Born and raised in small town Iowa, I grew up watching many people follow a similar path. Most completed some form of college while also meeting a future spouse, found a job in the Midwest, and settled down in time to begin a family. Beginning college at the University of Northern Iowa, I too thought I was destined for this type of future. I pursued and received a degree in elementary education, and soon after took a full time job teaching 2nd grade in a near Iowa city. I was well on my way to obtaining all the pieces involved in the traditional Iowa picture of adulthood. However, I always felt like something was missing.
During college and my first year of teaching, I began to discover facets of myself different than the life ahead of me. I became a camp counselor for the world wide organization Camp Adventure Child and Youth Services and fell in love with international travel as I worked in Hawaii, Japan, Spain, England, and Germany. Through this travel, I also found I enjoyed being outdoors, and dreamed about living in a place with mountains, an ocean close by, and opportunities for biking and camping. I began researching places in the Pacific Northwest, toying with the idea of uprooting my life in Iowa. During the spring break of my first year of teaching, I decided to take a trip to Oregon to attend a career fair for teachers. I hoped to find a teaching job in the northwest that would allow me to move to a place more conducive to the lifestyle I imagined. Attending the fair, though, I realized very few school districts were in a position to hire, and without any contacts in the area, my chances of finding a job were small.
I decided to stay in Iowa for another year, understanding that moving across the country without a job would be foolish. However, Camp Adventure had caught wind that I was interested in living in Oregon. While teaching that year, I was offered the chance to take a side job as the Staff Development Coordinator for the state of Oregon. I was tasked with the recruitment, training, and supervision of one hundred college students from the three state universities. I spent the year teaching Monday through Friday and flying to Oregon every other weekend. While working in this position, I found that even more than elementary students, I enjoyed working with the college age group. Trying to juggle such a hectic schedule, though, I knew it was time to take a close look at my life and decide what I really wanted.
While recruiting at Oregon State University, I quickly grew fond of the city of Corvallis. The charming city, the nearby Pacific Ocean, and the short drive to Mt. Hood were all characteristics that made me envy those who lived there. In early October of that year, I decided to explore OSU’s website for potential graduate programs, hoping for a second try at moving west. I stumbled upon the College Student Services Administration graduate program website. The program would be two years in length, would prepare me to work in the field of higher education, and had opportunities to gain funding through assistantship positions. I was immediately intrigued. I emailed the coordinator of the program and set up a visit during one of my weekend trips. I decided to apply and promised myself that if I were to get accepted and received funding, I would take a leap of faith and make the move.
I spent three months completing the application process. The application itself was split into two pieces, a portion for the Graduate School of OSU, and a portion for the actual program. The process involved creating a quality resume, working with my references to draft recommendation letters, researching the program and its competencies, creating a personal statement, and writing short essays. I only applied to one graduate school, but it is more common for students to apply to many to ensure a successful outcome.
I turned in my completed packet of materials for review in January. During the beginning of February, I was notified that I had been selected to interview for the program. I spent two days interviewing in February. To prepare for the interviews, I purchased a professional suit, practiced mock interviews with my mentors, gathered as much information as I could about the program to ensure I could tailor my interview answers, and created a list of questions I had for the interviewers. Having taken a large amount of time to prepare, I entered the experience with more confidence. The interview session was two days in length. I spent the first day interviewing for assistantship positions, and the second day interviewing for the program. All interviews were in front of a panel of representatives. Upon returning to Iowa, I sent follow up thank you notes and then hoped for the best.
Near the end of March, I received word that I had been accepted into the program and was also offered an assistantship through the Career Services office. I was hit by a mix of emotions: excitement, nervousness, anticipation, and a bit of anxiety. Staying true to my promise, though, I accepted both offers and put in my resignation from my current teaching position. I spent my remaining months in Iowa creating a budget plan, searching for apartments, and lining up summer work.
I moved to Corvallis in mid June to set up my apartment. Once settled, I spent six weeks in Europe with Camp Adventure supervising the students I had worked with throughout the year. I then began my assistantship and the first term of my program in September. My first term consisted of four classes. I took each class alongside 19 other students, forming a tight-knit cohort. The courses were rigorous and involved a higher quality of reading and writing than I was used to, but I found the information to be extremely interesting. I also found out how lucky I was to be offered an assistanship with Career Services. I became a part of a very friendly office and now have the chance to advise students, give outreach presentations, and supervise the work of undergraduate employees. Transitioning from my undergraduate years to graduate school, I am adjusting to and enjoying the higher expectations, being treated like a professional, personal responsibility, and a more focused curricula. My life here has truly come together. After finishing up my first term, I spent ten days back in Iowa for the holidays. While it was wonderful to be home, I was reaffirmed that I had made the right choice. Transitioning to a new location and into life as a graduate student can be a daunting experience, but with preparation and planning, the payoff is great.
Posted by Bobbi Meyer, Career Services Graduate Assistant