Economics Pre-Grad Intern Ryan Sanchez
My experience with the IE Pre-Graduate School Internship was a very good one. I shadowed Noah Kaufman, a graduate student in Economics, and I couldn't have asked for a better mentor. He understood what I was trying to get out of the mentorship and he provided me with the opportunity to do what I wanted while not trying to push his own agenda on me. I had no interest in participating in research or helping him with some of his work. My focus on the internship was more about the lifestyle of a graduate student, how it differs from the lifestyle of an undergraduate student, the transition between undergrad and graduate school, and the motivation that it takes to complete graduate school.
I learned a lot about Graduate School that I expected to learn, but it showed me a side of graduate school that you don't read about online or in books. I learned quickly that there exists a tight network of people in each field (at least in economics) where the students know each other, their work, their strengths and weaknesses and even gossip. Sitting in a graduate classroom with people who are going beyond a four year degree is much different than sitting in a huge auditorium where you see more facebook and text messages than notes. This is what I craved, and after my first classroom session with Noah I had convinced myself that graduate school will be a chapter in my life, and it will come directly after my undergraduate studies. Through the rest of the semester this view of mine changed. I saw how much Noah and his colleagues had to stress themselves to study and research and study and research. Noah is a trooper and seems to be very stress adverse, but I could still feel his stress even during his friendly conversations with me.
I learned a lot about the progression of graduate school, and he tells me that his first year was much harder than this current year. This is where I began to question my desire for immediate graduate school. I have never been someone who stresses about anything, but lately school has begun to get under my skin and make me anxious. As I get closer to graduation school will only get harder and I will become more and more stressed out. Once I asked Noah how he was able to handle going straight from undergraduate school to graduate school and he surprised me when he responded that he didn't. He worked for two years in-between schools and said he probably wouldn't have mustered the motivation for graduate school had he not worked. This was good news to me because I had begun to question how I would make it. I always envisioned graduate school after undergrad and that vision was cemented early on in this mentorship. I broke that cement up throughout this semester and decided that graduate school directly after undergraduate is not an option for me. I need to have some time in between degrees to taste the real world in a way that I can't as a student. I don't have financial support from my parents and I think I would get "burned out" while trying to support myself through graduate school right after supporting myself through undergrad. It's even weird for me to type these words because I had always thought that graduate school was the path I was going to take immediately after getting my bachelors.
After attending class with Noah and seeing how graduate students interact with the professor in a different manner than I have seen as an undergrad, my relationship with my professors changed. I realized that the professors are genuinely interested in what you have to say and want you to perform well in their classes. The graduate students are close to their professors, and this relationship creates a much different learning experience. Since I started talking to my professors more often during office hours and after class I realize that they have much more to say about a range of topics than what they say during class times. The interview that we had to do for the internship with a UT professor helped a lot as well. It was good sitting down with a professor and talk to him like a person instead of some "alien like" distant teacher. This is the first semester that I have EVER had a professor know me by name, and these new relationships changed my perspective on education here at UT. I know I will learn much better by having one on one time with professors and TA's.
Other than what I learned about graduate school by participating in this program, the IE Pre-Grad Internship provided me with a great networking chance. This semester I learned how important networking is, and this allowed me to meet several people who, in my mind, are a step ahead of the crowd because they have a desire to achieve more than a bachelor's degree. The networking I did in this program inspired me to create a website (which is still in the making) dedicated to providing a platform for introvert students to network. www.universityintroverts.com will help students like me who network better by using nontraditional means. This website wouldn't have happened if I hadn't participated in the IE program.
Altogether the internship program was a great experience for me and I would like to thank all of those who are involved with organizing, running and mentoring. I got more than I wanted from this class, and although the end result for me is to delay Graduate School I am happy with what I was exposed to during this semester. If student testimonials are needed I would gladly provide one from my perspective. Once again, thank you for the opportunity that was presented to me.