I suppose that most Fletcher students ultimately miss a class or two — they’re out and about for a job interview, or they attend a special lecture and ask a classmate to take notes for them.  I’m pretty sure, though, that I’ve never (in my long Fletcher life) heard of a student returning a week late from spring break, due to his music tour through Russia and Europe.  Here’s Mirza’s report, which hit my email inbox on Sunday, midway through the tour.  Blog readers in Belgium can catch the final gig Saturday night at the Dunk! Festival.

As I was preparing for my new life as a graduate student at Fletcher last summer, I made a decision to no longer pursue music in any capacity, in order to focus all my attention on school.  As music for me was never just a hobby, I couldn’t envision balancing the demanding schedule of running a small business that I am passionate about while concurrently being a full-time student.  In addition, my music partner was in the midst of his own MA degree, and together we simply could not dedicate sufficient time to Arms and Sleepers.  We talked about it, and decided to call it quits.

Throughout my first semester at Fletcher, however, I realized that despite the busy and hectic graduate school schedule, most students maintain their personal interests and successfully balance their professional aspirations with personal passions.  This is why there are so many student clubs, after all, and even a school band, Los Fletcheros.  Through my classmates, I learned that it’s a good thing that the library is not open 24/7, that Fletcher shouldn’t take up 100% of one’s time and energy, and that pursuing other interests makes for a healthier and more fulfilling graduate school experience.  By the end of the fall semester, I decided that there was nothing really wrong or impossible about calling oneself a musician and a graduate student at the same time.  My schedule would certainly prove tricky, but not unmanageable.

One of my first endeavors as I return to music has been a two-week long tour of Europe and Russia.

Tour schedule

One week fell during the spring break, and for the second week I will be missing a couple of classes.  I decided that this would be a worthwhile pursuit, since it means that I would not need to be employed during the semester, allowing me to focus on my studies.  By working intensely for two weeks, instead of a few hours each week, I could set up a schedule for the semester that would suit my personal preferences.  Moreover, taking a small break from Medford and doing something completely different for two weeks would provide mental rejuvenation.  Though completing assignments while traveling non-stop is exhausting, being in an entirely different mindset for a short while could be quite rewarding.  Finally, pursuing several passions is never a bad thing, no matter how divergent they may be.  Each has its own benefits and can contribute immensely to personal growth.

Arms and SleepersI am writing this blog entry at a Starbucks next to Red Square in Moscow, Russia.  The tour thus far has been extremely demanding and hectic (two hours of sleep last night, travel early in the morning, write a short paper today, perform tonight), but I am quite happy to be exploring new places, meeting new people, and being in a different environment from my usual day-to-day.  I have managed to complete class readings, and will even try to Skype into one of my Fletcher classes.  I am also meeting two admitted students in Moscow and Kyiv, Ukraine to chat about Fletcher.  So, though a busy schedule, it’s proving to be personally rewarding, fulfilling, and memorable.

The lesson for me — mostly learned from my classmates — has been that managing several different interests while in graduate school is possible and perhaps even worth it.  Not only that, but if you can maintain in some capacity your pre-Fletcher work position, it could be a good way to pay for your living expenses while in school.  (The burritos and frozen yogurts in Davis Square.  The vending machine snacks during marathon library sessions.)  Not everyone will have this option, but for those who do, it’s worth considering before setting foot on campus.

(Photos were borrowed from the Arms and Sleepers facebook page.)

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