I was 24 and fresh off my first “real” journalism job when I matriculated toward my master’s degree in 2008.
Now, at 27, things were a bit different.
I was fresh out of the journalism workforce again, but I was pursuing what would likely be my last degree and I was significantly older than the general population of undergraduate students on campus.
During orientation, I was in the bathroom touching up my makeup before I took the picture for my LSU ID card.
Soon, the mother of a freshman student struck up a conversation with me.
We talked about the sweltering heat and the chaos on campus before she asked me what I was studying.
When I told her I was pursuing a Ph.D., her reply was, “I thought you looked a little old to be a freshman.”
My first thoughts to myself were “Did I put on too much makeup?” I re-examined myself in the mirror and realized I hadn’t.
Although I was still a pretty, young, thing, I admittedly didn’t look like an 18-year-old before the freshman 15 or 30.
While I’m sure she didn’t mean anything malicious by her comment, it was still a rude awakening.
I was an 80’s baby in a sea of 90’s kids.
I was part of a different group of people on campus.
I was not there to party and partake in an abundance of campus activities.
I was a card carrying member of a group that substituted 40 hours a week of on-the-job work with 40 hours of schoolwork.
My group was less concerned with what cute outfit to wear to class and more concerned with completing assignments and hopefully minimizing the bags under our eyes from the stress of it all.
I was a doctoral student.
Fun was supposed to be at the back of my vocabulary.
Membership in this group meant lengthy lectures,side reserach projects, assigned reading of hundreds of pages and seminars on publishing,data collection and professional development for academia.
It also meant I was expected to know stuff (Pressured much?)
I was used to a demanding work schedule.
I just came from 2.5 years of working over 40 hours a week at a daily newspaper.
During the course of a week, I conducted numerous in-person and phone interviews with sources; conducted research through computer-assisted reporting, blogged; shot photos and video; and attended several webinars and news coverage-related meetings.
Still, there is certainly a big difference between journalism in practice and the academic side of mass communication.
Yeah, sh*t just got real.
Fortunately, I’m up for the challenge!