After the conclusion of every semester, I try to figure out where that particular semester fits in the grand scheme of things. Was it my most fun semester? Or my most challenging? Was it just an okay semester?
This fall semester was both awesome and pretty challenging. I'd probably rank it as my most challenging academic semester (knocking out spring semester 2011) as well as my most enjoyable semester (probably knocking out or at least tying with spring semester 2014).
I have lots of theories on why this semester both rocked and stressed me out (see below) but I think the core of it is was this: I was doing things I cared about and wanted to do well at AND I was surrounded by lots of excellent and amazing people who supported me and were doing their own great stuff too.
So here are the highlights of my semester. I'm ready for 2016 and my final semester of grad school:
Most academic challenging course list: I picked classes for the fall based simply on my pure interest in them, straying away from more traditional "practical professional" classes. My classes were practical and allowed me to think critically and challenge my own opinions. From re-thinking how memory works, to diving into ideas about feminism and technology, and to learning more about how library instruction happens, I had plenty of reading each week to keep me busy.
Rewarding end of semester class projects: To cap off this all-star course list, I chose projects that would have a life time longer than the end of the semester. Since the projects were meaningful, I had more than enough intrinsic motivation (usually) to get them done when things got stressful at the end of the semester. And now that they are "over," I can choose if I want to keep working on them or prepare them for prime examples of my work in my professional portfolio.
Exciting new job in the residence hall libraries: My new assistantship was ideal. This job allowed me to put all the theory I had read about in classes into action. I also got to work with one of my favorite age groups -- undergraduates. It was neat to see what their lives look like and plug myself a little better into the university life instead of off in graduate school land. Plus I got to do a lot of outreach that will continue into the spring.
Continued working with the elementary students I worked with last year: Definitely a highlight of the semester. I was sometimes amazed at how they could make a horrible day ten times better. I love their energy, their love of Roblox, and their never-ending hugs and funny jokes for Miss Hailley.
Presented research in a professional capacity: Going to Italy was by far a highlight of 2015 as a whole. Besides the perk of traveling by myself, this trip also allowed me to present research I had done and brag about all the wonderful elementary students I get to work with. It was incredibly validating to hear academics and other professionals tell me that my research is important and in extension, the work I've been doing.
New friendships and strengthening old friendships: In my classes I got to meet (and in one particular class bond with) students in other academic paths. It was awesome to build those friendships both in and out of the classroom. I'm all about intersectionality and I felt my friendships this year helped to build those intersections. Additionally, I was really able to focus on building the friendships I had made in the previous years, whether friends from graduate school or the close friends I had in Wisconsin or at Coe. It was nice to have a core group of people I could always depend on and who I could share exciting news with (or call up for a much needed phone call or coffee meet up).
In the midst of all the craziness, I still had time for some adventures: I was able to see my brother and sister, spent time with my family and extended family, and saw friends during some of their happiest moments (weddings, gatherings, etc).
I'm excited for all that my final semester will bring and so thankful for such a strong (and stressful) fall semester. It taught me a lot about myself, what I want to do with the rest of my life, and how to balance it all. I'm growing as a person and figuring how to be an adult. All good things, right?