Grad school is a tough life. From a heavy workload to the immensity of job hunting, it’s easy to get lost in the stress of coursework. However, one of the most important things I’ve found for my own sanity happens every Monday from 7-9:30 PM. It’s at this time that I join together with countless other students and Syracuse community members in one of the most beautiful venues on campus to create gorgeous music and flex my brain a little outside of the normal academic grind.
When I first came to Syracuse, I decided to audition for the Oratorio Society, which is a 120-person choir made up of everyone from first year music majors to retirees from the Syracuse area. They typically act as a “Syracuse City” choir where they join forces with the Symphoria orchestra in the city, performing famous works of music year-round. I remember signing up for the audition almost as a leap of faith. I hadn’t sung in a choir for about 3 years, and the audition itself was right after the ropes course activity during IR orientation. I came into it feeling nervous and unsure. However, the audition went great, and the director of the choir was so friendly and understanding.
Because of the late timing of the practice, often I don’t feel like going. Especially in the cold winters, all I want to do after a long Monday is go home and curl up with a blanket and a cup of tea. But, after I drag myself to the building every week and force myself to take part, I almost never regret it. During practice, I get caught in a state of flow, almost meditative, as I sing alongside all of these diverse and interesting people. All of the stresses and worries from the day fade away as I find a semblance of peace amidst all of the chaos of grad school. The choir is working on the Brahms Requiem right now, and it’s one of the most challenging pieces I’ve ever done. That helps to additionally stretch my brain in new directions and engage in parts of my knowledge that I haven’t in a while.
If I could impart any sort of wisdom onto a prospective student or an incoming Maxwellian, it would be this: find a hobby outside of Maxwell. For me, it was choir, but there’s art, dance, volunteering, exercise, and even cross country skiing that you can get involved in. It’s even better when it involves people from other programs or even outside of the University setting. You get a good view of what life is like in Syracuse as a city, and you can turn off your brain from the intensity of public policy thinking to something more relaxing.