Sunday, November 7, 2010

Grad student challenge - when friends don't understand

I visited a grad class recently and asked for blog post ideas. A few students noted that they struggle with friends who are not in grad school and don't understand the associated time demands, thus pressuring them to get-together and so on. This can definitely add another layer of stress to the already challenging journey of graduate school.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Send a note to all of your friends and set a boundary. A very close friend of mine in my PhD program sent an email to all of her friends explaining that for the next few years, she would be making school her priority, asking them to understand that when she turned down their invitations, her decision was about her focus on school and not a comment on their friendship.

2. Plan a get-together after the semester. Again, tell your friends that during the semester, your focus is school, but that you'd love to see them when you are on break. Having a get-together planned shows your friends that you value the connection and allows you to feel better about not seeing them while you are busy with school.

3. Find new friends. I don't mean for that to be as harsh as it sounds. I'm all for doing the work to keep old friends (and I mean this - I'm not encouraging you to ditch your old friends!). I'm really suggesting that you find a new friend or two as well. Developing a strong friendship with at least one person in your grad program will, I believe, make your journey richer and less stressful -- having someone who "gets it" and knows the players and is engaged in the same work will be a tremendous source of support.

4. Believe in yourself. When those around you don't understand, remind yourself why you decided to go back to school. Remind yourself of your goals and dreams and know in your heart that you can do this.

Cheering you on!

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