Is Thanksgiving really only two days away?! If this is your first semester as a graduate student, you are in for a treat or two with the holidays coming up. Not knowing what to expect, you might be feeling nervous, excited, anxious, or a combination of these and other emotions. On the other hand, you might be as cool as a cucumber. Either way, your holidays as a graduate student will look a little different than they did when you were an undergrad or an industry professional. Here are things you should know about this holiday season as a grad student:

Remember it’s your holiday from school

As a graduate student, you have the freedom of choosing what you are able to do for the holidays. Many students still travel to visit their families, but because of how busy you’ve been this semester, people from home should understand if you want to lay low from the holidays this year. Then, you won’t have to deal with the stressful holiday travel, annoying family arguments, and way too much money being spent.

In addition to having less pressure to go visit family, you have the choice to do something fun near your social habitats. Have you ever heard of a Friendsgiving? This event provides a wonderful opportunity to get to know your peers more, allows everyone to avoid the normal stress that comes with holidays, and offers a more relaxed atmosphere and schedule.

Recognize nosy relatives

If you actually look forward to visiting family for the holidays, you should expect a few differences, now that you’re in grad school. For example, Aunt Verda might be even nosier than usual, wanting to know about your research and the types of things you’re reading and learning. Your parents might also be hounding you (passively or aggressively) on who you might or might not be dating. It sounds stressful, but there are a few things you can do to alleviate the feeling that people are poking too far into your personal business.

For example, when answering questions, you might try another question to follow up: “Aunt Verda, I’m having a great time at school—how are your new dog and cat getting along?” If you don’t want to talk or think about school at that time, it’s best to try and steer the conversation in another area to avoid hurt feelings. Another way of avoiding stressful conversations is to answer vaguely: “Mom and Dad, I met a guy a few weeks ago, but it’s too soon to tell if a relationship will develop.”

Just remember that these conversations only happen because your family cares, and they want to get to know more about you. Don’t take their questions and pokes personally; just do what you can to satisfy their curiosity by not giving away all your business that you don’t want to.

Plan for some work

This might not be what you want to hear, but you will probably have to work a little during your grad school holidays. Unfortunately, grad students are sometimes still expected to work a bit during holiday breaks; this, of course, does not mean that you have to be buried in reading and writing materials like you are the rest of the semester, but if you prep well for your time off, then you can have a productive, yet relaxing, break. As described in previous holiday blogs I wrote, preparing to work during the holidays usually consists of scheduling time for both relaxation and work and making good use of idle time.

Who’s travelling and who’s staying close to school for their holidays? We’d love to hear about your experiences, good and bad!



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