It’s no secret that studying engineering can be difficult and time consuming. Many students find themselves giving up hobbies to study engineering. I admit, I was one of them. While I don’t regret the choices I’ve made to be successful, I now realise that interests are an integral part of who I am. As I finish my undergraduate degree, I want to look back on the sacrifices I made and how I incorporated hobbies back into my life.
My (lack of) work-life balance throughout the years
Elementary school: Introduction to hobbies
My parents put me through many extracurricular lessons including piano, art, dancing, swimming, and skating. I didn’t consider them my hobbies because these activities were pushed onto me. Like many kids, I despised giving up my weekends for these classes.
All I wanted to do was play video games, but only weeknights were free. Therefore, my solution was to finish all my homework during the day. I sacrificed my lunch breaks and recesses so I could finish my homework. This plan was wildly successful, as it left most of my weeknights free to do whatever I wanted.
High school: Picking my interests
Eventually I convinced my parents to stop taking me to the extra lessons. This in combination with my high school’s relaxed curriculum suddenly gave me more time than I could ever imagine. I stopped doing homework and would only dedicate a few hours before tests to study.
With my free time, I spent majority of my days playing video games just as I had always dreamed of. Aside from that, I would occasionally paint and skating. These were one of my most relaxed years.
Engineering undergraduate (part 1): All work no play
Before starting my undergrad, everyone stressed the difficulty of the program and how packed my schedule would be. These warnings scared me enough to preemptively drop all my hobbies. With a flip of a switch, I uninstalled my video games, stopped painting, and put away my skates. Any downtime I had was dedicated to writing my first resume and creating my personal website. I did everything in my power to ensure that I would find a first-year engineering internship. Looking back, I definitely think some of these efforts paid off.
To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Going to university was like turning over a new leaf. Meeting new people and living far from home made it easier to focus entirely on my career. Additionally, doing well in my studies and finding my summer internship was extremely rewarding and pushed me to go further.
Engineering undergraduate (part 2): Rediscovering life outside of work
After the thrill of good grades and successful internships, I started experiencing existential crises. My thought shifted from “sacrificing hobbies for career” to “what am I working towards?”
I realised that a successful engineering career was a stepping stone towards my final goal. What I really wanted in life was to be able to financially supported my ideal lifestyle with a meaningful career. But what was my ideal lifestyle? I had no idea because I was so tunneled in on work! These questions helped me reconnect with my old hobbies and discover new ones. So far, I’ve tried out blogging, weight lifting, pole dancing, bachata and travelling. I liked some hobbies better than others, but they’ve all been an interesting experience.
This doesn’t mean I’ve dropped my responsibilities to school, in fact engineering is still a top priority. At the end of the day, I always make sure my career is on track before moving onto my hobbies. By exercising smart habits, it’s definitely possible to have free weekends and the occasional weekdays for hobbies.
Lessons learned: Balancing studies and hobbies is important and achievable
I took a long detour to get where I am now, but the extra steps were necessary.
First, my extracurricular classes introduced me to a variety of activities and instilled discipline. Second, having free time for hobbies helped me identify the activities I truly enjoyed. Third, devoting my time to school set me off on a good start in my engineering career. Finally, once my studies were well off, I had the flexibility to make time for my hobbies.
Everyone has different goals in life, and hobbies are a great way to discover what yours is. At the same time, it’s important to not let your work slip. While I’m still in school, I put my work first and hobbies second. With proper study habits and time management, it’s possible to make time for anything. Between work and play there’s a lot of give and take, so it’s ultimately up to you to decide the balance that suits your needs.