Dear Graduate Student,
It is the middle of the semester but I still think it is important to acknowledge what I am about to tell you.
Transitioning into a new place is not easy. Even if you were an undergraduate at Texas A&M, transitioning into graduate school is a whole different story. Classes are different, the group of classmates is diverse, the culture of Aggieland is unique, and everything is simply different.
So congratulations! Whether it is your first semester, your second year, or your fifth year, you have made it this far and that means you are amazing.
Since the graduate student population here is extremely diverse, I will write specifically to some.
To all the international students
Some of us had to move from another country or from literally the other side of the world to pursue the great education we are getting. What does this mean? It means that sometimes we leave our loved ones and good friends behind. It can mean that some other times we give up amazing food and snacks nowhere to be found around here (Cue mom sending me snacks via mail). Some other times, it means speaking English so much we forget our native language and our families wonder what happened to us. Sometimes it means adapting our name to this culture so people can pronounce it. It can mean dressing differently. It can mean working more or working less. It can mean spending a lot of money on travel, or not spend any at all, because it is not possible. It can mean explaining your culture or the reason why you do certain things almost every day.
Being from a different land can mean so many things. I can attest that even when I grew up close to the United States and Texas, this place is one of a kind. Being at Texas A&M meant culture shock for me. The process to get here was not easy. The paperwork was not easy. The hurdles are hard to jump. Communicating sometimes is not so easy. But you know what? You are here and that is all that matters now. Make your time here the best you can. Keep in mind that international students compose 35% of the graduate student population, so you are not alone on this one.
To all the out-of-staters
Depends on where you are from and I’m sure you are well aware of this by now, but there’s no Fall or Winter in Texas. Sad times, but hey, there are other cool things around here (like getting a tan in the middle of October or not having to change your closet for seasons). Be flexible with the weather here. It is not consistent or predictable most of the time.
My friends have recommended finding your new routine as in find your new bank, favorite grocery store, favorite coffee shop, and finding those everyday tasks here to help you operate better and feel more familiar with things. Maybe traveling is expensive and sometimes impossible. If you are not going home for Thanksgiving find a group of people who will stick around and have a ‘Friendsgiving’. Find a group out there of people from the place you are from or who share a hobbies similar to yours. Have friends or family send you care packages with your favorite things from home if possible.
To all graduate students
My peer graduate student, I take off my hat. I applaud you for being here and jumping the hurdles. Whether you are from Texas, from another state, international, or however you identify yourself, it is not easy to go through all the processes we do. Being a graduate student is busy work; take some time for yourself and your loved ones. Sometimes you just need a good support system so use Skype, FaceTime, and other electronic resources to chat with old friends or family. It will help you get grounded and refreshed.
The graduate student population is so diverse and there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people. Now, get out there, go to different events, meet people outside of your cohort, department, and community, and embrace being in Aggieland. I encourage you to enjoy this time as a graduate student as much as you can because the connections and memories you make during this time will last a lifetime.
P.S.: Aggieland is so unique and I encourage you to learn more about the traditions, culture, and current events happening here. Immerse yourself in the institution, read the student newspaper, talk to your peers and professors about what is happening in the community and stay informed.
Mara Schaffler | Educational Administration and Human Resources Development
is a second year in the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education (SAAHE) program within the College of Education and Human Development.