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A Year in the Life of a Communication Disorders Grad Student

Author Alyssa Barzach, left, with her second-year buddy Lauren Pappalardo in the Robbins Center. Courtesy photo

The following is reposted from the Emerson Grad Life Blog. It was written by Alyssa Barzach, G ’20.  

One year ago, I put down my deposit to attend Emerson College’s MS in Communication Disorders program. Little did I know the amazing year I had in store. Here are some highlights:

Finding My Roommates

I was born and raised in Connecticut and I attended undergrad at the University of Connecticut. Deciding to come to Emerson was the first time that I had left Connecticut on my own. While many of my peers came from farther than I did, it felt like a huge step for me. I was so nervous about meeting people and figuring out roommates and housing.

Flash forward to today: I live with four other girls in my program in an apartment in Brighton. We first connected over the summer through the accepted students Facebook page. We came from all over: New England, New York, Chicago, and South Carolina. It’s been really great living with people who are going through the same program! We ride the T together and we have a built-in study group.

women dressed as condiments
First-year grad student Kaya LeGrand, right, and Associate Professor Ruth Grossman emcee the first CSD talent show. Courtesy photo

Getting My Second-Year Buddy

The summer before starting, first-year students are sent a survey to fill out. Then they are paired with second-year students who share similar clinical or personal interests. This second-year serves as a mentor, or “buddy,” as you’re transitioning to grad school.

I feel so lucky that I was paired with Lauren Pappalardo! Over the summer, she was an amazing resource for any questions that I had and since then, we’ve met for coffee about once a month or so to catch up. She made my transition to grad school smooth and comfortable.

My First Semester

It was a whirlwind. I met my incredibly kind and supportive cohort, got to know the amazing clinical and academic faculty, and started working with clients. I worked hard, but I also had a lot of fun. Keep reading for some of my favorite moments!

Clinical Work at the Robbins Center

One of my favorite parts of my first semester of grad school was the clinical work. Emerson’s in-house clinical training facility is called the Robbins Center, which services clients of all ages with a variety of disorders. In the Robbins Center, you get 100 percent supervision by Emerson’s amazing clinical faculty. I felt so supported and encouraged throughout my time there, by both the clinical faculty and my peers. I learned so much and felt very prepared to begin my external clinical placements the following semester!

Second Semester

My second semester just wrapped up and I can’t believe how fast time has gone by! I had my first external clinical placement working in a middle school and I loved it! My peers were in external sites all over the Boston area and I loved learning about what everyone was doing.

Talent Show

One of the most talked about events of the spring semester was the first annual Communication Disorders talent show. This event started as a small, “eh, maybe it’ll be fun” idea and blossomed into something that truly nobody could have envisioned. The talents ranged from singing, acting, and magic tricks to limbo, ventriloquism, and a Rubik’s Cube. It was an unforgettable event and an amazing way to unwind after a stressful midterms week.

three friends hugging by harbor
Barzach and friends on an outing to the New England Aquarium. Courtesy photo

Boston Outings

This semester, I tried to make it a point to explore the wonderful city we’re in! Emerson is located right in the heart of downtown Boston, and its close proximity to the T makes it an easy afternoon break to visit some wonderful sites.

As the year comes to an end, I can’t help but be thankful and grateful for all the amazing people I’ve met and things I’ve learned. It only makes me more excited for what is to come. Emerson truly feels like home!

If you have any questions about Emerson, the Communication Disorders program, or my experiences, I’d love to chat with you! Feel free to reach out via email at

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