One of the things I wondered about when I transitioned from my previous institution to the one I've now been working at for three months was the cultural shift. I was curious what it would be like to go from mentoring and guiding undergraduates at a small liberal arts college to working with graduate students in a school at a large public university. Specifically, how would (or wouldn't) the culture of this new place allow me to build relationships with the students I serve?
Because regardless of the responsibilities, regardless of the sometimes long hours and occasional frustration, what makes my work worth it is the opportunity to not only get to know the students, but also to feel like I'm helping them grow in some way, however small...to feel like I'm making even a bit of difference in their educational experience. That has been and always will be my reward. In fact, there's a standing joke among people in my career field (as in others, I'm sure) that you do this kind of work because you enjoy it, not because it pays well.
So I was extremely touched when a student recently dropped by with this delightful and thoughtful gift. In the short time I've been here, she and I have worked together on a few different initiatives - including an event for the entire school - and the kind words she wrote in her card absolutely made my day. They were a much-appreciated affirmation of the choice to pick up and move to Michigan for this job; and it was a moment to realize that, even in a different institutional culture, the opportunity to build meaningful relationships is here nonetheless.