Doing a Masters is such an intense process.  Many students do this full time and totally throw themselves into their study for one year.  I’m a part time student, meaning that it is a two year journey, and alongside my studies, I am also working part time teaching in the IBMS Bachelors programme (also at THUAS).  As it turns out, I also need to follow my (also fairly intense) teacher’s training certificate at the moment as well  which I started in January 2017 and am due to finish December 2017 (a total of around 300 hours study).

Add to this the fact I am a parent to two young children (aged 7 & 9) and also have my own social media small consultancy that I’ve run for 10 years now (Zestee), it all adds up to a lot of pressure.  On top of this, I’ve had some personal family challenges in the last few months, which I won’t write about here, but have seriously affected my ability and time availability for study.

So the question has been from a lot of people “How do you do it all?”.  Some days, I am honestly not sure!  It does certainly get overwhelming and seem near impossible at times.  But then, somehow, I tend to pick myself up and just keep moving towards my goals.  It helps that I love what I do and am interested in it, but I don’t mind being honest and saying that it is also really hard at times.  You really need to be excellent at prioritising and realise that perfectionism is not an option.  Apart from also making some practical decisions, such as hiring a housekeeper and nanny a few hours a week to help out at home, as well as essentially putting my own business on hold, the main reason I can manage comes down to family, friends and fun.

My family in terms of my parents and brothers are all located in Australia while I’m in the Netherlands, so their support has been mostly long distance FaceTime calls.  My own direct family here – my husband and two children – are also very supportive.  My husband has a PhD so understands the pressures – though has teased me sometimes about how much harder his study was!   My children have come to respect “quiet please, mama is studying” and I have done my best to still spend quality time with them.  Though it is sometimes hard, I also like to think I’m setting them a positive example for the future by investing in myself and career.

My friends have been awesome.  Interestingly but probably not surprisingly, with so much time spent on study (as well as work), my social life has suffered dramatically.  Thank goodness for social media – Facebook and What’s App in particular have kept me in constant contact with friends around the world when I really needed support and encouragement as well as to hear what’s happening with them.  I’ve also been fortunate to spend some face to face time with friends as well and have found that as my time is so limited lately, I tend to only manage to hang out with those closest to me.  Good friends who understand will still be there at the end of the Masters!  I’ve also made a couple of close friends within the Masters course itself.

Figuring out what you personally find fun is also important.  At 41 years old, I am far from the stereotype of a partying student on weekends, but I’ve found that getting out and having some FUN from time to time really is crucial after the long-term pressures of study.  For me, I’ve actually found a level of fun in the challenge of learning to run.  Blogging and vlogging about running and the Masters (as you’re reading now!) all have been my version of stress-relieving “fun”.  I love photography and listening to music.  Netflix is a mindless kind of fun to wind down on the days I just can’t think much any more.  So I’m made a conscious effort to schedule in fun, often with my kids, like a recent trip to the zoo:

So overall, it feels like my brain is always busy – and even in those times you take a break, you nearly always feel like you “should” be studying.  The benefits are huge though, I’ve learned so much and though right now I’m still feeling overwhelmed with my whole thesis and like I will never get it in on time, I’ve realised this is pretty “normal” and I will continue to do my best, making sure I fit in crucial time for friends, family and fun.

Renee