Unintended Consequences

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When I started graduate school, I didn’t really know what I was signing up for. I knew I enjoyed my subject area and that a graduate degree was necessary for the type of professional work I was interested in. However, I also found out graduate school led to many unintended consequences.

At the height of my coursework, I was taking three graduate courses and working full time at WMU. On the days I had class, I was on campus for 13 to 14 hours a day. My life revolved around work and school. I had to turn down social invitations from friends and family because I was either in class or doing homework. As I worked through each semester, I sometimes reflected on my life and felt like I was wasting these years. My relationships were suffering. I was tired. I was stressed out. I felt like I wasn’t living my life.

However, something unexpected happened. All those hours in class and completing coursework didn’t happen in isolation. I was surrounded by people. And these people became some of my closest friends. In between t-tests and chi-squares, I was building new relationships. These people weren’t just classmates; they became like a family.

Even though it sometimes did not feel that way, I WAS living my life. We were all living our lives in between classes. I celebrated engagements, marriages, babies, and birthdays with my new friends. We shared meals and we traveled together. And soon we will celebrate graduations, job interviews, and new jobs together.

These people became a great professional network. My classmates have reviewed cover letters and resumes, forwarded job postings, and networking amongst each other has even led to jobs.

To graduate students who feel like your life revolves around coursework, homework, assignments and exams, take a step back and look at what else is going on. You are meeting people, networking, building friendships and professional relationships. Take advantage of this time of your life, no matter how tiring and stressful it is. The people in your classes might not just help you with this week’s assignment…they might help you get your next job or become one of your closest friends. Enjoy this time while it lasts.

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