Grad School is Unexpected  

a person stands in front of the Newhouse School
Caban-Echevarria stands in front of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in July.  
(Photo courtesy of Alex Caban-Echevarria)

Grad school is unexpected. When I came to Syracuse, I had never lived away from home. Having gone to college three blocks away from my house, I didn’t have to worry about paying for laundry or missing my bed, because I could go home whenever I wanted and still be near my classes. It was the best of both worlds – being independent and having that safety net. I quickly realized that it’s a lot of responsibility to take care of myself, stay on top of my school work, have two jobs, keep in touch with my friends and visit my family as much as I can. I’ve learned so much about myself, like how I like going to bed early and waking up early, especially with the reward of a beautiful sunrise. I’m okay with spending time by myself, especially if I get to catch up on my favorite shows and reading books. 

Grad school is living in Syracuse for four months and still feeling like every day is brand new. During bootcamp, the magazine, news and digital program had a vey regimented schedule. I would get on the bus at 8:04 every morning and come to Newhouse for class. We’d have a lunch break between 12 and 1 p.m., and resume class for the next four hours. On Mondays and Tuesdays we had the same class and Thursdays and Fridays we’d have another. Wednesdays came with a much needed end time earlier than 5 p.m. We did this for six weeks, yet every day we learned something new, we pitched a new idea or revised existing stories. On the weekends, I’d go to the gym, sleep in or explore nature, especially Green Lakes State Park. For one of my stories, I even attended Shakespeare in the Park’s production of “West Side Story.” 

Grad school is setting 100 alarms a day. I came to Newhouse thinking I was really organized and had everything figured out. I had that only partially wrong, because I just got more creative with my organizational methods. Now, well into my second semester, I’m fully reliant on doing what my alarms tell me to do, whether that be to get out of bed or leave for class. I have perfectly timed alarms in anticipation that I’m going to snooze them, especially the one that tells me to get out of bed. People told me to prepare for the seasonal depression, but it wasn’t until our first break was in sight that I realized how much I needed it. Most of our professors have noticed the burnout creeping in, and are attuned to when we are stressed and look like we haven’t slept. 

Grad school is having friends even when I said I wasn’t going to make any. I thought being in journalism school meant that I would be surrounded by my competition, but the more time I spend with my cohort, I realize that I have nothing to be worried about. My cohort is made up of my friends and people who understand me more than anything. Everytime we share our work in class or someone gets published, it’s a shared moment of joy. 

Grad school is full of surprises, and I’m just along for the ride. 

Alex Caban-Echevarria is a graduate student in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.