Military spouses who attend school take all the precautions possible to ensure that they won’t be doing so while moving, on vacation, or during those tumultuous deployment and reintegration times. Of course, all the planning in the world can’t anticipate the “I have some news” conversation.
So, when life throws a last-minute, quick PCS your way, how do you continue your studies?
Balancing a move and schoolwork seems like a daunting task. After speaking with several military spouses across all branches and stages of life, including those with small children, some who experienced international moves, and even a military spouse professor, I can offer some ideas on how to handle this challenge.
3 Ways to Handle School Work During a Military Move1. Take a Break. If your family is planning a move, the best piece of advice may be just to take some time off.
“Between the work and organization required in a PCS, as well as the emotional toll that results from a move, it can be very difficult to focus on schoolwork,” agrees army spouse Jen Koepl and Elaine Bobo, military spouse and professor of healthcare policy at an online university, who often sees military spouses and service members in her classes.
2. Work Ahead. Between purging, organizing, packing, driving, hotel living, visiting family, and then house hunting and unpacking, are you really going to have time to write a paper? Probably not.
Even if through all of that you stayed disciplined and planned to work each night at the hotel, you run the risk of a lousy Internet connection. Poor connectivity could leave you in a lurch when researching or trying to upload a paper, not to mention engaging in the class forum.
My first PCS was from Arizona to Germany and I knew that the last thing I wanted to do while on that trip was work on school. We moved over Christmas, visited as many of our family members as we could and shared the news that we were expecting our first. School was not a priority then!
While I did travel back and forth to the US while living abroad and taking classes, I always worked ahead so that the jet lag, family functions, and cranky toddler wouldn’t affect my grade. Preparation is truly key here.
3. Communicate. Communicating with your professors is important. Even if they turn out to be sticklers on assignments, at least you tried. Sometimes they’ll allow you to be late or give you information to work ahead.
Several spouses recommend starting papers and reading ahead in any situation, because you never know what the military will throw your way. Starting a draft and then filling in later makes the work seem a lot less daunting.
If working on a team project, be realistic about the time you have to devote to it. If you are going through a program, you may know these classmates from other projects or they may identify with your situation and, if necessary, they can pick up the slack. It’s not ideal, but possible.
The general consensus among military spouses is to try your hardest to schedule classes around the military. I know you all just laughed, but it really would make things easier on yourself.
One additional piece of advice from military spouse, Natascha Alvarado: “Moving is hard enough without adding classes. If possible, double up on classes ahead of time to relieve some stress.”
Rebecca Alwine has been a military spouse for over 8 years, traveling the world and learning about herself. She’s discovered she enjoys running, loves lifting weights, is a voracious reader, and actually enjoys most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Rebecca earned her Masters of Disaster from AMU and a BA in Geography from the University of Mary Washington. Her writing has been published both in AUSA’s ARMY Magazine, Military Spouse Magazine, and multiple digital magazines and blogs. You can follow her on Twitter and at her personal blog.