It’s official, I’ve survived my first semester of grad school!
One semester down, four more to go!
Before starting grad school, I ridiculously overestimated the free time I would have and am currently laughing at myself for even imagining I would have such a thing as “free time”. After first attempting to make monthly updates about my grad school experience and quickly realizing that there was just no time for that, I set a goal to blog updates during midterms and then finals. HA! After realizing that wasn’t going to happen either, here I am finally blogging about my first semester of grad school in December!
It’s amazing to me to think about how exactly one year ago I was completing and submitting my grad school applications to seven different universities. Two months later, receiving an interview at the university I had been dreaming about being accepted to and attending. Now, a year later, I’ve completed my first semester at that same university and I couldn’t be more grateful!
Toledo has surprised me in all the best ways. My experience in this city has been completely different than my time spent in Mt. Pleasant during undergrad (no shocker there haha) and I’ve loved getting to experience the things that a larger city has to offer. I also never imagined that I would have the time to experience this city as much as I have (which has also helped me to keep my sanity throughout the semester). From Mudhens games and Saturday morning yoga downtown, to the Toledo Zoo and my first UT football game, Toledo has brought me so much more than just grad school classes and clinical experiences.
The week before classes started, my cohort began our grad school experience with a retreat at the 577 Foundation in Perrysburg. We spent the day meeting each other, creating pottery, working through scavenger hunts, and learning more about what our entire program would entail… a.k.a. the calm before the storm.
At UT each SLP cohort is split into two tracks throughout the entire program; the blue track and the gold track. Being assigned to the blue track, I spent my first semester taking classes that focused heavily on the child and school-based topics of SLP, while the gold track was assigned to the classes that were geared towards the adult and medical-based topics. Next semester both tracks will switch and take the opposite classes. My classes included Language Development and Disorders, Speech Sound Disorders, and Diagnostics, along with both my treatment practicum and diagnostic practicum. Since I’m most passionate about working with children, having the classes that focused on the child population was definitely the best way to start grad school!
This semester I received an off-campus clinical placement at SunBridge Preparatory School. On interview day, 6 months earlier, I had learned a little bit about this potential clinical placement and loved everything I was hearing. SunBridge is a school in Toledo that serves many children of low S.E.S. and works to “bridge” the gap between poverty and the ability to obtain higher education. I provided therapy to two students, one in 4th grade and one in 5th, and loved every second! By being assigned students in upper-elementary, I was able to learn so much about providing therapy that focuses heavily on reading, writing, and curriculum-based interventions. Many people don’t understand why an SLP would provide intervention in these content areas, even though each of these areas fall within our scope of practice. I loved having the opportunity to provide therapy that helped these students to build skills in these academically-based language areas that also helped them within the classroom setting.
While working at SunBridge, I didn’t have access to the UT Clinic therapy materials, which encouraged me to get started on building my own collection of therapy tools. This semester my therapy bag was full of things like Connect Four, a soft basketball and baseball, Jenga, prizes, sensory tools, picture cards, and an iPad, among other things!
For my diagnostic practicum, I received a placement on a diagnostic team with three other graduate students working within UT’s Speech and Language Clinic. Throughout the semester, we evaluated (and often diagnosed) children ranging from 3-5 years old. Considering each of the clinical experiences I’ve gained during undergrad and this semester, this one was hands down my favorite yet. I loved absolutely everything that this experience entailed, from collaborating with each client’s parents, being able to use materials like bubbles and Play-Doh to evaluate (yes, you’re allowed to be jealous of my future job), and especially the age of these clients *insert heart-eyed emoji here*
My classes also provided me with even more clinical experiences throughout the semester, such as administering speech and language screenings at a local preschool and kindergarten classroom, experiencing a dementia simulator at a local assisted living facility, and providing hearing screenings at a public health fair downtown.
On another note, find yourself grad school roommates that will encourage you, support you, celebrate the ending of a long week downtown with you, and even decorate the entire apartment for your birthday! I’m not sure how I would’ve survived this semester without these three girls.
Looking back on the beginning of the semester, I think the biggest change that I experienced was recognizing where my true passion within speech-language pathology lies. I went into grad school believing I was most passionate about working in an elementary school setting, and ended this semester believing something slightly different. During my Language Development course we began the semester learning about diagnostic and treatment approaches that targeted language disorders in children aged birth-3 (early intervention) and I was immediately drawn in! After taking courses that focused heavily on early intervention topics, while also working with preschool aged clients during my diagnostic practicum, I’ve realized that my heart is set on early intervention. Even though I absolutely love working with children at every age, I feel that providing speech and language therapy during the years that a child’s speech and language is first developing will truly bring me the happiest and most rewarding future career!
Here’s to seeing where this program will take me next! 🙂 See you in 2018, UT!