The first year of graduate school is a barrage of uncertainty, excitement, and growth as you are seen as a new student, a fresh face.
My internship this summer has shown me confidence, expertise, and mutual respect through coworkers who treated me as an equal and an asset.
The second year of graduate school faces me with the daunting image of regressing back to being a student without the same assumption of professionalism that was expected and reciprocated with me all summer.
How do I tuck away my professional side to go back to being told what to do in the classroom, to go back to being just a student to be taught?
My department is already making it easy for me, by having a program called Parks as Portals to Learning that will ring in the new school year. This program is all based on experience and it reinforces what I have loved about my internship all summer. But after that week has concluded, how do I (and other graduate students) continue to emerge as professionals when we are so quick to slide back into our students holes?
My big conclusion: Volunteer.
Volunteer for local museums, stay in the places that reinforce that expertise and teach you new pieces of professionalism that you might have missed.
Volunteer for your local church or sports team by offering to be their historian. Learn how to document events as they happen to get a sense of how difficult it is to collect as history is happening.
Volunteer to help your professors and other professionals with their work. Most professionals are overwhelmed and need an extra pair of eyes, even if it's on citations.
Volunteer for local conferences (or even apply!). If you missed the deadline for a local conference, inquire to see if they need volunteers! Conferences can always use more help, and you often get to attend sessions anyway. But if that deadline has not passed, apply for it!
There is a file cabinet's worth of other ways to keep motivated through the second year of graduate school by staying in the field, but volunteering is where your best opportunities lie. Volunteering often leads to paying gigs, and even if it doesn't, the museum industry sees volunteering and paid hours as equivalent for experience purposes.
As summer begins to slowly ease to a stop, I am reminded that "emerging professionals" have to do that work themselves; we are not professionals pulled out of our shells fully formed.
Putting in the work this semester will be a worthwhile challenge, after witnessing the addictive nature of life behind the scenes in a museum.
Until next time,