Morgan Van Leer: “How I Make It Work”

From students fresh out of undergrad to professionals who are retraining for a new career, the Michigan School of Psychology welcomes students wherever they are in life. “How I Make It Work”  highlights the diversity of student experiences as they balance classes, work, and life. 

Name: Morgan Van Leer

Program: MA

Describe the (joys and) challenges in your life that make graduate school difficult to manage.

One of the biggest challenges I am facing is adjusting to a new life. I moved from Missouri to attend this school, knowing absolutely nobody at first.

It has gotten a lot easier, but at first it was difficult moving away from all my family, friends, and of course my dogs. I do get homesick from time to time, but I have many joys that help me when life gets difficult. These include good books, kickboxing, hanging out with the new friends I have made within my cohort, and Facetiming my friends and family back home. I also find joy in the work I do at my practicum. I provide advocacy services and counseling to survivors of sexual assault, and while this can be difficult, it is also very rewarding.

How do you make it work?

Sometimes I truly do not know how I am making it work. I, like everyone else, sometimes question if I am cut out for this field, and if I made the right choice. When I think about what has helped me through this process, I think of my support system. Although I live nine hours from my family, they are still my biggest support system and will always be there for me if I need them. I also have the support of friends in my cohort, my professors, the staff at MSP, and my supervisor and staff at my practicum site.

I also use my faith to get through feelings of doubt or overwhelm. My faith helps me remind myself that my passion for helping others has led me here for a reason. The phrase “everything happens for a reason” can sound cliché, but I truly believe in it, and this belief has helped me through difficulties.

What are some tips or secrets you have for staying organized with a busy schedule?

Definitely use a planner, calendar, or whatever works best for you. I realized that if I don’t write things down, I will forget about them, so I use a planner, a physical calendar, and my phone calendar to make sure I remember. I also look ahead at which assignments will take longer for me to complete, and I will start those earlier, so I have enough time to finish them without feeling overwhelmed. This also gives me time to ask questions if I don’t fully understand the assignment.

How do you make time for yourself?

This is something that I have always struggled with, until recently. I used to be someone who always said “yes” to everything, leaving me running from task to task each day without enough time to take care of myself. Since starting the MA program at MSP, I have been taught how important self-care is, especially in this field. Now I make sure that when I agree to something, it is not causing me to spread myself too thin. I also make sure that every day I set aside an hour or two to do something that I enjoy, such as watching The Office on Netflix for the millionth time. I realize now just how important taking care of myself is, because if I am drained and overwhelmed then I will not be there completely during class, or when I am with clients.

How do you avoid feeling overwhelmed?

To avoid feeling overwhelmed I make sure to take self-care measures. I meet with a therapist once a week and attend kickboxing classes 3-4 times a week. I highly recommend having a therapist because it gives you a non-biased, neutral person to talk to about whatever is going on in your life, and it also helps to understand therapy from the client’s side.

What support have you received from MSP?

I have received countless support from MSP. The biggest being professors and staff I have made connections with that I feel I can go to anytime for help. I also feel as though all members of my cohort support each other, because we are all going through a similar, and sometimes challenging, experience.

What advice would you give a prospective student who is worried about making grad school work?

My biggest piece of advice would be to remember your ultimate end goal and remember why graduate school is going to help you achieve that goal. Enjoy the journey of attending grad school, but remember why you chose to in the first place. I have found that when I get stressed and want to give up it helps to remember my goals and why I chose this path. I also suggest utilizing resources that MSP offers, and making connections with your cohort members, and the professors and staff.

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