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Graduate studies: A decision between adventure and chaos – Part 1

Did you ever want a donut at 3 am? Or maybe some all dressed pizza? Why not a double bacon hamburger? In this case, the answer is easy, you just wait for the next day to grant yourself that wish. In the worst case scenario, you get out of bed and walk/drive to the closest 24 hours fast food restaurant to fulfill your desire. However, what if your desire involves something a lot more complex that you cannot even define? Maybe you will spend the rest of the night trying to understand it without success, but you can surely perceive it. You want to change something, go somewhere or meet someone. How, when and why are questions just out of reach. That was my story. I had these three questions in my mind often during the night. The phone from the company I used to work for would ring exactly at 3:01. I had to wake up quickly, answer, understand the situation in the factory and try to give some indications before falling asleep again.

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Sometimes I had to get out of bed and drive in the middle of the night in order to fix the situation onsite. But do not misunderstand me, I loved my job. It was the realization of many of my big dreams when I was an undergrad student: a well-paid job in an international company where the everyday challenges teach interesting things. But for some reason, these feelings about doing “something else” assaulted me in the middle of the night, and I could not understand them at all. I started to feel empty, without direction and very discouraged. I really needed to change my life. But why? There was no logical reason behind these thoughts. At the beginning, I believed that maybe the lack of physical activity, the stress at work or even the food at the factory kitchen were making me feel that way. I decided to exercise again, prepare my own food before going to work and other rituals that could improve my situation. These things improved significantly my mood, but I was still thinking that something was not right. Then the first clue came to me. I heard that a local private university was offering Master degrees for engineers from our factory and I was very excited about it. I wanted to learn more, to know something new and some of that could be right there. Unfortunately, the subjects (mainly focused in administration) were totally different from what I expected and I decided to leave that idea alone. But the idea refused to leave and later I found myself talking with the coordinator of the Metallurgy and Materials master program of my previous University. The investigation branches were exciting, as I could see some of my work problems explained from a very different perspective, making it an excellent opportunity to improve my skills and fulfill that hungry for something new.

Unfortunately, when I was about to say yes to begin the applying process, they gave me a single condition: even when I was not receiving scholarship from the Institute, I had to quit my job to be accepted, as they considered that I would not be able to have a good performance if I was fighting on two fronts. I had a lot to process then. On one side there was an excellent and secure job; in the other the opportunity of change completely not only my professional development but my whole life. The master degree did not have to stop there, I could continue with further adventures in science with a Ph.D. and who knows what after that. Even there was the Canadian dream and beyond… but that
belongs to another story. I was between my own past dreams and the present ones. Years before that job represented everything I was fighting for: stability, certainty and material wealth for me and my loved ones. But at some point, I changed without noticing and that dream alone was not
fulfilling anymore. This new horizon seemed so exciting, full of new possibilities and experiences. There was a single problem. Fear. Not only to fail but to fail after having a good work, which I left following something that seemed to be a whim. Fortunately one day I realized something thanks to a good friend. You have the right to decide anything in your life, but make sure that the reasons behind those decisions are good enough. The fear is the worse reason to do or not something. Is good to be afraid sometimes, as the fear keeps us safe from falling from the last floor of a building or enter to a nightclub of doubtful reputation. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is to do whatever makes you happy, as long as you accept the problem that comes with that decision, which will be easier to overcome if your drive is strong enough.


I guess you can imagine what I decided considering that I am writing this during my free time from my PhD. But that is only the beginning of an adventure that would take me to more places, situations and problems than I could ever imagine. And in the end, the life is that, an adventure where you should go to sleep only with the desire of having a donut at 3:00 am, but knowing you are doing the best for yourself.

Metaphors of Grad School

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Have you ever been asked to bring an object that represents a metaphor of your current researcher identity to class? The second year PhD students in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education (DISE) were asked to do so. What transpired what a rich and interesting discussion of what grad school is, and how we positioned ourselves as researchers. Our objects included:
• Three watches or “timekeepers” preoccupations of time management and planning
• Edgar Degas’s painting of The Ballet Master the master shares the fundamentals of his craft
• A house plant Growing in unexpected ways, flourishing with a bit of light and care.
• An unfinished hand knit scarf the researcher identity, not fully developed, and multifaceted
• A fuzzy pencil case practical, familiar, along for the journey
• A hat A researcher is part explorer, part reporter. Hats giver the wearer other identities.
• A Loopy Tangle A fidget stopper, helping a distracted researcher focus
• A shovel Allowing for deep, below the surface digging and research
• Two notebooks As social science researchers, there is writing, writing, writing

A wonderful activity, promoting reflection and introspection. What object represents a metaphor of your researcher identity?

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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Être cher à l’hôpital, études au ralenti

Instagram / @gradlifemcgill by @lyly.man

Instagram / @gradlifemcgill by @lyly.man

Hier matin, une ambulance est allée chercher ma grand-mère.

Elle est à l’hôpital. Pour des heures? Des jours? Des semaines?

L’incertitude, c’est dur pour les études. Mon cerveau part dans les nuages quand mon coeur se serre en s’attendant au pire. Je relis huit fois la même page, je regarde les analyses à faire de travers.

Planifier est délicat. Dois-je annuler cette rencontre au cas? Qu’en est-il de la semaine prochaine?

La maladie et la mort imminente d’un être cher balancent la fierté aux poubelles. Les émotions à fleur de peau, ne sachant où me mettre, j’ai pleuré devant des étudiants, devant des professeurs, des collègues.

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“To be or not to be?”: An intern

It’s September. It’s potentially the beginning of my last year as a graduate student. Except if I decide to do a PhD at some point. So far so good though, I should be finishing grad school some time next Spring/Summer.

My first article was about my dream job which I finally decided to quit. This was a hard decision, but I did it to solve my rhythm problem. No more long-term academic projects combined with short-term rushes on social media.

The question being, what should I do next? I know myself. There is no way I will feel fulfilled with “just” writing a 100 page dissertation. No matter how passionate I am about my project, I need another challenge. Something new, something exciting, something that fits well with research and writing.

@GradLifeMcGill

How about an internship?

The main advantage – and disadvantage – of an internship is not being paid. You all get how this is a disadvantage. However, on the plus side, it also means more freedom to try things. As a volunteer, there is a good chance that your schedule will be flexible enough to allow you to take the time you need for your studies. It also means that you can try everything you’ve always dreamt of doing. It would be for a semester, for two days per week.

I’m not saying that everyone can afford an unpaid job, but I really think that it is a great option to try something new and to challenge yourself. You can always combine it with a part-time job. This way you will get all the advantages and can learn twice as much.

Last but not least, a two-day internship will not only fit well into my writing schedule, but it will help me balance it. If I have to use my morning alarm twice a week to go to work, I’ll probably end up waking up more easily the rest of the week to write. I decided to structure my week in two parts, two days at my new internship and two days of full writing. Leaving out: well, weekends because I would love to maintain some kind of social life, and my one day a week to think.

In my next article, I will discuss the importance of what I call “Thinking days”, not just writing.

Taking Down Time: Tiny Escapes

Being a grad student, being any student for that matter, or just being alive usually means there’s a lot going on and a lot on your mind. There are a myriad of ways to take your mind off things for a little while, but personally I love to read. To me reading takes me away to be someone else who’s somewhere else, for as long as I want to be there. Then at any time you may return there just by getting lost in a thought. I would like to do my part to help you get there. (more…)

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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“To be or not to be?”: Time and Graduate Life

The two sides of our time...photo by GradLife McGill Instagrammer @falisha.k

The two sides of our time…photo by GradLife McGill Instagrammer @falisha.k

Full name: Graduate Student. When your name is Graduate and your surname Student, you come to realize how the word time gets more and more often into your conversations. It’s always a matter of time: the time you are supposed to spend sleeping, the time for eating and feeding yourself up (yes, it does exist!), the time you would like to invest in hobbies or working out, the time to wake up, the time to love, the time to submit a paper, to get out from the library, to study, to read, to teach, to cheer, to…what?  Although you may find as many ways to talk about your graduate time as David Foster Wallace would do (and have a look at Infinite Jest’s footnotes to have an idea), there is one time that would never disappear, that is the time that we lack, the time that we may need to do all the things that we want to do.

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Happy Un-New Year!

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If you know your Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, you would be familiar with an un-Birthday. As explained by Humpty Dumpty: “There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents… and only one for birthday presents, you know.” (Carroll, 2009). So, an extension of the concept is that any significant day could be celebrated any time – 364 days of the year (minus one of course, because that is the actual day).

Personally, I think September is a better time to celebrate New Year’s Day. Specifically, the day following Labour Day. This year, September 6th. Why? Because everything is ahead, untouched. New classes, new deadlines, new friends to discover. All is possible, ready to be revealed, and free to the imagination. As well, it is really the only time that I find myself setting goals and resolutions. I am back planning now so I can be where I need to be by the end of May 2017. Summer is over, and the time has come to face new challenges. For students, the day following Labour Day is the real fresh start of a new year. The dog days of summer (a summer period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence) are in the past, the seasons are changing, as are daily routines and schedules. So let’s get on with it! What goals and resolutions are you setting as we transition through the Un-New Year?

HAPPY UN-NEW YEAR to all new and returning graduate students. Hope your summer was restful and invigorating. Now is the time to set some goals, and go for it. All the best in the new year. Cheers and good luck.

Carroll, L., Haughton, H., & Carroll, L. (2009). Alice’s adventures in Wonderland ; and, Through the looking-glass and What Alice found there. New York: Penguin Classics.
Photo: Creative Commons Through the Looking-Glass, illustration by John Tenniel. Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Humpty_Dumpty_Tenniel.jpg

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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Publish or Perish

Publishorperish

Eight months ago I submitted my first journal article for publication. I was given lots of invaluable advice from other students and especially from my advisor. Things such as have friends/colleagues give feedback, read articles published by the journal to determine structural and language norms, and of course get an idea of the conversations occurring in the journal articles. I read at least 40 articles previously published in the journal. Then I just wrote it, my first journal article. My advisor gave feedback, and off the article went. This was at the beginning of my PhD studies.

Then, I waited. Forever.

Finally, six weeks ago I received a reply. The reviewers had wonderful comments that were insightful and remarkably helpful. They asked for changes. I mostly felt – wow – I would never have written this today. What a mess! It was not quite (but almost) embarrassing to read what I thought was good, and then finding it was not so good in light of everything I had learned about writing, and about my field of interest (science education). The thing is, there was no commitment to the article. Were they conditionally accepting the article IF I made changes, or …? Or what? Of course I made the required edits, and basically rewrote the entire thing. Groaning about duh, how could I have written this? And then I sent if off again, and the waiting resumed.

WooHoo! It was accepted today, exactly 8 months after I submitted it. So, there it is. Go for it, wait, edit and hope. Personally, what I felt was the best part of this process (aside from having an article accepted, which is quite simply amazing) was what I learned from the peer reviewers. I just learned so much, and I’m using all of of these newly acquired insights in an article that I am currently working on, and hope to submit before the end of the summer.

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!

Smoothing Out The Grind.

PodCast logo

Part of being a graduate student is liberation! Finally, free of from the shackles of introductory undergraduate classes that are accompanied by the colossus that is studying. Regrettably, being a grad student also pins you into the category of very cheap labor. I personally felt an annoyance of three parts the day I found out that my assistant, a summer student, is paid better than I am because he is paid by the hour.

Though I cannot speak for all graduate students, I do know that for most of my fellow laboratory trainees there exists robots capable of easily automating the larger portion of the bench work we do. That being the case, I am old friends with repetition, a slow and torturous soul-killer that is known to many others as well. Of course repetition is our friend in many ways, helping to squeak our n-values towards significance, still it is also the bane of maintaining an interesting existence.

In my valiant attempts to combat the trials of monotony I have spent a good deal of time sampling the various options available to aid me in battle. Of course the go-to for most people is music, which is all well and good for a lot of people but I have grown to find it disappointingly unstimulating in the long-haul. So what was next for me? Technically I first tried listening to TEDtalk videos as well as talk-radio, but we’ll skip straight to the best thing so far, and that is podcasts! (more…)

Devoir concilier études graduées et maternité

PHDComics.com

PHDComics.com

 

Le 11 février 2013, vers 7h du matin, j’ai découvert avec surprise que j’étais enceinte. Vers 13h le même jour, je recevais un courriel de McGill disant que j’étais acceptée au doctorat en histoire avec une bourse d’entrée. Il y a des jours comme ça où une grosse nouvelle n’attend pas l’autre. Après avoir paniqué, je me suis dit que l’Univers m’envoyait un signe: « go, ma grande, fais les deux.»

Marion a écrit à propos de la conciliation études et travail à temps plein. Personnellement, je dois conjuguer avec la maternité qui prend – littéralement – tout mon temps. J’ai maintenant deux enfants. F-A qui vient de terminer (heureusement) sa phase de terrible two et M-A qui nous gazouille ses sourires du haut de ses 5 mois.

Et je fais un doctorat.

Ces deux aspects de ma vie ont vraiment beaucoup en commun.

D’abord, c’est du temps plein, tout le temps, en tout lieu. Quand je suis à l’école, j’ai toujours mon cellulaire pas loin au cas où fièvre-bobo-autre frappe l’un ou l’autre de mes héritiers. Matins, soirs et fins de semaine sont dédiés à la vie familiale, soit amuser, nourrir et laver l’immense tas de linge sale des petits.

Le doctorat est aussi un plus que temps plein: je travaille dessus la semaine, le soir après le dodo des enfants, pendant les siestes et j’y pense quand mon cerveau n’est pas occupé à gérer des crises de jalousie ou des fous rires. J’y pense quand je pousse la poussette, quand je me couche, quand je range (encore) les jouets qui trainent.

@gradlifemcgill / Instagram

@gradlifemcgill / Instagram

Faire une recherche prenante, c’est comme un bébé: l’immense fierté des progrès, l’incertitude, la remise en question de mes compétences, l’exaspération quand rien ne va comme je veux. Et des fois j’ai envie de tout balancer par la fenêtre.

À intervalle régulier, j’ai juste envie de démissionner de ma thèse ou de ma vie de mère et d’aller vivre sur une île déserte un petit moment ou, de manière plus réaliste, d’aller dans un spa et un bar (ben oui). Mais inévitablement, quand ENFIN j’y arrive, je pense… aux enfants ou la recherche. Surtout s’il y a quelqu’un avec moi. En effet, je passe 100% de mon temps à être mère ou étudiante: les sujets de small talk ne sont pas si nombreux en dehors de ça!

Bref, être mère aux études graduées c’est prenant, épuisant, énervant et… je n’ai envie de faire rien d’autre.

Comment conciliez-vous études graduées à temps plein avec le reste de votre vie?

 

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.

Francophone à McGill cherche confiance en anglais

Source: Unsplash / https://pixabay.com/fr/américaine-livres-boîtes-boîte-1209605/

Source: Unsplash / pixabay.com

Bonjour,

Je m’appelle Fannie, j’ai décidé volontairement d’étudier à McGill parce que c’est une université anglophone même si…  l’anglais n’a jamais été ma force. Ajoutons à cela une timidité que j’ai mis plus de vingt ans à vaincre pour pouvoir m’exprimer librement et facilement dans ma langue maternelle.

Bref, pour le dire en bon québécois: j’ai la chienne chaque fois que je dois parler ou écrire en anglais.

Ma première session à McGill, soit quatre cours de propédeutique avant de commencer mon doctorat, je l’ai passée avec un mal de tête presque constant. C’est une chose d’écouter des séries américaines et de lire quelques livres par-ci, par-là, mais c’en est une autre de vivre en anglais au quotidien. De devoir comprendre les accents, les termes techniques, de traduire, de lire près de mille pages par semaine dans une langue qui ne m’était pas si familière.

Les premières semaines de cours, je me notais des phrases à l’avance pour pouvoir participer en classe. J’attendais le bon moment pour les lancer, avant de soupirer de soulagement dès que je pouvais retomber dans mon mutisme.

J’ai toujours écrit en français, ayant peur que mes textes ne soient pas à la hauteur de mes idées. Et parce qu’il me faut beaucoup plus de temps pour écrire dans la langue de Shakespeare.

J’ai littéralement tremblé de peur dans mes premières classes en tant que T.A. Je m’excusais à l’avance pour toutes les erreurs que j’allais commettre en anglais.

Et… j’ai survécu.

Je dirais même plus: mon plan masochiste pour m’obliger à améliorer mon anglais a fonctionné. J’ai plus appris en deux ans de doctorat qu’en neuf années de cours à l’école. Plusieurs étudiants de ma première session en tant que T.A. m’ont dit d’arrêter de m’en faire pour le niveau de ma langue. J’ai commencé à penser – et même parfois rêver! – en anglais. Je sais pertinemment que je fais des erreurs, que je cherche parfois mes mots, mais je suis beaucoup moins stressée.

Sauf à l’écrit, the final frontier. Les paroles s’envolent, mais les écrits restent. J’ai encore peur de me jeter à l’eau.

C’est pourquoi la langue a été le thème de mon premier billet. Pour expliquer pourquoi j’écris en français… et pour me donner le défi de faire quelques textes en anglais. Merci d’excuser mes erreurs, n’hésitez pas à me corriger. J’ai plein d’autres qualités, vous allez voir.

Comment se passent vos expériences dans une langue seconde?

 

 

How to be a full time graduate student with a dream job?

Studying hard, getting into graduate school to get a better job – yes! Working part-time on the side to pay for your studies, your rent, food or any activity – yes*2. Finding your dream job while you’re still studying, keeping it for experience and potentially as a first job? Let’s try it.

A STUDENT JOB

Let’s talk about the different types of student jobs. You can work anywhere just for the income, with no particular interest in the field, potentially with a good team, close to your place or your university. Any convenience will be appreciated for this type of job but mostly, it pays your groceries and that’s all you need.

Then, there is the golden nuggets kind of student job. Basically, your dream job but two years too early. That’s what I got. I started working for an art gallery two years ago. It was an “on call” job where I was supervising art pieces during private events at the gallery. After a few events, they asked me if I wanted to get a part time job, two days per week working at the front desk. I had to welcome customers, answer the phone, learn a bit about the art, smile and basically just be there. I could even do my homework while working. The perfect combination.

Photo by Marion M.

That was a year and a half ago. I finished my bachelor degree, took some time off whenever I was in a rush for finals or needed vacations.

September 2015, McGill University. A whole new chapter of my life. I started with absolutely no idea of what being a graduate student meant. I thought it was going to be just like undergrad with longer papers and less exams. At the exact same time, I got an offer from the gallery: to become the new community manager, which meant, back then, maintaining our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts up to date. I said I would try it for a month and see how it would fit with school. It worked pretty well.

MY DREAM JOB

I loved having the balance of work and school. On one side I was learning so much from amazing teachers, meeting new people in my field, discovering a new student life, a new campus. On the other side, I had concrete and instant results. I would write a newsletter, translate it, correct it and send it to 2500 people in one click. After that, those people would come and see our exhibitions, they would take photos, post them, tag us, like us, etc. You know how social media works.

Photo by Marion M.

Although I felt like I had found the perfect balance, I realised this only happened because I had seminars to take and credits to earn, in a nutshell, short term projects to focus on. Writing a 100 pages thesis seems like a completely different rhythm.

BALANCE?

Now the dilemma. I spent 20 hours per week at work versus 6 hours per week at school. Since I work on social media, I also get constant notifications and emails that go with the job. Our Facebook page response rate is 3 minutes… You see my problem? I love it so much and I take so much pride in this concrete result that I can’t disconnect. I want to (or do I?) but I don’t know how. I’m physically and mentally always working. At the same time, my thesis subject is great, I’m passionate about it too, but every time, it takes me a while to get into it. I need a few days to focus on school, not think about work and then I can write.

Summer is passing by, September is staring at me wondering how am I going to balance both my job and my thesis.

So far, the best solution I found is this new retreat concept called “Thèsez-vous“. More about it on my next post.

Do you also have trouble balancing your job and your studies?

Guy writes article, what he did next will amaze you. . .

So how much did you hate that title just now? That, my friend, is what they call click-bait, pure and simple. As unwitting participants and harbingers of the modern world, we have created an endemic distraction environment that is both disappointing and infuriating. When scrolling through Facebook, even I disappoint myself by way of where my cursor wanders. The sad truth is that click-bait works, no matter how aware of it we become. How much do you honestly care about the “What happens next…” of 99.999% of articles out there? After clicking on one of those links to an ad-ridden article have you ever later reflected that the experience bettered you in any way? I doubt anyone has, or at least a very small (trending to zero) percentage of the time.

Why does click-bait work so well? I’ll leave out most of the talk about dopamine release, but what it really comes down to is that humans like to gamble. We get pleasure from rewards, like an interesting video or article, and when you only get that reward an unpredictable fraction of the time your brain goes bat-shit-crazy for more of that stimulus; standard addiction phenomenon. The next time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed clicking at every “Oo shiny!” moment, just remember that the only thing separating you from that old lady playing 24-hour slots at the local bar is that you don’t stand to make any money.

Now let’s go on a bit of a tangent so that I may indulge my own theories.  What are the things we click on most? That’s easy, cute animals and lists! But why? Things like this are hard to measure so let us do what all megalomaniacs do; take personal speculation for truth. Humans love both babies and cute animals by natural evolutionary instinct. This was likely a driving force for our ancestors when domesticating animals. This trait was quickly selected for and made ubiquitous in the surviving populations due to the massive advantages of domestic animals in early human life. Liking cute animals is no fault of our own, it’s just genetics so don’t feel bad about clicking on cute hedgehog pictures. The other titan of internet drivel is lists! We are innately lazy creatures so the concept of a list is an excellent shortcut to avoid exerting too much mental effort. Much less reading is required and, more importantly, much less cognitive processing because we need not do any meaningful analysis of content. All the information presented to us is already placed in order of importance or relevance by some arbitrary source and grading scheme.

As a whole, distraction is hardly our fault. If you need a scapegoat then biology is always right there, waiting to take the fall. It’s constantly inappropriately distributing awards and predisposing us towards interests that mass media companies can take advantage of in order to bolster their ad revenues.

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