Now that I’m five weeks into my program (ONE FULL THIRD THROUGH THE SEMESTER), let’s talk about my balancing act so far. As always,a little background about my experience with balancing acts. When I was in high school, I was the girl that was involved in EVERYTHING while also holding a part-time job my last two years. In undergrad, I calmed down a bit and spent a significant amount of time focusing on two organizations while also working. Those two experiences taught me a lot about quantity versus quality of involvement and how I like to spend my time versus how it would look to others how I’m spending my time.

Before coming to Penn, I worked full-time in an undergraduate admissions office for four-years at my alma mater. I found that balancing full-time work with social and familial obligations to be challenging but it once again helped me to prioritize and that’s the exact attitude I brought to grad school.

For context reasons, I think it’s important to know that most of the Master’s programs here are intense. I’m in a 9-month master’s program where I will take 10 courses across two semesters. Currently, I am enrolled in 5 courses, each of them meets for two-hours once a week, Mon-Thursday. As a part of my grad program, I work 20 hours/week as a GraduateAssistant in the Graduate School of Education. My hours are spread across MTThF. In between required time being in class and at work, along with expendable time reading for class, bonding with the cohort, and general life recovery, my schedule is already tight.

In figuring out how to spend my time, I asked myself three important questions: What other types experiences do you want to have? What are your priorities? What are you going to do to destress? Let’s explore those:

What other types of experiences do you want to have?

This question was important to me because Penn’s programs do a really good job of allowing you the flexibility to take a variety of courses in addition to your discipline. Additionally, I am getting a lot of practical experience working20 hours/week. So it was important for me to consider what the “other” things were that I wanted to gain while in this program.

One important part was research. I am taking a GSE course called the Psycho-Educational interactions with Black Males. It is in the Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development division. Even though it’s not a part of my discipline in higher education, I was really interested in the research the professor was doing with youth, parents & teachers in the Philadelphia schools. As a result, I asked to get involved in his center and now I am doing research and assigned to a project through his center, the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC).

What are your priorities?

This question is going to be so specific to the person depending on where you are in life when you come to grad school. For me it came down to: enjoying time with my husband and maximizing my opportunities within my program.

Enjoying time with my husband:

We both made the decision to move to Philadelphia. I’m a full-time student and he is not. In short that means, when he comes home he’s done for the day, and when I come home there’s no ending point. So, we had to designate a time just for us. Friday night is our date night, we explore a new restaurant, landmark, or just enjoy time together every Friday night. And for right now, we watch our alma mater’s football games on Saturday’s.

Maximizing opportunities with my program:

This again is going to look different depending on the persons goals. But, my goal is to eventual get a PhD and become a faculty member. My program is only 9 months, so it’s extremely important for me to make connections with faculty members, perform well and gain great understanding of the content in my course work, and develop an idea of the types of things I want to research.

What are you going to do to destress?

I think this is the most important part of the balancing act. It’s so easy to catch yourself going 100mph at a place like Penn. But having an understanding of how you unwind at the end of a long day or long week will be important for your ability to balance. For me, I take a night off. While I spend time with my husband Friday nights, I also do not engage in anything school-related on Fridays. In addition to that, I take FULL advantage of great happy hour deals around Philly too. Lastly, I love bringing people together. So, I joined We Support Diversity of Mind (WSDM) as the Social/Networking Committee Chair. I’ll get to help plan events to help bring together all students within GSE to destress, learn more about one another, and develop professionally. Even though it’s a commitment of my time, it’s one that will be rewarding for me as I go throughout this program.

The balancing act can be tough, but it is possible to master! I’m one third through one semester and I’ve got it under control for right now, I’ll check in on this topic again in five more weeks!