12 questions for a 24-year-old grad student
While career advice from advanced professionals is totally valuable, we think hearing from readers in the midst of their early career trajectory can be just as fascinating. So we’ve set out to ask 20-something HelloGiggles readers about how they’re making a living, fulfilling their goals, or just trying to get by in this crazy quarter-life journey.
Job: Full-time graduate student
So where is your career right now?
I’m getting my master’s in design at a college in Washington, D.C. It’s a five semester program over two years and I just started my third semester. I’m starting my full time summer semester right now.
What does your day look like?
I wake up around 7:30 or 8 AM, check my email and my phone, then scramble to get breakfast and make my lunch before heading to school early to work and chat with friends. Right now my class schedule is five hours a day, Monday through Friday because the summer semester is sped up – it’s a full semester over 6 weeks.
I also try to go on a jog in the morning but that rarely happens. Actually, it only started when I got the FitBit four days ago. I’m letting a little wristlet control my life.
What do you do outside of class?
After that, I come home or stay at school to finish work. I find I need the environment to be around other people to work on stuff creatively. I’m never as productive when I’m alone. It’s very different than when I felt in undergrad. I should’ve done that work alone but I did with other people. I wasn’t concentrating all of undergrad. Since starting program, I’m still adjusting to how to balancing work and life – sometimes I don’t see friends outside of classmates for three weeks at a time. When we do see each other we’ll go to U Street or 14th or…wherever young people hang out. I do see classmates all the time. But other than that, I just watch Netflix in my room.
What were you doing before this?
I graduated from undergrad and stayed in New York City for a little while. I couldn’t find a job, and I thought about getting a master’s in museum studies, but that was really not appealing to me. It just felt like what I was supposed to do. I just felt like I had no options for some reason. At that point, I also wanted to stay because my boyfriend at the time was going to stay in the city and – hah! – I thought I was going to marry him. Then I moved home (near DC), moped around for a bit, took an epic road trip, broke up with that boyfriend, and just felt really miserable about my life.
But then you got a job. Right?
Yeah! I saw a friend at another friend’s birthday party and she worked at a cycling studio. So I got a job there. I had early morning shifts where I had to open the studio at 5 AM so I woke up at 4 AM. I wiped machines and cleaned bathrooms. I got in shape, which was good, I feel like the endorphins were making me happy because I was really depressed about what I was doing. I moved up in management at the studio, which was kind of difficult because I didn’t have much support but I didn’t have much experience with that either. I was stressed out over towels all the time.
Jeez. Sounds like Broad City, no?
Ugh, yeah! One day, I was folding some towels on the job and watching Broad City at the same time. In the first episode, she was working on SoulCycle, being abused at job, always folding…towels. It was too real just then, and I was like, I’m not going to watch this here.
Yeah, I’ve had those weird moments before, where you look back and think, how did I survive that?
Yeah, that last year was really, really hard. It’s kind of funny to look back on.
So, how did you end up deciding to go back to school?
I was also doing this paralegal job, working as an assistant at law firm for this woman I met through work. Then I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a while who was taking art classes and stuff. He was doing things he wanted to do and I didn’t know why I wasn’t. So I signed up for jewelry class that night and found an info session about this program at the same time. And I really think it was fate, because by the time the class started, I had gotten into the program, and a girl who was at that admissions info session was in my class!
So what’s your assessment of grad school now?
I feel like I’ve really grown. Before I applied, I never wanted to show anyone my portfolio because I was always in the process of making my work better. But that meant I never shared anything. Now I have to share, we’re forced to share. I’m constantly proving myself. It was nerve-wracking and really difficult and emotional draining the first semester – I felt like I was so exposed all the time. I didn’t know how anything was going and I kept doubting myself because I was going into debt for this. But I had a really awesome professor who would yell at me a lot.
Was that a bad thing?
No, I appreciated all her criticism. Sometimes I need a fire under my butt for this. But she would always be really supportive about it. She didn’t beat me down, it was like, “I know you can do this.” But last semester I was an emotional wreck. Every presentation I felt like I had to throw up. I had a few breakdowns!
But how are you doing now?
I’m good! I’m taking one class abroad this summer, in Paris then and traveling around Europe.
On your own?
I’m going to go it alone. I’m nervous, but a good kind of nervous.