Hello! My name is Anna, and I am the Graduate Assistant for Penn Alumni for the 2015-2016 school year. I recently started the Higher Education program in the Graduate School of Education and am beginning my third week as a Penn student! Let me tell you something – Penn is the real deal, and so is graduate school. I am standing on my tip-toes peeking over my piles of reading, but not losing sight of the reason I’m here.
So, why did I come back to school to pursue a career in…working at a school? The honest and most accurate answer is, because I love it. I love college – everything about it.
I love the Freshman experience; the constant need to make new friends, figure out where classes are held, find groups to be involved with, and perhaps even do laundry for the first time. Freshman year is terrifying, and yet, the pure emotion of it all is something special.
Sophomores spend time making new friends, too, because inevitably some friends made in desperate times during orientation last year didn’t amount to much. Some may have even ended in disaster – studies show that people don’t show their real personalities until three months into a new friendship.* Sophomores aren’t weighed down, or lifted up, by the newness of it all. This has a name, which you all know, the Sophomore Slump. But, it’s not all bad! Sophomores have the luxury of being integrated into college without the workload of Juniors or the imminent endpoint and “mustfindajobmustfindajob” stress of Seniors. Sophomores really have it made.
Juniors and Seniors can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which is exciting and mind-boggling. Popular phrases uttered among Juniors and Seniors include, “Weren’t we just Freshmen?” “Freshmen are so little!” “What are we supposed to wear to the career fair?” “I can’t believe this is our last [first day of school, football game, bid day, club meeting, etc. etc.]! “ “I’m so ready to get out of here and into the real world!” “I’m so not ready to get out of here and into the real world…”
Much of how I described the college experience above is cliché – did you notice? I think the notion of the “college experience” is murky. Personally, I spent the majority of my first two years at the University of Colorado (2000 miles from my home outside of Philadelphia) dealing with homesickness, uncertainty, and frustration that my experience wasn’t turning out to be “all fun, all the time.” Junior year was when college began to click for me. It was then that I learned to let go of a lot of the expectations I had for what college was “meant” to look like. I could go on about this topic for hours – perhaps in a future post. The point is, that even with my initial dislike of my college experience, I look back at my time as an undergraduate with overwhelming love and nostalgia. I wouldn’t do anything differently.
I learned about Higher Education and Student Affairs through my involvement around campus in a number of organizations, committees, boards, etc. As a Senior, I completed my undergraduate thesis on theories of student leadership and student organizations. I had become supremely interested in student life, and all the ways it may contradict the popular concept of the “college experience.” Since graduation, I have known that I wanted to return to Higher Education as a practitioner. I want to aid in undergraduate students’ development as they navigate the wonderful, scary, unique road that is college.
*Studies conducted by Anna Damm.