Now I know that everyone feels inadequate at the start of graduate school--or so everyone has claimed--but in my case it's true. Of the eight new students to my department this fall (not counting the two visiting scholars), six have done graduate work in linguistics before (one of them even to the point that she had a finished and approved dissertation proposal, apparently), and six have taken classes in the department before. I'm the only one that doesn't fall in either category.
This leads to many conversations which I can't participate in, conversations that start either with, "when I was writing my master's thesis on phonology," or with "when I was taking a class last year with Professor X*." I do a lot of listening.
But yesterday I found my niche in the class. I was sitting around, listening to the German girl and the Italian guy talk about, I don't know, something complicated.
"So, you see," he said, "when people are treated with this type of therapy, there's less chance of a...how do you say...a going back?"
I leaned in. "Relapse," I said.
"Right!" he said, and continued with the conversation.
A few minutes later, the German girl was saying something. "So blah blah blah what's that called...the person being treated...?"
"Patient," I said.
"Thanks!" she said, and they were off again.
So I'm good for something: I'm a native speaker. I may not have a master's degree already, and I may not quite understand what, exactly, the Korean guy wrote his thesis on, but I can respond with complete confidence when, in phonetics class, he leans over to ask me what "big toe" means. Hey, I'll take what I can get.
*I bet you didn't know he's a linguist!