Self-Exploration 101

by Christopher Wood

When I decided to pursue graduate school, it was in hopes of learning about the profession in which I wanted to work. However, in my short eight weeks of graduate study, I have done more than that. I have learned a lot about myself that I had no idea about until now.

1. I am capable of managing more than I ever thought possible. During my undergraduate career my friends would always joke about how I had a really easy major and never had to do much homework or studying, and honestly, I cannot honestly say that I disagreed with them. Realizing this, however, made me nervous about my future graduate studies. I have learned, though, that I really can spend a few hours working in the office, going to class, coming home and reading and working on papers for a few hours, and still having to watch some Golden Girls before going to bed.

2. I have realized my privilege. Realizing my personal privilege has been something that I have struggled with since I first learned about the concepts of privilege and oppression. I have come to realize that I am a privileged person and am very fortunate to be where I am in life. As someone who is mostly in the privileged group in our society, it can be tough to accept these concepts, and I definitely still have a lot more to learn (as I’m sure we all do, really). I think this concept came most alive to me in Chavez and Sanlo’s (2013, p. x) Identity and Leadership when they quoted current NASPA President, Kevin Kruger: “I have also come to understand that recognizing my own privilege is not about living a life of guilt and regret, but recognizing that I have access and opportunities not afforded to all. My personal challenge is to work toward using my power and influence to be responsible and responsive to the organizational changes necessary to widen the circle of privilege.”

3. I am now looked at as a supervisor. “Wait, what? You are asking me for answers to important questions? Why don’t you ask your supervisor…oh wait, that’s me!” These are the thoughts that have been going through my head periodically. I am now, for some, the person to come to for answers to important work-related questions. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about this, but it has been a strange transition for me. I’ve done a good job so far, so I guess that means I’m capable of this whole thing, which is promising. J

4. My hometown has influenced me more than I realized. I am from a very small town and often vocalize how I am very happy to now live in a city away from the cornfields and…well, cornfields. However, I have realized that many of the values and worldviews that I have regarding life in general are a product of where I grew up. This is not to say that one can only have these values and worldviews from growing up in a small town, but that is where they originated for me.

As you can see, graduate school has taught me so much about myself in the several weeks that I have been here, and I can only assume that I am going to learn so much more in the next year and a half. Have you had similar experiences as me? Has your graduate school and/or professional experience shaped you in ways that you did not expect?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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