One of the best tips I have received about grad school is to remain connected to your loved ones. It is certainly very difficult when you are juggling your other responsibilities, but making time to talk, Skype or write an email to friends and family will help you improve your mental health.
I made a terrible mistake during my first year to cut-out social time. I would not return phone calls from loved ones because I felt too overwhelmed to keep them up-to-date with my life. I did not attend social events that were planned in my program. I thought time was better spent studying.
After a few weeks of this routine, I realized that I needed my loved one’s help and support. I started returning phone calls and even scheduling time to talk with my friends and family. I realized that those 30-60 minutes talking to people who were not connected to IU was incredibly therapeutic. My friends and family provided fresh perspectives and solutions to situations that I was stuck on.
During my second semester, I tried to attend social events within my program that were important to me. I did not feel obligated to attend everything, but I picked and chose things that I would enjoy (such as cohort dinners or volunteering for events). This helped me become more connected with my classmates outside of the classroom context. Attending social events doesn’t automatically guarantee that you will be best friends with your classmates, but it will help you improve skills in small talk and networking (yes, you need to practice these especially if you are going into academia!).
Socializing and staying connected with people is another important and necessary aspect of graduate school. Graduate school is a time to become an expert in your field, but you also need to have fun and make memories while doing it!