Social Life Struggles of a Grad Student
April 5, 2013 • comment(s)
If you're in graduate school, then I'm assuming you're motivated, hardworking, and truly enjoy learning. Grad students don't make it this far because “that's just what you do after high school” (something I frequently heard when I was an undergraduate). No, grad students are where we are because we WANT to be here. We worked tirelessly to meet the academic standards that would even justify our applications to graduate programs, and then competed against hundreds, even thousands, of other hopefuls for the few precious spots available at each institution. We ARE hard workers and we're damn proud of it.
The dilemma arises when the majority of the friends you had as an undergrad take a completely different path than you after graduation. They find jobs, get married, or have kids, while you get right back into the study grind--but with the added stress and pressures of studying in graduate school. Let's be honest, you dedicated ample time to studying for your Bachelors, but you always managed to fit in the movie nights, rallies, parties, and dates. So, your friends become confused by your sudden reclusiveness and take it personally when you don't drop whatever you're doing as soon as they call or when weekend plans are announced.
What isn't fun is when your friends become intrusive and inconsiderate about what's important in your life because your 18 hour study days are a serious inconvenience for them. If you're like me, then you've learned to put your foot down. But this can also give you mixed feelings.
Sometimes you feel lonely knowing “everyone else” is having a great night out or you might feel like a jerk having to constantly say, “No, thanks, I'm studying.” But you have got to remind yourself that if your friends really cared about you, they would want you to succeed and fulfill your dreams; they would understand that you have to focus on your educational career. If you have to repeatedly turn down people who ask you on dates because of scheduling conflicts, then they'll understand and compromise with you if they are truly interested. Also, try making new friends with other students in your program; form a study group--if anyone can empathize with you, its fellow grad students!
Managing a social life in graduate school will force you to make some sacrifices, but I promise they are absolutely worth it. You've made it this far; don't let anyone discourage you or make you resent continuing your education. When you are hooded at your graduation, the people who stuck by you and supported your dedication will be sitting in the crowd, cheering you on. That moment alone will be worth it, don't you think?
Rachel Reed holds a BA in English Linguistics from the University of Houston and is currently a pre-law graduate student seeking a Master's in Humanities and Women's Studies. She is a feminist activist, writer, and travel enthusiast. You can follow her on Twitter @rachelwreed and read more of her writing at FEMlog.