The average Fletcher student is not here to goof off. On the contrary, most students are both challenged by their coursework and also inclined to inch right up against the boundaries of the maximum they can handle at any given time. Last Thursday, Ali shared details of her fall 2015 semester, which pushed her academically and forced her to employ advanced time management skills. I have two more fall wrap-ups to share, from Aditi and Tatsuo, and they both describe tough semesters. Today, let’s read about Aditi’s experience in her second year in the MALD program, and the reality of how challenging a semester can be.
As a second year student at Fletcher, a lot of things are easier this year — for example, knowing where to find a microwave when Mugar Café is closed, or how early to get to Social Hour for food, or how to petition anything you don’t really want to do. But between worrying about careers, life after May, campus jobs, classes, and a Capstone Project, second year is still very challenging. One of the things my friends and I have struggled with this year is dealing with these stresses without letting them get the better of us.
It’s really easy to lose perspective at Fletcher. We’re so engrossed in campus life that it’s hard to focus on making sure we’re not over-extending ourselves, especially because we want to challenge ourselves and get involved as much as possible. It’s also hard to find the time to stay engaged with life outside Fletcher — the friends, family, and other communities that we built long before arriving here.
Last semester, I decided to push myself academically and take classes that I personally found very difficult. A lot of my friends made similar decisions. While the classes were very rewarding and I learned a lot, by the middle of the semester I was burned out and struggling to keep on top of everything. I just couldn’t juggle classes, work, the unavoidable necessities of regular life (you know, laundry, groceries, cleaning…), and friends and family. At one point, I was concerned that instead of really understanding and learning in my classes, I was just rushing through the motions of finishing one assignment after the next. Everything came to a head when I had a series of personal commitments, and I found myself unable to keep up with anything, academic or personal. Several of my second-year friends were in the same situation, and we all realized that rather than making the most of our Fletcher experience, we were selling ourselves short by not investing the time necessary to truly enjoy it.
In retrospect, I think that much of my stress and anxiety could have been avoided had I been more realistic about my plans for the semester. Yes, I wanted a challenge — but I wasn’t honest with myself about what I need to stay sane and happy, such as finding time to cook, spend time with my friends, stay connected to my family and relationships outside Fletcher, and get enough movement and exercise. Many of us also delayed taking advantage of some of the great resources available to us here, such as Tufts Mental Health Services and our Fletcher community of friends.
Fletcher is a fantastic experience, but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make the most of graduate school and cram in as much as possible. In the middle of all that we have going on here, it’s essential to remember to take care of ourselves and keep this experience in perspective! I overextended myself last semester, but I don’t regret pouring all my energy into it. As I start a new semester, I will learn from the experience, and plan my time in a way that fosters both my learning and my overall happiness, a suggestion I would give to anyone planning to come to Fletcher.