Who Said School Was Easy? (Part 2)
When I decided to plan for my master study, choosing where to go was one of the hardest decisions. Since I wanted to pursue my master study in economics, I looked to almost all program in economics in various countries. After going through the tedious process, I feel blessed that I got the opportunity to study in the United States. In my previous article, I shared about my experience on how to prepare a coursework during my master study in the United States. In this article, I’d like to share how I overcome the difficulties that I faced throughout my study program, which also brought me to see new perspectives on the learning process.
Master Degree Program in Economics at My University
I have always had the impression, at first, that studying in United States is very difficult, starting from the school application, considering the acceptance rate for a specific program in a university, and facing the reality how expensive the total costs could be. Talking with people who are US graduates, especially those who took the same program, helped me to plan in advance what to expect during the study. To cut the long story short, I decided to enroll at Boston University.
Master program in economics at Boston University equips its graduates with the advanced knowledge and skills required for an economics analyst in various fields. The core courses include microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics and econometrics. I was already exposed to these courses during my undergraduate study in Indonesia, but taking those classes in my master program were quite challenging.
The education system is similar to the one I have experience during my undergraduate study. We have midterm and final exam, along with problem sets due to every one or two weeks. The syllabus for each class includes the readings due for every session and when the deadline of problem sets will be. The courses are heavy in quantitative skills, in which I worked really hard during the courses. They were more rigorous compared to my courses I had during my undergraduate. Over the time I realized that students might be trapped with the routine and not realize how to enjoy their time as a graduate student.
Overcoming the Challenges
Having a work-life balance is one of the important keys to enjoy being a graduate student. I know it seems easier to be said than done, but you must know how to keep yourself balance in life. It is as simple as how to get up when you are feeling down. The problem sets, the difficult courses, and the social pressure are several things that might put students in deep emotional breakdown. When you are nervous and cannot focus because you receive a low score in a problem set of a class, it might affect your performance in other class.
During my graduate study, I felt like I turned myself into a completely another person. I spent most of the time at the library by doing my readings or solving some problem sets. Sometimes it took effort to find a study buddy (or to schedule a study group). Then, being alone at the library can also make us lonely (even though there are a lot of other students in the room).
As I mentioned in my previous article, studying abroad helped me to know myself even more. To cope with any potential breakdown, I found my balance in biking. I started owning a bicycle in my last year of the program, and I found it extremely useful to get me in better mood. For example, I start my day by having a morning class, then spending the rest of the day in the library. Biking before starting a day made me more organized; like waking up early enough and having breakfast beforehand (so it means I tried so hard to be a student who does not sleep late, which is sometimes hard to resist when you have deadlines). Ending a day with biking also helped me refreshing my mind; as simple as by enjoying the view on the way home or clearing my mind from any stress encountered during a day. It tempted me sometimes to use public bus instead of biking. But then, it was different excitement since I feel energized because I already “achieved” something before starting a day. To be able to finish something that you already started brings you to happier mood and a new energy. It relates to anything other than biking actually, such as working out at the gym, yoga, painting, playing music, reading, etc. To find what uplifts your mood is one way to keep work-life balance.
There might be moments where you cannot cope with all the breakdown and start feeling really low. I learn more that all I should remember is to take care of myself. All the breakdown and pressure when studying may affect our mental health and bring us to depression. Eating healthy food, working out, having a good support system and sleeping well are the things that keep me balance. It might work differently with everyone, but I think as difficult as the study seems like, it will all depend on how we manage our life in balance and dealing with our stress. Being a student is not easy, but I think the experience of being one is worth a lifetime, in terms of knowledge and personal growth.
All other illustrations are photos by the author unless otherwise stated.
Andrea Adhi currently works as a research associate at J-PAL Southeast Asia. Prior to joining J-PAL, she worked at the Republic of Indonesia’s National Team for Acceleration of Poverty Reduction (TNP2K). She was a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Professional Fellow in 2014. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree from Universitas Gadjah Mada in 2012 and a master’s degree from Boston University in 2016, both in economics major. In her spare time, Andrea enjoys watching art and music performance, playing piano and ukulele, or wandering around with her adventurous mind.