February 6, 2011

Setting a course

Journey’s end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.

Twelfth Night (II, iii, 44-45)

But what about journey’s start? How do you set a destination and having set that destination how do you plan on getting there? This semester is going to be a lot of sitting and thinking about where I’m going and how I’m going to get there, a lot more than I thought there would be. It’s that time of year when graduate school admission decisions start rolling in and things have been very positive so far. I’ve been getting acceptances (or at least promises) from places as far afield as California, New York, Virginia and Utah. It’s a dilemma of choice and I’ve never really faced anything like it before.

My choice to come to Lafayette was made on a simple basis — they had engineering and computer science programs and they gave me the most money. And once here my choices about courses and majors were also made with ease. I wanted to study computers and be an engineer. I also had interests in writing and I knew that any non-required courses I took (there weren’t that many) I would take because the professor was good and the course was interesting. I ate mostly at the dining halls.

I’ve always prided myself on being an explorer — traveling the world in search of adventure, so to speak. I’ve never had a problem with pushing boundaries to do what I want. As for what I want, I’ve always either known or had lots of time to explore and make up my mind. This time it’s different. Many of the places are giving me great deals, they all have awesome faculty doing great research that will impact the world in years to come.

Picking a graduate school is not a decision to make lightly.┬áIn many ways, it’s more important than choosing undergraduate schools because every place has a different area of specialization that can significantly affect the course of my future career. Of course the Lafayette liberal arts experience will help make sure that I don’t constrict myself to one tiny area for all of graduate school, but obtaining a PhD does require becoming an expert in some area. I want to make sure that area is something I actually enjoy and can work for 5 years in.

Luckily I have a great support system here at Lafayette. I have professors who have answered the same questions I’m facing now and are willing to help me out. I have fellow students who will be making these choices along with me. And alumni who have already come forward to give me a hand. I certainly have more useful advice in choosing a graduate school than I did four years ago looking at colleges. But still, the final decision is one I have to make myself while looking five years in to the future. And to be honest, that scares me more than I’d like to admit.

I’m going to be having a lot of time to myself this semester, mostly on the way to said schools and to conferences. Some of it will be in front of a computer wrapping up my thesis. While some of that time will go into working and thinking, no small amount of it will go considering how I start my next journey. I am still an explorer and there are still many undiscovered countries. Some day journeys will end in lover’s meetings, but that is not today.

posted in Shrutarshi Basu

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