When I first graduated high school in the Netherlands, my greatest wish was to go to med school. Med school, like most university and college studies in most of Europe, is largely paid for by government subsidies (which is awesome: no huge student loan debts and a great education!), but one of the disadvantages is that there is a lottery for med school admission and a limited number of spots (the so-called numerus fixus). At the time I was applying, you could only try twice – I did, and did not make it in either time, even though my grades were excellent and my motivation was sky-high. I got a master’s in health sciences instead, and went back to school for a master’s in strategic public relations a few years ago here in the US. I finished the first year of the MATX PhD program this summer, and am switching programs (and sort of starting over) the doctoral program in social and behavioral health today. The interesting thing: my new program is officially part of VCU Medical Center, mainly known for its medical school. No, my program is not med school but still…. talk about full circle!
Alright, some fairly big news for me. A few weeks ago, I received an offer from VCU’s Social and Behavioral Health PhD program, and after much deliberation, I am switching from the MATX doctoral program to the Social and Behavioral Health doctoral program as of next month – with the full support of my current amazing advisor (who I will keep working with) and gaining another amazing advisor. So grateful for a great school and great programs to pursue my doctorate; and for great mentors to work with and learn from. Twenty-three years after giving up my dreams of med school, I will now be pursuing a doctorate at VCU’s medical school . Life. It’s strange and good sometimes.
How many times have I done this, in some way, shape, or form? Even if I just count the first days at a new school: kindergarten; elementary school in Vught; elementary school in Klimmen when we moved halfway through first grade (Ummer Clumme); Junior high/High school, which is one entity in the Netherlands (Bernardinuscollege); Maastricht University for my bachelor’s and master’s; and most recently George Washington University for my master’s in Strategic Public Relations (but that was primarily online, so the whole “first day” dynamic was decidedly different).
Tomorrow will likely be the last first day of a new school I will ever experience – not because it’s the last year (I have at least 3-4 years ahead of me), but because generally, after a PhD, you don’t go after another degree. A post-doctoral fellowship, yes. Teaching. Getting a certificate, here or there. But another entire program? Not unless you decide to go in an entirely new academic direction.
So: tomorrow. My first day as a VCU student. My first day as a doctoral student. At the end of this road: hopefully a PhD. A Doctor of Philosophy in Media, Art, and Text. I’m a bit terrified. A lot excited. I’m wishing I took more of a break this summer (I did not take one, at all. Sigh.) But ready or not…. here we go.
All through my master’s degree, our sweet dogs were my muses – sometimes poignantly, since we lost both Snowball and Cooper to cancer in the midst of that degree. Now Foster and Lola will continue the muse-roles during
what I am sure will be more reading, writing, and researching than I have ever managed before. They are quite good at it, too – see the proof in the photo below.
My PhD classes don’t start for another 16 days, but tomorrow I am taking a class not directly related to my studies, although it’s very related to my nonprofit work. It’s a one-day advanced social media class by the gifted Sarah Milston of The Spark Mill and it’s part of a program for nonprofit leader by Nonprofit Learning Point. One of the things I am trying to put into place before the craziness of the semester starts is a stronger social media strategy for Arts in the Alley, and this class will
be a nice reminder to get this done – and will help in getting it done. I have taken many classes with Nonprofit Learning Point before (and I just started to teach their basic social media class, which I am loving), and starting those classes was one of my early forays back into the land of education. Those classes – intensive, two-day classes – made me realize how much learning energizes me – and in some way, I needed to know that before I started thinking about a doctoral degree. The other, fun, side of all this is that I work on social media from two different directions – the practical, needing-it-for-my-nonprofit side, and the academic, let’s-research-how-and-why-this-actually-works side. So: I’m off to class tomorrow, and I’ll blog about it when I get back.