Believe it or not, having a social life is an integral part of graduate school. When I first started graduate school, most of my friends were people that were in my cohort. However, as people have started finishing, moved to other places while still in the program, or have had a variety of other life transitions, meeting people outside of my program has become more important, because the majority of friends from my program are no longer in Ann Arbor.
This isn’t easy, though. Having a social life isn’t something that is stressed in graduate school, but it should be. It can be cloying, at times, to only know, talk to, and hang out with people that are in your same graduate program. Sometimes you need an escape, and that escape comes in the form of other people.
I have mainly met people outside of my program through campus activities I have participated in. These are interests I have that are somewhat outside of my academic life. I am a member of the Graduate Employee Organization and got involved with them when they were working on disability initiatives.
So I met a lot of people through that, three women of whom have come together with me and we have sort of formed our own “Sick Chic” club.
Honestly, most of my meaningful contacts outside of my program have to do with illness or disability in some way, which I know might not be that helpful for the people reading this.
So, I would say, if you have interests or passions that may seem tangential to what you are studying in graduate school, I would explore that. There are also a lot of interdisciplinary seminars, workshops, colloquiums, etc., and those are often a good way to meet like-minded people who are not in your graduate program.
My boyfriend is in a master’s program, and the relationship that he has with his classmates is very different than I have with mine. For the first two years of my program, while we were all taking classes, and many of the same ones for that matter, my cohort stayed pretty close.
But as I mentioned earlier, we aren’t in close proximity anymore. I think it may be easier for master’s students to really have friends who are nearly all in their same program, without feeling the absolute need to seek out others.
So dating, and being in a relationship, with someone who is not in your program also serves as a way to meet other people that you would not have met otherwise.
I also feel that in graduate school, we can be so focused on our studies that we forget about the world around us. Where do you spend time? If you are locked in an office, it will be harder to meet people. But coffee shops, bookstores, all the traditional means of meeting new people still apply. You just have to put yourself out there.
And if you are reading this, are not a Sociology person, and recognize me on the street, feel free to say hi, strike up a conversation, etc. I’m always looking for new friends. You can never have too many. And it might just be the one thing that keeps you sane in graduate school.