And that, as they say, is that. After 4 years, 60 credit hours, 390 class meetings (give or take), 1200 hours of unpaid labor internship, 5000 pages of reading, 150 or so papers of varying length and depth, and about $XXXXX total, I walked on May 15th.
It was a long strange trip; alternately challenging, rewarding, exasperating, exhausting, and I wouldn’t take anything for it. I had certain expectations going in, both good and bad; fortunately, most of them were wrong.
As VCU is in Richmond, roughly 90 miles away, I attended the Northern Virginia “campus”. Campus is in quotes because our whole campus (classrooms, faculty and administrative offices, student lounge, and computer lab) was an unusually wide and long hallway rented in a large industrial park in Alexandria. I say none of this to disparage the program. Most of my professors/instructors (excluding Dr. Sunshine) were excellent. We had almost every resource that the Richmond students had (plus on-line library services with free shipping). We had a student government that I had the opportunity to participate in. But it is still very much a commuter program. We enroll there because we can’t drop our lives and move to Richmond – we are after a degree and career advancement rather than a “university experience.”
Or so it would seem. I started the program expecting to be challenged; which I was. However, I did not expect to make friends out of this, and fortunately I was wrong. I am pleased to say through classes, outside activities, and internships I have met some fine people that I am proud to count as friends and colleagues. They are as diverse and interesting a group as one could expect to find, especially in their professional backgrounds. Yet we formed a supportive group that I expect will still be thriving years from now.
Speaking of expectations: when I confirmed my intent to enroll, I did not expect to meet my future wife a few weeks before I started; nor did I expect to get married halfway through the program. Wrong on both counts. I didn’t expect my wife to be patient and tolerant and to not complain one single time about the sacrifices that she had to make being married to a graduate student. Thankfully, wrong again. People who finish a long and difficult task often say, “I couldn’t have done it without _____”. I wouldn’t venture a guess as to who is exaggerating when they say this, but I can tell you that I am not: I absolutely could not have done this without Christine. End of story.
Of course, there is the book learning part of all of this. I cannot critically evaluate this aspect of the experience as it is still so recent. Suffice to say, there was meat and there was bones, as in any educational experience. While I accept and attempt to adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics, application always falls into a grey area, and I will probably be negotiating this grey area for the rest of my life. And I believe that this is as it should be. I do appreciate what I have learned, especially as it applies to serving clients. There is no doubt in my mind that I am a much better clinician for having this training.
Now I find myself where most recent graduates are: job hunting. I am fortunate in that I have a decent paying, full-time gig with benefits, etc that isn’t going anywhere. However, it’s really a student’s job, and I want to be in the thick of things. I am firing off resumes left and right. When something happens on that front gentle readers, you’ll be the first to know.