Okay. Let me start off by admitting that I may not the best person to write about this week’s topic. If there is anything I am not good at, it is balancing work and study. That said, perhaps it is time for me to learn something from myself by writing this blogpost.
The main reason graduate students work during their graduate program is to gain experience – and money. Especially money. No matter how much funding you manage to get together, there always seems to be a need for more money. And this is the first trap for a lot of us – me included. During my master’s program, I worked 4 jobs just to be able to pay rent and food. Working so many jobs, I barely slept more than 5 hours a night, constantly feeling as if I was not flourishing in my program, and somehow still did not end up making ends meet. Yet, with time comes wisdom, and I hope that some of the things I have learned on the way may help you as well.
One of the main things that helped me was discovering work on campus. Queen’s University offers jobs directly set up for graduate students through their work-study programs, which allow international students to work more hours than outside campus, and all students to work in an environment that understands that you are primarily a student. This is especially helpful when you have deadlines coming up in your academic life, as employers outside of the university sometimes struggle understanding our imposter lingo. I specifically remember a time trying to explain what a COMP exam is to my grocery store manager, who kept telling me that I was great with technology (hard no on all fronts there). Even more, there is often room for growth within these programs, allowing students to climb positions and gain a pay increase on the way! More importantly, the key thing for balancing work and study is keeping in mind that at the end of the day you should always be your own priority. As much as you could help that person in your lab, take on some extra grading, fill in for someone else’s shift, you need to ensure that you have time for yourself as well. This, of course, is easier said than done, and this is where my biggest tip comes in: see an Occupational Therapist. As with all things, it can be difficult to realize that you may need help from someone else, but the occupational therapists at the Wellness centre are trained specifically to help students find a better rhythm in their life. Whether it is learning to plan on when to start on assignments or when to stop working, it is very helpful to have someone else look at your daily planning and tell you when to stop (or start), where to find the best resources at Queen’s, or just to hear that you are doing okay. Because no matter how much you work, and how hard you study, it will not be worth it if you do not put yourself first