Image by Kateri Collins
Here at ESN, we love to share accounts of how emerging scholars discover new things about their vocation at every step of their careers. Kateri Collins participated in ESN events at Urbana 15 while in her graduate school application process, and shared about that application process here. Here, she shares some of the things she found most helpful while in transition between undergraduate and graduate studies.
My transition from being an undergraduate to entering graduate school was ambiguous. I simply did not know when or where I was going. Discerning my vocation was a long, but important process that took about three years that started in my junior year of undergrad. I went from pursuing a PhD program in social psychology to a Masters or PhD program in public heath to finally ending up with a Masters program in Clinical Psychology with a Specialization in Expressive Art Therapy. If you’re interested in reading about my whole process in depth, feel free to read my other blog. From the time I got accepted into graduate school to the start date was only about four months. Yet, I really have been in transition for the last two years since my graduation as an undergraduate. My transition and preparation has been quite different in the last four months compared to the last two years, but both are equally important.
Transition is something that most people do not like because we often fear the unknown. I admit that transition is scary, but, at the same time, it does not have to be. I do have a lot of anxiety about the unknown, but I am the type of person that will do whatever I need to do to try and prepare myself such as googling information or asking various people for information or advice. That is the administrative side of me! Some examples of things that helped me transition during the last two years included getting closer to the God the Father and Jesus himself through prayer and personal devotions, encouragement and wisdom from friends and family, as well as having a mentor.
Living Well In Transition
Living well during this two year transition meant grounding myself in the word of God, developing a closer relationship with Jesus as well as taking care of my emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical needs. I have a lot of health issues so, during this two-year time, transitioning well meant taking care of myself physically. I needed to be as healthy as possible so that I could endure the rigors of graduate school—intellectually, emotionally and physically. Being healthy means that as a young woman I am confident and ready for new challenges.
Part of getting healthy meant joining an emotional support group once a week. This has made a huge difference in having positive emotions. There is nothing wrong with getting help or being around people who understand you and can be supportive. Along with that I have been spending more time with God. Spending more time means doing my personal devotions regularly and incorporating his word into my daily life. I sensed God wanted me to go deeper into prayer. In order to do that it included me figuring out a new way to connect with him and, for me, that meant praying in color. (I will explain this a little later because this has made a huge different in me connecting with God and my prayer life.) My support also includes having a prayer partner. We pray weekly together and we pray for each other’s needs. I am not isolated; so I actually look forward to this prayer time, which wasn’t the case in the past.
Trusting God Through Praying in Color
I have grown in my trust for God by choosing to pray in color. I will admit that I had a very hard time connecting with God, feeling his presence, and sensing the Holy Spirit by praying out loud. Honestly, I thought there was something wrong with me because I do believe in the power of prayer and I have seen prayers answered, but I sometimes had trouble connecting with him through prayer. But as I wanted to grow deeper into the relationship with God the Father, I became unsettled with only one form of prayer. I was introduced to a book called Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth. This style of praying changed my prayer life. I had never heard of this form of prayer before, but it made sense to me as someone who is creative and was desperate to communicate with God. Praying in color is simply connecting to God through color and paper. This could be through markers, colored pencils, oil pastels, chalk, or any art form you choose. After buying a couple of mixed media sketchbooks and gathering all my supplies, I headed to the church to pray. I was completely silent, coloring, listening to and hearing from God. I felt God’s love and affirmation, which I was craving, and it finally happened by praying through color. It is my hope, as I become an expressive art therapist, that I can teach others about praying in color and apply such techniques with African American children and adults who struggle with mental health issues.
What Was Most Helpful In Transition
Whether transition is difficult, scary, and/or has unknown prospects, what has been helpful during this transition time is that family and friends have reinforced/encouraged that I need to be grounded in the Lord. I do not want to lose my faith while pursing a higher degree, pursuing my passion, and fulfilling my calling. Though others suggested that I should pursue spiritual growth during this transition, it became my choice to have an intimate relationship with God. I wanted to grow in him and part of that was finding a way to meet that need.
Also most helpful in this transition is having a mentor. My current mentor advised me during my undergrad years and continues to be heavily involved in the graduate school process. She encourages me, affirms my abilities, redirects when needed, and gives me various school and life tips. After acceptance into graduate school, she gave me practical tips on how to be successful, what graduate school is like, and what professors will expect from you. This relationship has helped to reduce my anxiety level about entering graduate school, especially since I was scared about the pace of graduate school and the reading load. At this point I am in the swing of graduate studies and excited about what is to come!
I am truly thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to study and to begin the process of study in the field of expressive art therapy. I truly believe that the expressive arts are a powerful therapeutic tool to help people heal and I am looking forward to one day being able to be that facilitate such a process. I know that it was only God that got me accepted into this very specialized program because they only accept a small number of students. When I found out, I praised God, cried, and screamed because I knew it was only Him and it confirmed calling in my life.
Vision for Grad School
My vision as I enter graduate school is to have a fellowship in my graduate department that reaches artists and provides safe places for them to encounter the power of God. I believe that God not only loves all nations, but he too is a creator. Like artists, who are creative and often seen as different, the divine presence can be experienced through silence, color, and beauty.
Those Transitioning To Grad School
If you are considering or starting graduate school why not get “out of the box,” and seek God for yourself? What works for you in this transition? Seek and surround yourself with positive people in your transition.
Whether in prayer, through phone call conversations, google hangouts, or getting practical tips you can bridge the transition to surviving and thriving in graduate school.