When I remember my days as an undergrad, I feel the good old nostalgia of those days when my friends and I gathered in the faculty cafeteria to prepare tests, homework or anything else. However, the challenges are quite different now. Back then the answers were almost absolute. If you were able to read the book and manage to improve your ability to solve logical problems, you were on the other side of the river. During a graduate research, who can say if something is correct or not? Of course, your supervisor (an expert in the field) must have a strong opinion about a subject, but if you find evidence rejecting his/her hypothesis, then who else can give a precise answer? In my own field, there are many questions that nobody has really answered, while some researchers publish papers with vague explanations to incredibly complex phenomena. And inside this whole chaos reside the real beauty of science. Many times we simply have no clue of what is happening. And our sole weapon was created a thousand years ago.
Ever speak with someone and not understand a single word they say to you? Then their incomprehensibility leaves you feeling like an idiot, and the other person treating you like one. Trouble communicating is a failure of both parties, not just the confused one.
Being a student at McGill gives me countless opportunities to interact with people from a plethora of diverse backgrounds. And while English may be an official language in many countries, only a little more than 5% of the global population actually speaks it. Even fewer than that speak English as their native tongue. The result: there is no small number of people in this world who don’t speak English, or don’t speak English well. That’s not even considering that we live in Quebec, where 80% of the population are Francophones. (more…)
Being a teacher’s assistant (TA) can be hard work. As a TA you’re a font of knowledge, the solution to their problems and the keeper of their GPA. You’re also figuring out things as you go, putting out fires as they happen (hopefully figuratively!) and generally trying to keep up the aura of authority. So whether you are lecturing in a seminar, running tutorials or supervising a lab, like me, it’s as much as learning experience as a teaching experience.
So what have my students taught me? Well, I think you learn different things depending on what kind of teaching you are doing. Fannie described her experience leading seminars and I can only speak to my experience as a TA for a lab course, but here are a few lessons I’ve learned. (more…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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.
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.
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.
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…)
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.
- 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.
- “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…)
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!
– 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.
Oui, la session est déjà recommencée depuis une semaine. Et je n’écris que maintenant à propos du congé du temps des Fêtes.
Congé, c’est un grand mot. J’ai bel et bien rendu tous les examens corrigés en tant que T.A. avant le 22 décembre. Je n’avais pas de dossiers urgents à terminer à Noël. Mais j’avais mes deux enfants avec moi chaque jour.
Ne vous méprenez pas, j’adore passer du temps en famille. Aller faire les courses tranquillement, regarder la Pat’Patrouille (les initiés comprendront!), faire des tours de blocs. C’est amusant, mais reposant, non. Surtout avec les brunchs et soupers en famille où il faut non seulement déplacer la marmaille, mais aussi tout ce qui vient avec (jouets, chaise haute, couches). Et gérer les crises de fatigues. Et ramasser encore et toujours les trop nombreux jouets qui s’accumulent sur le plancher.
What the…What is Dante Alighieri doing on GradLife’s Blog???
Dear Graduate Students, maybe this is going to be your last year at McGill, maybe not. Maybe you are graduating and thinking about what you can do after having gone through the Hell of your thesis and finally got outside of it, on the peaceful and lightened sand of Dante’s Purgatory. If that is the case, then you may find this post interesting. Before writing it, I was thinking about what to publish, then I told myself: “Hey, you are an international student and you took one of the most important decision of your life, let’s talk about how you choose where to go and what to do!”. Here it is then, a few words about people and things that may help you in choosing which path you want to take to climb the mountain of the Purgatory. (more…)
Also December has passed, but I promise next time I will be more timely with some of the ideas and activities that can let you enjoy Montreal every month of the year. Luckily, a couple of suggestions for this past month are valid for pretty much any cold period, so you can take the chance to try them out at some point during the winter, or next year!
At the end of The beginning of a story, the story was left open on purpose. Hope, possibility, opportunity, chaos, chance were the words that concluded that post, but now it’s time to add chaos to the unfolded life of that character.
The phone was ringing loudly. The noise annoyed him. He answered to just stop it and did not even speak. On the other side of that coded and decoded connection through which a human voice was reaching him, a man was producing sounds with his mouth. The sequence took form and meaning, became denial of purposes and ideas, refusal of something that the guy had sent to the journal whose the man was an editor. You don’t know anything about what you are writing, do you? You should read this and this and this and I will write everything down but your article was so…empty that I preferred to call you to vomit all my disappointment on you. Sounds, meaning and delusion.
Like many of my fellow grad students, I travelled home to spend the holidays with my family. I‘m half way though my vacation and things are following the same predictable pattern, more or less. There is the excitement of seeing my parents and siblings, followed quickly by the readjusting to suddenly living with 6 people (I normally live alone). We all open our presents together, play board games and enjoy lots of good food (though this year half of us got food poisoning!). And while I’ve experienced the holiday joy Heather talks about, I also experience the impostor syndrome Angel describes so accurately, especially since everyone knows I’ve been doing cancer research for the last 5+ years. (more…)