaphorical distance that separates people, because I just felt it was impossible to be there.
So the moment that I put the keys into the ignition of the rental car, I knew that I was there already, in the mental space. From the moment I got my acceptance letter, I still didn’t feel like I was there, or when I got called to the final round of fellowship applications (which I ultimately never got). But after all the hard work and as my plans for my life for the next year, the next two years, five years, and ten years become more clear to me, I finally know I am there, even before I arrived.
Is it a reward? No. It’s a step forward for progress. Not the be-all, end-all of my goals, but simply a gate opening for me to proceed to the next level, which has its own challenges and rewards, the biggest one being that it allows me to play this game we call life longer and access the areas that were once closed-off to me.
Compared to other graduate school programs, there is a lot of camaraderie here, because being competitive will alienate you from others in a field that emphasizes teamwork and cooperation due to the intensity of the challenges people face. I’m not learning theories and arguing what one scholar said and how another one was wrong or right in comparison; I’m learning useful life skills like strategy and negotiation, quantitative statistical methods, two foreign languages, and practical ways to manage and run an NGO. So by the time I’m out, I have my paralegal certification and legal background, languages, quantitative analytical skills, and regional expertise–not to mention my other skills in the arts and personal wisdom too.
I feel pretty awesome about my potential if I do say so myself. 😉 The other things I enjoyed besides meeting my professors and peers is that again, these are people who have real interests like diving, traveling, and doing something on the international scene. Out of nearly 200 people I met, there was only one jerk, and even with a program that boasts 85% employment after graduation, the pleasing thing to know is that those who don’t get employed usually are people like him. 🙂
Overall, it was a nice break from Los Angeles burnout, full of dancing, dining, exploring, and getting a taste of my next two years.