My oldest daughter is finishing up her last semester of undergrad studies – it’s a busy time of life, and an exciting one. Not only is she taking the last of her classes, she’s also starting the application process for her postgrad programs, with all that that entails of deciphering websites, meeting deadlines, gathering references, sending transcripts and getting recommendations. And as if that’s not enough she has to figure out the process of moving and what to do with all the stuff she has accumulated over the last few years. As is often the case when confronted with a big life change and a leap into the unknown, she is excited and anxious all at once. Sound familiar to anyone?

I was visiting her this past week and we spent a lot of time talking about the possibilities of the future. She was trying to get my input on what to do. In all honesty, I didn’t feel like I could be of much help, other than to offer generalities and some tried and true mom-advice, such as the importance of being well prepared and researched, and to not compare apples to oranges when going through her lists of pros and cons – I am sure none of this was news to her! In the end, I am afraid I wasn’t of much use other than as a sounding board as she worked out various scenarios.

She has ideas of where she would like to end up but she won’t know for sure for quite a while. Depending on where she gets in, her living circumstances will vary vastly. The only known right now is that she will be moving at the end of the semester. It could be a warm or a cold place, an expensive city or a more affordable town. For all she knows she could end up abroad.

It strikes me that it’s a situation not dissimilar from that of many expats – where paperwork is plenty, unknowns many and real answers not always readily available. And even though more than 2 million students apply for grad school in the US each year, there does not appear to be a comprehensive support system in place. In fact, from what I can tell, every school has its own process, and within each school, individual departments bring their own twists as well. It’s confusing as heck and that’s just the start of it.

When I dropped off my daughter at her apartment last night before catching my flight home I still didn’t have much to offer in the way of help or advice. The best I could do was another mom-generality: “the worst that can happen is that you don’t like it, but if you don’t try you’ll never know”.

I am not sure how useful that one was, but it was what I had at the time.

By: Felicia Shermis

Danielle Kim – a year and a half later
Winter break – short, sweet and appreciated!