Myth-busting the Start of Grad School: From the eyes of a student and staff member in the Education Department  

Lida Ehteshami, School Psychology MA/ Ed.S. candidate and Matt Suslovic, administrative coordinator, Education department

06/11/2023 – Medford/Somerville, Mass. – An aerial view of the plants that spell out Tufts on the roof of Tisch Library on the Medford/Somerville Campus of Tufts University on June 11, 2023. (Boston Aerials for Tufts University)

As you know, it takes stumbles to grow into your shoes as a grad student. We’ll dive into a few common anxieties and hopes we see unfold in the first semester of grad school, from Lida’s experiences as a student in Tufts’ M.A./Ed.S. in School Psychology program and Matt’s eyes as a staff member. 

Lida (first-year in School Psychology)

One of the first anxieties I felt was assuming that everyone already had it figured out. I thought I might need to be a superhuman with exceptional intelligence, unwavering focus, and boundless energy to succeed. It was easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone around me had it all together while I was struggling to balance my jobs, classes, and life. As I saw myself getting more and more overwhelmed, I reached out to fellow students who all related with the same feelings and helped me set realistic expectations for myself. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and graduate school is a journey of growth and development for everyone. 

Given that I had just moved from another state and knew no one in Massachusetts, one of the biggest anxieties I faced was a sense of isolation. Between the academic workload, going to my practicum site, and working two jobs to support myself, I felt disconnected from the world outside. While I am still working on widening my social connections, I am very happy to have found a warm, welcoming, and fun group of friends in my cohort and have gone to a couple of events run by the Graduate Student Council. I’m sure to schedule time with a friend at least every other weekend, using that time to explore beautiful Boston and make this city feel like home. The support and camaraderie I find in my fellow graduate students is the most invaluable part of this journey so far. 

09/01/2022 – Medford, Mass. – Various campus photos taken on October 22, 2022 during Parents Weekend (Jenna Schad / Tufts University).

Along the same lines, I also feared having to sacrifice everything for graduate school given how busy my schedule was about to become. During my first few weeks of graduate school, I was entangled in the web of this myth. The stress it induced was suffocating, leading to burnout and a decline in my work quality. I am slowly realizing how self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. I am now beginning to prioritize activities that rejuvenate my spirit, such as cooking, spending time outdoors, and finding time to sketch. Engaging in these hobbies offered a welcome break, helping me strike a better balance and reignite my enthusiasm for learning, which, in the end, gave my academic performance a boost. 

Matt (administrative coordinator)

The moments I see the student-teacher dichotomy fall away and transform into a colleague-mentor relationship are the ones I wish I could preserve to show to grad students when they’re having one of those “ohhh, what did I sign myself up for?” reactions to the first semester. It’s a great thing as a staff person to watch the ease and familiarity increase between student and teacher over a semester. I see it happen often in the spill-over moments of teacher-student interactions (i.e. serendipitous conversations in the kitchen waiting in line for the microwave, the post-class meandering exodus of humans through the hallways, etc.). It comes up all the time in my conversations with faculty how they’re still lingering on a learning they took away from what was shared in class or are excited to share a story of something that happened to them in the field and get their students’ takes. I believe we’re all stumbling towards learning and figuring out the questions that need asking – faculty, students, staff, and administrators alike. I know that soothes my anxiety as each new semester unfolds.  

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