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Believe nothing, question everything and never stop!

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.

Photo by: @lyly.man #gradlifemcgill
“…after a close room, what hurts them most is a dark room, and it is not only light but direct sun-light that they want… People think that the effect is upon the spirits only. That is by no means the case. The sun is not only a painter but a sculptor.” Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing, 1860.

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Don’t Talk So Good, Not Dumb.

By N. Zelt

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…)

What can the Undergrads teach you?

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @kipunsam.daily

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…)

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…)

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?

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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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…)

Des vacances? Quelles vacances?

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by @fanidee

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by @fanidee

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.

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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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Holidays at Home

snow-1918794-2

Photo by jill111 / Pixabay

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…)

Home for the Holidays

 

Photo by H McPherson

Photo by H McPherson

What does it mean to be home for the holidays?  Egg nog?  Way too much amazing food?  Children and Santa?  Champagne and orange juice in front of the fire on Dec 25?  Stockings filled?  There are the pre-Christmas parties, New Year’s Eve parties, more family on New Year’s Day.  Perhaps some well-earned time away from courses and thesis. That sounds great! Bring it on. Two weeks of blank space seems like an eternity, and leaving it blank is something to relish.

On another note, I think I have already experienced the most poignant moment this holiday.  I invited a fellow grad student over to share Christmas supper with my family on Dec 25, not knowing if she had plans.  My friend was going to order out, all alone in Montreal, family on the other side of the world.  The look of total relief and happiness on her face – priceless. I am quite certain that that moment will be the highlight of my holiday. I am so grateful that I could offer my home to a friend for the holiday.

Wishing everyone a great holiday, and all the best for the New Year.  Enjoy the break!

December stresses me out!

Photo by @aliisonw // Instagram @gradlifemcgill

Photo by @aliisonw // Instagram @gradlifemcgill

It’s officially mid-December and you know what that means. Snow, slush and exams! It’s the time of year where every coffee shop in a 20 minute radius of campus is full of undergrads and graduate students alike studying hard for exams. Personally, I’m in my last years of a project-based degree, so I finished my course work some years ago and I do not miss it one bit. The sleepless nights, the stress eating, and the caffeine-induced eye twitches are mostly issues of the past for me, but I feel for all of you out there currently in the middle of exam season. It is not fun, but hopefully it will be over for you soon.

Now while I don’t exactly have exams to manically cram for, this time of year brings my own special brand of stress, my annual committee meeting. Now I know not all the departments are the same, but as a Biochemistry graduate student you have to assemble a committee of professors (at least 2 plus your supervisor) that you meet with at least once a year to make sure your work is on track. Unfortunately mine has been pushed all the way to the end of this year.  All things considered, I prefer this annual evaluation to any exam I’ve written but it is still incredibly stressful. Basically it’s a presentation where I show all the work I’ve done over the years and I’m questioned on what I know, what I think and what I want to do next. (more…)

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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#DesautelsFamily

Bronfman Building, Desautels Faculty of Management and snow

Bronfman Building, Desautels Faculty of Management and snow || Photo by Akshay Kohli

It’s been a while now that I stood in front of the Bronfman building’s main entrance at Sherbrooke and admired the history of it all and the legacy that I am a part of. A year, to be precise, since that moment when I ‘looked up’ to realize my existence in front of a building which, in the last few decades, has made many dreams come true. I, like 76 other MBA students, started my MBA at Desautels Faculty of Management in August 2015 and remember when most of us saw the building for the first time, gazing at the red frame shining in the sun, smiling in hope. The construction in front of the gates doesn’t help but we have completely forgotten to stand still, take a breath and look up to the place we are at. The place which has been our home for the last one year.

                The MBA students at Desautels faculty of Management spend most of their time at the third floor. It is not uncommon for students to spend five or maybe six days a week at that floor attending classes, meeting for group projects, completing assignments, planning for club events, chilling, meeting with faculty, tweaking resumes, flirting, writing cover letters, reading cases, searching incessantly for job postings, writing emails in the name of networking and what not. Just as we fail to notice the significance of the Bronfman building in the midst of it all, we forget that these wonderfully passionate people who are at it day in and day out are life stories which are germinating at the moment in the ‘greenhouse of careers’ that Bronfman building is. Typing away amidst all the anxiousness, loneliness, happiness, irritation, joy, disappointments, deprivation, and other spectrum of feelings that an MBA student goes through what keeps them going is the passion that they came here with (and the fact that the debt is real).

                A mother of two toils away to learn to apply business strategy and at the same time hopes that the kids are taken good care of by the husband, a husband, living away from his wife with the hope to change careers and can’t travel home on all weekends due to the piling school work, students from the other side of the world are looking to only go back home to meet their dear ones once they have a job that they want, and some students have been experts in their fields, in their country, but change of location has deemed their skill not as valuable. The struggle is real, but at the end of the day (or semester) these, and many more students, still have a smile on their faces because all of us care. The faculty of management brands us as the #DesautelsFamily but it is not just a branding exercise, it is the root of our existence and success at Bronfman.

I was speaking to a first year MBA student and he said that despite all the challenges that students face at school and in the Canadian market, the reason that we are still going strong is because “They Care”, the faculty cares for each student. No matter what the circumstance, the students of our MBA program should learn one thing- to “Take Care” of their surroundings and the people in them. The students of the #DesautelsFamily, in my opinion, don’t necessarily want to take over the world, but to “make the world a better place” and it’s happening right here at the Bronfman building.

Finally, the construction in front of Bronfman building has stopped and I finally got a chance to stand still, this time in the snow, and admire the house of our big family. Visit us sometime.

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For philosophical musings, Twitter @akshayleo25

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