I was so excited to see this in the mail yesterday when I arrived home from work:
I officially graduated on August 8, 2011, but there was no ceremony since it was the summer session. The weird thing was that I received no notification, no “congrats” email or anything. It felt anticlimactic, and all I was told was that my diploma would arrive sometime in October.
I spent 5 years in graduate school. I decided to apply to graduate school at UNC in September 2005. The deadline was coming up quickly, so I had to rush to take the GRE, obtain recommendations, and fill out paperwork, but I received my acceptance letter in November.
I took my first class in January 2006. I decided to pursue the MS in Library Science degree in the School of Information & Library Science. The school has an Information Science curriculum and a Library Science curriculum, and I decided on the Library Science side because I worked as a web developer and was looking to change careers and the IS side seemed like it would pigeonhole me.
I liked the Library Science curriculum because it was more than just Cataloging 101. It was very broad – more about information and how to organize it – and I could take courses on the IS side too. More importantly, the courses seemed interesting. I had always wanted to obtain a Master’s degree, and I had looked at MBA and other programs. The problem with them was that they didn’t really interest me, and I didn’t want to spend time and energy on a program that I had a half-hearted interest in.
I work full-time and the program does not have a part-time (or online) option, but thankfully my employer is flexible, and I was able to take the courses I needed. I took one but no more than two courses each semester. Most semesters I had to drive to Chapel Hill weekly although there were a few semesters in which some courses were online. I took summer school courses that always seemed to have me sitting in RTP traffic at rush hour. I liked the classes that met weekly for 2.5 hours, especially the evening ones, but it was an hour each way, and even though my class ended at 8:30, I usually got home at 10. I met my thesis advisor (also my advisor) in person twice.
School was a good distraction from our infertility. We discovered our infertility and pursued treatments during this same time period, and I remember sitting in class when we started to consider surrogacy, crunching numbers to see if such a crazy idea could work. When F was pregnant with Daniel, my Online Social Networks professor and his wife had a baby a few weeks into our class, and I wanted to say “hey, me too!” but it felt a little weird. I took off a year when Daniel was born.
I didn’t make any friends. I participated in no clubs or activities. Piles of paper accumulated everywhere in the house the closer the end of each semester came (I am a champion pile maker). Most students in my program take around 2 years to complete the 48 hours required, so I saw a lot of turnover. I often felt like the invisible student, plugging away.
But now I’m done, and I feel so free! It’s like a major constraint has been removed. No more drives to Chapel Hill (confession: I don’t really like Chapel Hill). No more assignments. I threw away my thesis research over the weekend in the Great Fall Purge.
So what happens now? Am I planning to quit my job to become the public librarian or academic librarian I had thought I might become when I started the program? Not likely. What I learned can be applied at my job. Was graduate school worth it? Yes. I learned a lot and perhaps more importantly, I achieved a goal I had set for myself.
A huge thanks to J, our families and friends and Daniel for their support and understanding over the last 5 years. This diploma belongs to you too because I couldn’t have done it without you.