Human Development and Family Sciences Pre-Grad Intern
Hardev K. Singh
It has been my lifetime vision to become competent in a field that allows me to help and make a difference in people's lives. That was the primary reason that inspired my family and me to make a move to settle in the United States in 2008. Although I started my journey at the University of Texas with a desire to become a physician, after taking a few classes in the Human Development and Family Sciences department in addition to my pre-med courses, I discovered that my true passion lies in learning about how humans grow and develop, how the human mind acts and what causes it to do so. Also, I always knew that I wanted to pursue an advanced degree. The chance of learning more about graduate school arose in spring 2011 when I got an email from UT's Natural Sciences Career Center suggesting that the IE program is a beneficial internship that will polish my knowledge about graduate school. After discussing it with several people, without hesitance, I signed up to be a fall 2011 intern.
I listened attentively as IE's Program Director, Dr. Thomas Darwin's first words drowned the room of 150 students during the first meeting of the semester. "IE is here not to dictate, but to facilitate and assist you in making that choice of whether graduate school is for you or not." He went on to add that by working with a mentor and sharing experiences with dozens of other students from around campus, the IE internship would provide an opportunity for students to be an anthropologist- to learn about themselves and the culture of graduate study. And that is exactly what I had hoped to accomplish by the end of my internship, to learn more about the ins and outs of graduate student lives and to see if graduate school would be an appropriate path in my future.
At my first meeting with my mentor, Caroline Heaton, we outlined several activities to be done throughout the semester. As time progressed, we looked up application processes, and schools and programs offered in colleges that I was interested in pursuing someday. I gave my resume a whole new look. Caroline and I went over it and made appropriate changes as necessary along with working on my cover letter and philosophy questions. To enhance my knowledge about respective careers I might want to pursue, I interviewed professionals and professors in my chosen field. I communicated and networked with teaching assistants and got involved in research. I started to investigate possible jobs and expanded my horizon to search for human resources and administrative work.
Based on the interviews I conducted, I found out that graduate life is distinct from an undergraduate career. I was told that graduate students do not have a rigid, structured, day-to-day routine. As a prospective graduate student, I will be able to have charge of my own schedule and dictate my own projects. I will have personal freedom to decide when and how to work on my projects. But just like anything else, there is always a flip to a coin. One of the cons that can exist in graduate school is having to take required classes that are not pertinent to one's research interest. However, depending on the graduate program, this may be rare. Once you are in graduate school, I was told that besides completing coursework, you focus on your thesis and work your way through a dissertation.
The decision to pursue a course of advanced studies is an important one. The only way we can hope to move beyond the status quo is by embracing new ideas, and engaging in research to discover new knowledge and new ways of doing things. Graduate education teaches students how to think critically thus preparing them to deal with and find solutions to problems in the future.
I also became more aware that it never hurts to gain more experience. Working or interning before graduate school allows you to assess your career goals and could also help you further establish them. You will have the opportunity to define your career path and perhaps find your true calling within your field. It also affords you the chance to identify your strengths and weaknesses. With all of that, I have learned to start exploring my options early, and look for good fit rather than high-ranking programs. To me, an environment that fits my style and comfort will give me a better chance to excel.
Before interning in IE, I had a belief that graduate school was for boring, introverted academic students, who have above-average intelligence. I had a personal opinion that most of them are antisocial just because of the extremely stressful situation they have dwelled in (i.e., graduate school). When I met Caroline, I realized that graduate students are just like the rest of us. They want to etch their names in the career of psychological sciences and are willing to work as hard as they can to achieve their ambitions. I became aware that the most important ingredient for success in graduate school is willingness to work hard and a good attitude. I also noticed that graduate students probably do not have as much time for leisure as undergraduates do, but the perseverance of wanting to climb up the ladder of success exists. For most of them, victory is accomplished, and they graduate with a masters or PhD.
I am glad to be one of the many students who partook in this internship experience as this has been an eye-opening journey of 4 months, and it has crystallized my vision and provided direction to help me make the decision that I will eventually venture into a graduate student life. This experience was enriching as IE provided me an opportunity to learn, explore and experience aspects of graduate study that were distinct from my undergraduate experience. It provided me with a broader canvas to discover graduate life and brought me a step closer to the real life experience of pursuing and attaining a career.