Government (Sociology IE Pre-Grad Intern) Senior Heather Jo
The Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program has given me a great opportunity and opened my eyes to so many different options relating to my post undergraduate career. At the beginning of the semester, my mentor Jaya and I had everything planned out, but I had to quickly realize that not everything can be set in stone. Everything is always changing. I was constantly learning new things- not just about graduate school, but also about myself. On top of being the most work intensive semester of my years at UT, I also had to juggle a part-time job and my preparation for graduate school. This mentorship forced me prioritize and recognize during my last year here, what I really wanted for my future.
My plans included professional conferences, attending a few graduate courses with my mentor, introducing the research project, and preparing for graduate schools. Unfortunately I was not able to shadow Jaya as a TA, because I was enrolled in the course she was teaching. However, I was able to see and experience some of the logistical duties she had, like Blackboard. Although I was not able to fit everything into both our very demanding schedules, I figured out not everything can be squeezed into one semester. First of all, filling out graduate school applications, preparing for the GRE and ensuring recommendation letters were my main priorities. I felt a little behind on this process, because I had just recently changed my plans from applying to law school to a higher degree in a Sociology, Ethnic or Asian American Studies. Throughout my entire high school and college career, my parents had a strong say in what my future consisted of, which would have been law school. My junior year, I decided that I could not see myself practicing law for my professional career.
Throughout this semester, I found myself talking to professors, advisors and reading the reflections from the other IE students about their journey in learning about graduate school. I had to completely abandon my pre-conceptions about graduate school and I learned from Jaya and the other graduate students during the discussion panel in one of the IE meetings about what to expect. I asked a specific question about instances of graduate students realizing after entering a program that the specific area of study was not for them. I was reassured as the students admitted that there are times when they changed majors. An important revelation I experienced was when a graduate student argued that nothing is for the rest of your life. Being flexible, changing with the times, and taking specific chances to help you grow is most important. Jaya has repeated this to me over and over again. Letting me know that I have time and I have options was comforting. However, at the same time, I had to learn that I had to be invested and seriously committed to what I am studying in graduate school. I briefly attended a Graduate Sociology meeting with Jaya between the senior students and junior students, where they shared their journey and experience. During that short period of time, I heard over and over that it is truly important that the student is absolutely committed and interested in the area of studies. That is when I decided that I would take some time off after my graduation to seriously think about what I want to continue in. Also, I wanted to prepare myself fully when I do apply for graduate programs in the future. I was just afraid to be disappointing anyone; especially to those who had invested so much time and effort in my goals.
Importantly, I learned that I would expect something completely different from graduate school. Significant differences like the amount of course hours enrolled within a semester, the type of work within a course, the presentations, and the course load were all new to me. However, I found it very enlightening when one graduate student emphasized the freedom she had with the topic of her assignments. She was able to incorporate her thesis work into her classes, which was helpful because she was able to take advantage of that time.
Additionally, I have been attempting to put together a research proposal for this semester. Although I slowed down a little bit towards the middle of the course due to preparations for my GRE and applications, I have recently started up research for the proposal again. I am currently trying to find relevant textual analyses from sociologists in order to further my proposal. This part of the project has been rather hard, because I find myself questioning the very theory of the literature that I am reading. Because I do not have that background in Sociology, I tend to get frustrated if I am not familiar with the concepts. However, with reading and more reading, concepts become clearer. For the methodology section of the proposal, I have used other researchers' theses as an example and to get an idea of what is appropriate. I believe that I still have a long way in still learning about the research process and being able to link the theoretical support to the main question.
Lastly, because I am studying sociological theory within my major of Asian American Studies, I realize that my studies always find a way to connect all aspects of my life. Sociology is relevant to everything that I do. The very makeup of the institutions I am involved in and the relationship with the people in my life are explained through Sociology. The fact that I have many major commitments is dictated by what sociologists study to deconstruct everyday. My involvement in groups and specific courses are driven by my area of interest. Ultimately, my interest in this specific area of studies is the common glue for all the different events in my academic life. Finally, the Intellectual Entrepreneurship has truly opened my eyes and given me insight into what I can expect from a life of a graduate student. Furthermore, without this opportunity, I would have found out the hard way if a certain path was right for me or not. Thank you all to those involved within this refreshing program.