The date was January 6th, 2014: the coldest day in the history of all-time, at least as I recall it. With a wind chill of something near minus 40 degrees, I eagerly arrived on Gannon’s campus for my first day of work. As the new Associate Director of Learning Abroad, I was excited to begin to work with students to give them opportunities to explore the world, expand their horizons and create experiences that had the potential to be life-changing. You see, there are a lot of amazing jobs here at Gannon. But I’m pretty sure that I somehow lucked out and got the best one. Not only do I get to send Gannon students all over the world, but I also get to travel quite frequently, sometimes with students, sometimes on my own as a representative of the University at international conferences and our partner universities across the world. Not a bad gig, right?
Each day, I am lucky enough to work with students who are really making the most of their time here at Gannon. Between classes, clubs, sports, organizations – you name it – students are living their Gannon experience to the fullest. I spent my first year on the job settling into campus, meeting new people, getting to know Gannon’s culture, and enjoying every minute of it. But in addition to the exciting work that I was doing, I felt like something was missing. How could I truly be a part of the university without experiencing life inside of the classroom? It was time for me to dust off my backpack (or, you know, use it as a great excuse to buy a new one) and become a student once again.
After being out of the classroom for almost seven years, I can’t say that I was exactly chomping at the bit to dip my toe back into the pool of homework, reading and paper writing. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those weird people who actually loved writing long research papers in undergrad—I was an English Writing major, after all. I loved everything from the researching to the writing to my favorite part: the editing. But my main concern was whether or not I still “had it.” Sure, I could still crank out a 10 page paper in two and a half hours. But could I still capture the academic thought process and write cohesive (and coherent?) papers? And better yet, could I write them well?
An even bigger concern was whether or not I could balance working full-time, having commitments for work outside of normal work hours, and traveling, all the while being a good student. The answer to whether or not I could juggle it all and manage to stay afloat was a resounding yes. This was due in no small part to the amazing faculty with whom I not only work during the day, but from whom I have the privilege of learning at night. It can’t be easy having a student who has to miss class more than once during the semester with the somewhat unbelievable excuse of having to fly halfway around the world. Thankfully, my professors understand that my job is important and know that I work just as hard outside of the classroom as I do inside of the classroom.
That is the beauty of the Master of Arts in English program here at Gannon. All of the students in the program come from different backgrounds, countries, professions and even generations. We all come together during the week, leaving the stresses of work and family behind, to read some really amazing works of literature (even you, James Joyce), learn new research methods and engage in stimulating conversation. The program is designed with its students in mind, so classes are offered at night, which makes the program a possibility for people like me who work during the day. I won’t say that there aren’t times when I dread being on campus until 9 pm (some days I feel like that’s past my bedtime), but it’s so worth it. After my first day back in the classroom, I felt that no time had passed whatsoever.
After traveling all over the world, seeing some amazing sights and meeting all kinds of incredible people, if I could offer one piece of advice, this would be it: never stop learning. Whether it’s formal learning that takes place inside of the classroom or informal learning derived from situations, places, and people, you should always be hungry for more knowledge and understanding. I have every intention of being a life-long learner, and may even be crazy enough to pursue additional formal education after I finish my MA in English…but even if I don’t, I know that I will always be reading, watching and listening in hopes of continuing to grow in wisdom and experience.
After such a long hiatus, being back in the classroom and learning from the faculty here at Gannon has re-ignited my desire to be an eternal student (although I’m afraid my days of all-nighters are long gone!). For as much as I want students to explore the world and learn from their experiences overseas, I have just as strong a desire to explore all that Gannon has to offer, and working on my Masters here has been a great first step.
Guest Blog by: Meagan McHugh