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A typical conversation when I tell people what I’m currently doing:
“You’re getting your master’s? What’re you getting it in?” asks the poor suspecting stranger, expecting to hear something prestigious like Bussiness Administration or Engineering.
“Creative Writing with an emphasis in poetry and education.”
Usually, when I tell someone that I’m getting a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, they give me looks of confusion, as if thinking to themselves if this course of study is really something worth pursuing. From there they’ll usually go on to tentatively ask what I’m planning on doing with that or they’ll just assume I want to teach. Only when I tell them that I want to be a creative writing and literature professor does my choice in graduate degree seem validated.
With the rise of technology and capitalism, getting a degree in either the humanities or creative fields is seen to be a waste of time and money. We have come to put an emphasis on the money we can make post-grad as opposed to focusing on the skills gained in humanities and creative fields: skills such as critical thinking, comprehension, and being able to find alternative solutions to an issue. The value I place in these skills, coupled with my love for writing and literature—and the support from my parents—were what gave me the confidence to pursue my MFA.
I’ve been blessed to know what I’ve wanted to do since I was ten years old. Even if my “practical” job has always been up in the air since I couldn’t rely too much on my writing. Yet, I always found myself drawn to getting a degree in literature and writing. Even the decision to go seemed natural, especially since my ultimate goal is to get a doctorate in creative writing and Chicanx literature. It was the actual choosing of schools and moving out that was the emotional process.
As a first generation college student and Mexican-American woman, the idea of leaving home for school was seen as scandalous. My parents were still under the mindset that I would stay at home until I got married. However, me having an anxious desire to move out and become more independent, the idea of moving out for grad school only seemed to be perfect timing: I’d have a Bachelor’s degree, therefore more eligible for a decent paying job, I’d be more mature than when I was eighteen, and I would know that I’m going to a new city with a purpose.
It was for those reasons that out of the three schools I applied to, two were in Northern California—almost four hundred miles away from my home in Southern California. My dad had already resigned himself to the idea of me leaving; my mom had a harder time. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m the only girl or just the motherly love overwhelming her, but she just couldn’t bear to see me go.
Up until the day I moved out, I thought the move would be easy. My hands shook as I closed the suitcase; my heart beating with the speed of a hummingbird’s wings. Suddenly, I didn’t want to move to San Francisco; I wanted to stay home with my mom. As she hugged me good-bye, the anxiety calmed—it was that moment I knew that this was going to be a challenge but well worth it.
The hardest part of being in grad school is the homesickness: trying to make it through the hard parts of my day without my mom there to tell me everything is going to be okay. Mix that with being one of the only Latinas in the program, and feeling like you have to work twice as hard to prove to everyone that you belong in the institution, and you have the perfect drink to make you feel anxious and insecure. But at the end of the day, I imagine being in my mom’s arms—safe and full of strength—and I know everything is going okay.
Jessica Alvarado / April 7, 2017 @ 6:16 am
Yes! My hope is that with the success of STEAM in elementary and middle schools (science technology arts and math) “society” will see that a creative focus is critical to the success of science/technology.
Educated Latina / April 9, 2017 @ 4:18 pm
Agree! Creativity is essential to all careers. Wish it were valued more as a career path.