Educational Administration Pre-Grad Intern Marco Estrada
Reflecting back on the experiences afforded to me by the Pre-Graduate School Internship, I cannot help but remind myself how beneficial this program has been to my personal and professional growth. This semester has provided me the opportunity to involve myself (in a small way) in a new area of academia, graduate school. I took on this internship at the request of my graduate student mentor; our goal was to familiarize myself with everyday workings of a graduate student and the process of getting into graduate school.
All of the information presented to me was very new; one of the most surprising things I learned was about how to choose a graduate school program tailored to the individual. I enjoyed hearing how my mentor researched various institutions and faculty to help him decide on the school he would eventually attend for his doctoral degree. In addition, I also found very interesting the topic of finances and how to finance a graduate school education. In particular, I was surprised to learn how graduate assistant positions work and the opportunities that said positions can offer to a graduate student. Learning about how to choose a graduate school and how to finance my education truly made the idea of graduate school more of a reality and possibility.
One of the best opportunities I got out of this internship was not just the formalities but also the conversations and networking with my mentor's colleagues. More than anything, I have enjoyed hearing people's stories. I enjoy hearing people's stories because I like to hear how others have become successful, especially from their perspective. As a first generation college student, I have no concrete role model that can guide me through or help explain to me what graduate school entails. Thus, when an opportunity arises to hear out other people's experiences, I do my best to try and learn from those who have come before me. Listening to others helps ease my nerves as well as reinforce the idea that there is no one direct path one should take.
As a participant in this internship, I was also extremely fortunate to receive funding to attend the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education Conference. This one event had a profound impact on me - I felt so motivated and inspired by the people who attended that conference. For once in my life, I felt very sure of myself, very sure that if these people are capable of such great things, I could achieve great things too. It was during that weekend that I committed to myself, that I would do something for myself and for my family; I would do my best to earn a doctoral degree. In the past, a doctoral degree never seemed appropriate or even plausible but seeing those people there and hearing their words of encouragement really inspired me. I received lots of advice and lots of praise for my accomplishments and even had one person tell me that I reminded me of them. Without a doubt, this particular weekend will stand as one of the most memorable of my professional career.
While most of my internship was not "traditional" in the sense that I had a lot of research to be done, I did get the opportunity to work alongside my graduate student mentor on a few small projects. This too was a great opportunity for me to experience graduate level work and help contribute. One of the more interesting projects I contributed to was a policy brief on the Top 10% Rule here in the state of Texas. The brief cited student population statistics here at The University of Texas and correlated these statistics to issues of diversity, both ethnic and geographic diversity. At a time in our history, when the Top 10% Rule had been such an issue here on campus and across the state, I am fortunate to have participated in such a project in which I learned a great deal personally, but also professionally in the sense that I saw how a policy brief is formulated. More so, I learned the subjectivity and mindset that one must have in order to present research in a concise manner, such as a policy brief. Admittedly, working on a project such as this and editing the research points gave me the insight to see that I still have room to improve my editing skills; however, it also showed me that I have potential to be a good researcher and editor in the near future.
This internship offered me more than I ever could have imagined; I am grateful for this program and more so for my mentor insisting that I participate in this experience with him. Without hesitation, I would recommend this program to anyone who has even a remote intention of attending graduate school - the opportunities and experiences offered by this internship have been valuable when formulating my own goals and aspirations. Without this program, it is likely that I would have never learned so much about graduate school, as an undergraduate student. Compared to when I first started this internship, I leave this program more motivated, inspired and with a better understanding of the steps I need to take to make my dreams a reality.