Whether you are introverted, extroverted, shy or friendly, finding a circle in graduate school is extremely important. There are going to be times when you are not able to make it home over the holidays. I remember there were Thanksgiving breaks when I had to make the sacrifice to be in the lab instead of visiting family. During these times, it is depressing enough realizing that you cannot go see the ones you love, but spending it alone should never be an option. I was always able to spend these breaks with others in my circle who were in similar situation, where we all felt as if we were “stuck” in this place together. But how do you find this circle who becomes your family during your graduate tenure, and why is it important?
How to find them?
Get out of your comfort zone by networking and getting involved. Network with professional and academic societies (As a STEM Major, I joined the National Society of Black Engineers and Society of Women Engineers), within your field as well as other social and interest opportunities on your campus or area. It can be as simple as volunteering on the weekend or going to a hosted brunch. This is where you meet and get to know others.
Don’t be afraid to ask a question. Seek out the programs and organizations in your department/school that cater to minority graduate students such as black graduate professional associations or diversity programs offices. If you can’t find them, ask someone in the graduate office. Do not be afraid or feel self-conscious to inquire when it comes to getting the minority support you need.
Begin to surround yourself with individuals who make you feel comfortable enough to be you. You should be able to express frustrations and receive positive and motivating feedback and advice.
Why is it important?
Simple – You cannot get through this phase in your life alone. There are strength in numbers and a tree alone cannot withstand a storm, so surround yourself with your forest.
Not only is every setback, heartbreak and disappointment easier to deal with when there are others rallying around you, but every accomplishment, success and triumph is that much sweeter when those same people have been on the journey with you.