How My First Semester of Grad School Went

I started grad school this past fall (2021)! I am completely asynchronous and remote in the Masters of Public Administration program at CU Denver. (I’ll probably do a little post on the pros and cons of asynchronous graduate school soon, too)

You know when they tell you grad school is hard? Yeah, they aren’t joking. This was absolutely the hardest semester of school Ive ever endured for sure. I am sure it is due to a combination of getting back into school after 3 years, doing it asynchronously, and just being expected to do more (be more).

For the first half of it, I had terrible imposter syndrome. Here I was, someone who has only really had one real long term job as a program coordinator, an undergrad background in mostly English literature with no real public service experience or previous thought of it, in this program with so many other well rounded and more experienced classmates. Learning to use a public service perspective was really hard and I am still trying to exercise that part of my brain.

I have a dear friend (with a background in both political science and English) who went above and beyond to help me understand policy and reframe my thinking to better understand how the public sector/government works. Mahalo piha my sweet hoa!

These are some things I have learned from last fall:

  • Group projects are still my least favorite. Not enough effort from teammates or people who want to run the show (and not follow rubric!!) causing our grades to suffer will always be annoying!!!
  • Collaboration with people you have never seen and will never see unless you are put in a group together is really hard, especially given that students span across the continental United States and overseas.
  • Digital note taking does not work for me. I really did try the first couple weeks of fall semester but I was not taking efficient notes and getting frustrated with having to look back at it on my iPad. I have since switched to paper and use the iPad for reference to articles my professors give me. I am okay with annotating these articles on the iPad too!
  • I reference Hawaiʻi in every aspect of my contributions to group discussions. This helps me to apply my life to these situations and to also share knowledge of Hawaiʻi with my peers. I may not get many comments, but the ones that do always thank me for sharing because they “had no idea”. (The majority of my peers do live in Colorado, so a lot of discussion posts from their end are geared towards and in reference to issues in Denver or other cities in Colorado).
  • The knowledge and experience I came in with may seem so little, but when I have online discussions with some of my peers … I donʻt feel so inexperienced. Not to throw shade at anyone, but sometimes they donʻt answer the prompt correctly – and tbh it makes me feel so much better about myself.
  • I like structured courses much better than “open-ended and loose” courses. I am very much a give me directions and a rubric and I will get it done to the best of my ability. I donʻt want to create my own module or do things a different way.
  • Math is still my worst subject. I was required to complete a college algebra course as a refresher for quantitative competency. I decided to take it with Straighter Line and that was the worst experience ever. There was no teacher – and being that math is my worst subject it was incredibly difficult for me to pass this online course. There was also no real structure. You complete it on your own time, so I had to sit and create a schedule twice to complete this course. p.s. I failed the final but passed the class with a 70%. It was my biggest stressor throughout fall semester, lol.
  • Teaching myself may not be the best idea. I would say in work settings, I can be self-directed for the most part, but of course like learning anything new, some training or direction is needed. Having to teach myself math was really hard. Numbers can confuse me really quickly. I also noticed that although I really want to learn ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi … again, I am trying to teach myself and it has been going unsuccessfully. I think for some things, or rather, most things, I need a mentor or teacher. (this is probably why I love education). For other topics, I have no problem doing research online on my own and teaching myself. I feel like itʻs a coin toss.

Anyways, it feels good to write about something and I am still actively looking for more ideas on what to write about. So if you have any suggestions, by all means … let me know.

Thanks for sticking around and if you made it this far, I appreciate you.

Happy Curl, Happy Girl

Signing off,

Curly Island Girl

1 Comment

  1. Don’t feel too down on yourself. There’s joy in this journey. It is a terrific way to guide you into your best strengths. God’s grip – Alan

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