And on Saturday… Strategies to find your niche in a large university

And on Saturday, the graduate gods said, “Let there be socializing!”

My program, Higher Education and Student Affairs, hosts a tailgate every weekend before an IU football game.  One of our program's traditions is to sign our names on the corn hole board.  Photo courtesy of Stephanie Nguyen

My program, Higher Education and Student Affairs, hosts a tailgate every weekend before an IU football game. One of our program’s traditions is to sign our names on the corn hole board. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Nguyen

Graduate school can be a difficult balance between academics, professional, and personal responsibilities.  My life, right now, is going to class half a day, going to work at my assistantship in the other half of the day, and then taking care of myself after 5 p.m.–working out, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, and studying.  I feel like I am constantly on the move 5 days of the week!  But it is just as important  to schedule time in for rest, relaxation, and socializing.  So, Saturdays are my days where I put my books down and get out of the house.

Why should you socialize?  Besides, giving yourself a mental break, socializing creates an opportunity for you to network with other graduate students and find a community/group of friends.  Indiana University is considered a large university, and sometimes it takes a while to find a community that you feel you belong to.  During my first year as a graduate student, it was difficult to find my niche and get out of the typical cycle of constant work and studying.

Here are some strategies that I used to find a community that I loved and to find people who shared the same values as I did:

1) Be proactive.  Don’t wait around for people to ask you to do things with them.  Be the one who plans things.  If you want to go to a movie that you want to see, invite people you know!  When I (finally) got a crock pot, I invited people over for a crock pot potluck and a game night.

2) Ask for help.  When I was feeling overwhelmed or lost, I talked to my professors and my classmates.  They gave me great tips and strategies to find that balance between work and life.  They would also tell me about resources, clubs, or groups that I could try out.  One of my professors helped me a find a graduate student support group where I met people who were facing the same struggles as I was.

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3)  Pursue your hobbies.  If you want to learn how to cook, take a cooking class.  One of my friends did this, and she not only learned how to cook delicious meals, but she met locals who told her about hidden, local foodie gems that were unbeknownst by college students.  I am a runner, and I went to the local running store to find organized running groups and people who shared the same passion.

4) Look for social opportunities and attend!  You know how you get lots of email in your inbox from clubs you sign up for in the beginning of the year and you ignore them?  I don’t!  I actually read these club emails for social opportunities, and then I immediately schedule them into my phone calendar.  I make it a habit to attend these social events because I might meet a new friend or learn something new.  By reading an email, I was able to find a book club that I regularly attend each week.

5) Do coffee/lunch/dinner dates.  Met a person at a social event that you want to know more about?  Schedule a meal date!  Getting to know someone over food is friendly way to meet new people and to try out new restaurants!

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