Hello, all! Welcome back to another Sit, Stay, & Blog post!
If you are a new reader or just haven’t yet figured out my posting schedule, I ideally like to make a blog post weekly. However, it could not be any more ironic that this post is “late” for the very same reason I’m writing it — GRAD STUDENT LIFE!
I want to start off by saying that, while being a graduate student can entail a whirlwind of emotions and experiences, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that have led me to where I am today! 🙂
“But you’re just a graduate student! How hard can it be?”
Have you ever heard a statement similar to this? Perhaps you are a secretary or a sales associate, and someone has said to you, “How hard can it really be to work as a secretary?” or “You’re just a sales associate, dealing with customers can’t be that hard!” Maybe you are even a high school student and continuously hear, “You’re only in high school, how hard can your life be?” Here’s the thing: It IS hard work. We all have unique experiences and accompanying challenges, and it is the right of the individual to determine just how difficult their job is, be it as a volunteer, student, part-time worker, full-time employee, or perhaps as a stay-at-home parent!
So what does it mean to be “just” a graduate student? For starters, it means never leaving work. The weekend arrives, but that does not erase your 10-page paper deadline for Saturday at 11:59 p.m. It means experiencing total exhaustion after a night of class but somehow still finding the motivation to read your textbook materials at midnight for the next day’s classes. It can mean factoring into one’s schedule the hours of time spent on the road commuting to and from classes — precious time which cannot be used to finish assignments, read textbooks, work a part-time job, or “catch up” on sleep.
Here’s another interesting point: Many graduate students I know, including myself, are forced to work multiple jobs (often in addition to an internship). That means bouncing from one task to the next with little time to engage in self-care. Words cannot describe how dangerous this can be for the mental health of students, but we do it for one reason….because we have to. The cost of graduate school is astronomical, and unlike when one is an undergraduate student, the federal government does not offer grants to graduate students. Society’s future doctors, nurse practitioners, licensed professional counselors and social workers, etc. are often forced to pay for graduate school solely with loans whose interest rates I’ve seen as high as 15 percent! In a sense, the cost of schooling and accompanying loan interest rates are sadly designed to financially set people back before they even have a chance to get ahead! Thus, the need to work multiple jobs emanates from a need to survive, pay for gas to get to and from school, for course textbooks, to eat, keep a roof over their heads (and the list goes on).
I have had many people challenge me about my decision to attend graduate school by making statements such as, “You don’t need an advanced college degree, just get out and get a job instead of digging your debt hole deeper.” These kinds of statements deeply sadden me, and here’s why: I would not trade my experiences in graduate school for anything….not even less debt. I recognize that it is an intense time commitment and whirlwind of emotions, but it has undoubtedly molded me into who I am today (and who I will become). It has provided me with unimaginable experiences including an invitation to present research at a national conference, opportunities to meet and network with resourceful colleagues in my cohort, and being blessed with professors who are supportive and committed to providing their students with a quality education. To me, it is less about the money and more about the experience, and I am forever grateful for everything I have experienced thus far as a graduate student….and, yes, even those dreaded 3:00 a.m. study sessions! 🙂
I owe a world of thank yous to my family who supports me in every aspect possible, to Alex and Pinella for their patience with my often hectic schedule, and to my professors who continuously support and inspire me!
I thank you for the precious time that YOU took to read about my experiences as a full-time student! I am so appreciative of my readers and thoroughly enjoy reading your comments and feedback to my posts!
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As Thanksgiving grows nearer, I want to take the opportunity to blog about things that I am thankful for, beginning with family. Next week’s post will feature my little brother! Stay tuned for, “What It Means To: Have a Brother for a Best Friend!”