Skip to content

Finding Balance as a Graduate Student

October 18, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Higher Education Leadership Ambassador, Novien Yarber:

As you may or may not know, graduate school is an entirely different dynamic than that of undergraduate studies. Grad school, more particularly within the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, demands not only more of you but a different and more mature/reflective you. As a graduate student in this program you will be challenged to understand and unpack all aspects of your being—who you are, why you are the way you are, and what you do with that awareness of self.  Not only does the work of graduate studies get arduous, life is still happening and you must learn how to find balance so that you are getting through your graduate career both successfully and healthily. As I too am on my quest for healthy balance I will share a few tidbits that have helped me along the way.

  1. Find community; having people to debrief with and bounce ideas off of is imperative to your growth and sanity. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about your studies with family and friends because they may not get it, but you’re fortunate to have SOLES’ welcoming community as support.
  2. Find your space; it’s quite appropriate that I’m writing this blog while in one of my favorite beach spots. San Diego has a plethora of restaurants/cafés/quiet spots that are great places for you to read, study, and decompress. To keep it fresh I switch my spots often (i.e. Café Bassam- Balboa Park, The Living Room- La Jolla, Lestats-Hillcrest, Halycon- Gaslamp). Go explore the wonderful city and find your spot!
  3. Find time to reflect outside of the course assignments; you will be prompted to do a lot of reflection within your courses but the true “A-HA” moments derive from when you’re left to reflect on your own time. Don’t let the work stop once you leave the classroom.
  4. Listen to your body, don’t force it; it’s safe to assume that you are somewhat of an overachiever—I mean, if you’re at this point of your educational career you have to have some sort of drive that makes you want to do and be more. With that being said, you have to recognize that you can’t do it all and do if you do it all it won’t be perfect. Sometimes you must take a break to practice some self-care—for all you over-achievers, self-care is being productive, as you can’t successfully do your studies on an empty tank!

I hope this post provides some sort of comfort as you enter/continue your studies here at USD. Take it all in stride and learn all you can!



How I Chose to Become a Higher Education Practitioner

October 2, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Higher Education Leadership Studies Ambassador, Bianca Chau:

I was not involved on campus as an undergraduate student back home in Hong Kong. There were a couple of reasons to that. First, being involved was not emphasized like it is here in America. Second, even though I wanted to get involved, there was no such thing as intramurals, clubs, or student orgs. There was no middle ground for students like me who just wanted to play sports or music for fun or for self-development. So, I stopped looking for opportunities and resources that would enrich my college life until I heard about the opportunity to study abroad. I chose to study abroad in America and ended up at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) where I spent three months being the college student that I truly wanted to be. Involved, proactive, and most of all, happy!

Being at UC Davis made me realize that I do not ever want a student to graduate from college feeling unfulfilled and unready to face society. That was when I realized that I wanted to work in the education sector, preferably with high school students/emerging adults. So, I first entered this field when I was offered a position as an admissions officer at an K-12 international school in Beijing, China. There, I met my first, who I now know to call, mentor. She was the Director of Enrollment Management and the University Counselor at the school. I worked directly for her and caught more than a glimpse of the joy that such jobs can bring to not only the students served but to the server himself/herself. After a year in the position, I started looking for graduate programs that would prepare me to work primarily in the higher education setting. So here I am!

I am privileged to be able to work with the International Student Organization Executive Board who I learn so much from. This is a group who I will have a professional relationship with for a year and I am so excited to not only watch them grow but also grow with them! I am looking forward to all the ups and downs that may come our way because no matter what, I know that this is my community that I can rely on and trust.

SOLES Internship: The National Hispanic Institute

September 15, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Leadership Studies Ambassador, Andrea Madeleine Medina:

This summer, I had the opportunity to connect two huge passions of mine: SOLES and The National Hispanic Institute. The National Hispanic Institute, more concisely referred to as NHI, hosts a series of 15 intensive summer leadership programs for high school students at colleges and universities both nationally and internationally. I have been involved with NHI for almost ten years now, beginning my journey as a freshman in high school back in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas. It just so happens that one of NHI’s annual summer programs is hosted right here at the University of San Diego, and it made perfect sense that I would conduct my SOLES Internship with an organization that has played such a huge role in getting me to where I am today. In fact, I first found out about the SOLES Leadership Studies program at an NHI College Fair in the first place. Full circle, am I right?

Anyway, I am going into my second year as an MA in Leadership Studies student here at USD, and really sought out this experience to deepen my learning with NHI in a new, more theoretical and academic capacity. Since I am focusing on youth leadership development and public speaking coaching as key areas of interest for my graduate studies, I was thrilled to have the chance to make connections between NHI pedagogy and the modern leadership theories I have been learning about in my program. To break it down, my summer internship (June-August 2017) consisted of three main components: academic writing, staffing the 2017 California Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session as an Assistant Educational Director and Senior Counselor, and serving as an NHI at San Diego region organizer.

On top of getting to know and work with over 120 brilliant students from all over the United States and Mexico, I also got to thoroughly unpack the learning, dynamics, and systems at play throughout the course of the nine-day program. In addition, getting to serve as a regional organizer has been a such re-energizing experience, working alongside local students to envision a direction and strategize a plan to build a community of strong, smart, and invested young people in the greater San Diego area. Providing spaces for students to visualize their futures, develop innovative ideas, inquire deeply, and discover who they really are and what they truly believe in is vital in a world where young people are constantly told what to think and how to act. NHI cultivates these environments where students are able to harness their imaginations freely, collaborate with peers from all backgrounds and walks of life, confront technical and adaptive challenges, and create their own realities.

I feel so lucky to be a part of an organization whose sole mission is to inspire young people to challenge themselves and reach their fullest potential. I look forward to taking my work and learning beyond my internship experience, continuing to serve as a regional organizer, and finding opportunities to further make connections between the work of SOLES and NHI.







Adjusting to Graduate School

September 1, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Higher Education Leadership Ambassador, Chantal Hernandez:

Nervous about being a graduate student? Excited about what’s to come? Well here are some tips from a fellow graduate student that I hope will help!

Understanding the increase in the amount of workload required from graduate school and how much is manageable for you is important. Balancing work and school can be overwhelming at times but there are many great professors at USD that will be there to support you in any way they can if you reach out. Keeping this in mind, the first semester will be an adjustment period where you shouldn’t overwhelm yourself with too much workload and responsibilities on and off campus and instead get to know how much is a healthy balance for you.

Self-care is extremely important at this level of education. It can be very easy to not allow yourself time to relax and take care of yourself with everything that graduate school demands. Don’t forget to take the time to re-energize your body by enjoying fun activities, enjoying others’ company, or by simply sleeping more! Your cohort can be a great resource in this aspect. Your cohort will be taking similar classes, taking on similar responsibilities, and are the ones that will understand firsthand what you are feeling.

Lastly, get to know the campus and the area you are now a part of! On campus resources like Graduate & Law Commons will expose you to other graduate students on-campus and their experiences and knowledge. This will help you stay connected and aware of the support and guidance that is at USD. If you are new to San Diego, go explore and see new places and become a part of this great city. This will help you in adjusting to a new environment and becoming more comfortable with the community and the people.

Above all, enjoy this experience you have worked hard to get to!

Trading Cornfields for Palm Trees

August 18, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Counseling, School Counseling Ambassador, Brianne France:

As I approach one year of living in this fine city of sunshine and saltwater, I have found myself reflecting on what can happen in 365 days.

I would love to say the moving process was simple, but that would be an exaggeration. The stressors were endless (top three: FAFSA, apartment hunting, FAFSA), and would have been impossible without the support I had. So, one year ago to the very day, my dad, boyfriend and I drove here, tag-team, for 36 straight hours from Madison, Wisconsin.

I told myself that, after my support system returned to the Midwest, I would say yes to any experience. I’ve been line-dancing, stuck in rush-hour traffic, and hiking all over. I’ve consumed my weight in artisan donuts, craft beer, and California burritos. I’ve fallen in love with the Ocean, but learned to avoid trying to go between 3 and 7 pm, June through September. I have become obsessed with how to successfully keep succulents alive, beat the brunch rush, and parallel park on the first try.

Things that are different:

  • Referring to the highway by its number (i.e. “oh, just take the eight.)
  • Authentic Mexican food.
  • Cold being 40 degrees, rather than negative 40.

Things that are the same:

  • Complaining about being “cold” in the winter.
  • Majority of complaints being traffic related.
  • Good people.

I have shared my story since moving out here, and I have been told that I was brave to do what I did- something I’m less likely to consider myself. I was scared every day I was “adjusting” to life out here that I’d been foolish. It took exactly the time everyone said it would to see how myself and others, much more so than I, have chosen to be courageous and daring in pursuing a dream.

“Think of how much your life has changed in a year,” a friend said recently. Last year, I was leaving behind the things I love to move somewhere I wouldn’t know a soul (or a place to get coffee). This year, I have more things to love than I can count. I have met the most beautiful souls that I am lucky to call friends and I have found some of the best places to get coffee.

It was always easy, but has been absolutely worth it.

Juggling a Newborn While in Graduate School

July 26, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Counseling, Clinical Mental Health specialization Ambassador, Kim Macias:

I am a 3rd year Clinical Mental Health Counseling student here at USD. When I last wrote, I went over the transition from the work force to being a student. Today I am writing about a very different experience: balancing family and school.

At the time of this blog post I have a wonderful 7 month son Mateo. It has been an amazing experience thus far. Both my husband and I are in graduate school. There was a learning curve trying to balance school, work, and a child. I want to share some of how I do that with you.

First off I was lucky enough that we could afford for me to quit working. While I am determined to complete my degree on time and be the very best mom I can be, I knew I just couldn’t work. This last semester I was also able to work with my school schedule so that I was away from Mateo for just one day and my husband was able to stay at home that day. Also, I was able to take this summer off because of taking summer school last year, and carefully planning the upcoming school year.

During the actual semester, my husband and I had a good system down. I would take care of Mateo till my husband came back from his program. At that point, he took over baby duty so I could finish the school work I wasn’t able to do while Mateo was napping or otherwise entertained. There was some trial and error involved, and my family would stop by to make sure we were eating and weren’t buried under a pile of laundry.

With all of that being said, I am very fortunate that things worked out the way that they have. The three main components that made this possible are:

  • Support systems

I cannot say enough how important a support system is. In our program, we are taught that support systems are so important for our client’s success in their counseling journey. The same can be said for everyone going through a trying time. My mom is such a big help. She understands what I am going through and is able to provide the extra support I need.

  • Asking for help

Don’t be afraid to speak up when you need help. There will be times where you may feel like you are doing too much, so let those around you help. Also, the instructors and faculty at USD have been beyond helpful whenever I have had a question or concern about continuing schooling.

  • Time management and planning ahead

Again, shout out to the faculty at USD. When I found out I was expecting, I sat down with my advisor and we came up with a game plan that allowed me the most time at home with Mateo while still graduating on time. Once he was here I made sure that I was on top of my deadlines and kept track of everything I needed to do; scheduling doctor appointments and play dates around essay due dates and group projects.

This coming semester I will be starting my practicum at an amazing site. This will also bring more changes to my family. I am lucky that my mother will be helping out those first few months as I return to school. I have no clue how it will all turn out, but I do know that with the support systems I have I will make it all work while enjoying my last year of school and our little family.


International Experience: Ecuador

July 17, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Counseling, Clinical Mental Health specialization Ambassador, Becca Byler:

Being part of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program provides you with opportunity to take a class that allows you to immerse yourself in another culture. My Multicultural Counseling class gave me the chance to go to Quito, Ecuador and gain a new perspective into the lives of the individuals there.


We stayed at the Working Boys’ Center where we helped the children with their English, we helped a family improve their house, we shadowed the volunteers there, and we were able to explore the sights of Quito. The longer we stayed at the Center, the more we became acutely aware of the injustice and inequalities that take place in that country. We found ourselves becoming cognizant of all of the sacrifices that the families make in order to ensure that their children get an education, that they get the food they need, and that they have a place to stay.

I found myself reflecting on all of the privileges that we have in the United States. Unfortunately a lot of my classmates, including myself, left with more questions than answers. One thing that I do know for certain is that this opportunity has given me a new perspective into the field of counseling. Yes, they tell us that we have to take into account the culture that our client is in, in order to better understand the client, but actually being in that situation allowed us to put that into practice.