Right in the Thick of Things

It’s very much October. Mother Nature is finally letting us enjoy some crisp weather and fall foliage, meaning that, after months of the stickiness of a long summer, we can fully embrace eating pumpkin-flavored foods and wearing sweaters. What October also means is that it’s very much the middle of the semester. Everyone is walking around with slightly glazed looks, mugs of caffeine glued to their hands, and every other sentence is “I can’t believe we’re halfway through the semester.”

Though the quintessential “midterm season” doesn’t exist because exams are pretty rare in grad school (I don’t have any this semester), the last few weeks have been heavy with projects and papers. While it’s meant a lot of hours spent hunkered down in a quiet corner of Van Pelt Library, or huddled with other IEDPers over laptops at a table in the GSC, I’ve secretly been enjoying it. I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed being challenged intellectually. There’s something exhilarating about powering through a case analysis, or focusing on every detail of a concept note. About challenging yourself in your learning, and turning in a final product you are proud of (and not just because it’s exactly one word under the word limit).

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At this point, the GSC has basically become our own personal study space…

The middle of the semester also means that, for those of us like myself who are planning to graduate in a year, we are a quarter of the way through our academic courses. We’re already thinking about spring classes, our internship and…jobs.

Last Friday, Dr. Neuman hosted a career workshop for us. While it was more timely for second year IEDP students, jobs are already on the minds of many of us first years as well. Which is crazy – I’ve only been away from the working world for 2.5 months, I’m not ready to go back! However, even though I’m not seriously applying for things quite yet, it’s never too early to start thinking about what’s out there, and how I can be preparing myself now. Luckily Penn has some pretty amazing career services – from Dr. Neuman supporting IEDP, to a dedicated GSE career director, to many campus-wide services. But I don’t want to write too much about jobs now because I’ll stress myself out for no reason – you can probably expect a more detailed (and more frazzled) job-hunting post in the spring!

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The other thing that the middle of the semester means is it that the cohort has crossed the boundary from the starry-eyed, enthusiastic “I love everyone” mindset common to college freshmen who meet in the dining hall, and have become true friends. (Our first group project probably accelerated the crossing of that boundary…) We are there for each other when someone is sick, we commiserate over late night study sessions, and we feed each other. (Shout out to Nicole for bringing a dozen donuts to a group meeting. There were six people in the group. Guess how many donuts were left at the end of our meeting…) Not only am I enjoying (mostly) every minute of grad school, I feel lucky to have found such great friends to study, laugh, dance, and gripe with, not to mention to wear my fall sweaters with.


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