Returning Home: My New Life as A Grad Student
Alyssa D’Ippolito B.A. ‘15/M.A.T. ‘18
My freshman year of college was spent very far from home at a university that was not welcoming, nor challenging, to new students, and I hated every second of my time there. I transferred to Moravian my sophomore year and fell in love. No, not with a man, but with the college, with my classes, and with myself.
As cliché as it sounds, I felt like I became who I was meant to be at Moravian. I could be myself and be accepted for that. I made lifelong friends, challenged myself intellectually, and joined every club I possibly could. Even though I was a commuter, I spent the majority of my days on campus and it quickly became my home away from home.
When graduation came around it was the most bittersweet moment of my life. I was so proud of my accomplishments and excited to start the next chapter of my life, but I was leaving behind the place that I had fallen in love with; my new home. I decorated my cap, I wore my chords, and I walked across that stage with a smile plastered to my face excited to receive the diploma that I worked so hard for.
That summer after graduation passed in a blur of work and fun. When fall came back around and everyone was getting ready to head back to school, I felt my heart sink. I wouldn’t be joining them this time and I could feel the homesickness start to set in.
The year passed and I found myself still working at a job that didn’t fulfill my hopes or wants (or wallet), so I decided it was time to go back to school for my master’s degree. I didn’t even look into other programs because I knew the only logical choice was to return to Moravian. After all, it had given me the best three years of undergrad, and I was looking forward to the best 2.5 years of grad school!
My first day back, the campus was the same; bustling students running around, friends lounging in hammocks, the familiar “1742” encased in cement outside the HUB. However, it felt different to be back, a little foreign. I couldn’t help but find myself a little disappointed. How could a place that felt so much like home now feel so foreign?
I quickly pinpointed all of the things that were different. My friends were no longer there, I wasn’t involved in my old clubs anymore, but worst of all, I was simply older. I no longer had the same connection as all of the undergrads running around. I had passed that point in my life and had been out in “the real world” for a while. I started paying my loans, watching as 90% of my paycheck left my bank account as fast as it entered. I didn’t spend my nights at the bar, laughing away my worries over a whiskey sour, or gossiping about the weird professor while cradling a Jack and Coke. I worked an eight hour day, took my three hour class, and then went home and got in bed.
As I walked back to my car after class one night, I stopped in front of the gates to Comenius Hall and looked at the statue of John Amos Comenius to my left. As I stood there, I was approached by a student who proceeded to tell me a bit of history about John Amos Comenius and the school, then asked if I were also a fellow freshman. I felt so old having to tell them that, no, I was not a freshman, I was in fact a grad student simply reminiscing on old memories from my time as an undergrad here.
Now, I’m not saying that I am old, or that there is anything wrong with returning to school as an adult, but it certainly awakens a sort of unsettling realization when you’re asked by a student, who is approximately six years younger than you, if you’re a freshman. I left campus that night with so many thoughts, and doubts, floating in my head. Maybe grad school wasn’t for me. Maybe I had made a mistake in coming back.
Fast forward three months. I have registered for three classes for the Spring Semester, and I couldn’t be more excited! It took the first few weeks to get into the new routine and to feel normal walking around campus again, but I have met new people and formed new relationships, and the halls of PPHAC and Zinzendorf are starting to feel like home once more.
Being in grad school is different. You are more removed from the hustle and bustle of undergrad life, but there’s something better waiting. There’s a maturity there that wasn’t there before. There is a new life view that helps you make more real world connections than you did before. The experience of having held a steady job, having been out in the “real world”, helped light a passionate fire within me to strive to do better than I ever have before. I know that in just two short years, I’ll be finished with classes, and Moravian, once more, but the life lessons that I will have learned from being back will last me a lifetime.