Applied Learning & Development Senior Elizabeth Camarena

The pre-graduate school internship, provided by the IE program at UT, has equipped me with an unforgettable amount of knowledge and experience. For me, this semester has been full of awesome opportunities as well as opened many doors into my future. The pre-grad program allowed for me to investigate and expose the hidden mysteries of graduate school. Prior to this internship I was motivated to go to graduate school but had no idea how to go about financing my quest, locating a school and program that met my needs and going about the lengthy admissions process. I was relieved to find the IE Pre-Grad program where I would be able to work closely with a mentor who, with first-hand experience, would be able to guide me in the right direction and assist me in my graduate school endeavors.

The focus of the internship between my mentor and myself consisted of investigating various programs in my field of interest at many different graduate schools. We also worked on developing a personal statement as well as GRE preparation. I attended a PhD social, where I met distinguished women who were all brought together for a similar cause. I was also able to attend a class with my mentor where I was welcomed to participate and discuss with other masters' degree seekers and PhD candidates. Lastly, due to my own busy student teaching schedule, my mentor and I have decided to continue our partnership through the spring semester so that we may further develop my personal statement and gather all necessary materials needed for the graduate school application process.

My mentor and I were joined due to our previous UT-related relationship. I have just recently completed the rigorous teacher-preparation program through UT's College of Education and was fortunate enough to have been paired with Anissa W. as my internship and apprenticeship UT-Coordinator. Our relationship had been related to the guidelines of the College of Education and I saw the opportunity of the pre-grad internship as a way to further develop our professional relationship. Anissa is a PhD candidate at UT; she is a strong supporter of bilingual education and cultural studies. I too support bilingual education in our nation's schools as well as the development of culturally sensitive material and resources for teachers and students of public schools. Our common interests and passions helped in our collaboration.

Anissa was excellent in helping me understand all that is needed to get into graduate school and what is needed once you are "in". Anissa and I met on several occasions to discuss the contract and responsibilities of the internship. On our first meeting, Anissa and I went over the general facts about graduate school, to some this may seem dull, but for me it painted a great picture of what I have to look forward to in my near future. Anissa provided me with many tips and pointers for looking into graduate school programs, I used this information effectively and through much investigation, decided that UT Austin has an excellent program in my area of study.

With this knowledge in hand, Anissa was able to further help me in my quest by introducing me to various PhD candidates and distinguished professors/lecturers at a social gathering. It was very refreshing and inspiring to meet with such a passionate group of women. Anissa had a course with these women entitled, Critical Pedagogy in Bilingual Education. Aside from discussing issues about final dissertations and reviews, it was very enlightening to discuss real-world issues with real-world grown-ups. I, at the time was only beginning my final semester at UT, only about to begin my journey as a student teacher, so it was very uplifting to be treated as an equal among these professional and intelligent women. From that point on, I was inspired to further my quest for knowledge about graduate school.

Later on in the semester Anissa provided me with a sample of a personal statement. This was extremely helpful! I was able to have a guide and a sort of rubric for constructing my own. My very own personal statement is still a work in progress, but I have taken the advice of my mentor and have read it over again at various times as well as exchanged it with colleagues and professionals. By providing me with a sample, I was able to make changes to the content as well as the overall appearance of my personal statement. Once I am satisfied with the entire document, one more piece of the puzzle will be complete and I will be that much closer towards submitting my application to a graduate program in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on bilingual education.

Lastly, I was able to attend a graduate school course with my mentor. This was an amazing experience. I had a vision of the classroom being filled with sharply dressed professionals all wearing glasses, toting mounds of books, paperwork and a laptop. I did see many professionals, not all in glasses and mostly wearing jeans - but still lugging around paperwork, books and laptops. Attending the class was the most exciting experience of the internship by far. I was especially excited to converse with the various students and the professor. I was even encouraged to participate in the class discussion, which made me feel proud and motivated. After the class was over, I reflected on the overall experience as well as the overall experience of the pre-grad internship.

I realized that the ideas I had about graduate school were not clear and realistic prior to the internship and its experiences. I was able to really see what grad school was all about and have it demystified. It was a wonderful experience to be able to investigate the 'ins' and 'outs' of the graduate school application process. The relationship between my mentor and I has grown to allow us to continue working on ideas in which I can continue observing, learning and growing.