I had a conversation this morning with two close friends in the Education Policy and Management program. One of them had been feeling unsettled all week and something in particular that she said stuck with me – she said that she feels far away from her work experience.

We talked about how many weeks can sometimes go by in which we never mention the word “student.” We shared our frustration with the often-lackluster findings of social science research, asking each other if we’ll ever find answers to the problems that drove us here. We reflect on our vastly expanded perspectives on the education sector as a whole, and wonder aloud where our place is in it.

In short, we’re a little frustrated and confused. It’s easy to feel disconnected from the work that inspired us to apply to in the first place. Sometimes it’s hard to see how all the research and the case studies and the problem sets make life better for a kid sitting in a desk somewhere.

With less than six weeks of coursework left, it’s safe to say that all of my HGSE friends and I in master’s programs are primarily concerned with figuring out what to do after graduation. Many of us have grown close in the last year. People want to know where their friends will be next year. We commiserate with each other about the stresses, and celebrate with each other the successes. There is awkwardness as friends apply for the same competitive jobs.

Stepping back from the details of the job search, we ask ourselves bigger questions about what we want to do with our lives. What did we learn this year? How will it help us in the future? What’s the best way for us to impact education? I can’t help but notice that we had to answer many of these questions during our application process a year ago. What happened to that confidence? That sureness of purpose?

The short answer is that it’s still there, but this is a particularly reflective moment. And rightly so. Many of us worked harder this year than we ever have before. Most of us certainly learned more. I would be worried if we didn’t hesitate a bit on our way out the door. Despite “learning at the nexus of practice, policy, and research,” feeling far away from the work is a natural part of this experience. If you’re thinking about enrolling at HGSE, I hope you’re ready to truly explore and grow as a professional and a person. At the same time, I hope that you grow out of this place when your time is over – when it’s time to get back to work.