Swimming Without Water Wings

Reflections from a first year #SAgrad

By Lisa Gilbert

Have you ever looked at the calendar and wondered where on earth the time went? For me, it feels like just yesterday I was crossing the stage for my graduation from Florida Southern College, and suddenly I find myself entering my sixth week of graduate school here at Florida State University. But now that week six is upon us all, I feel as if I’m finally getting into my stride and settling down from the roller coaster that my FSU transition has been.


I arrived in Tallahassee in early July to start training for my assistantship as an Assistant Coordinator for University Housing. To say we hit the ground running would be an understatement! After an intensive three weeks of head staff training intended to prepare me (hopefully!) for all of the experiences I’ll have as a housing professional, we then jumped straight into two weeks of RA training. I can honestly say that I think I consumed more caffeine in those first five weeks here at FSU than I did during my entire senior year of college. Once you add the five days of opening our campus residence halls to that schedule, I think the amount of caffeine consumption would rival that of my entire undergraduate career (if only I was joking – hellooooooo Red Bull cases and coffee runs!).

Once everything Housing related wound down to a close, it was finally time to start the semester. At this point all I could think was “Pardon me while I attempt to catch me breath!” Finding myself back in a classroom after what felt like a lifetime of Housing training and the Great Summer of Post Graduation Relaxation was definitely a different experience. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the transition into graduate level academia hasn’t been rough. I’ll compare it to the time when I was six and after running on a wet deck fell into the deep end of the pool without my water wings on - my cousin had to jump into the water and save me. The only difference is that this time there was no cousin to drag me out of the pool. The seemingly never ending reading assignments coupled with graduate level writing felt like it would result in me curling up in the fetal position, rocking back and forth whilst holding a childhood stuffed animal. It was far more difficult than I had thought it would be, and despite my determination to be successful and enjoy my time at FSU, I started to have doubts.


And yet the fetal position never occurred. Despite the lack of water wings I’ve been able to stay afloat, to kick my way over to the wall and save myself from my stumble into the deep end. Those niggling doubts have vanished. While classes have certainly been intense, they’ve been interesting at the same time. It’s been great seeing something work in my assistantship and having those experiences reflected in the literature I’m reading in class. While there have been days when I’ve asked myself “Am I sure about this? Are two more years of school REALLY necessary?” I’ve been able to push myself to see the light at the end of the tunnel: the point when I adjust to the class work, to the pressures of working in an assistantship that treats me like a professional, and to the need of having a social life.

I know there are a lot of long nights ahead of me, filled with textbooks and theory and papers galore. I know there are going to be days when I will wish that I could be anywhere but here in grad school. There will definitely be those moments when my to-do list seems to stretch on for miles with no end in sight. But I also know that there will be days when I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. There will be days of cohort bonding and intramural volleyball games with HESA members and rewarding moments working with my students. And those moments – when I can stay afloat in the pool without the water wings – will make all of this worth it. Those are the moment when I’ll remember how to kick my legs and swim.

Posted on September 30, 2013 .