May 31, 2012

What Does Your Student Schedule Say About You?

A typical UCLA MSW student commitment list will look something like this: 14-18 unit class schedule, 20-25-hour/week internship, term papers, group projects, extracurricular involvement, outside jobs, student loans, personal lives, etc.

During my first year in the MSW program, balancing all of my commitments was, at times, stressful and overwhelming. While I personally did not find the program that academically taxing, managing my schedule certainly was. I often found that it was all too easy to over-commit myself to extracurriculars, causes, and social events that were not necessarily important to me, and what I was left with was a cluttered schedule and a feeling that I had no time for myself.

While making time for pleasurable activities is certainly not a new concept, I wanted to stress the importance of prioritizing your time in a way that compliments and nurtures the MSW graduate student experience. After one year in the program, as I scrolled backwards in time over my colorful gmail calendar, I reflected to myself, Am I making time for things that I want to do? When I learned the answer was not a definitive yes, I decided to re-jigger my schedule to allow me to discover activities and projects that sincerely cultivated my interests as a social worker and fostered my well-being.

The following is a brief list of UCLA affiliated activities or commitments I prioritized during my second year MSW experience:

1. Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) Classes: My interest in mindful meditation has grown significantly over the year, and fortunately, UCLA's affiliated MARC center offers classes, lectures, and retreats at a steep discount to students. I'm currently enrolled in the MAPs For Daily Living class with another MSW student, and I can't say enough positive things about the class. The 6-week course is only $60 for UCLA students (compared to $185). The center also offers free meditation drop-in classes for anyone who wants to learn more or test the waters before committing. What I love about the class, is that I'm not just practicing mindfulness during the two hours of class per week. Through weekly assignments, I'm learning that mindfulness has started to creep its way into other facets of my life, what the teachers call "informal practice."

2. UCLA MSW Lecture Series: Throughout the year, MSW faculty and staff arrange a lecture series for students between the 12-2 lunch break on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In the past two years, the program has hosted a group of all-star lecturers including Father Greg Boyle, Steve Lopez, Jonathan Metzl, Sheriff Lee Baca, and Connie Rice. Attending lectures is always free of charge, and a delicious lunch is usually served. Having so many opportunities to learn from pioneers in our field is rare, and I'm grateful to UCLA for creating a space to participate.

3. UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPs): While I've written about the benefits of pursuing therapy before, I want to stress that the personal and professional benefits of undergoing therapy during the MSW program are far-reaching. Students who elect to have university insurance receive 10-12 free sessions, and can continue to see their therapist for an agreed-upon rate thereafter. CAPs also offers several groups and workshops. I very much enjoyed attending a three-week intro course to on Mindful Pathways to Wellness.

4. UCLA Wooden Center: Any enrolled UCLA student can use the Wooden Center on campus free of charge. If you avoid going during peak hours (the rush usually starts around 4:30 p.m. when undergraduates frequent the gym), the Wooden Center is a world-class gym with tons of cardio and weight equipment. For students who want a more structured workout experience, the gym offers personal training and group exercise classes.

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