“What did I get myself into?”

See the title? Yep, that’s what I ask myself weekly these days. I graduated in May 2015 from a rural Ohioan public university with Bachelor degrees in Ethnic Studies and French. Undergraduate was a wonderful experience. I truly feel like I was able to learn about myself and the world. Studying abroad for an entire academic year in France was amazing and if I could, I would do it all over again (especially if that meant escaping graduate school, ha!).

Anyways, studying abroad really changed my perspective on where I was going and what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. When I returned to America for my senior year I realized that I did not want to stay in academia. I wanted my work to reflect my practical, community-based spirit. I had absolutely no desire to sit around and theorize all day about epistemic, sexual, and racial violence  while enclosed in the stainless, well-heated walls of the academy. Prior to leaving for France, I became a McNair Scholar which meant that I had to I complete my summer institute upon my return to the States.

The summer institute program was an extremely enlightening period for me. I allowed myself to go through the motions of uncertainty in ways that I never afforded myself. I have always been the girl with a plan many plans. So to question whether or not I even wanted to attend graduate school was a major event for me. The director of the McNair Scholars program along with my oldest sister, K and my professors said: go ahead, go to graduate school. One of my professors even tried to push me to go into a Ph.D program but I was not about that life.

I took my GRE and spent long fall and winter evenings completing tedious applications in between working at Target and writing my senior capstone research paper. Before I knew it, acceptance letters started trickling in. I was accepted to every school with the exception of University of California-Los Angeles. However, the real difficulty was choosing between New York University, Columbia, and my current private NY institution. The “prestige” of the other schools led some of my professors to push me to go to the first two. The problem? They were not offering any money because they were masters programs. It’s quite difficult to find a masters program in the humanities that offers substantial financial support. As I had been conditioned in the McNair Scholars program: know your worth! There is no reason why you should have to pay for graduate school if you completed exceptional work while in undergrad.

The private NY institution ( School For The Rich or SFTR which I certainly am not) reeled me in by promising a fellowship for the first year and a teaching assistantship for my second year. It was really difficult to balance between “the prestige” of the Ivy League and the reality of brokeness but of course the latter won. Somehow taking out $100,000 worth of loans sounds like an incredibly unreasonable financial decision for someone that is trying to upgrade her standard of living.

So anyways, I am currently enrolled in SFTR and making the best of it. So far my experience at the school as a whole has been pretty nice. Being a scholar of the African diaspora opens up many opportunities to work within multiple disciplines. Currently, my research looks at food policy and community gardens in Detroit. I am specifically interested in examining the ways that low-income Black folks are utilizing their political agency in response to food security challenges. With that being said, my program is a hot mess so stay tuned for stories about the craziness that is my masters program, general discussions about graduate school, and my research. Thanks for reading!