When Life Happens While You’re In Grad School

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Although it may feel like it sometimes due to the hectic, intense focus of grad school, life does not wait for you to finish your master’s degree. People are born, people die, they become ill, they get married and sometimes divorce, and the world fights wars and finds peace.

I don’t get too personal on blogs (not since I stopped using LiveJournal in high school, at least), but I feel it’s important to be up front about ways to deal with big life events that happen while you’re training so diligently to cover big events in the public life.

During summer bridge semester last year, my brother came home safe and healthy from Afghanistan. We celebrated.

During finals week of fall semester, my grandpa had a stroke, and after a series of long, challenging hospital stays, he died during finals week of spring semester.  We wept.

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A week into this summer’s coursework, my dad was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night showing symptoms of a heart attack. We cried and then celebrated when he made it through.

A week after class ended, I got engaged to the love of my life and we began planning our wedding. We celebrated.

And just last week, my little Nestor, a five-year-old sparrow I rescued and hand-raised from infancy, died. We wept again.

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Life doesn’t stop when you’re in grad school. Amazing and terrible things may happen. Just remember:

– Keep the big picture in mind, and take care of yourself and your family. Be gentle with yourself, and make time to grieve or celebrate.

-Your professors are human, and they care about you and your well-being. They’ve been through grad school, too. Talk with them. Keep them in the loop when you’re going through challenges; don’t just fall off the map.

-Though it can be tempting to isolate yourself in grad school, maintain ties with friends and family, and develop a support network of people who can cheer you on or give you a loving kick in the rear when the going gets rough.

– If things are too much to handle on your own, remember, Columbia College Chicago has a great network of counselors and mental health care professionals who are experienced in working with students. Plus, you can see a counselor up to ten times per year completely free of charge, and go to as many group sessions as you need.