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Are You Considering Relocating for the MSHC Program?

By: Mariah

Are you considering moving to Chicago for the MSHC program? Moving for graduate school is a big decision. Here is a little bit about my experience relocating from my home state of Colorado to Chicago to take the program. For me, this was a big decision because I always imagined I would live and work in Colorado. I was not actively trying to relocate. However, I knew I was at a point where I was ready to make some drastic changes in my career. I was planning on quitting my previous job, and so I did not feel tied down at home. Plus, Northwestern’s program stood out to me. The coursework seemed focused and relevant, students I talked to reported positive experiences, and I liked the fact I could finish in a year. Overall the program was unlike anything I had seen before, and I decided I wanted to give it a try.

I was so excited to join the program, but I still had some reservations about relocating.

Concerns I had about moving:

Where to actually live?

I personally had no knowledge of Chicago prior to my campus visit, so I was unsure where to live. When I briefly mentioned this to the staff at the Center for Communication and Health after my acceptance, they answered questions I had about housing and suggested a few neighborhoods worth considering. Per their guidance, I ended up living in a neighborhood which I find to be friendly, convenient, and affordable.

The Saturday Schedule

I knew coming into the program that I would have class every Saturday, and I was worried I would feel lonely or bored during the week since I did not have a job lined up upon my arrival. Then, once I did get a job I was worried about balancing school and work. The hardest adjustment to the Saturday schedule was being in a classroom for 8 hours. I had not done that since high school! Between searching for jobs and keeping up with class, I was never bored. In terms of balancing work and school, most students are able to successfully balance both with good organization and planning.

Finding Employment:

This was one of my biggest concerns about moving, but I found the career development resources to be very helpful. As students of the MSHC program we are able to take advantage of school career fairs and general events, and we also have resources designed especially for us. We have our own career counselor who can coach us one-on-one, and she frequently leads workshops to help us develop skills like resume writing and informational interviewing, which are useful for job searching and network building. The network the program has is also very useful in the job search. From the moment you join the program you’ll have access to classmates, alumni, and others who can help you build your network. In my experience, all the alumni and classmates have been extremely supportive. I have found these resources very valuable during my job and internship searches in Chicago.

What if I don’t plan to stay in Chicago after I finish the program?

When I first moved for the program, I was unsure if I wanted to stay in Chicago after graduation. While I have found Chicago to be an amazing city with an abundance of opportunity, I am still unsure if I will stay. It certainly makes sense to go to school and network in a city you hope to live in, but the Northwestern program provides unique opportunities. The knowledge and experience gained from this program can be applied to various jobs in any city. Plus, as former students have pointed out, the Northwestern network is very expansive, so it is possible to connect with alumni in many cities across the world. Even if I eventually leave Chicago, I’ll have gained new understandings and perspectives that I can apply to all future endeavors.

Tips for Deciding to Relocate:

Plan a Campus Visit

If possible, I highly recommend a campus visit. I chose to do one last spring, and it heavily informed my decision. It gave me a chance immerse myself in the city and a health communication lecture. Most importantly, I was able to connect with students and ask all of my questions. Talking to a variety of students allowed me to get a selection of perspectives, and catch a glimpse of what the culture of the program was like. The answers I received were honest and useful. I was also able to see how I felt about Chicago. I had the chance to practice riding the CTA, look at apartments, and explore neighborhoods. In the end, my campus visit sold me on the school, and I knew when I moved I was comfortable with the city.

Ask Questions

During my decision making process I felt like I asked a million questions, but in the end it helped me make a more informed decision. Even if you cannot attend a campus visit, the team at the Center for Communication and Health can answer questions, or put you in touch with a student to talk to. I personally found both groups useful. The staff at the Center for Communication and Health guided me on many logistical questions, while the students answered questions about school/work balance, future job prospects, and general questions I had about succeeding as a student.

For me, relocating for the program has been a very positive experience and has allowed me to experience growth academically, professionally, and personally. Even though I initially had some concerns about moving, none of them ended up being problems once I began the program. If you’re considering moving for the program and have questions, the team at the Center for Communication and Health can offer support, answer questions, or put you in touch with a student who many be able to offer helpful insights.