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Why Montreal is Magnificent for Master’s Students

Photo by Aleks Budarick.

It’s official: Montreal was recently ranked as the best student city in the world.

I’m not surprised. While I’ve only been a post-secondary student in two other cities (one in Ontario and one in Australia), both of which I liked very much, Montreal is the perfect city for my life as a master’s student. Why, you may ask? Well, let me explain some of my reasons.

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Fit As A Bird?

 

By N. H. Zelt

By N. H. Zelt

 

I never thought I’d wish that I were a bird, but by the end of this post you might also.

I exercise quite frequently, and though I’ve never been a big fitness buff (pun intended) I still make time to keep fit and healthy. Interestingly, not all species have to do that. Imagine not ever having to lift a finger, yet staying as lean as an Olympic athlete. (more…)

Solidification of a story

Gradlife Instagram photo by @steezsister

McGill Gradlife Instagram photo by @steezsister

 

Literally, the word “solidification” means making or becoming hard or solid, making stronger. I like to think of this word as a phase change, like from water to ice, or from magma to crystals or marble. The story that I have told so far in “The beginning of a story” and “Successes: the story continues…” has a liquid status that this text aims to solidify. A character without name will get one, a spatial location will be drawn around his body, a past will carve out his shape throughout the page. (more…)

Make the Most of Montreal – February

February has started already, so here are some new ideas to warm your life up during this winter month and to remind yourself for few hours that life is not only about work.

Photo by Lidia Della Venezia

Photo by Lidia Della Venezia

– Sport in great company
I know I have mentioned the idea of going skating before, but wouldn’t it be even nicer if you could share that experience with other graduate students, get to meet new people and possibly make friends? PGSS has organized two skating events, one in Ottawa on the 18th of February and one in the Old Port on the 23rd. If you have never been to the Capital, I would highly recommend joining them, there might also be very original ice sculptures close to the canal.
In addition, you should check out the events that PGSS organizes, they are way more than you expect. For example, if you want to keep fit in company, you can sign up for zumba classes for a more than reasonable price! Keep an eye on the PGSS events webpage!
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Let’s talk about mental health

Photo from the Berkeley Science Review

Photo from the Berkeley Science Review

If you listen to the radio or watch local TV with any regularity, then you know that last month (Jan 25) was Bell’s Let’s Talk day; a fundraising and awareness campaign that uses social media to raise money for mental health research. And if you’re like most of us, you’ve let the ads come and go, and you may not have thought about mental health since.  But the reality is mental illness is still here, especially in grad school, and it’s an issue we need to talk about.

The University of California Berkley conducted a survey of their graduate students and found that mental wellness issues are alarmingly pervasive in academia.  On their campus, more than half of graduate students reported issues with depression and anxiety!  That’s close to 10 times higher than the national average for the US, and things don’t look much different here in Canada.

Why are grad students at risk? (more…)

What do you do (other than grad school)?

Photo by sasint / Pixabay

Photo by sasint / Pixabay

As a grad student I constantly find myself strapped for time. There is a pile of experiments to be done, lab reports to mark, an apartment to be cleaned and even friends to see. Sometimes it can be hard to juggle all of these things and still keep up with my other interests. However I think that one of the important lessons I’ve learned is that you need something other than grad school to keep you balanced. Maybe it’s a sports team, or a community group, or maybe you volunteer and give back to your community. Healthy McGill is running the Self Care Challenge this week and one of their recurring themes is taking time for yourself. It couldn’t be more important. Personally, I volunteer as a Girl Guide Leader. (more…)

Study better, not harder.

By N. H. Zelt

By N. H. Zelt

Finally, a graduate student. Bet that means I don’t have to study anymore, right? Bet that means I don’t have to know huge amounts of information by specific deadlines, right?. . .Right? Damn.

Fine, but if I still have to know things then I should at least learn things the right way. I read a lot of journal articles, there must be a literature on the best ways to learn things. Luckily, people study studying! So, let’s learn a little educational psychology. (more…)

La cervoise Alésia: entre histoire et dégustation

Cervoise Alésia

Cervoise Alésia

L’automne dernier, en attendant de payer mon café au Permis de Bière, je regardais les bières autour de moi. L’une d’entre elles sortait du lot avec sa bouteille en forme d’amphore: la cervoise Alésia. Curieuse, je lis l’étiquette. Ça alors! Cette cervoise est le fruit d’un minutieux travail de reconstitution historique! J’ai voulu en savoir plus.

L’homme derrière la cervoise, Stéphane Morin, est littéralement un puits de science sur plusieurs sujets, dont l’histoire brassicole. J’ai eu droit à une entrevue de deux heures où j’ai pu m’initier à cette partie de l’histoire que je connaissais assez peu, pour ne pas dire pas du tout.
Ayant entre autres en poche un baccalauréat ès arts et une maîtrise en histoire (Brasseurs, brasseries et activités brassicoles dans la plaine de Montréal, 1788-1852 – UQAM), Stéphane, qui fête cette année ses 30 ans de métier, a été en 1997 le premier à enseigner la dégustation de bière à l’École Hôtelière des Laurentides, ce qu’il fait encore à l’École Hôtelière de Montréal. Il a été l’instigateur du festival de bière de Chambly et du Mondial de la bière, a fondé le regretté magasine Effervescence, est l’auteur de plusieurs livres et chroniques et il donne des conférences. Il a également recréé en 2007 la seule cervoise commercialisée dans le monde. Qui a dit que des études supérieures en histoire ne menaient à rien?

Where we make our last stand

Where we make our last stand

Today is the last day of January. The first month of 2017 comes to an end with a dark outcome that left me sorrowful. I will not talk about any political moves or news here, as this post is not intended to recap what we are seeing in the media.

The only thing I want to remind you, is what I mentioned in some other post lately (Do you Change the Ideas or the Way of Thinking?). Our role as Graduate Students is quite important, as we help to drive the mankind development from each one of our areas. It doesn’t matter if you are developing a new alloy, creating a new vaccine or studying an ancient text. Every single one of these works matters, as they are focused on improving our living conditions and/or our understanding of the past, present and future.

Last stand

Photo by Luis Villegas. Bayfront park Hamilton, Ontario. 

We traveled a long way from being just a bunch of gatherers and hunters, to be able to reach other planets with our machines. All this development was possible by humans who dared to dream about a different world even when the social construct around them struggled to silence their efforts.

Right now the vision is maybe less romantic as our knowledge expands to different fields and the science is encouraged, but our mission remains the same. Not only from our labs, but every day spreading the knowledge and combating the ignorance, which drives to fear. We must do our best to change bit by bit the way of thinking so maybe in one or two generations, our grandchildren will see in history books our current situation, as we see ourselves the rise and fall of fascism or the demolition of the Berlin wall. A history book where reason, solidarity and love won over the anger, the discrimination and separatism. It is our duty to write this book, a book where we demonstrate our effort to create a better world. Because here and now is where we live, and here and now is where we must make our last stand against fear and hatred.

Being digital humanists….

McGill GradLife instagram photo by @lyly.man

McGill GradLife instagram photo by @lyly.man

Before coming to McGill, I did not know what the expression Digital Humanities means. Now, one year and a half after, I’m focusing my research on this field. I presented it at the last Digital Humanities Showcase that this year took place at McGill on January 26th. It was not only an occasion to share my work with other scholars, but also an example of how this field has become paramount for the curriculum of any graduate student.

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How to make networking work for you

Photo by Flazingo Photos (https://www.flazingo.com/) via Flickr

Photo by Flazingo Photos (https://www.flazingo.com/) via Flickr

All good things come to an end. By that I mean, one day, when school is over, we must enter the real world. For me, this day may be sooner than I’d like to admit. The job search has begun, and resume building has taken over much of my time. One question that I’ve been asking myself for some time now is: What is the best way to find the right job for ME? Well, one option is through networking.

Ah, networking. Many people say to do it, but HOW do you do it? How do you actually make it work for you? Here are a few things I’ve learned about networking along the way, and some tips I’m using to (hopefully) become successful in this job searching process!

Firstly, attend events, and introduce yourself. Some people are bad with names, and some people are bad with faces – but giving them the chance to meet you in person will increase the likelihood that they remember either your name or your face, and ultimately actually remember who you are. After every networking session, no matter how informal, send a follow-up email to thank them for their time. If you specifically spoke about employment opportunities, you can include a cover letter in this email as well. You need to give them something by which they will remember you, something that makes you stand out. By increasing your chances to be in contact with them, you’re doing yourself a favour by staying in the front of their minds.

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International Endurance – Weather Wisdom

A huge part of the typical international student’s experiences consists in facing countless novelties and learning how to deal with them, whether they are good or bad. And given that we are in Montreal and just three days ago we survived one of the (to my mind) worst days ever from a weather point of view, here are a few suggestions for those of you who almost never feel ready.

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @lissa.joy

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @lissa.joy

– Don’t get discouraged.
It is easier than you think. I had no idea I could be affected so much by weather, and especially by the cold. When I lived in Milano, I had a very hard time getting through the extremely humid and hot summer, but winter was never very hard, even though the humidity could make a trivial 0°C feel like a -15°C. Then Montreal became my home and I realized that the length of the bad season here, and particularly the wind, have become my worst enemies. There is little I can do about them though, so I can just suggest you to spend time with friends when you feel blue, and hold on because summer in Montreal is pretty amazing. If it’s your first time, you’ll figure it out, otherwise you know what I am talking about.
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To the Conference!

Conference! Those glamorous days when we can wear a nice suit and demonstrate what are we made of in front of dozens of researchers. It can go pretty well and be a good chance to meet new people or make new friends! However, the preparation is essential to achieve your most ambitious plans. Why am I saying this? Well, let’s say that you don’t want to end up stranded in Tijuana on your next travel to a conference. Believe me, you don’t. My first huge conference was on a beautiful beach in the Pacific Ocean, but because of my poor organization, the things went pretty bad the whole trip.

Sunset

Photo by Luis Villegas Armenta

What did I learn? Let me give you a hand:

  1. Always arrive one night before your presentation if you are planning to arrive by plane. You never know when the weather will look for some fun.
  2. Investigate more than one way to reach the conference hotel. Sometimes the roads can be blocked by a construction or maybe the sea just decided to swallow them (as in my case).
  3. Make sure you have a way to pay for everything you could need (extra cash, debit). It would be a shame if your credit card gets blocked out of nowhere (again, my case).
  4. Find a way to contact the conference staff in case of any complication.
  5. Upload your presentation to a cloud storage. USB´s gets lost just too often.
  6. Bring extra clothes. Always.
  7. Finally, have some fun! Even if something bad happens. At the end, you will always remember the beautiful sunset you saw while eating cold pizza on the beach.

Good luck with those abstracts!

Go to the Library

Photo by H McPherson

Photo by H McPherson

Have you ever been stuck in your research, cannot find the article (any article) that will help you move forward?  So you sit in front of your computer, gears spinning, groaning.  Frustration mounting, grains of sand moving through the hour glass?

Go to the library.  Ask a librarian.  All your dreams will come true.  Two or three focused questions, a bit of magic, and then papers, articles – everything you were looking for is there.

Are you familiar with Boolean logic?  How to use AND, NOT, “ “, or *. Which data base to use? What key words will give you results?  Or how do you adjust your search when you have too many hits? How to use filters? The glitches in a data base? If not, you need to talk to a librarian.  What about setting up alerts to notify you when new articles come out from previous searches you used in a data base?

And what about endnote – if no one has told you about endnote – go ask a librarian.  You want, no, you need endnote.  I waited six months to figure out endnote, and then spent the better part of two days entering articles.  Time well spent, but I should have figured endnote out day one.  If you have not used endnote – well, let’s just say grad life is better with endnote. If you haven’t discovered endnote, don’t know where to start – go ask a librarian. There are 1.5 hr workshops. The librarian I spoke to described endnote as miraculously good software.

There are even ways to use Google scholar effectively.  Did you know you can set up Google Scholar to link directly to McGill AND to endnote?  (Go to the setting menu in Google Scholar) That blew me away!  Cited by? Use it.

Any questions?  – Well, you know what to do.

I have two versions of my Master’s thesis

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by @na0mirlima

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by @na0mirlima

Once upon a time, I was doing my Master’s degree about a Latin text found in a big volume written by a Jesuit in 1710. I did a translation from Latin to French and wrote about the author and how his text was presenting the Native Americans. After two years of work, I finally submitted my thesis and started to work in communication, waiting for the result.

One day, I received an email from one of the members of the committee. I was wrong. The text’s author was not an 18th-century Jesuit, it was a 17th-century unknown layman. Please make again half of your thesis.

What?!

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Vaccines, or A history of skepticism

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @kipunsam.daily

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @kipunsam.daily

I would like to spend just a few words to recommend you to take part in an event that I will unfortunately be unable to attend. As I mentioned in a previous post, sometimes the Osler Library of the History of Medicine organizes events that are free and open to the general public, and that are of historical and scientific interest.
Whether this winter you followed Nick’s advice and got your flu shot or not, during the next event you will be able to join a vernissage about vaccination and its controversies nowadays and in an historical context. I find this topic extremely interesting, especially in an era in which more and more people seem to become skeptical about common practices like vaccination. Either if you are one of those people or you are strong supporter of this kind of prophylaxis, I am sure there will be a lot to be learnt and a good time to be shared.

If you finally decide to go, let me know how it was, and remember… there will also be wine and cheese!

Laura’s Adventures in Montreal: The Opera

Photo by @MustangJoe / @pixabay

Photo by @MustangJoe / @pixabay

Well it’s been a while since my last adventure, but next week I’m off on my next one. This time I’m heading to the opera! Now I know opera is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it gets a bit of a bad rap. Or maybe it’s just people don’t often have the opportunity to experience it. Well I’m here to tell you that it’s more accessible than you might think.

I attended my first opera during my undergrad. It was an university production at the University of Ottawa and a bunch of us went, mainly because we didn’t have other plans and it felt classy. But I was surprised how much I enjoyed the spectacle of it. The music, the vocals, the drama, it was astounding! And thus began my interest in opera. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of performances both here in Montreal and elsewhere.

So, if you feel like checking out an opera, how do you go about it? Well I have 2 recommendations for you; Opera McGill or Opera de Montreal. I’ve seen several performance by both companies and not only were they spectacular, but they both offer student discounts for the budget-conscious grad student. (more…)

What I Learned Last Year

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @aleksbud

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @aleksbud

As I was setting my goals for 2017, I had some time to reflect on everything I learned in the past year. 2016 was a year full of ups and downs, new friends, new experiences, and large milestones. I want to share some of the things I learned along the way, because these are the main themes that I’m taking with me into this semester and beyond.

  1. Things change: Plans, thoughts and ideas change.
    Change is inevitable, so be aware of it and be flexible when it arises. Never let it stop you from moving forward – if you can adapt to your changing circumstances, it may open up new ideas or paths that you didn’t know existed, and you may well be better off in the end.
  2. “You never know unless you try”
    This motto is true in many cases – you never know if you’ll get the job if you don’t apply. You never know if someone is willing to help you unless you ask. The result will either be exactly what you hoped, or you can take the outcome as a learning experience for next time. Simply putting in an effort is a huge step forward, and many new opportunities can arise if you just try. Put yourself out there, and be open to new experiences, because you never know what may happen! (more…)

Make the Most of Montreal – January

It’s the beginning of the year and we all have to give our best to keep up with work and other commitments, but let’s not forget to take some time every now and then to enjoy ourselves and allow us to get through the winter in a better mood and better physical and mental shape!

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @lissajoy

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @lissajoy

– Go skating somewhere cool
I am so excited about skating! I can’t say I am good at it, but I have enjoyed every single time I had the chance to do it with my friends and family. Now, imagine how much more impressive it would be if you could skate in a wood? Well, it turns out that you can! There are two lovely places fairly close to Montreal that I am eager to try out, one in Lac-des-Loups and one in Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel, maybe you want to do the same.

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Proof you should be sleeping at work!

 

By N. H. Zelt

By N. H. Zelt

Do you feel tired? I know I’m tired. Did you get enough sleep last night? I know I didn’t.  So what’s there to do? Well,  do you remember the days when you were a kid and you used to nap? (insert something about how awesome those days were). What ever happened to napping anyways? I’ll tell you, you stopped doing it is what happened. Nowadays most people think napping is just for little kids and the elderly, but that’s simply untrue. (more…)

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