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Feeling stressed doing an MSc program at UBC

Discussion in 'Settlement Issues' started by ybjianada, Jan 13, 2019.

  1. #1 ybjianada, Jan 13, 2019 at 12:21 AM
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
    I haven't been in this forum for a while. I became a PR in Jan 2017 in Vancouver. After that, I went back to Singapore to continue working and to (in the meantime) figure out what to do in Canada. I have a PhD in a social science field from an American university, and the academic job market in Canada is very bleak (applied to 2 university jobs, both rejected). In any case, I decided that I would pursue a 2-year MSc degree in a healthcare field at UBC. Because this is a very small, niche program, I will not mention what it is, in order to preserve anonymity. The department boasts an almost 100% employment rate for students after graduation (and the pay is quite good). So, while still in Singapore, I applied for the Fall 2018 entry into this program and was accepted. I left Singapore and came to Vancouver in June 2018. I am the oldest student (mid-30s) in the class (the youngest is 22), and the only one who was not born and raised in Canada.

    This is a 2-year program with essentially no break (summer terms are for practicums) until summer 2020 when I am anticipated to graduate. The curriculum is basically prescribed (no choice as to what courses to take or when; but see below). After the first semester (when I had to take 8 courses (granted, not all of them were full-credit)), I felt exhausted physically and mentally. Now I am in an even more challenging 2nd semester, and I am feeling very tired and unmotivated even though school has started only a little over 1 week ago. Yes, my brain tells me that I need to be grateful for this opportunity and just get on with it. Yet, I just feel tired and unbothered in my heart. The thinking that this will go on for another 1.5 years is dreadful.

    After talking to someone in the department, I realized that it is actually possible to either take a deferral for 1 year, or to reduce the courseload and spread the program across 3 years. Added to all this, is a somewhat worrying realization that this field may not be 100% compatible with my disposition (I am very introverted, and this profession requires interaction with people). However, I knew this, coming into the program. The stress/fatigue/the "can't be arsed" feeling just "compounds" this awareness. Further, due to my personal circumstances, between my previous job in Singapore and the beginning of this program, I had almost zero break. I guess if you ask me what I need most right now, my heart will say "a break".

    I have three options, and I am not sure which is the best.

    1) Reduce courseload and spread the program across 3 years. My biggest concern over this, is that this means I will take courses with the next cohort of students. I take no delight interacting with people (under stressful situations such as doing group projects), and even less with a new set of people. And no, none of the other students in my cohort is contemplating extending the program.

    2) Take a deferral for 1 year. This is what my heart really wants. In addition, it will give me the time to actually think about whether this is what I want and where my life should be headed. However, it has the same problem as described in 1). In addition, I will then have to face the full-time curriculum when I come back, which will be as stressful as it is now. There is a risk of not wanting to come back altogether (for better or for worse).

    3) Just get on with it. Grit my teeth and carry on. Take a 6 month to 1 year break after graduation in summer 2020 before seeking employment.

    Ultimately, I will have to make a decision myself, and quick! The reason I am posting this thread in this forum is that doing this MSc program is part of my settlement in Canada, and not just an educational experience per se.

    If anyone has any thoughts to share, I am most eager and grateful to hear them! You can talk about the 3 options above, or anything related to my situation.


    Thank you!
  2. Hey - I don't know if I have any meaningful advice to offer here but after reading your post just wanted to post a few words here. I don't know you personally so difficult to know how you would respond to the three options you have listed above. But, I (and I guess almost everyone) has been there in similar situations in life. And as you said only you can take this decision for yourself.

    From your post you appear to be really stressed and burnt out. I think in that state it is difficult to take a good decision. So my take is possibly a break may be really beneficial for you.

    But I don't know enough about your course situation. Is it possible to take 1-2 weeks break from the course work to just refresh your mind and think about your options?

    I wish I had something better to offer. But I wish you all the best and hope you are able to make a decision soon. Take care!
  3. Thanks Cansha for your reply. I thought about taking a short break as well. However, this program has a very heavy courseload – pretty much I have to be at school from morning to evening Mon to Fri. There are various assignments due already. So if I miss 1-2 weeks, and the decision is to continue the program as it is, it will cause significant backlog of work to me, and therefore will cause a lot of additional stress ...

  4. Hmm makes sense. Looking at your options again I think option 1 looks best to me. Given you are already feeling burnt out option 3 may not work. And option 2 has drawback of both options 1 and 3. You will have to talk to new people plus you will have to do the course with same intensity as now.

    I think with option 1 you can reduce the stress for now and I guess start working on your "social skills" of feeling comfortable around new people. I'm not saying it will be easy but again it is a good skill to have and as you said even if you complete this course and you get a job you may have to interact with new people in your job. I think interacting with new people in school is still low risk compared to interacting with new people in job.

    Given that you picked this course to have good job opportunities in the first place it may not be a good idea to abandon it unless you figure something else out and it seems like taking a short break is not a possibility to do so.

    Hence, option 1 at least will give you some breathing space and you can start thinking about other options and if you find a better one may be leave the course then. And if not, may be take help of some friends and try and build some social skills to interact with new people.

    The fact that you had the courage to come on the forum and share your insecurities on a public forum tells me that you may have more ability to interact with strangers than you think or realize. Granted here you are anonymous but I guess you can build upon this and try and reach out to people in real life as well.

    Yes I said in the last post I don't want to give you a lot of advice and guess I have gone back on that and given you a lot. But I genuinely want to tell you that you may feel alone and burnt out now but help is available if you go and ask. If you can come here and ask for help just find one person in college that may help you out a little.

    My best wishes are with you! And if you ever feel like just venting out you can always private message me on this forum! Have a good week ahead !
    deadbird, ybjianada and mahi2020 like this.
  5. My 2 cents:

    Unlike ppl from 3rd world countries migrating to Canada for whom Canada is more of an escape path

    you have been to USA and also is a resident of kind of first world country Singapore, hence bit privileged.

    so, if you want to be in Canada from bottom of ur heart (deliberating ur reason for migration), then all 3 options are good enuff. (I like option 3 the most)
    ybjianada likes this.
  6. I am not sure you will consider this as serious tip or not, but here it goes. Consider doing a relaxation meditation technique first and go with the 1st option. take it slow and easy.

    (If you can do relaxation, mindfulness meditations combined with some leisure activities over the weekends, you might be able to go with option 3 as well, but since you are already in stress, option 1 would be the best.)
    ybjianada likes this.
  7. Thanks for your response. I think I do want to be in Canada – I am determined to fall in love with the country. At the very least, I want to finish what I started, and complete the program before deciding whether to remain in Canada or return to Singapore. I have decided to take option 1 (reduce course load and make studies more manageable).
  8. Thanks. Actually, the counselor at the university student wellness center also suggested mindfulness exercises. They signed me up for a mindfulness workshop. I think I will give it a go. It is so important to be able to live in the present, and not stress too much over the past or the future.
  9. Glad to hear that. All the best!
  10. Hi @ybjianada. I can sympathize/empathize with your feeling of needing to take a "break". I myself have been feeling this way for the past 4 years ever since I finished my PhD in the US. I hoped that moving to Canada would provide me with a change that would substitute for a real break, but it did not. I would encourage you to tend to your needs before it takes a severe mental toll. It's very common in European countries for students/professionals to take a gap year before committing to some more years of professional/career growth. I encountered several of these gap year seekers in backpacking trips in South America. It's really not that uncommon nor selfish nor defeatist to want to take a break from the grind for a little bit. You deserve to be happy and you must tend to your needs. Your inner critical parent can only suppress the needs of your free child for so long.

    Your point about being an introvert is more complicated. For professional roles, you might develop enough skill/vocabulary over time that you are able to get your job done. For e.g. you may develop a handy list of conversation starters and a mental map of all the trajectories that conversations may take. Like most things, you'll likely get better at it over time. OTOH, it's important to ask the question, "Do I really have an aptitude for this?". If you find yourself regularly drained, anxious and using unhealthy coping mechanisms, then perhaps it's not a good fit in the long term. Unfortunately, you won't know this unless you give it a shot for a while.
    ybjianada and cansha like this.
  11. Thank you so much for your very kind reply. Yes, I do believe that a gap year would do me a lot of good. Throughout my life I had planned for things such that there was no gap between one stage of my life and the next. In hindsight, I had dramatically underestimated the impact that moving to Canada had on me. Not only was I moving to a new country that I had never set foot on before, but also, I was effectively abandoning a research career that I was beginning to build for myself, and plunging myself into a very intensive clinical program that was different from my previous training. All that was done with no space and time for healing and introspection. And I have been feeling the emotional impact on me now.

    However, I have already chosen to lighten the course load of the program (effectively extending the duration of my study to 3 years), and now I am almost half way through this semester. It would be unwise to make any further changes at this moment. I will see how I feel like after this semester and go from there. Perhaps I can take a year off after completing the program.

    Your question about the fit of the program/new field is a very probing one. But as you said, I need to give it a shot for a while before knowing. I will be having a 1-month clinical practicum this summer, which I think will give me some idea on this question...


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