A Balancing Act

This week will mark the end of first-quarter classes. It is hard to believe that I’m already 25% done with the MAcc program. With only three exams standing between me and a long-awaited trip home, I admit that I am exhausted. I can’t wait to see my family and my pets.

My favorite stress-reliever, Daisy. I can’t believe I live six hours away from her!

Graduate school is no joke. Between classes and job-hunting, it’s been the craziest seven weeks of my life. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to stay sane at times. So, for your enjoyment, here are my top five strategies for surviving the stress of graduate school:

  1. Yoga and Meditation – There are tons of opportunities around Columbus to do yoga. The RPAC offers free classes to students, and there are studios all over the city. I’ve even seen some in the metro parks. I personally like to pull up a 10-minute yoga video in my apartment when I get too deep into a finance case and need to take a breath. It helps me recharge, and I’m much more productive after the short break.
  2. Exercise – While I haven’t been exercising as much as I should, it is a favorite stress reducer among my class. People play basketball, go to spin class, and are even starting intramural teams. An hour spent exercising is much better than an hour spent stressing. Let’s face it: most of us would probably use that time to watch TV anyway, so it’s not like we’re losing valuable study time. If you don’t feel like you have time to walk to the RPAC, there is a smaller gym near Fisher called NorthRec.
  3. Cooking – One of my favorite stress-reducing activities is cooking. Every Sunday, I cook several large dishes to eat throughout the week. Just last week I tried a new turkey and sweet potato skillet recipe. (My fire alarm and I got to have some bonding time when I didn’t keep a close enough eye on the sweet potatoes.) The graduate student lounge has a fridge and several microwaves, so it’s easy to save some money and pack my lunch. Knowing I have lunch and dinner made for the week and won’t have to go through a drive-thru helps me feel more in control. The one week I forgot to meal prep, I got so sick of fast food– which only added to my stress.
  4. Treat Yourself – Like most college students, I am on a limited budget. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself occasionally. When I was grocery shopping this weekend, I bought the prettiest (cheap) bouquet of sunflowers. Now, when I sit in my living room studying for exams, I can look up and see my favorite flowers. For some people, treating yourself can mean taking a day off from studying. I have an early Sunday morning hike planned in a few weeks to do just that. For others, it might be buying a pint of ice cream. Just keep in mind, the point here is to reduce stress. Overspending will not aid in that endeavor.

    Sunflowers: $3.99
    Smiling every time I see them: Priceless
  5. Turn off the Screens – Finally, I’ve found that turning off my TV, closing my computer, and leaving my phone in another room helps tremendously. I try to turn off all of my screens a few times a week and pick up whatever book I’m reading for pleasure. This helps me take a step back from whatever is stressful (emails, homework, etc) and exist in my own space for an hour.

The MAcc program goes by quickly. There’s always something you need to be working on, and it’s easy to forget that you need to come out on the other side with your sanity intact. In order to manage my stress this semester, I’ve had to reframe that time as a necessary part of my schedule. Graduate school is meant to help you grow as a professional AND an individual. All of the case studies don’t mean anything if you’re having a nervous breakdown every week. Especially if you’re going into public accounting with the dreaded busy seasons, the stress management techniques you develop now will follow you into your career. You might as well figure out what works for you now when the stakes are relatively low.

In Search of Bison

Since coming to Columbus in July, I’ve made it my mission to not be a hermit. In fact, I have an internet favorites folder entitled, “Don’t Be A Hermit.” Inside are links about volunteer opportunities, restaurants, and many of the city parks. This week was super busy, full of assignments and job interviews. In the midst of all of this, I started to really miss the hiking back home in Tennessee. So, to my trusty favorites folder I went.

Columbus has an awesome network of Metro Parks. This weekend, some friends from the MAcc program and I drove 20 minutes west of campus to check out Battelle Darby Creek. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much since everything out here is so flat. But, as we pulled into the parking lot, I was pleasantly surprised. The park is beautiful. There are ACTUAL prairies there, which is insanely cool for someone who has only seen a prairie in classic western TV shows.

Who knew prairies existed outside of the “Western Channel”?
Turtle friend

One of the reasons we chose this park is because it has a herd of bison that can be seen from various overlooks. Supposedly. We could not see them from the nature center overlook. Or the trail. Or really from anywhere. Not to be defeated, we decided to walk along the trails, take some selfies, and try not to get too sunburned.

We found a bison pasture, but where are the bison?
This trail is really nice for running and biking.
We found this little guy in the woods.

Slightly disappointed at the lack of bison, we started to drive out of the park. At the last minute, we caught a glimpse of the herd. A successful trip after all. And as an added bonus, the game was in full swing when we got back, so traffic around campus was minimal. Score!

We finally found the bison herd!

Overall, I would give the park a 9 of out 10 stars. The nature center and trails were super accessible and the hike we took was beautiful. The park also has some more difficult trails that I can’t wait to try next time. To be honest, the only reason I can’t rate it a 10/10 is because there are no mountains. Turns out my rating system is completely rigged. Sorry.

What a great way to spend the day!

In our next episode of “Don’t Be A Hermit,” perhaps there will be an art museum, brunch, or a soccer game. Who knows?

New City, New School, New Adventures

Hello, everyone! My name is Caitlin Duke, and I graduated with my B.B.A. in accounting from East Tennessee State University. I’ve lived in the mountains of East Tennessee my whole life. But six weeks ago, I packed up everything I own and made the six-hour drive to Columbus. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, to say the least.

My beautiful mountains in Tennessee

Many people have asked me why I chose Ohio State when it would be much easier to go somewhere closer to home. After all, Columbus is about thirty times the size of my hometown and OSU is four time the size of ETSU. The easiest answer to that question is, “Why not?”

I’ve lived in the same place for 22 years. If there was ever a time to take a risk and move, it’s now. The MAcc program offers countless opportunities. This year is especially exciting as students have the chance to take classes in data analytics. It’s challenging, frustrating– and one of the coolest things I’ve ever attempted to learn. I’m more engaged with my education than ever before.

There is also a heavy recruitment schedule, including the Big 4 and other large, national firms. I would not even be on the radar of many of these firms if I had chosen to go to school closer to home. There is a wonderful team in the Office of Career Management who will work with you to find a job to fit your goals. And everyone here understands how difficult it is to start a new program and search for a job, so there’s tons of support.

I have no regrets about taking a chance and applying to a school so far from home. To anyone out there wondering if it’s worth it, yes. Just look at the people in my class: from Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, China, and more. If we can survive the transition, so can you.