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Graduate School: Applying, Living, Thesising

The Professional Student is a blog about everything grad school from the application process to my experiences living as a grad student, being a parent in grad school, and researching the role of chemistry in the evolution of our universe.

I'm thankful for my undergrad experience.

Olivia Wilkins

Today, I'm feeling especially thankful for my Dickinson education. It might be because Thanksgiving is a couple of days away and I've been reflecting on the experiences I've had since graduating one-and-a-half years ago. It might be because today was miserably cold and wet in SoCal, reminding me of central PA weather. It might be because Peet's in Pasadena is already playing Christmas music so I've heard O Christmas Tree, the same tune of my alma mater's song. It might be because I had a great interview with a prospective Dickinsonian this afternoon. Whatever the reason, I'm feeling especially thankful for Noble Dickinsonia.

Bosler Hall, from the corner of High Street and College
om Sulcer, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, I received one of my favorite questions when talking to prospective students: "Why did you choose Dickinson?" I happily spouted off reasons, starting with the story of how I used to pass the exit sign for Dickinson when I was little. Dickinson was, for a long time, the only school I knew, so it only seemed logical that I decide to go there in seventh grade. I then talked about how President Bill Durden agreed to meet with me as sophomore in high school to talk about Benjamin Rush for a history project. I mentioned how Professor St. Angelo (chemistry) talked to me on a campus visit, taking time out of doing research on a Saturday to talk to me about the major. She made me feel like she wanted me to succeed before I even started my application. When I was on campus, I felt like I belonged there. The campus felt like it was a community. The faculty wanted what was best for me without knowing who I was. Dickinson was challenging but supportive, and I wanted to be there.

After listing off the reasons for which I chose Dickinson, I kept going. I couldn't help it. I was too excited to share how Dickinson went beyond these expectations. I talked about the interdisciplinary nature of my education. I talked about finding value in global connections and understanding. I talked about feeling like I could make an impact on campus.

As I near the end of my first term at Caltech, I am thankful for Dickinson. I am thankful for the small class sizes that allowed me to build relationships with my professors. I am thankful for my departments—chemistry and mathematics—who cheered me on through coursework and research experiences. I am thankful for the programming opportunities I had with the Event Advisory Board and the Quads Community Association. I am thankful for the teaching experiences that fostered a passion I was sure didn't exist within me up until my first summer as a writing associate for the Summer Institute for International Students. I am thankful that I had so many opportunities to collaborate with other students and help them achieve, whether I was their teaching assistant or their tutor or their peer advisor. I am thankful for the research experience I gained from working with Professor Witter and the confidence she had in me to ask and answer my own research questions, preparing me for research beyond undergrad in a completely different field. I am thankful for fruitful relationships and opportunities to gain new, and often unanticipated, skills. I am thankful for a truly useful liberal arts education.

I am thankful that I am—and always will be—a Dickinsonian.