Wrapping up the First Semester of Grad School

It has been awhile since I have posted, but I wanted to wrap up my first semester of grad school in a single post.  So many things have happened to me this past year, but the highlight has been moving to Virginia.

First off, I finished my first semester of grad school on December 13.  I returned my graded portion of the finals for my GHIST 102 course to Dr. Davis and, at that point, my semester was over.  This semester has been incredible.  Grad school has brought many opportunities.  Having a Teaching Assistantship has been the most beneficial to me.  Despite a few bumps in the road, I was able to create and deliver a lecture to a class of 40 students and my TA class of 110.  Of all the things I did this past semester, this is the most important.  The first real teaching experience and I look forward to more as grad school pushes on.

My assistantship was only a fraction of my semester, however.  The bulk of my time was devoted to reading, writing, and researching (the real “3 R’s”!) for my three courses.  The courses I took this semester have prepared me for the next three semesters.  The first semester is always the most difficult when moving to a new institution.  The process of getting to know the professors and the expectations of the department really takes most of the first semester.  That is not to say the courses I have enrolled in for next semester are going to be easy, but this semester was really a test.  I had to feel out grad school.  I had to learn to manage my time between reading, writing, researching, grading, and office hours.  I also learned, very early, it is VERY important to include relaxation and fun to that list!  I can honestly say that I did have fun this past semester.

My readings from the semester – articles and books!

Perhaps the most important part of grad school has been the people I have come in contact with.  First, the professors at JMU have been willing to assist me when I ask for help or advise.  That includes professors within the department I have never had any form of contact with.  The three I had this semester, Dr. Lanier, Dr. Owusu-Ansah, and Dr. Seth, have all been helpful and contributed greatly to my understanding of grad school and history as a discipline.  There is so much to be learned from each of them and I look forward to having more courses with them if the opportunity presents itself.

The most important people I have met at JMU are my fellow graduate students.  There are….well….I guess around 30 of us, and we are all serious about what we are doing.  The great thing about students at this level is that we all come from different backgrounds and it is possible to bounce ideas off each other.  Whether we are discussing thesis topics, grading methods, or debating the merits of various NFL teams, we have a good time doing it!  There is never a dull moment in the graduate office.  It is hard to believe that only seventeen shorts weeks ago, we had never met.  You would not think that now!

Overall, the Fall 2010 semester was successful, and I am looking forward to Spring 2011 and beyond.  I am back in Missouri (first time since August 10) for Christmas break, but look forward to returning to Harrisonburg after the new year.  In the coming weeks, I will wrap up 2010 with a year in review post and introduce my courses for Spring 2011.

Until then….

Eric

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