This upcoming week is homecoming at Michigan State University. Undergraduates, faculty and alumni are pulling together to celebrate the legacy of their university. The entire town shuts down for a parade, everything is covered in green and white, and people flock in from out of town. There are going to be hayrides across campus where you can learn about the history of the university, free arts and crafts nights, trivia games, free MSU ice cream, an awards gala, and almost every school, department, and club is doing something special. It is focused around celebrating the heritage of this great school, and the beautiful future we are currently forging for it. Where will graduate students be? Probably at home studying to avoid the crowds.
It is fairly common for graduate students to not be as involved in the student culture as they were in their own undergraduate one. First, the university caters more to the undergraduate with their extra programming and activities. Second, we’re often not on the email lists or alerted of these events when they do occur. Third, we have our own undergraduate university alliances which may or may not conflict with our graduate university. I know a number of University of Michigan alums that find it difficult to wear the green of their graduate university.
Despite this, I think there are a number of benefits that come from becoming more involved in your university, and involvement can really enrich your graduate experience. It gives you a chance to interact with the undergraduates, helping you to hone your teaching skills and keep current. By getting involved you learn about different opportunities around the campus outside of your own department that may benefit you. It also gives you the chance to meet other grad students in different departments, expand your network, and get the chance to talk about something other than your research or field. Getting involved in alumni events may be pivotal to scoring the perfect job. Most importantly, there are lots of free events that will get you out of the lab and library, and will help you relax.
Here are some easy ways to get involved:
1. Join the campus graduate student group: At MSU we have the Council of Graduate Students and Graduate Wellness, which do a number of grad student events throughout the year. You don’t need to attend meetings, but by following them on facebook or twitter you can at least be aware of cool events on campus and new opportunities.
2. Get involved with undergraduates: If you were passionate about a sport or club as an undergrad you can always volunteer to talk to the current members or help them out. If you were a star ultimate frisbee player, why not offer to practice with them and teach them your sweet forehand throw. Or stay academic and talk with the undergrad club in your field about your research. It’s great practice if you’re thinking about staying in academia.
3. Try tailgating: Seriously, wander around with a group of friends and do some awesome people watching. Check out the alumni tents, try to meet other graduate students, and relax! It’s a casual way to meet other people in the university and is a great way to get outside.
4. Get some swag and embrace your school: Even if you were once a rival, this is your new school, so have fun and enjoy it! You can easily pickup some free swag around campus events. You’ll feel more like you’re a part of the school and less like you’re just passing through.
Graduate school is more than just getting a degree… you should also be living your life and enjoying yourself. So take the time to explore your university!
Have you gotten involved in the non-academic life of your graduate school? Let us know in the comments below.
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