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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…)

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!

The next step may be abroad

The picture of Dante holding the Commedia in his left hand is a reproduction of Domenico di Michelino's painting, Florence, 1465.

The picture of Dante holding the Commedia in his left hand is a reproduction of Domenico di Michelino’s painting, Florence, 1465.

 

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…)

Conferences & Conferences…

 

Photo by a tiny conference organizer (Paolo Saporito)

Photo by a tiny conference organizer (Paolo Saporito)

In any language of this world, Graduate Life’s translation could easily be “Conferences”. Conferences here, conferences there, doesn’t matter who you fero cum or you want to confer (for those of you who understand Latin)…this is a word whose echo stressed, stresses and will stress most of our readers. Then, if you are one of those who have ever wondered “confer…hence?”, you may want to have a look at this post, where I’m going to share with you the amazing experience of being not a speaker, not a presenter, not a panel spectator who struggles to get more free-food than the others, but a conference organizer, the most grey, banal, yet amazing figure in this world of weird translations.

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Survival 101 (The first time away from home)

As a 20-something student who’s never really been away from home for long periods of time, it sure is tough to move to a whole other country to pursue higher studies. Especially if that other country is around twenty thousand kilometres away, and looking at the air ticket prices makes you want to close your eyes and use your imagination instead. I had decided that I wanted to pursue higher studies way back when I began my undergrad. I wanted to experience how it felt being away from home and having to manage everything by yourself. And so I decided to go to university… on a different continent. A completely different place. Alone (well, alone-ish). Yay! Fun. (more…)

That blind-spot in our Graduate Life…

At a first sight, the word surroundings sounds like something similar to shiny rounded rings enclosing something important in its center. However, these surroundings have often an importance in themselves and can be as relevant as the center on which we are too obsessively, crazily, stressfully focused. If my first post was about the relationship between graduate life and Time, the second one will investigate (wow, I’m so academic here) how the former relates to Space. Obviously, the two are strictly correlated and we will see that the idea of discovering our surroundings depends also on the choice to give time to this process of discovering and exploring. Yet, I do not want to be boringsophical here, just tell something that any graduate student may feel on his or her own skin.

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Tous à bord! Un stage à l’étranger en famille

Instagram / @gradlifemcgill by @digitalpigeons

Instagram / @gradlifemcgill by @digitalpigeons

En 2012, mon conjoint et mois nous nous sommes envolés à Paris pour faire un stage. Nous habitions un micro appartement mal isolé au 6e étage sans ascenseur. Notre nourriture comportait trop de pain et de fromage. Nous visitions sans contraintes les fins de semaine.

En 2015, mon conjoint a été invité à poursuivre son stage pendant quelques mois. Je voulais en profiter pour faire quelques recherches dans les archives de Paris. Le seul changement: un petit F-A d’un an qu’il fallait emmener. Après un moment de réflexion, nous avons entrepris les démarches pour déménager en famille. Ouf!

La planification a été plus difficile. Il a fallu trouver une éducatrice (à distance!) pour notre bébé puisque mon conjoint et moi devions étudier en journée. Nous avons réussi à louer un petit deux et demi situé dans un premier étage pas trop loin de la BNF. Grâce à des amis et au propriétaire de notre logement, F-A a eu des fournitures d’enfant. Même faire la valise du petit (va-t-il grandir beaucoup? quelle température fait-il à Paris l’hiver?) a été un casse-tête.

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First year on campus… But not frosh

Parc La Fontaine. Photo by GradLife McGill Instagrammer @aleksbud.

Parc La Fontaine. Photo by GradLife McGill Instagrammer @aleksbud.

Well, September is almost upon us, bringing the start of a new school year. Seeing all of the incoming graduate students arrive in their labs allowed me to reflect upon my own experience of starting grad school one year ago. I came to realize that one aspect I’m happiest about is the fact that I decided to change universities to complete my graduate degree. Starting grad school at McGill was a lot like starting undergrad – except that I was a first year student in a different way. Here are some of the reasons that I’m glad I changed it up by starting grad school at a new university, and what I recommend for new students who are in the same boat this year.

My Advice:

Firstly: Explore Your Surroundings

Moving to a new university for grad school meant I was able to experience a new city. I had already become very familiar with my undergraduate university town, and the change of scenery was refreshing. In a city as large as Montreal, there are endless activities at our disposal; new streets to explore, and new adventures to be embarked upon. One way that I was able to fully take advantage of my new surroundings was to bring my favourite hobbies with me and enjoy them in my new environment. I found new running spots (Mount Royal, Parc Lafontaine, and Lachine Canal are some of my favourites), and different places where I can take interesting photos.

What I recommend to incoming students:  If you’re moving cities to begin grad school, take advantage of every opportunity provided by your new location! Do your best to see how your favourite activities, whatever they may be (reading, art, sports, etc), can be maximized and built upon here, or find a new hobby that is unique to the city (e.g. learning a new language).

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My experience at Thèsez-vous

Have you heard about this amazing concept that is Thèsez-vous? It is a retreat for grad students in a beautiful and quiet spot where all you have to worry about for three days is writing. For non-French speaking readers, “Thèsez-vous” is a word play between thèse (a thesis) and taisez-vous which means “Be quiet”.

Introduction

The idea came from graduate students who thought about what could help them and other students in the same situation finish their thesis. It all started in June, 2015 and it has been growing ever since. I heard about it from my colleague who is not only working full time but also struggling to finish her memoir. She thought Thèsez-vous would be a nice push to the finish line.

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A McGillian in Paris

Screenshot 2016-07-26 07.01.54

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMoTHJ3gu3U

So here it is. My first ever video. Actually, that’s only half true. I have made videos before but only the type you keep buried on one of your external hard drives in case the day comes when you want to show your children ‘what life was like when I was a teenager’. So it would be more accurate to say that this is my first ever public video. Fingers crossed it won’t turn out to be one of those that should have remained hidden on my hard drive.

I was lucky enough to go back to Paris this month to see my family and stock up on some good wine, food and company. I wanted to start off with a fun ‘vlog type’ video so decided to film small snippets of Parisian life and show you one of my favourite places to eat: Le Camion Qui Fume. As you’ll see in the video this is one of the most successful burger joints in Paris and you’ll often see a long line of Parisians in front of the food truck on their lunch break hoping to secure an infamous burger. I must admit it’s not the most typical of French cuisine but think of it as a burger American in size and French in style.

I hope you enjoy the video and I’m so excited to share more content with you very soon. Hopefully the video inspired you to give yourself a break from your studying (#McGillianAbroad) or encouraged you to get out and see something new (although you’re probably already out and about chasing Pokemon).

Check out my fellow bloggers and instagrammers for loads more travel inspiration.

Enjoy and see you soon!

Please don’t make me go on vacation

2016-07-14 22.07.24

I fully realize that this is really messed up. Tomorrow morning, my husband and I are heading off to Newfoundland, the only part of Canada we have never visited (it is all about those yummy ads). Now, I love to travel and see new places.  I have only heard wonderful things about the rugged beauty of Newfoundland. Anywhere that can say “Its about as far from Disney Land as you can possibly get” sounds great to me.

So what’s the problem?

Well, I just want to stay home and write and putter and write and putter.  I understand the importance of maintaining a balance while going to grad school.  Is it really unbalanced to want to stay home? (BTW – I know the answer to this, that’s why I’m going on a vacation).

In my defense, I work full time as a high school teacher, and I am doing this degree full time as well. So I see this as my one opportunity to just be a student and write and putter and write and putter. Of course, friends have said that if I go on a vacation I will come back refreshed and invigorated. But what if I come back stressed out about the lost opportunity to write and putter and write and putter? Pathetic, no?

I have a family member who was a university professor.  We watched him, and kind of judged him because all he did was work.  The entire family had to insist that he take a weekend off once ever summer to go to his daughter’s cottage for one night.  The only way he would go was if we promised that he could leave after lunch on the Sunday. 29 hours away from his work was the max. Here’s the thing – now I get it.

So is it ok if I bring my computer, encourage my husband to bring some books and go for long runs (fitness is important, right?) and hope for rainy days, not sunny days? Cause that’s my plan.

Writing this, I feel like a real slug. I read writing a blog had the potential to be therapeutic. Right now, all I can hope for is self awareness.  Whoa.  Wait a minute – it is going to be great to get away and see the rugged splendor of Gros Morne, the Viking trail and  L’Anse aux Meadows, and eat at awesome restaurants in St. John’s.  OK, its all good – I’m ready to go and have a great vacation.  Blogging IS therapeutic, and it is going to be great.  Really! Now I’m excited.  Have to go and pack.

And don’t forget, success as a grad student means keeping things balanced.  It’s the key.  As well as the ability to laugh at yourself.

Happy trails, to all. Have a great summer, whether you are writing and reading, or enjoying family, or discovering new places to go. Cheers, and all the best.

Calling all Bloggers, Video Bloggers and Instagrammers! Join the new GradLife team.

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Want to share your story? We are looking for grad students and post-doctoral fellows who are energetic, articulate and passionate about their studies and life outside of academia. 

Apply to be a blogger, video blogger and/or, Instagrammer for our new GradLife McGill social media platform.

Deadline: June 15 – Apply here

Follow @GradLifeMcGill on Facebook and Instagram

A Cup of Tea with Jini Reddy

instagram jini

Jini Reddy (Courtesy of Jini Reddy)

A couple of months ago, I was leafing through Psychologies magazine (December 2014 issue) and stumbled upon an article on a new rising economy: the economy of sharing and swapping that has taken bloom in the UK recently. By some mysterious force, I found myself drawn to the article: from the writing style to the engaging content that depicts a rare initiative of reaching out to people who are complete strangers – it inspired me.  I gathered up the courage and got in touch with the author of the article, Jini Reddy, to ask her if she would share some of her writing and life skills with me. An accomplished traveler and a writer/journalist who writes about eco-travel, nature-based experiences, wellbeing and sustainable living (pretty much everything I dreamed of becoming and still dream of becoming), Jini has quickly become a role model for me.

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Tropical Tribulations, Final Episode: Small Fieldwork, Grand Finale.

*** I just wrote a lengthy, thought-out post, then accidentally clicked on a link, and when I came back I had lost it all. I have no energy to write it again. Thanks, WordPress, for saying you have an auto-save function that doesn’t actually work. Aaaaaaarg. At least it’s not my thesis. Hm. Below is the part I didn’t loose. Co-Bloggers: please hit “save draft” more often than I did in the past two hours…***

24082014732When I arrived in Brazil, one big question lay over the country: would it be enough for the “Hexa”? The sixth title? Here, at home, with the world watching?

It was not to be. The World Cup – which some considered a flawed enterprise anyway – came and went, at lightning speed, as did the Summer. At the end, as I left the country, footballs still flew high in Brazil – as the picture shows – but new hopes had come to decorate the streets. On the school wall, the talk is of “luz”, “esperanca”, “respeito” and “abracos” (light, hope, respect, and hugs); and although the “Hexa” is still visible, somebody has since sprayed a new dream over the old one: “amor por favor” (love please).

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Super commuter: Grad student edition

I recently learned that there is a name for the thing I do nearly every week: super-commuting. Most Friday afternoons, I catch the bus in downtown Montréal and go home to Trois-Rivières for the weekend to see my cats, my home, and my boyfriend. Admittedly, the distance is only about 150km, so I don’t know if it counts officially as a super-commute, but it feels like one to me. It is certainly better than my previous super-commute, which was between Panama and Trois-Rivières, was closer to 7,600km, and only happened every 4-6 months.

 

Everyone’s favourite Friday afternoon.

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Tropical Tribulations, Episode 3: Time on Fieldwork Flies – but Brazil Flies Higher. [français]

Les choses pourraient être pires au Brésil...

Les choses pourraient être pires au Brésil…

Les dernières semaines n’ont, au niveau planétaire, pas exactement été joyeuses. Entre Gaza, la Syrie, l’Irak, le Soudan du Sud, et l’Ebola, on s’en retrouve à ne pas vouloir allumer les nouvelles. Mais, caché derrière les flash-infos sur avions perdus et terres débattues, il y aussi du bon! Des développements, souvent invisibles de par leur lenteur, mais qui redonnent un peu d’espoir dans un monde dont on entend si souvent qu’il se désintègre. Pour les déprimé(e)s des nouvelles, et autres curieux, donc: un regard vers le Brésil.

Le Brésil – qu’est-il donc? Le pays du football, de la joie, de la fête? De la samba, du manioc, et de l’Amazone? Ou des favelas, de la corruption, et de l’inégalité? Les journaux pendant la Coupe du Monde avaient du mal à se décider, célébrant un moment les stéréotypes festifs de ce pays “accueillant”, “vivant”, et “dynamique”, avant de rappeler au lecteur que “tout n’est pas rose au Brésil” (ah bon?) et qu’il y a “une face cachée”, et même de la violence, de la misère, voyons-même, de l’injustice!

Le Brésil est, sans doute, un peu de tout ça, et bien plus. Mais au-delà des apparences, soient-elles négatives ou positives, ma recherche ici m’a porté à assister à l’émergence d’un nouveau Brésil, dont le changement, aidé par le haut, s’opère par le bas. Vamos lá!

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Tropical Tribulations, Episode 2: Half-Time. Fieldwork, fast and slow.

one-does-not-bbraomAccording to rumours, something of importance came to end around a week ago in Brazil. Apparently. People still talk about it in the streets. It must have been a big deal. And indeed it was: after six weeks in Recife, the first half of my time in Brazil has come and gone! (Also: the World Cup). Six weeks full of encounters, experiences and events, which yielded a pitiful two interviews so far, and the half-time conclusion that fieldwork is fun! – and slow. And, also, that things rarely go according to plan, which, as it turns out, is usually all for the better. Tales, then, of winding paths – and of another kind of couchsurfing.

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Tropical Tribulations, Episode 1: “First Steps”. Qui a dit que le Brésil était chaud, cher, et carnivore?

Recife! (État du Pernambuco, Nord-Est du Brésil)

Recife!
(Pernambuco, Brésil)

Comment ne pas commencer un voyage: arriver à l’aéroport avec exactement 4 dollars canadiens dans les poches, pour se rendre compte que les cartes bancaires ne marchent pas au distributeur. Peut-on payer par carte de crédit au bureau de change? Non plus. De toute façon, celles-ci ne marcheraient peut-être même pas, faute d’avoir prévenu la banque du voyage… et je ne sais pas exactement où je dors ce soir. Excellent début.

Les premiers moments en nouveau territoire présentent toujours leur difficultés, qu’une bonne organisation ne peut pas toujours prévenir (sauf – voir ci-dessus). Comment fonctionnent les bus, les banques, la vie? Où vivre, avec qui, à quel prix? Quand jouer le touriste, en prenant son temps pour découvrir les lieux, quand jouer le troubadour, en prenant sa bière pour découvrir les gens, et quand se retirer pour travailler, afin de démarrer la recherche sur les chapeaux de roues? Tant de choix, d’opportunités, et de dilemmes dans ces premiers jours – jours au cours desquels, jonglant entre rêves et réalités, trêves et activités, et fèves [le feijão!] et festivités, j’ai découvert que le Brésil n’était ni si cher, ni si chaud, ni encore si carnivore qu’on ne le raconte. Récit d’un début de voyage.

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Tropical Tribulations, “Pilot Episode”: Airport Ponderings

indexBack in January, I wrote one of my first posts for this blog – titled “Un novo ano, um novo desafio” [a new year, a new challenge] – about how I wanted to start learning Portuguese. Why? Because I was then planning to conduct fieldwork in Brazil, in the Summer of 2014.

Things since then have come a long way. And so have I, since I appear to be sitting in departure Terminal D of Miami Airport, whose walls are plastered with the above banner. For it has come to be! After a Fall semester spent poking in the dark (topic-wise), and a Winter semester full of Portuguese audio-CDs, vocabulary lists (thanks, Anki!), proposal writing, ethics reviews, funding applications, and other shenanigans, I am indeed going to Recife, capital of the Northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco, for three months of fieldwork, on a topic I won’t bore readers with (just yet).

That my fieldwork coincides with the World Cup is, obviiiouslyyyy, sheer coincidence. Bit like a Black Swan. But still: for all those who were worried that this blog would not contain live-reports from “Copa” games, worry no more. I will try to regularly post updates “from the field(work)”, about travel, research, and futebol. But first, boarding calls. Next step, this:

images

ps: for those remaining in (beautiful) Montréal, PGSS will be screening many Copa games at Thompson House.

“Don’t let your degree get in the way of your education” …

The MOC House!

The MOC House!

Hidden McGill gems, part 2: after cooking with the Midnight Kitchen a few weeks ago and reporting about it on this blog, I want to bring up another great group on campus: the McGill Outdoors Club (MOC). As its name suggests, the Outdoors Club is an all-purpose sports/travel/adventure club which serves as a hub for outdoor activities of all kinds. What’s not to love?

And yet, having known of the MOC for two years, I had, until recently, never done anything with it. Not, mind you, for lack of opportunities: their mailing list, which I’ve been on since I’m at McGill, witnesses emails every day from people proposing trips and offering shared rides for anything from skiing at Mont Tremblant to trekking in up-state New York (or just building snowmen on McGill’s lower fields). I was even an MOC member last year, but no – no trip, no outdoors, no adventure; it was always for “next time”, when I would have fewer things on. But not this time! After one and a half years at McGill, it was time to stop “letting my degree getting into the way of my education” – the MOC’s motto, incidentally. And – *spoiler* – it was fantastic.

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