A paper due today…read a gazillion pages before class tomorrow…research meeting with a professor the next day…and submit a journal article for publication the day after that. The grad school life. Being a scholar…doing what scholars do. That’s why we’re here, right? We have degrees to earn and changes to make and research to conduct in our respective fields.
Of course all of these things are important. The opportunities we have as graduate students, from working with A-list faculty and exploring our interests to attending conferences and submitting for publications, are amazing. We would be crazy to not take advantage of them. But amidst the academic-mania of classes, articles, writing, and conducting research, we have to create balance and carve out time to do other things that may be considered non-academic.
During my first year in my doctoral program, I was a hermit, which is DEFINITELY not the usual for me. I had friends both within and outside of my program, but anytime they wanted to do something that did not involve me going to the School of Education, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center where I work, or my comfy bed with a glass of wine and Scandal, I politely declined. It wasn’t that I did not want to socialize, but honestly, I had bogged myself down so much and buried myself in the academic side of things that I simply had no desire for anything else.
This was good and and not-so-good: good because I was making sure my academics were in tact but not-so-good because I was alienating myself from people who are now some of my best friends. So, my advice to you as potential graduate students is to stay balanced. Join an organization that has both academic and social components. I joined the Black Graduate Student Association when I first arrived to campus, and now I serve as president of the organization and find it a huge benefit to have friends and colleagues who are scholars but also not afraid to have some good, clean fun. In addition to joining a particular group that peaks your interest, get with your friends/cohort members and do some creative, budget-friendly activities like a Scandal watch party (I love Olivia Pope) or movie night or even take a walk around Bloomington one Saturday afternoon. Do these (It’s beautiful in the fall). Do these things regularly. There are also lots of free concerts and festivals that happen downtown…best part is…they’re free!
Cease these amazing opportunities! Don’t let your academics fall to the wayside, but be sure to take some time to enjoy your favorite leisure activities. Remember, everything’s better with balance!