For most of us, graduate school is a whole new chapter in our lives. However, the last thing we think about is the impact on our family and loved ones. I commute to school from home and honestly, adjusting to the high stress demands brought on by the rigorous curriculum was difficult but my biggest struggle was trying to balance this while living at home. I hope my insights will help guide you and hopefully create a low-stress first year if you’re in a similar situation.
I live at home with my parents. My commute is 19 miles but traffic can make an easy 20-minute journey into 50 minutes. I completed my undergraduate degree at UC Irvine and lived on campus but for financial reasons I concluded that commuting from home would be the smartest decision unless it deterred me from completing my degree. For my family, education is extremely important and it should never be neglected. However, my weekends are constantly consumed with family social events and, to make matters worse, during my first year at MBKU my sister got married. If anyone knows anything about traditional Indian-Hindu weddings, they are far from being simple or small-scale. The wedding was in April and the nerves of taking one week from school without knowing the schedule, system, or professors created a constant level of anxiety for me on top of everything else.
So now that you know my background, here’s the advice. I have personally never been that great at dealing with stress. When I lived in Irvine, I created a bubble for myself where I could easily escape family obligations and it’s far easier (in my opinion) to ignore your friends than it is your family. Circumstances are a lot different now. I wanted to be involved with wedding preparation but I knew I could not afford to slack off at school. So, here’s the first piece of advice: communicate with your parents/family members. Sit down with them and explain to them the schedule for the quarter. Show them your exam schedule. Inform them about your extracurriculars. What helped my family and I during this time was to create a shared family calendar on icalendar. We could all put our events in so everyone was constantly aware of what was occurring in each other’s lives and there was no excuse for anyone to say, “but you didn’t tell me you were busy!”
For myself, commuting works with my study habits. I personally do not like studying late at night and I like studying away from home. By 10 or 11pm I’m usually done and would rather get proper rest and wake up early to continue studying. So if commuting from home, create strict study schedules and make sure you also schedule some time to relax, exercise, and spend time with your family. Commuting from home kept me on track because I knew once I got home I would not accomplish anything. I was that much more motivated to complete my study goals for the day prior to leaving campus.
Lastly, and what I wish I had learned earlier, is that while you may not believe so, your parents/loved ones understand the stresses that you are going through equally or even greater than you do. When they ask you to come out with them for dinner, maybe they want to offer you a break from the stresses that easily come with graduate school. Yes, school is important and so is your career but do not neglect or take advantage of the support and love that your family offers you during this time.
Remember to enjoy yourself through the challenges you face and good luck with your first year!