By Tolu Taiwo

CSU’s SAHE Orientation (a.k.a., the day I’ve been waiting for since March) was a couple of days ago. For two days, all of us first years started to form as an actual cohort as we learned everything there is to know about our specific SAHE program. During the first day, we had the regular “school” discussions: we got the syllabi, we talked about advising, we met the professors—all that jazz that you’d expect from orientation. Then things got real, and we started discussing William Bridges “Managing Transitions” theory:

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Basically, this model describes the stages one might go through during a transition, such as losing a family member or getting married…or, you know, starting a graduate program. The first stage is the “ending, losing, letting go” part: you realize that you’re going to be leaving a lot behind, and that you’re forced to let things go, be it a familiar state’s drivers license, engrained undergrad traditions, or a significant other. The next stage, “the neutral zone,” is trying to straddle the line between the “old” and the “new,” which may leave you feeling like you’re in no-man’s-land. The last stage is “the new beginning,” or finally feeling comfortable in your new physical and/or emotional place.

It was tough for me to see this diagram, and to realize how the steps are playing to my life right now. I think we all enter grad school thinking it’s going to be the best time ever. It’s a student affairs program, so everything is going to be nice and fun and rewarding and it’s going to feel wonderful 100 percent of the time! And I know I definitely bought into that myth. The truth is, though I’m pumped to be here, I’ve been struggling in the “ending, losing, letting go” zone. I’m homesick for my hometown and my younger brothers. I’m upset that I’m going to miss a lot of the homecoming activities in my undergrad. I think about what I lost because of distance, and some days, the icky feeling of going through the transition theory is greater than my overall “WOO!” feeling of being here.

And you know what? That’s okay. The main thing to realize is that everyone in graduate school will go through this model, and that everyone will go through the stages at different times. One of the advisors told us that a girl in an earlier cohort took three full semester to go through all the stages. You will feel comfortable with the grad school experience, and the whole “newness” of everything, on your terms.

Another thing to realize with this is that it is absolutely okay to make your feelings known to the people you feel close to, and let them know where you are in life. After orientation, I called one of my best friends in Baltimore and just vented to her about how I was feeling uneasy and how I was missing things, and sheinstantly got it. Having a support system doesn’t make you weaker, or seem ungrateful. It just means you’re taking care of yourself and making sense of your feelings with others around to help you.

Whether you’re finally totally excited to call your new space your home, or you’re crying every day because you are in homesick mode, know that what you’re going through is normal, that you are not a freak, and that you are going to do just fine ingraduate school. Also take this time to reach out and help out your fellow cohort members, and realize that were you are may not be where they are in this process. As I said, we all go through this model differently. But we can all make sure that we can support one another as we navigate through.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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