Location, location, location! It’s the rallying cry of real estate agents the world over, and it should be the same for grad students. As a first-year doctoral student, I’m coming to terms with having committed to spend at least four years in College Station, right in the middle of Texas, which is exciting in some ways and borderline excruciating in others. I’ll explain.
I grew up in one of the most “rural” areas of New Jersey…well, as rural as you can find in the most densely populated state in the US. I spent twelve years going to school an hour from my house, and the closest store was a 7-Eleven that still required a car to reach. I attended college at the edge of cornfields and rolling prairie, and had my concept of space really questioned when, for the first time, I could drive for miles and not see another living being or structure. Coming to Texas showed me what rural really means; even driving into and out of College Station, it seems like you can leave civilization behind pretty quickly. Thankfully, College Station has a lot to offer - I’ve visited a number of coffee shops, parks, and restaurants and can definitely appreciate the resources at my disposal as a student at A&M. It’s a new experience to live within walking distance of multiple grocery stores, a Target, a slew of restaurants, and a park.
However, I’ve come to learn that a place is defined by more than just its brick and mortar. The people of College Station are an important part of the mix as well. Naturally, these people include my cohort, or the seven other folks with whom I started my doctorate. They, along with everyone else I’ve met in my program/grad school are absolutely incredible. In the mix are also my co-workers from my graduate assistantship, who inspire and challenge me every day, and other friends I’ve made.
There are also a whole lot of other people that call College Station home, and they are the ones I want to get to know. I’m from the east coast and am used to moving fast and talking even faster. As a biracial woman there are a lot of people who don’t look like me. As a liberal biracial woman, there are a lot of people who don’t look or think like me. As a liberal, gay, biracial woman, there are a lot of people who don’t look, act, or think like I do. It’s this part of living in College Station that I know will be a challenge over the coming years: in a part of the US that lacks diversity, at a primarily white institution. This isn’t to overlook the experiences of those who come from different backgrounds, or whose identities have been marginalized - far from it! As I think about the future (the *future* future, not just about the papers I have due in a few weeks or pending midterms…) it’s hard to see how or if I’ll find community in a place that wasn’t made for people like me. This isn’t a problem of solely College Station, but of (higher) education as a whole. How do you aspire to occupy space in a world designed to tear you down, not build you up? A&M is a piece of my process to build myself up, and while I’m sure that living here will be an adjustment, maybe not one I’ll ever fully make, I’ve committed to furthering my education and exposing myself to new lifestyles and communities so that I can continue to learn from others. At the end of the day, I’m excited to be here and know I’m lucky to have such an opportunity.
Abby is a PhD student in the Education Psychology department.