In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve neglected my blog. And for good reason too. I hit the period of final exams for my first semester of graduate school. These last few weeks have been some of the most intense that I’ve experienced.
And to risk sounding cheesy, I believe I’ve learned a number of things. These are both about the specific program I’m in and about myself.
1. I’ve re-affirmed why I’m in graduate school. I want to get my master’s degree so I can one day be in a management position in the PR and communications industry. As fun as school is, I’m on a professional track and will end classes when I graduate.
2. I have to get things done early (when I can). My stress tends to accumulate over time. I’m much happier when I complete assignments earlier. It’s difficult and sometimes impossible, but I prefer to complete tasks early.
3. I need to relax a bit more. I’ve been so tense the first semester because I’m still getting settled in the program. Next semester I’d really like to get out more and go to cultural events in the school and community. I want to be more engaged with what’s going on around me.
4. I have to budget more effectively. At times, my checking account has dwindled to a dangerously low level. I need to prioritize my spending so I can have more financial cushion.
5. I’m still not a statistician. I like to pretend that I can do in-depth research, but I don’t have the skills (at least not yet) to run real analyses. I’ll be in a stats class next semester, so hopefully I can improve my skills a little more.
There are plenty more lessons, but these five stand out the most. Even though school has been crazy, I’ve still managed to work on a few creative projects, like a short book and a feature length script. It’s challenging without a doubt, but grad school hasn’t gotten the best of me yet.
I’ve been exceptionally busy lately. (Haven’t we all?) I’ve been working on a NaNoWriMo book (31,000 words in), a research proposal, an editorial project and several more school assignments. It’s definitely a trying time in the semester. Rather than complain about the academic stress, I’d rather focus on the good in my life. In this case, that means the gorgeous colors that come with fall weather in Athens, Georgia. I’ve taken a few pictures outdoors (pictured below) over the last few weeks. Soak these photos in whenever you’re having a stressful moment, or just need a few minutes of reflection. These pictures remind me that fall is much too fleeting.
In the spirit of National Novel Writing Month, I’m writing a book. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an initiative for writers all over the world to pen a novel in a month. In order to win NaNoWriMo, you must successfully write 50,000 words in November. It’s an opportunity for writers to create without fear in a short amount of time. With NaNoWriMo, you’ll want to write first and edit later.
Even though I have a particularly busy month, I couldn’t resist at least giving NaNoWriMo a shot. Technically what I’m doing is a book and not a novel. It doesn’t classify as a novel because it isn’t fictitious. Instead it’s a book about the basics of public relations. I’m naming it after this blog “All Things Communications.” The book will be intended for young students or professionals looking to start in the industry.
So far I’ve written 10,000 words, or 20 percent of the book. I still have 40,000 words to go before I finish. I plan to do about 2,000 words a day to get it done. I also have a research proposal, presentation, work articles and family events this month. If I don’t reach my goal, I won’t be entirely surprised. I’m still going to do my best to get as close to 50,000 words. The important part of NaNoWriMo is giving it a try.
I was having a conversation with a classmate today and we were talking about the struggle of balancing work, projects and school. Both us work as graduate assistants and we’re in our first semester of our graduate programs. While we both knew the first semester would be difficult, we didn’t realize how stressful it would be.
For the last four years, I’ve worked and gone to school. I maintained this balance through the majority of undergrad. I would hold (at least) a job, serve in an extracurricular organization and take a full load of classes. I made it through each semester, earning the grades I wanted and saving money at the same time. Eventually the work paid off and I was able to send myself to Europe (twice) for short vacations before I graduated from college.
That’s not to say I didn’t burn out at times. A couple of semesters I seriously struggled. I had a problem turning down opportunities and loaded my schedule with too many commitments. That’s why I knew that I had to change my habits when I started graduate school.
Since the start of my program, I’d like to say I’ve been more successful in my school and work balance. I’ve made sure not to take on more tasks than I can handle. I feel like I have just enough to keep me productive, but sane.
My schedule allows me to have a few free afternoons a week. With this time, I can either study more or do things for fun. With my schedule, I’m able to visit local bookshops, get coffee or go to yoga class if I feel like it. The important part of maintaining the work-school balance is to include some downtime.
And while I can’t deny that graduate school is more stressful, I think it’s worth it. Most of the time my stress has motivated me to work harder. More stress absolutely comes from handling both school and work, but luckily this stress is short term. How it changes my school work will be a long term benefit.
Map My Walk app pictured above.
I’ve been looking for new ways to improve my fitness. This semester I started walking to school and work. I only live a mile or two from each, but my schedule allows me to walk more on a daily basis. Now that I’m comfortable with daily walks, I’d like to challenge myself more.
I’m a creature of routine. Once I’m given a schedule, I stick to it for a specific period of time. I have trouble veering off of my daily routine, unless I plan deviations ahead of time. That’s why I plan to add more fitness to my schedule. If I hold myself to it, I’ll be able to accomplish more exercise.
My next step is charting my daily walks through the Map My Walk App. It will record when I walk, how long I walk and where I walk. After seeing my distance, I hope I’ll push myself a little bit further. I’ll set goals for myself each week. I’m going to start off slow and hopefully be walking 20-30 miles a week by January. It’s not a lot, but it’ll be something extra that can easily work with grad school.
My other goal is to attend one yoga or gym class a week. It’ll be easy to do since I can pick from the Ramsey gym and a number of yoga studios in Athens. All I’ll have to do is pick a class and stick with it. With these two steps, I’ll be able to better manage my exercise while taking stressful classes.
There are so many exciting events coming up in Athens. I hope to make it to most of them. While grad school takes up a good portion of my time, I still try to make it to as many local events as possible. Last night I went and saw Alton Brown’s Edible Inevitable Tour at the Classic Center. It included songs, food standup and a Twitter Q & A.
It also helped that Brown had a promotional sale, with up to 50 percent off tickets, for UGA students and faculty. I decided to go last minute because of the discount. If Brown comes to your town, I recommend going to see his show, regardless of whether you’ve watched his Food Network shows. Along with Brown’s show, I have a number of events I hope to see before the end of the month. It’ll be a busy week, not to mention UGA’s Fall Break is on Halloween this year!
Oct 23-25: American Werewolf in London plays at Cine. Part of Schlocktoberfest, a horror movie fest at Cine, the film will play nightly in the theater downtown. Schlocktoberfest will also show the 1978 horror classic Halloween next week. Visit athenscine.com for more information on the fest.
Oct 25: Brew School at 1000 Faces Coffee will run from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The free session will teach participants how to use the Hario V60 dripper. It will be an interactive demo session, giving visitors a chance to test out the technique. There will also be pastries from The Comerian. I’d really like to go and check this event out.
Oct 31: The Wild Rumpus parade is back this year! This time it will be held on Halloween night. Any interested folks can join in the parade, lining up around 8 p.m. The group will walk all over downtown, showing off their floats and costumes. Wild Rumpus will culminate with a free concert after the parade. Plenty of after parties will also run later that night.