“The End” is not meant to suggest some apocalyptic landscape of doom ahead– rather simply, it felt like the right and finite way to declare the end of not only my two very fulfilling and enriching years with my research lab, but also as a graduate student slowly navigating my way to what it meant to be a researcher or an academic. I have had the unique pleasure of being a fellow for three terms at the Research and Scholarship lab. The end is bittersweet, a tunnel into the vast unknown ahead. But, I think I am leaving as a better scholar, researcher, and peer. And hopefully as a better mentor to the people I will work with many years from now.
Reflecting on this time, I came into this fellowship with some anxious hope that I could prove myself– that I could transform myself into more than a graduate student. I wanted to be someone who could think more critically working with primary sources, someone who could guide my own work, and someone more assertive and executive with my decisions. It was immediately apparent there would be hard work ahead, but it was also mindful and important work, and work that inspired my fellow labmate and I to see ourselves as equals amongst the many librarians and faculty researchers that already carved out their own journeys into scholarship after so much experience. Through three terms, I grew to respect their candor and encouragement, and their endless patience in teaching us graduate students how not to only understand the process and cycle of research, but also how to be better teammates to each other. It did not happen overnight. For me, it was a slow maturation into this role. One that has challenged, confounded, and nourished me through the months.
The End is frightening for, I am sure, many graduate students who are about to step into yet another phase of life. We are called upon now to step up to the plate as information professionals, as the people other people will now come to for guidance, not as mere students who are still grasping at what it means to be a librarian. The End is saying goodbye to a wonderful group of people, and not knowing what sorts of colleagues we will end up with in another year’s time. Perhaps a research group at another academic institution. Or some departmental research study with a small team of colleagues. I wonder what these communities will look like and how they will influence and push my growth further. I wonder what sort of beginnings accompany my ends. I am still wondering where I will be in six months time– now caught between further academia and the workforce. And I truly ask myself how will I be able to sustain the things Michigan has given me– those abstract, tenuous, important little things? Those things that bring to a necessary conclusion this chapter, this journey. Things that I have outgrown and need to explore elsewhere in that wide expansive world outside of this little place.
No, the End of my time here at Michigan and our research lab is exactly where I need to be despite the exquisite sadness of saying goodbye to a wonderful cohort of colleagues that have taught and nurtured me. Perhaps they will look back on this time as another research project, but for me, they have been the first exposure into this world and into this process of creation. They are my first of this kind of community. They are waving me off now to take part in other research opportunities and discoveries elsewhere. For that, I am happy and grateful.
Caroline He graduated from Vanderbilt University with a BA in Anthropology and Asian Studies in 2016. Now as an MLS 2019 graduate from the University of Michigan with focuses in library and archival work, she aims to continue her interests in research in academic institutions. She has worked with organizations and institutions like the Smithsonian Folklife Center, the Chinese Historical Society of American in San Francisco, and the University of Memphis in oral history, preservation, and government publications work.