Friday, August 28, 2015

Grad School Worries and Academic Pride

Picture courtesy of Ashley Ella Design.
In about a month I start my first quarter of grad school. My school, JP Catholic, runs on a quarter system which I haven't experienced because I've always been on a semester-based academic calendar. I've heard that it's a bit more fast-paced than the semester system but I'm not too worried since I'm only allowed to take two courses this quarter... which I am guessing will be like taking 4 semester courses. Still, it's the "being thrown into a new situation" that is starting to make me a bit nervous.

I'm having those same jitters everyone has on the first day of a new school or job. I'm worried about messing up. When I received my first reading and writing assignment for my Fundamental Theology and Biblical Interpretations course (a little over a month early; thank you, Dr. Barber!) I was equal parts excited and intimidated. They're starting us off with St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiæ and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I actually just finished reading through the entire Catechism earlier this summer but I've never really tackled Summa before. I've read bits and pieces (and very few of those) throughout the years but never at the level which I know I will have to for this course. *gulp*

As I was going through the list of questions and textbooks required, little doubts started popping up. "Am I even smart enough for this program?" "Will I be able to retain all the information?" "Will I be an adequate teacher once I finish this program and start working?" "What if I fail again? I haven't been in school for almost a year and the last time I was in school, I had to drop out due to the stress affecting my health." "What if I can't handle the workload again?" There are more questions but you get the gist of it. Oddly enough, all these questions are making me feel better about the situation. Allow me to explain...

I will be the first to admit that I've taken great pride about my academic career... to the point where a trip to the confessional was necessary. As a kid, I was the one who showed off, the know-it-all. I think I just let all the praise about being "smart" go to my head... and no one bothered to correct it. I was a kid, what did I know? While I got a better handle of it as I got older (and I got quieter and more reserved), it was still there in my mind. I took great pride in having graduated high school a year and a half early; in being able to give the valedictorian speech at the graduation ceremony. Though I stunk at math (my academic Achilles heel), I was still able to miraculously passed and graduated from my undergraduate program on the Dean's List.

After years of feeling a little too pleased with myself over my academic career, I got the much needed dose of humility and reality last year. Starting the Communicative Disorders at Utah State last year was exciting and not very nerve wrecking for me. First semester I didn't receive anything belong a B. I was feeling pretty great about myself... and then I didn't even finish my second semester, having to leave a month before it concluded. My health had suffered from me pushing myself beyond my limits. Surprise the "academic Super girl" found her match. I had begun failing exams and I couldn't understand why. I knew the material and I studied hard. I did great with the on-site work with the little kids. Still, it was hard for me to pass the exams. In a weird way, I'm extremely grateful to have gone through all of that because it helped me get rid of that incredibly prideful part of myself.

I think that part of why I'm worried about my potential success (or failure) at JP Catholic stems from what happened at Utah State. I was knocked off my academic high horse but that was one of the best things that could've happened to me. If this is what I want to do with my life (and it is), then I need to approach the rest of my academic career and training with humility. It can't be "look what I can do; look at how smart I am." It needs to be "I'm grateful for what God can do through me for others." I need to take out any selfish thinking... to rid myself of that pride that I held for many, many years.

So, yes, I'm worried about how I'll do, academically. I care too much about it. Although I fought it for so long, I know my passion is teaching others and helping evangelization efforts in any way I'm able to. I gravitate towards putting my efforts towards youth because of how poorly catechized I was and what a terrible path I was going down before I reverted. I want to help prevent that in others. I'm young at heart and I look young enough that they can feel comfortable talking to me or coming to me for advice (or so I've been told).

Of course, I'm going to approach my entire grad program keeping that in my mind. This isn't about me or what I can gain from it (other than the knowledge necessary to help others.) It's going to take a lot of prayer and a lot of revisiting my motives every once in a while. I need to keep myself in check and accountable for my thoughts and actions. :)

Come at me, negative, worrisome thoughts. You'll just remind me that I need to rely on God and to remember that I can't let the pride creep up on me again. :)

That's it for now. I have some errands to run (in 100+ degree weather... oy with the poodles) and other things to do around the house. :D Oh! I'm taking a little break from Twitter for the sake of my sanity. I think everyone (myself included) is burnt out from the craziness of the summer and there's been too much infighting and subtweeting for my taste. I don't know how long the break will last but I'll keep everyone in prayer. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D


Anonymous said...

Okay, since you said you go to JP Catholic, is that the one San Diego? Right now, one of my oldest friends is going there and he loves it. Well, at least I think he does. I haven't heard from him in months which is sad. :( My sister is actually really wanting to go there!
(If you do, do you know a tall, red headed sophomore boy? If so, tell him Philomena says hi. ;) )

Emmy Cecilia said...

Alice in Bookland - Yes, it's the one in San Diego but I haven't been on campus yet. As I said, I'm about to start; I'm brand new to the school. Except for a handful of events and classes for which I will be on campus this upcoming quarter, I will do the bulk of my degree online. Also, don't know anyone else who attends JP Catholic... and not sure how much the grad schools interact with the undergrads. :)

Emmy Cecilia said...

Oops, should've read "grad school students"