One year of doctoral school done

One year of doctoral school is done. What’s next? Comprehensive exams, a summer of volunteering in Baltimore, and tons of projects. Here’s what I learned this last year…

To say that this first year of my doctor of public health schooling has been life-changing would be somewhat of an understatement. It’s been eye-opening, humbling, a pain in the ass, and all sorts of other things. Most of all, it’s been fun.

When classes first started last September, I felt a little bit lost, and scared.

That was pretty much me on the left, and the rest of the students on the right.

That was pretty much me on the left, and the rest of the students on the right.

What was most puzzling was that a lot of my classmates did not seem to be troubled with the amount of work that had to be put in day by day and the learning that had to be done every minute of every hour of every day. About two weeks in, I figured it out. I had been out of a classroom setting for almost six years. Before that, I worked on my MPH part-time while working full-time. And before that, I had taken some courses at a nearby college. And before that, I was in undergraduate school.

Those six years (plus) of not having to study, do homework, or learn a lot of new things packed into 8-week terms made me lazy. I was unprepared. So I suffered.

While I was doing the suffering, I got to meet a lot of great people. Some of the brightest minds do go to Johns Hopkins. It’s not just empty praise. These kids (and some not-so-kids) are ready to save the world, and they have some pretty incredible ideas on how to do so. Hopkins is just helping shape those ideas into action.

Of all the things I take away from this first year, having made so many great friends and met such great people is probably the most important. That is what made the year tolerable. I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t left out. I’m not the only one with crazy ideas of how to save the world.

Things eventually got better. I stopped worrying about grades and started worrying about learning. I started to go over lessons at home or one the road, listening to lectures on my phone as I drove the one hour to and from home. After all, this is a doctoral degree I’m working on. No one is going to pull my transcript to see if I can be accepted into another school ever again (I hope). And all that will matter is the work that I will do with that degree.

(I won’t get into rants about the few people who made absolute fools of themselves worrying over getting a B in a really tough course. This is a positive post.)

So summer has started and I just need to get over a two-day exam period where we are tested over the things we learned this first year. It’s a way to make sure that we’re ready to start planning our research projects before we propose them. So I’m working on studying for that now.

It’s been a great ride, and I can’t wait for the next year.

Done. Done. On to the next one.

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