Imposter

IMG_20150829_150936Exactly one year ago on August 27, 2015, I flew into Salt Lake City and took the shuttle into Logan for my interview weekend at Utah State University. I’d never been further west than Houston before and I was extremely nervous. Over the course of that weekend I visited Logan Canyon, ate Aggie Ice Cream and a bison burger from the Beehive Grill, spoke to tons of professors, faculty, and other grad students… and by the time my returning flight landed in Pensacola, I knew that I wanted to do my PhD at Utah State.

Unfortunately, I submitted my second round of GRE scores too late and was turned down for spring admission and the fellowship I’d been aiming for, but I applied again for Fall in hopes that I might still get a chance to show my worth. I felt like so much time had gone by without word that I should start looking elsewhere. I even considered abandoning the whole dream and staying in Guatemala during my Habitat trip… until I received an email with my acceptance letter after a hard day of building stoves and mixing mud in a tiny village outside of Sololá. Those who were there can tell you how happy I was to get that email. Happy tears were spilled and celebratory margaritas were had.

Now, exactly a year after my first interview, I’m preparing for class to start doctoral classes on Monday. I feel simultaneously elated and terrified. My class load looks astoundingly light on the surface; I’m enrolled in Fundamentals of Neuroscience, Introduction to Educational and Psychological Research, and a Cognitive/Neuroscience seminar for a total of seven credits. That’s all I’ve been able to write in my planner so far, but I’ve also got 20 hours of teaching assistantship as well as a lab rotation that I can barely even begin to schedule. That’s pretty intimidating in and of itself, but I’ve got another curve ball being thrown my way. As it happens, I’m the ONLY freshly-admitted student in the brand new Neuroscience PhD program (a few have apparently transferred from other programs within USU to be a part of it, but no one could confirm that). No one, not even the neuroscience faculty, seem entirely sure what to do with me just yet. My class list was phoned into my orientation and copied down from a post-it, and the handbook for my program hasn’t been plagiarized from the Experimental and Applied handbook yet. I hear that getting in on the ground floor of a program like this is a good thing. For instance, I’ll get lots of personalized attention from advisers and I basically get to set the stage for the next few years of the program. It’s not that I don’t think that this will be a great thing- it just feels a hell of a lot like a spotlight. As if the Impostor Syndrome wasn’t already going to be bad enough…

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