Blog by Melissa Vong, MA in Early Childhood Education student
“When you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” –Unknown
I have never written a blog post before, but while my piece may be longer than some, if you need encouragement to pursue a graduate degree or to choose U of M-Flint as your school, then I say read on. I promise there is a point to my post.
It has been almost seven years since I started working on my first degree. My oldest son was starting at the local community college and encouraged me to do the same. At that time, I had been working in a childcare center for over a decade, and while I wanted to learn more about the field of early childhood education, I was scared of going to college. I had done very poorly in school as a child and through the years had come to believe I was not smart enough to succeed in a college setting. However, I knew if I wanted to change my future circumstances, as well as have a more significant impact in my field, then I would have to face my fears.
Henry Ford once said, “One of the greatest discoveries a person makes, one of their great surprises, is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.” It took me four years to finish my associate’s degree; and almost that long for me to start to see in myself what my instructors already did. The first time graduate school was mentioned to me was while I was earning my associate’s degree. I had been encouraged by several of my instructors to obtain a graduate degree, as they felt I would be a good candidate for teaching at the college level. I am going to be very honest and say when they first mentioned graduate school to me I thought they must have been talking to someone else and turned around to see. Then when I realized it was me they were talking to, I thought I must be confused as to what a graduate degree was, and so I asked for clarification, “You mean, as in a master’s degree?” Indeed, that is what they meant (and no I am not making this up). Why would I share something, which does not put myself in a positive light you might wonder? Stay tuned; I will get to my point shortly.
After finishing my associate’s degree in May 2014, I enrolled into an online accelerated bachelor’s program. I was nervous to go from part-time to full-time, but I took the plunge. In December of 2015, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education, graduating with Summa Cum Laude honors. As I worked on my bachelor’s degree, with each class I finished, it seemed more possible I would be able to go onto graduate school, and so began the search for the school, which would best fit my needs. This is the part of the story where I explain I learned I excel in online learning because I am highly organized; I do not procrastinate; and I have the type of nature, which likes to expedite things (you know, as in “let’s get to the point, get our work done, and move on”). Again, you may be wondering what my point is, just a second, I am almost there.
So I had pretty much decided on one of the online schools. I love the convenience and it is a lot less social than brick and mortar, sitting across the table doing group projects with people (I am not sure if we are supposed to put emojis in a blog piece, but just try to imagine the face of a child who has been served liver and onions for dinner; no offense to those who love that sort of thing). Anyways, there I was sitting pretty, ready to start, when who should I run into, but my old college instructor, the one who really wanted me to go to graduate school. I told her my plans to go online, and just as fast she quickly shot them down. If I wanted to work local, then I needed to go local is what she told me (this is where you need to recall the image of the child being served liver and onions – insert mental image of grumpy face here). Thankfully my faith in her advice was stronger than my aversion to going to class on a campus, with people, and time constraints. Kind of like going to the dentist, I sucked it up and did what needed to be done.
I am very happy to report, enrolling in graduate school at U of M-Flint was without a doubt the BEST decision of my academic career. Graduate school was a good idea, but choosing U of M-Flint was a GREAT idea! From the day I went to orientation, I knew I was in the right place. It was such an incredible feeling to know I was in the company of other professionals, who shared my dreams of pursuing a higher degree in an effort to grow academically and professionally.
The professors I have had are truly passionate people who care about the field and about their students. The small class sizes (so far I have been in classes of twelve people or less) have given us the opportunity to do much reflection on the material we are studying, which gives the chance to learn from another’s perspective. Graduate school has truly been a rewarding experience. I have lived in many locales, both in and out of the country. I feel I came to my classes with much life experiences already. Graduate school at U of M-Flint has been an experience I am so glad I did not miss out on. I have not yet completed my degree, but already the knowledge I have gained and the connections I have made, have opened doors to opportunities I did not expect.
When I started college back in 2010, I never imagined I would make it this far. Sir Edmund Hillary is known for having said, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” I have learned so much about myself, and my capabilities over the course of the past seven years. In the past year and a half, since starting graduate school I have learned as much about myself as I have about topics pertaining to the field of early childhood education. I hope to use my degree to go back to where I started and encourage others to continue on the path to their own successes. I leave you with a statement, which has brought encouragement to me.
No matter what the degree you are obtaining, going to college is a mountain we have to climb a step at a time. However, take it from someone who has been climbing for the past seven years, the views along the way, especially the higher you go are absolutely spectacular!