Tag Archives: over my head

Feeling Overwhelmed in Graduate School

I’m writing this post because I have had 2 weeks of graduate school (one week of registration/orientation and one week of class) and this is the first time I am feeling truly overwhelmed. I went to my family’s lake house for Labor Day weekend to relax and enjoy some time with my family and my boyfriend, and am now en route back to school. The drive is only partly done (I’ve made a pit stop), but in all it should amount to over 6 hours of driving.

I knew which readings I had to do for class based on our syllabi and I made an effort to get these done at various points before I left or during my trip. In total, I had to read one novel, three scholarly articles, one 62 page “theory book” (as I’m going to call it), and a 646 line medieval poem. And that doesn’t count the two articles we were supposed to discuss last week but are really going to discuss this week, so I might have to refresh my memory on what they said. I approached all my readings and – I must admit – understood them to varying degrees. The poem I’ve studied before and know well. The novel was understandable if boring, the “theory book” was comprehensible, but some of the articles pretty much baffled me at first reading.

Now, during my pit stop I happened to check my email – out of habit more so that for any practical reason – and found two emails from professors I received some time during the last couple hours I was driving. They’ve asked us to “prepare questions” on the readings. Ok, so no papers to turn in, but something I arguably should arguably take the time to sit down and prepare – maybe come up with quotations that point to places in the text I want to discuss. Moreover, for some of the more flowery and theoretical texts (this was most of them, actually) the “questions” actually just alerted me to how little I understood the finer points of the theory.

So now I am faced with another 4 hours of driving in which I can think about the fact that I have these “preparations” I probably should put some time and effort into, but I can’t because I’ll be driving. Oh – and there’s a freaking time change. So an hour will be lost in limbo and I have a 9:30am class tomorrow. Also, my computer decided now was a good time to “forget” all of my passwords.

*Cue feelings of despair, desperation, and overwhelmed-ness*

This is a feeling we all experience whether it is when starting a new job or going to a new school for the first time. The company I used to work for had a saying, “Fake it till you Make it” that we used whenever requests from clients started piling in and we did not know where to begin. In the academic world this amounts to taking a step back, realizing that not everyone understands these highly theoretical articles the first time they read them or knows how to approach them, and then doing the best you can.

The first thing I always want to do is blame. My instructors weren’t thinking about the fact that sending an email less than 24 hours before class would screw people over who were working through very busy schedules the night before class. But then again, they were probably enjoying their weekends as well and my situation is probably not the norm.

I know I won’t have time to prepare beautifully crafted answers to these questions and it is a bummer that my instructors sent those emails so late in day because as a first year student I would have liked more time to prepare. I may not even have time to come up with any clear answers at all. However, reviewing the questions and at least thinking about them will prepare me to consider responses from other more seasoned graduate students in my classes when we discuss it.

Take a deep breath, maybe write down some of your frustrations, and fake it ’till you make it. For me, writing is cathartic, but do whatever works for you.