The Grad School Process (Part I)

If you don’t know by now, I’ve been strongly considering and desiring to go to graduate school for a while. While work and being able to serve in the community and at Lighthouse have been alright, to further my education has been something I’ve wanting in such a competitive work environment these days. To have that edge over other potential applicants because of your academic coursework and study is always a plus, along with any other credentials. However, one of the tougher things to figure out is where to go in terms of furthering one’s education. What direction should I take in life? How should I proceed with that route? I figure I would document my process and see where it goes from now until I finally get letters back from the schools that I’ve applied for saying that I either got accepted or rejected.

But I guess the first question is “What do I want to go with the rest of my life in terms of my career?” To be honest, it’s a pretty loaded question. But ultimately, a lot of it relies on the gifts and talents that you have, but also the desire and heart that you have for what you want to do. I think the latter is the more difficult part. Finding that passion for something.

For me, that process was very long and winding. It still is. I came into my undergraduate years with the focus of becoming a doctor. Given some of the struggles that I had experienced with the medical process along with other issues, I couldn’t see myself going into that career field. However, I noticed that one of the gifts that I had was in understanding languages. My ability to comprehend and acquire language felt of ease. It wasn’t just in languages that one would speak and write in, but also computation languages as well, like C++ and PHP. I guess it was just a gift that I had. The other thing is my love for computers. While I don’t like to admit it, but I spend a lot of time on the computer, working on web design or improving my skills in that area or reading up on technological advances and new developments in the computer industry.

But how does learning languages and computers correlate to one another? Well, that’s where computational linguistics came into mind. Browsing over various programs that I was interested in, I noticed that there were programs throughout the nation in this field. What the heck is computational linguistics, you might ask? Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

“Computational linguistics is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the statistical and/or rule-based modeling of natural language from a computational perspective.”

However, that definition is rather dense… But I found this explanation of what the field is about rather useful. This is from the University of Washington’s computational linguistics program website:

“As the role of computers increases in our daily lives, businesses and industry are seeking experts who can improve the nexus between humans and machines. Computational linguists are at the forefront of development of applications in translation, voice recognition, automated e-mail response, search engines and other pioneering technologies. Graduates of this master’s program will gain the expertise needed for employment as language software development engineers and linguistic data specialists.”

For others, this might seem like a bore. For me, this was something I really could see myself doing. Going through the linguistics program, it was always interesting to study and learn about language acquisition because of the intricacies of how one can learn language. The stages that a person learns their first language and other languages is a huge study itself that is still under a lot of study today. To apply that on a completely different scale with computers is completely different but a more fascinating sense because there is no automated brain for the computer to work with, one that doesn’t mature with each day. You have to give it commands and processes in order to acquire and understand what you’re wanting out of it.

Is this the only field that I’m interested in? Not necessarily. With each day, I learn something new about myself and where God wants me to go. And in doing so, this may change. However, I try to take those gifts that He’s given me to really apply it to the things I work with. I still have a heart for serving others and a heart to teach and helping others overcome obstacles. I’ve had thoughts of teaching and thoughts of going into the speech pathology field as well. However, I’m taking it one step at a time.

But in order to get into any of these programs, it requires one thing… Getting through the application process. However, before you can start going into that next step, to be able to understand and what you have a heart for is key because it will help you in figuring out where to go in the future. A friend at church told me this one day when I was over at his place: “Do something you would truly enjoy and be able to wake up and not dread doing each day. Something that will challenge you to want to work harder and want to learn more.” In the end though, I know that whatever career path that I take, that ultimately, God will use me in that field for His glory.

Hopefully that is something I will find over the course of this process. Just have to take it one step at a time.

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