Finding a work-life balance while studying

Photo: Stock image.

Roselle Sherriff-Shuping writes:

As an adult, many priorities are vying for our attention at once. We need to earn a living, maintain our relationships and often raise children, which can be an all-encompassing responsibility. Among these priorities, we also need to find time to nurture ourselves and pursue our studies. As both a lecturer and Master’s student, I have seen both sides of this coin.

Pursuing my Master’s degree while balancing work and raising a child was one of the most challenging experiences in my life. I dealt with feelings of guilt that I was spending so much time away from my son and also worried that I would miss out on the significant moments and milestones during his first few years.

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Luckily, I had a strong support system that allowed me to take a balanced approach to these various roles. One of the key attitudes that helped me was to favour quality over quantity, which I applied in all of the aspects of my life. If I could only spend one hour with my son in the evening, then I needed to make sure that what we did in that one hour made up for the fact that I couldn’t spend any more time with him.

Similarly, if I had only two hours available for writing, I needed to ensure that what I did during that time would be as productive as if I had eight hours. This structure and effort paid off. It was so rewarding when I received the letter saying that my dissertation had been accepted and that I had passed.

The satisfaction I have got from studying inspires me to build and grow the students I work with. While I have been teaching at Monash South Africa for a while, this joy never fades for me. Every semester I meet new students, each with their own strengths and challenges. Every time, the students that do well are the students who plan ahead.

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If a student is struggling, we have peer collaborators and peer mentors to help them navigate through the difficulties of being a new student. I believe in an open-door policy, and I always make time for students who are brave enough to ask for help. I am prepared to go above and beyond for a student who is willing to set aside time to work on aspects that they may not understand.

I recently had a student email me for an appointment. When she sat down she said to me, “I saw what I got for the test, and while some of my peers might be happy with this mark, I am not. What can I do to improve my marks?”.

I was blown away. We sat for the next hour discussing various things she could do, and we put together a study plan for her. This plan included time for church, working and socialising. We now have a standing appointment for once a week, where she can come to me and check in.

In my role, I often learn from my students and am inspired by them. Another student created an excel spreadsheet where he could track the amount of time he spent on each of his tasks – work, studying (per unit) and social engagements. He shared this with me when I started my Master’s and ironically this simple system developed by a young student really helped to see how I distributed my time, which helped me to try and create a more balanced approach to life.

Note: This submission has been edited for length and clarity.


Staff Reporter

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