There’s nothing like an exciting first day of starting a new school to make you feel awkward and downright stupid. Even at the young adult age of 22 and tons of first days under my belt, I still have a hard time navigating new places.
As I walked down the tree-lined street I recognized from the online pictures, it finally hit me: I’m a graduate student at Mills College. After months of announcing it to family and friends, going to graduate school became a reality. Great. Now, where the hell do I go?
Looking like the typical new student, I roamed around campus with my Mills map in hand. Finally, I found the building I was looking for, Reinhart Hall, home of the public policy program. How come all the signs on the building say, “MBA program”? Come to find out the public policy program just moved there. I wasn’t lost after all. Meeting all the women in the program was great. Being around people with comparable career interests and passion for bringing change to the world was refreshing. I know in the next two years we’ll grow into a little Public Policy family.
Once I ventured out onto campus, I realized being a new graduate student is a different experience. I wasn’t an incoming freshwoman meeting my roommate, hastily trying the cafeteria food or returning to friends I hadn’t seen all summer. Suddenly, I became undergraduate home-sick. All the welcome activities, school spirit builders and first-year mixers were four years and 15 pounds ago.
Before I could get too nostalgic, the blaring emergency exit siren startled me and everyone else in the computer lab. Wrong door. I love first days. All the activities incoming students participate in are meant to make Mills feel like moving into a brand new home. Somehow I feel like I’m subletting — especially since I’m a commuter student.
Where do graduate students fit in? I saw a huge sign saying “Welcome Graduate Students,” but aside from my own program being excited to see us new students, it didn’t seem like anyone else was.
Maybe graduate students are supposed to be older and more mature. Settling into a new school should be easy. Ice breakers and get-to-know-you games shouldn’t be important to feeling at home in a new school.
First days don’t last forever. Sure, I can’t find a bathroom right away or where I’m supposed to pick up a parking pass today, but I bet a month from now I’ll feel right at home napping on the lawn between classes.