Back in December I was fortunate enough to complete my first official term in graduate school. A few days ago, I received my marks. But first, lets take a brief look at my Master of Psychology journey so far
My very first day was filled with undeniable fear. I distinctly remember walking into my first class thinking, do I belong here? Who are all of these people? Am I going to succeed or am I going to fail? I was internally questioning my abilities, but I would never actually show that I was questioning my skill.Everyone always talks about graduate school as being highly competitive. I’ve even heard that your peers aren’t your friends, they’re your competition. Not only did this make me feel guarded, but I was very skeptical when people would approach me and start conversations.
The first few classes were a bit awkward because everyone was trying to figure out who they click with, who they would consider doing work with, and no one was truly comfortable with each other. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but it’s almost although overnight things changed. We started asking each other questions, people would ask me for help on assignments, we would make plans to go out and see each other, study groups were forming, personal things were shared, we were becoming a team.
It’s a nice feeling having people that you can turn to for guidance. I think there is still some underlying competition, but for the most part everyone is very well versed, skilled and knowledgeable. There is always something to learn from someone because we all come from different academic backgrounds, and in my opinion, that is a huge advantage for our school.
Two classes worried me the most this term: Quantitative Analysis 1 (statistics a.k.a math) and Interviewing and Alliance. Long story short, me and math do not have a good history. We had a test every time we had the class. Thankfully, this course didn’t occur every week but rather once a month. I found myself studying for the tests 2-3 weeks in advance to be able to know, understand, and apply the material to any circumstance. These aren’t your typical math tests that follow a “here’s the question, now use the formula”. This math class, psychology mathematics, used application as its poison. You didn’t have to know the formula, no calculations for the most part, but you needed to know when to apply what statistical applications and when. And you weren’t studying one or two quantitative measures…you were studying multiple outlined in mathematical jargon. You were presented case studies and research and you needed to dissect what was presented to you. It was tough.
The other course, Interviewing and Alliance, sounded complete fine until the professors teaching the course told us that we needed to conduct a live therapeutic interview in front of the whole class. So now not only were your professors judging your abilities for a grade, but your classmates were watching. Talk about anxiety provoking. The best part? There was no way to prepare for the interview because they choose the students at random. One therapist, one client, randomly selected. Each student got the chance to be the therapist, obviously, but it was even intimidating to be the client. Try having a student figuring out your vulnerabilities in front of your classmates, its hard. My heart dropped when they called my name to go up as the therapist. I never thought the sound of an iPhone alarm would make me so happy, but when that profs alarm went off to signal that my time was up I was ecstatic. I went up to one of the two professors after class ended that day and asked if she could provide me with any feedback. Her words? You did so well, it was a good interview. I was questioning if you were already in the field or not, thats how good you were. Keep practising because we can never get enough of that. But i don’t have any feedback really. You phrase your questions very well, you’re very attentive to your client. I put a start next to your name. You’re on the right track. You’re going to be great. Very well done, Natalie. To have that type of validation from a professor that has her doctrine, that has a practice, that is essentially living the type of life that I want to live one day, was so beyond validating. I felt all my worries fade away.
So what were my final marks? Pretty damn good if you ask me. I never anticipated these types of grades merely because I didn’t think I was capable of them. I got an A in both Quantitative and Interviewing, which was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. I didn’t think I could do it to be honest. I was constantly comparing myself to my talents peers.
But at the same time, I was extremely dedicated to my school work this term. I have never pushed myself so hard academically, not even in my undergraduate degree. I went to work throughout the term as well. I was always busy. But school for me is something that can either make or break my future and my dreams.Graduate school requires attention, focus, and discipline. I need to do well now, especially if I want to go for my Doctor of Psychology in 2020, which I REALLY want to do. Why wouldn’t I want to be a doctor?
If anything, these marks act as proof that I am capable. These marks prove that I am my own worst critic but I can do this and I will do this. They act as a reminder that hard work pays off in the end. And despite your self doubt and self criticism, if you’re meant to do something… you will always find a way to make it happen.
But this did come at a cost. I experienced stressful moments. I definitely had times where I questioned if I was cutout for this type of profession because I found some things to be difficult. Fortunately, I had people to support me. My mom and dad were constantly encouraging me. So was my little brother, who would watch me highlight pages and pages of notes while telling me I was brave and my notes looked scary. Chantal, one of my new friends that I met through school, was always there if I needed help. She was also always there to tell me that I was being too hard on myself and that my work was excellent. Felicia, who just started her first term as an M. Psych student, was always giving me advice when I needed it most. Ryan, who stuck by me through the worst nights, was always in my corner. He gave me reassurance when no one else’s words would suffice. He comforted me on sleepless nights and stayed awake with me. His faith in me and my capabilities allowed me to have faith in myself.
Moral of the story? Stop doubting yourself. Give yourself a break. Don’t forget to breathe. Trust the process. Make room for selfcare. YOU GOT THIS.