We've been here a year--actually about a year two weeks. I am so pleased with the experiences that we have had since driving across the country with all of our earthy belongings from arid desert to humid heartland.
Here are the highlights, by category, as they come to me:
School (generally speaking)
I had no idea what to expect when we came to grad school. I mean, I had an inkling, but I didn't--couldn't--know what it was going to be like. From the moment I arrived on campus for orientation last year, I not only felt great about what I had gotten myself into, but I felt something I didn't expect: an immediate and overwhelming sense of friendship. My college experience before coming to Illinois was very much a singular experience for me. I didn't live in the dorms as a freshman; I got married in the sophomore year of my first degree; I had a few people I knew on campus, but never really had friends in my major. I was not your typical college student.
And, really, I'm not your typical grad student either. With three kids, I know my experience is a bit different than most of my fellow grad students. But, I've (I should say "we've" here--this is a team effort, right Tina?) been able to hang. The people here have really been what have made hanging a pleasure. Grad students and professors alike, I wonder if other people in other programs know what they are missing.
We have a good friend who just moved back to the mainland from Oahu where they lived for about three years. We feel a little bit like they did: on an island in the middle of the sea. Moving from the west was an adjustment for us--one that we are still getting used to, I think. When I say that we've been here for a year, I really mean it. We haven't gone anywhere (I did leave town for 48 hours to attend my Grandmother's funeral in April--but that barely counts as being away). We have been down to St. Louis, up to Chicago and over to Indianapolis (oh! and a cool trip to Nauvoo over spring break), but we haven't actually gone home. So that's been a bit hard for us and for our families. We have, though, been visited (in some cases more than once!) by most of our immediate family. We also got visits from nearly every one of my favorite friends some point during the year. Amazing.
That said, we really love it here. Really. I'm not joking. We came from the land of urban sprawl. It would take 30-45 minutes to get anywhere interesting. Here, everything is close. There are parks, events, music, farmer's market, friends--everything!!--all within 5-10 minutes from home. Amazing! We really love the town and feel like it is a great place to bring up kids. The coming year my oldest starts kindergarten, so we'll see how that works out. The humidity is a bit obnoxious from time to time, but really, weather like the stuff we've been having in the last few days, makes up for it. And I actually kind of liked the winter.
Andrew Bird, Headlights, Jimmy Eat World, Bon Iver, Jeff Tweedy, Mates of State, Radiohead--and next month, Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers, and Yo La Tengo. Enough said.
It's been a challenging year for me intellectually. I repeat, it's been a challenging year for me intellectually. But I'm surrounded by support. "Learning the field"--especially a field as diverse as Writing Studies--is a challenge, but I have been met with several surprises. I love that my program allows me--encourages me, even--to take classes in several departments and subjects. I've already had several "interdisciplinary" experiences--I'm looking forward to many more.
I've alluded to this already as well, but we couldn't ask for a cooler community to belong to. Both Tina and I have made some great friends. And my kids? Well, both Seth and Maryn are doing just fine in the social department.
This next year is going to be a good one; I already know. I'm gonna take me some seminars. I'm gonna teach me some students. I'm gonna work my way through some tough scholarship. I'm gonna read me some graphic novels. I'm gonna learn me some lap slide.
Thus ends the long-form, once-a-month,(cough)boring, blog style that readers have come to expect from the guide. Expect, heretofore, a more abbreviated blog--not quite in the microblog "tweet" format, but with inspiration taken therefrom.