I didn’t seriously consider many options for my future immediately following graduation other than pursuing a graduate degree from my Alma mater. There were many benefits to staying, the main two including that I had developed a network of support to lean on throughout my first year of graduate school, and I was familiar with the area and I cared about the community.
Within the English department, by taking advantage of the small classes and independent studies in undergrad, I got to know professors who in turn knew and cared about my academic goals. Because I was familiar with their research interests before coming to grad school, I had a good idea of who to ask to be on my Committee and was able to offer suggestions to fellow classmates who were starting at square one, unfamiliar with which professors would match their own research interests. The professors I was close to have become mentors to me, checking in and offering advice and anecdotes from their own graduate school experience.
Blacksburg has been my home for close to five years – with the transition into harder classes, a heavier workload, teaching a composition class in addition to my own responsibilities as a student, and the fact that many of my classmates and friends from undergrad were gone, enjoying the community I’ve been a part of has been a huge comfort. Local hikes, coffee shops, restaurants, and spots on campus offer relief from a consistent change in most other areas of my life. Virginia Tech is special – Ut Prosim, Virginia Tech’s motto meaning “that I may serve,” is apparent throughout the school and community, and it is very easy to find a group with whom to build relationships because there is so much to do and the people are kind.
On Saturday nights as I stay up late to finish the work I set for myself for the weekend, I occasionally rue the day I chose to stay. I hear about friends who graduated and got jobs enjoying their evenings and weekends, doing what they want with what feels like their own time while I stay locked away in my apartment to ensure as much productivity as possible so I don’t lose my mind during the next week. As this first year comes to a close, however, even these dark days have not made me regret my decision. Staying led to a continuation of the work I started in undergrad and while I do long for free time one day, I feel incredibly blessed to have been given the opportunity to study with the people who inspire me in a place I love.
Anna Harjung is in her first year of her MA in Literature at Virginia Tech. She is a poetry reader and blog editor for the minnesota review.