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Managing social life as a grad student

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

So you’ve finally made it to grad school. Congrats! Months of stressing over which program is right for you, GRE scores, and whether you really want to do school for another several years are all behind you. Time to celebrate with all of your closest friends, right?

Except, for many graduate students, things aren’t that simple. Maybe your pals from undergrad all moved away or are too busy with the “real world” to hang out. Perhaps you moved states or even countries for this program.

Whatever the reason, feelings of loneliness are common as you head into this stage of life. A 2018 survey found that Generation Z was more likely to feel lonely than previous generations, and another study found that nearly half of Americans lost touch with friends during the pandemic.

As the pressures of classes and concerns about the future hang heavy, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to do this alone. But how do you find community in grad school when it seems everyone is too busy or already has enough friends? 

Start on campus

While your undergraduate days may be behind you, that doesn’t mean you can’t still make friends on campus. UH has hundreds of student organizations on campus, and while many of these are geared toward undergraduates, quite a few have active graduate students as members.

If you prefer to socialize mainly with other graduate students, consider joining the Graduate and Professional Student Association. They host several social events throughout the semester aimed at helping students network and make new friends in the process!

Find something that matters

It can be challenging to feel like what you’re doing matters amid long and often frustrating research projects. Finding something to volunteer for that’s close to your heart is a great way to feel more fulfilled and meet like-minded people. 

From volunteering with refugee populations to helping care for stray animals, Houston has no shortage of opportunities to make a difference. Sites such as VolunteerHouston can help you find communities that are just as passionate about fighting for what’s important to you.

Try something new

While grad school can be very time-consuming, you’re still (likely) a young adult in one of the country’s largest and most diverse cities. Step outside your comfort zone to try something exciting, and you might just be surprised by what you find!

Consider trying out Dungeons and Dragons at Bar Haven or one of Houston’s multiple trivia nights hosted at various bars around the city. Pick up the Bachata at Latin Dance Factory, or consider attending culture-specific events like Gulf Coast Comics’ “Comics for the Culture”. 

Find religion (or don’t)

During stressful times, finding a spiritual home might be a step towards feeling supported by a larger community. UH hosts multiple religious meetings in the A.D. Bruce Religion Center, or you could join larger religious groups like the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

Not super spiritual? Houston hosts multiple social groups for nonreligious folks, including Oasis, which hosts weekly gatherings to discuss philosophy, live music and enjoy the “human experience.” Spiritual health matters, too, so don’t neglect it!

Remember, grad school is a marathon, not a sprint. Your studies matter, but taking them on alone is a recipe for burnout. So consider taking a chance on a new connection. You might just be surprised by what (or who) you find!

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