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…)

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…)

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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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…)

Successes: the story continues…

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @yogipetals

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @yogipetals

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. 

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Paper or Not?

Paper or Not?

We occupy the most rapidly evolving age of human kind to date, technology has started to become obsolete or outdated faster than my wardrobe. Big-shots in the technological field predict a fast approaching singularity  of technological advancement; expect that to happen when computers start to design computers for designing better computers. During the interim though, we’ve got what we’ve got in the present, and it’s expensive, so what’s worth your hard earned money? (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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Shots Shots Shots

By N. Zelt

By N. Zelt

Well, that time of year has rolled around again. That’s right, we’re getting into flu season. School’s coming into crunch time, working hard to get papers written and experiments finished up before the holidays. What could possibly be worse than getting sick at a time like this? So, don’t forget to get the influenza vaccine.

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Self-care in Graduate Life

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @na0mirlima.

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @na0mirlima.

As I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed last week, I came across an article titled “Leadership or Self-Care – That is the Question.” This title shocked me. I took a second to think about what the title was saying: You can have either leadership success or appropriate self-care, but not both. After reading the article, I understand that the author was trying to portray the fact that many successful business-people tend to put their careers before their personal needs – a phenomenon not limited to the corporate workplace. However, I do not agree with the sentiment that you have to choose either success in the workplace OR personal well-being. I believe they need to go hand-in-hand to optimize overall success.

As a graduate student, my workplace is the lab. There are leadership components in graduate school, juggling TA positions, meetings with supervisors and committee members, writing theses, and mentoring younger students. We, as grad students, work long hours when we have to, and go out of our way to make sure our work is comprehensive and presentable. These tasks require great co-ordination skills, time-management, and initiative. In order to execute these skills as a graduate student, it is important to take care of yourself first, to make sure you’re both mentally and physically ready to do so. Thankfully, the last line of the article was, “Rejuvenating yourself will strengthen your leadership.” I completely agree with that statement, and I’ve come up with a list of ways to rejuvenate yourself before December comes and the looming deadlines start approaching.

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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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Why Do I Write This Blog?

Why would you voluntarily commit to a project in which you have to make yourself sit with the computer for longer than you anyway do? Why would you write for the blog, as if you don’t do enough writing while trying to churn out a doctoral dissertation. And you don’t even get paid (when did graduate students ever stop complaining about that!).

What is in it for me?

Simplistically: nothing.

But really, my sanity!

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Clarity

‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’  -Thomas Edison

I think most of us have a small, seemingly impossible dream or desire that could turn into an amazing opportunity.  It could be an opportunity to make money, but more likely, it is an opportunity for happiness and fulfillment.  Thomas Edison recognized that no amazing thing happens without a large amount of hard work and dedication.  Human beings are lazy, and we like to complain.  Perhaps it would be a valuable lesson if we could get over our fear of having less and working more – it may even lead to a more fulfilling life.

I have been experiencing this personally this summer.  Right after graduation, I found myself enjoying the life of no work, all play.  Part of this had to do with a sudden feeling that if I had a Master’s degree, I should not have to stoop to get a lowly summer job, especially not in a restaurant or café – ewww.  As you know from my previous post, I decided to busk instead of get a job.  Initially, I was terrified of the act of busking – it was something new that I had never done before.  How would I know my efforts would be appreciated?

(more…)

McGill is Awesome

Me in front of the Schulich School of Music

A lot of people enter their universities with awe and wonder, and exit disenchanted and apathetic (or angry).  I will admit to having been one of those people in the past, and I think it is normal.  After all, we are paying the universities big bucks to teach us things, stretch us, force us to do work that we otherwise would never do, and hold us to high expectations and guidelines that we would never place on ourselves.  It is destined to be a love-hate relationship between students and their institutions.

Although I am not under the impression that McGill is perfect in every way, I have really appreciated this institution throughout the process of my Master’s degree.  Here’s why:

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Everything but…

Photo by Gordon Adler

I have been feeling very keenly lately the urgent need for variety in life.  All year, as my posts have reflected, I have been intensely focussed on one current, ongoing goal, which has really taken all of my energy.  The broader questions I have been asking myself lately have been:

  • What is really going to make me happy and healthy?
  • What is happiness, anyway?
  • Are there things in my life that I need to get rid of?  Are there things I need more of?

One resource that has helped me alot has been Eckhart Tolle‘s book, ‘The Power of Now’. (more…)

Opportunity vs. Money

As I draw closer to graduation, I find myself turning down opportunities.

I use all kinds of excuses – I (almost) have a Master’s degree and deserve to earn more; It’s not worth my time for that price; or the killer: What If Something Better Comes Along.  However, all too often, something better does not come along, and I am stuck with nothing to do.  This is not like a McGill Graduate: we are taught to grab opportunity by both horns and run with it.  I need to do more of this.

Recently, I applied to alot of things that do not pay well (summer programs and the like), but that I am likely to be successful in.  So, here comes a bunch of new auditions, new people to sing for, but also a newfound confidence that I will likely succeed!  Perhaps I am overconfident, but I don’t think so.  These opportunities are reasonable options, and look like the next step for me in my career.  They can also lead to more opportunities, which ‘doing nothing’ doesn’t generally do.

Although succeeding at something small is not quite the same at succeeding at something massive and unlikely, it is still a success.  I would be happy with one of those!

Peace

East Side GalleryAfter my angst-ey previous post, I bet you are wondering, dear reader, how things went in Berlin!

Things went fabulously – everything that could have gone wrong went right, and everything that could have gone right went wrong. I did not get the contract with the Staatsoper, but after a little youtube research, I found out that they were looking for a voice that had a little more heft to it than mine. I also missed 2/3rds of the flights that I purchased, blowing my audition budget completely out of the water, but rebooking meant I got to spend the night in London with an old friend before heading back to Montreal. I met the curator of the Tacheles (possible concert connection there), and some amazing girls who are possible roommates for my imminent move to Berlin. I made phone calls in German and re-booked my flights in German.

Most of all, however, I finally felt at peace about my future. Instead of shooting straight to the top like some of my very talented friends are going to do, I think my tactic for success is going to be alot different. I am going to make the slow climb. My new tactic is this:

  • Be myself, no matter what.
  • Do things other than singing and embrace diversity in my life.
  • Make every day beautiful.
  • Accept the unknown future as an adventure instead of something to be feared.

I can have a career if I just stick to it, get to know more and more people and show them my good work ethic. However, I cannot have a career in Europe if I am not in Europe – therefore, even though I did not get a contract over there, I decided my next step is to make the move. Learn German, teach English and yoga, and sing sing sing for as many people as possible.

I’m ready!

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