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Isn't it pretty?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

In the Right Time

Last night, I got back a paper I had worked pretty hard on. And apparently my hard work paid off - I received an A and very complimentary comments on it. I thought I Had done a decent job, but I was uncertain exactly what the professor was looking for on the paper, and what kind of level of writing she expected, since it was my first paper during graduate school. I realized after receiving my paper back and reading the comments that my undergraduate program did an excellent job at preparing me for graduate school. In speaking to some of the other students in my classes over the semester, I think the University of Baltimore can really be commended for putting together a rigorous and well-rounded psychology program. It's impressive both because the school is not incredibly well-respected within the Maryland collegiate system and because psychology is usually a fairly fluff curriculum. It made me realize how the decisions I have made in my life, while at the time didn't make everyone, or even myself, so happy, have turned out for the best. To give a little background, I started college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I went to college straight out of high school, because that's what you do in my family - there aren't really other options. I started my college career in engineering, but quickly realized that I hated it, so I switched my major (and lost my scholarship) to psychology. After a couple years of doing this, I was burnt out. My classes were huge, I had no relationship with my professors, they could care less whether I was in class or not, so I usually wasn't. I dropped classes without telling my parents and while I managed to make decent grades, I was learning nothing. After my second year of college, I went to Israel and my journey towards frumkeit began. This journey, however, made me want to go back to Israel to learn, which meant discontinuing my secular education. My parents were not pleased, but couldn't really stop me. After I returned from Israel, I wanted to get my own place, which meant I had to work full-time to pay the rent. Which also meant not going back to school. Again, my parents were not pleased, but there was little they could do about it. After working full-time for several years, and realizing that I wasn't feeling especially fulfilled, I decided to return to school. I wanted to make more of my life, I was done waiting around for a husband to make my big decisions, and decided it was time to take action. It was one of the best decisions I have made. I enrolled at the University of Baltimore. It had a very small psychology program, with a rigorous research and writing orientation. It focused on preparing students to go on for graduate study. I wrote paper and paper, I learned to look at studies critically, I formed personal relationships with my professors. I loved it, partially because I was really ready to be there, and partially because the faculty did take such a personal interest in the students, which you don't really find at a larger school. And now I am in graduate school, and while I have to work very hard, I feel I was very well prepared to handle the courses and expectations of graduate work. If I had finished in four years in Alabama, I would have been so burnt-out, I don't know if I would ever have gone back for more. Taking the break I did, even though it caused a lot of strain in my relationship with my parents, was the best thing for my education I could have done. Because now I am choosing to pursue it, I'm not being pushed into it by others. It's not easy working full-time and going to graduate school. But it's absolutely the best thing for me, because I really appreciate it and can take pride in the fact that I work so hard. It wasn't the standard course (though I was never one for doing things the way everyone else does), but it is my course, and it's the best one for me. Things work out for a reason. I am fortunate to be able to look back and be able to say that.

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