This post was written by former Gradhacker author Trent M Kays
During a recent busy period in the semester (is there any other type?), my father decided to visit me to see how I was acclimating to my life in Minneapolis, MN. I was admitted to my doctoral program at the University of Minnesota (UMN) last year and started my studies at UMN in August 2010. This was a major life event for my family and me for three main reasons: First, this was the first time I would be living more than 100 miles from any family members. Second, this was the first time I would be in a position where my grandparents could not immediately help me if needed. Third, and lastly, this was the first time I would be without my dog. All of these issues impacted my family and me in different ways.
So, it was important for my father to come to visit me, and I’m sure he came with orders from my mother to spy on me. Despite my objections regarding timing, my father decided to come during a busy week in April. This probably was the worst time he could have chosen to visit me, yet it was also probably the best time he could have chosen to visit me.
Needless to say, I was running around preparing two weeks before his arrival. I tired to ensure that I was caught up and, dare I say, ahead on my coursework and grading. I succeeded on this front, and, when my father arrived, I was in a comfortable position regarding my coursework and grading. I was able to work a little each morning and have the rest of the day to spend with my father. He only had two requests when he arrived: First, he wanted to visit the Mall of America, and, second, he wanted to visit the UMN campus. My father has a proclivity for rushing around and trying to get as much done in as short amount of time as possible, and I told him that his time with me in Minneapolis would not include any rushing around. I prefer to take my time and enjoy the process of the trip to the product of the trip.
My preparation for my father’s arrival caused me much more stress than would a normal two-week period, but it was worth it. I realized as soon as I picked up my father at the airport that I was happy he came to visit me. Yes, it was an inconvenient time, and, yes, I was completely stressed and worried about my students work, but none of that mattered when I saw my father. So, in a way, he served as a stress reliever for me for a short time. We stayed up and watched King of the Hill, ate BBQ brisket sandwiches from Rudolph’s (a popular BBQ joint in the city), and talked about my time in Minneapolis. It was a relaxing and lovely visit. I showed my father around the city, and he frequently commented on how nice it is in Minnesota.
I noticed by the end of his visit that he was much more relaxed and comfortable than when he had arrived. It occurred to then that his visit was as much of a vacation for him as it was a stress reliever and work lull for me. When I took my father to the airport, we relaxed at the airport bar and shared a drink in the father and son tradition, and, then, I watched him go through security and leave me a much more relaxed graduate student.
I owe much of my good experience during my father’s visit to my three family visit rules:
- Do not rush. Enjoy the visit. The point is to visit with family and not to chauffeur them around. It’s your time.
- Go for a walk. I went for short walks with my father everyday he was in Minneapolis. It’s a nice way to visit.
- Laugh. I think a day without laughter is a day wasted. So, I made sure to watch funny shows on TV, or talk about a funny story while my father was visiting me because it’s important to laugh. It’s a great stress reliever.
These three rules might seem simple, but, when our families visit us, we often turn the simple into the complex. This is the curse of all graduate students. We take simple issues and turn them into complex ones. We can’t help ourselves sometimes. Our families are important for our sanity and can help us work through the stresses of graduate school. They are people we can lean on and depend on to help us realize that we are human, and sometimes we shouldn’t expect so much from ourselves.
Do you have any good family visit stories or rules? Please share them with us in the comments!
Photo by Flickr user gareth1953 // Creative Commons licensed: CC-BY
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Be honest with yourself, enjoy yourself, and keep a foot in academia--life after graduation goes on, and today… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…