July 26, 2017

Networking to the Beat: Finding a work-life balance during grad school

Posted by AGU Career Center

Going to school is very stressful. Going to school in a different country, with different cultures and languages? Even more so. Therefore, it is important to manage your work-life balance.  I could go on and on about the different issues I personally have encountered, but I would much rather talk about ways to relieve stress and still keep your focus (and passion) on your studies. There are a few things I have found to relieve stress while studying in Japan, and the one I will focus on for this blog is dance fitness.

When I say dance fitness, the best example that comes to mind is Zumba. Back in the States I used to teach and take dance fitness classes. It was a huge part of my life. After coming to Japan, homesickness kicked in really bad. So, I started a dance fitness group at my school.

At first, the group consisted of a couple of my friends (~5 people) jumping around and becoming a sweaty mess. As time went on, word of mouth increased my class size to about 30 or more people. I was so surprised. I got to see so many smiles, hear so much laughter, and I unknowingly created an outlet for people who were like me: international students, going to school in a new country and far out of their element. How crazy is that?

One of the most beautiful things about this group is that I have people from all over the world who attend. Countries like Russia, France, Japan (of course), America (yeah, not only me lol), Iran, China, Canada, India, Germany, Malesia, Philippines, Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, and Korea have made an appearance. And, surprise, surprise, both men and women have come to shake their groove thang with us.

One of my goals for doing a Ph.D. in another country was to make both national and international connections and collaborations in our increasing global society. This group has achieved that and so much more. Dance fitness has given people an avenue to meet new friends, to work on their frustrations in a healthy, constructive way, all while working up a sweat and feeling great. To give a quote from one of my students:

Dance fitness helped me a lot during my time here. It gave me something to focus on, and a way to exercise …, as well as introduced me to some of my favorite people … It’s been one of the best parts of my time here…!”

As a scientist, I put my class in quantitative terms:

                Dance = Happiness + Confidence

Dance gives a work out with endorphins and all that goodness, but it equates to happiness, with a huge benefit as a side effect: SUPERB CONFIDENCE. Being able to share my love and thrill of dance to others from around the world is a huge honor and a dream come true. So hey… what are you waiting for? Go on out there and dance like on one is watching <3!

La Kenya Evans is a Ph.D. student at Hokkaido University studying trace metal accumulation into Arctic Sea Ice. My background is Marine Ecology with a Master’s in Science from San Diego State University.