By Samantha Weatherford
I was recently asked on a phone interview, “What do you like to do outside of speech therapy?” Oh. My. Gosh. What do I like to do? I have no idea.
I have been studying speech-language pathology (SLP) for the past six years, and two of those six have been nonstop SLP. I am good at speech therapy and I am not good at a lot of things, so I really need to take advantage. I eat, sleep, and breathe SLP. My friends are speechies. My role models are speechies. I only take SLP classes. I blog about SLP. I attend SLP conferences. I watch movies like The King’s Speech and Children of a Lesser God. I read books like Look Up for Yes and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I love being an SLP student.
Unfortunately, I do not even know what normal things I like to do anymore. Since classes have ended and employment has begun, I can see some kind of light at the end of the insane grad school tunnel. I want to share that hope with you.
Students are sucked into a bizarre lifestyle. We are doing something constantly. If I am not doing something, I am probably asleep. I worked a million jobs as an undergraduate student, joined organizations, and took night and early morning classes. Throw homework and studying on top, and you have got yourself a packed lifestyle. I have always found time for friends, family, and general troublemaking, and it is important to do so, but that only adds to the stress and obligation. You suddenly find yourself doing homework at 6 a.m. for an 8 a.m. class because you wanted to see your grandmother over the weekend.
Less is expected of you in graduate school outside commitments, but that is only because the time spent working extra jobs and joining clubs is now all-speech-therapy-all-the-time. We naively thought in my graduate program that we had Fridays off. HA. What were we thinking? No, that is not a day off — it is a day for research, diagnostics, paperwork, community screenings, and projects. Day off? Good grief!
Graduate school takes over your days, nights, weekends, and holidays. I was driving with expired license plates for six months. When on Earth was I supposed to go to the DMV between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on a weekday? There really is no such thing as a day off in graduate school. Even if you get a little time away, you are thinking about school or doing school-related things.
I have realized, however, this amazing thing happens once you are out of school. You get to have — dare I say it — a life. You get to go to work and come home from work, and that is it. I mean, hopefully you are a functioning member of society and you do other productive things with your time. But for all intents and purposes, work that is your main commitment.
That means you have all of this time on your hands. You have weekends! And holidays! And the time after 5 p.m. is yours! You may do with that time what you wish. You even get crazy things like paid time off and sick days. I never took a sick day in graduate school. I just went to class feeling disgusting and miserable because I had to learn about aphasia or perish trying.
The moral of the story? Start thinking now, in case someone asks you, about what you like to do outside of being an AuD, SLP, or deaf education student. I am really terrible at anything athletic, but I love to read, watch movies, be outdoorsy, eat, drink, and make merry with my family and friends (sometimes I even hang out with nonspeechies). I told my interviewer I like doing what any other 24-year-old likes to do, but to be fair I am not sure any of us has time to figure that out.
Ms. Weatherford is a second-year, speech-language pathology graduate student at Missouri State University in Springfield.