Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: Ode to the Study Date, Part 2

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ode to the Study Date, Part 2

If you read the last post on the Grad Life blog about study dates, then you know that I firmly believe in the power of the study date to soothe the solitary scholar and build community. I've decided to share my ode to the study date. It is a list poem. Or rather, simply a list.  
 No, this is not a post about artichokes. It is an ode, like Pablo Neruda's Ode to the Artichoke. Only Neruda's ode is much, much better. 

Ode to the Study Date; Or, Why Study Dates Are Awesome

I learned firsthand how having a lot of work to do for grad school can be stressful and isolating. Pages do not write themselves and not only can no one else do it for you, you must do it alone. For hours. The beauty of the study date is that you are not, in fact, alone in the work you have to do. Although you are still working independently, you are working with someone else. There is a friend across from you or beside you, peeking out from behind her own equally massive pile of books. She is chugging along, as well. You are in it together.

Every grad student needs to break up the monotony of schoolwork with some relaxation. Unfortunately, when I work alone my “study breaks” consist chiefly of checking Facebook, idly sifting through my email, eating a snack, Facebook, snack, email, and then Facebook again. I remain glued to my computer. I don’t feel refreshed at all by the end of my study break. Rather, I feel that I’ve been procrastinating, which casts a shadow over whatever strides I may have made. But on a study date, the break is conversation! Chatting with a good friend or a fellow grad student who could become a friend is refreshing. I can step outside of my work and myself, and look away from the computer screen. The human contact is regenerative, and the conversation – whether light-hearted or serious is far more fulfilling than scrolling through status updates. After a laugh or two, or some much needed venting, I can return to the work with fresh energy and eyes!

The merits of community, companionship, and support are obvious. When I feel stuck writing a paper, or overwhelmed by the amount of reading I have to do, it feels good to have someone there to assure me that the work will get done and I will be all right. (And of course, we all need to share about what’s going on in our lives beyond grad school! Even if there’s a paper due!) Moreover, it feels good to step out of my own crazed schedule to comfort and cheer on a colleague. Such is the stuff of friendship. We all need a pep talk or a hug sometimes, especially near the end of the semester or during tough times. And on a study date, there is someone nearby who can give you the company and support you need while knee-deep in Thoreau or anatomy or whatever else you might be working on.

There it is friends – my short and sweet list-ode to the study date. It’s not exactly Keats or Neruda, but it’s true and will hopefully lead to happier, more fruitful semesters for us all.

Grad school is long, and it’s essential to figure out how to balance grad school commitments with the rest of our lives. As I try to establish my own routines and rhythms as a grad student, I’ll rely on the study date as one way to keep me from living entirely inside my bedroom, my head, my work, and my self. If grad school can be yet another way that I forge connections with others than grad life is an even sweeter deal than I originally imagined.

How about you? How do you counteract the isolation that comes along with lots of independent study? Do you study with friends? Or use purely social time to create a sense of balance? Tips, questions, and ideas are welcome!

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