This past weekend was surreal. My journey up to this point has been a roller coaster. They say it’s darkest before the dawn. Well last year must have been the darkness because it seems like the sun is finally starting to shine. I traveled to New England for my first grad school interview of the year.
Friday was a busy day. I had to work during the day and was leaving that night. Thankfully I had packed earlier in the week and just had to go home, shower, change, and eat before taking the bus to Washington, DC. I arrived in DC at 3:30am and had to wait 4 hours until my flight left for Philadelphia. When I got to Philly, I literally had 20 minutes before boarding for my flight to Burlington started. When I arrived in Burlington, snow was slowly falling. For a guy who have never lived in a place with heavy snow, it was amazing. I called my host to be picked up, ran into a familiar face, and breathed so I could take in everything. It felt like a dream.
Flashforward to Saturday night, there was a dinner downtown for all the candidates that arrived early. It was great. I got to meet the people I had been communicating with in person and got to meet some amazing people that I could possibly be spending the next two years with. The food was great and the conversation was genuine.
Sunday is when everything really started. The candidates had lunch together and got to learn about the professional organization for the program. It’s really cool that they produce a scholarly journal every year. After that, we all headed over to the academic overview. There we introduced ourselves to the entire group (pronouns included), met the faculty, learned about the curriculum, heard from a professional panel & student panel and had some time to get to know faculty members in smaller groups. We all went out for dinner downtown and my table had some really engaging conversation. We talked about what drives us, where we applied, identities, social justice, things we loved/would improve about our undergrad campuses, and why we were interested in this particular program. After dinner, we went to affinity spaces. There were spaces for LGBTQA+ individuals, people of color (POC), queer people of color (QPOC) and returners to the academy. I fit all of those affinity spaces so I had to choose. I eventually decided to attend the QPOC space because it covered two of my identities as well as gave me a space where all of me would be represented. This space led to a lot of good conversation.
When I got back to my host’s apartment for the night, I took some time to process everything I was feeling at that time. I realized I wanted this particular program more than I thought I did. It wasn’t just the program itself but the people in the program and involved with the university. I felt completely supported and valued. I felt like people genuinely cared about me and my story. It felt weird saying that I wanted this program so early because I had yet to interview for anything nor did I have any other interview weekends to compare it to. My host helped me process my thoughts which I am ever grateful for because it meant that I would be able to sleep.
Monday morning started early. All of the candidates had an early breakfast with the Dean of Students office. We learned about the office, their relationship to the program, the Division of Student Affairs, and the University as a whole. We also learned about the assistantship process. After breakfast interviews commenced. My first interview was my academic interview. Prior to it, I told myself to give the interviewer all of me so that is what I did. I walked in, told my story and let the interview become a conversation. It was easy and I felt so comfortable. Personally, I think that interview was the best one I’ve ever had in my life. After that interview I had some free time and then lunch. I loved the way lunch was set up. It was in this beautiful manor and the candidates were split into groups. At each table of candidates also sat an upper level professional like the Assistant Dean of Students. Really cool conversations to be had.
Following lunch I had my assistantship interviews. The first one was for a position pretty much similar to the one I hope to have after grad school. It was laid back, conversational and whole lot of fun. We laughed and smiled and made great conversation. Once again, I gave them all of me and I know they felt the enthusiasm and appreciation I had for the work they were doing. My second one was in an office that I would love to work in as well. It was chill and my interviewer was supportive. I showed him who I was and what I have to offer and all I can hope is that it helps me land a job. Once interviews were done, I headed to the airport the catch my flight home. Unfortunately I had to miss the closing reception but the experience of everything was good enough for me.
This entire weekend felt like a dream I did not want to wake up from. I didn’t expect to fall in love with this program as much as I did. I can really see myself growing and thriving there both personally and professionally. It would have it’s challenges, but they are nothing I can’t handle. This trip was amazing and I’m so thrilled that I had the opportunity to meet the people I met. Everyone was supportive and sweet, including the candidates. We were all rooting for each other. That is how interview weekends should be in Student Affairs. It’s not a competition. We’re a field of support so supporting each other should come natural to us though it is not always easy when you aiming for the same things. I still have a couple more interview weekends to attend, but should things work out, this dream may not be ending.