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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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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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Happy Un-New Year!

Humpty_Dumpty_Tenniel

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

What Made You Go To Grad School ?

What made you go to grad school

September is just around the corner and that can only mean one thing: the start of a new school year. So welcome back to the ‘ever-so rested’ returning grads and a huge warm welcome to new McGill graduate students!

To celebrate, or not, depending on how you feel about the dreaded ‘rentrée des classes’, here is a video asking a couple of graduate students why they decided to go to grad school. I think most of you will relate but feel free to leave a comment down below saying what made YOU go to grad school. Would love to hear from you!

I wish everyone a smooth start and check out Alek’sMarion’s, Fannie’s previous posts for tips and tricks on how to overcome some of the challenges faced during grad school. You’re in for a treat.

Good luck and I hope you get sorted into your dream house ( I’m praying for Gryffindor!).

Ps: If you want to meet us in person ( how cool!!) come and see us at the PGSS BBQ Bash on September 7th- you don’t want to miss it.

Event: McGill Gets Inspired by TED-Talks

Three Minutes to Change the World

“Fast paced” is practically the antithese of “Grad School.” When you think about explaining your research, doing it quickly is rarely part of the experience. Most of us are prone to panic attacks when our presentations are limited to 45 minutes, discounting the question period as optional.  So what do you think about someone trying in less than 5?

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Grad school: all work and no play?

Grad school is unlike any other job. Half school, half work, it is a concept that evades many. I don’t know about you, but for me it is a subject that comes up at every family reunion or at gatherings with non-grad-student friends. A combination of questions are often asked, with my responses usually unsuccessful in providing comprehension to my friends and family. Is it school? Is it work? When will you be done “school” ? Are you paid? Why are you doing it? How? These questions are undoubtedly all valid interrogations, but they are sometimes hard to answer and explain, on my part at least. (more…)

Boss Nova, an alternative to white noise.

As grad students we are always looking for the perfect writing, reading, studying spot. The perfect spaces, places, and contexts in which to have our “aha” moments and get inspired. I’m one who likes change. I need transition. Sometimes I like a lot of white noise in the background. Sometimes I want absolute silence. Sometimes I need constant refills of coffee and snacks. Montreal — as well as McGill – provides all of these locations, a brief walk (underground) or metro stop away from each other, for every student’s taste. Whether  you need a 24 hour café or a lounge with couches, plugs, and wifi during the day, Montreal has it. Just for you. (more…)

Conferecing 101

Ok, so you are supposed to go to a conference, and don’t quite know what to expect. I fancy myself to be something of a conference veteran and here are few tips in no particular order:

 

  1. Funds: look for a conference that has student awards. Some organizers will pay you for minor voluntary work. You can look for the McGill Travel awards. Try the usual methods to look for cheap tickets. Work out the costs before going. Typical heads to budget for: tickets, visas, conference fees, local transport, board and lodging, per diems.
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The wonders that humans are capable of

The human potential is simply remarkable. When human go against each other they can create things like war. They can create the terrible circumstances that were the subjects of a few posts last week. But when humans work together, they can create wonders.

At the Macdonald Campus, we created something of a small wonder this semester. It was quite magical. It was a flash mob.

Flash mob at the Mac campus. Photo credit: Sushant K Jha

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Choose Passion. Choose Dreams.

Choose Passion. Choose Dreams.
Passion and Dreams. Two words that should be constantly circling in a loop in our minds. They should be the motor that fuels our daily lives, the oxygen we breathe and the philosophy we adopt. Simply because without them, life would be meaningless and flavorless.
Follow your Passions. Doing a phD in Astrophysics or a Master in Mathematics should not forbid you from doing the things you love as well on the side. For me, grad school has been a discovery of my talents and their exploitation. McGill offers incredible and endless resources to its students, from clubs to NGOs to career centers, etc. My first exposure to that was at the Activities Night at the beginning of the year. It was like a beehive. Things were in constant movement, representatives from all sorts of associations your mind could possibly imagine, from fundraising to volunteering to Acapella to photography to Fine Arts. They have it all. (more…)

At McGill but not in Montreal

A spring sunset on Macdonald Campus. Credit: Mohsin Bin Latheef

I go to McGill, but I do not live in Montreal!

In fact, I never have lived in Montreal. That is because I go to the ‘other’ campus, the Macdonald Campus. Yes, I will get annoyed if you are from McGill and you spell it as MacDonald. 🙂 And no, it is not on a different planet, we are very happy at Macdonald Campus, thank you! Most people at McGill will tell you the wonderful things about Montreal, of which I only know a few.

I will use this post to tell you what I know: the favorite five things about Mac Campus and Sainte Anne de Bellevue, my lovely little village for the last three years:

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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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Macro Learning

When I look back over this year of blogging for Grad Life, I am struck by the incredible challenges and changes that you, my readership, have witnessed.  Perhaps some of my journey over the past year has rang true for you on your journey, and perhaps you have been inspired by some of my experiences.  I hope that is the case.

When I was caught in the flow of the past year, I must say that I was mainly frustrated, discouraged, and impatient.  I did not recognize the experiences that I was having – the travel, the missed flights, the rejections, the hopeful time between the audition and the results, the learning of new repertoire and the learning of a matured voice – as learning experiences.  As much as I tried, I could not always see the value of these experiences immediately.  What I have realized this summer is that, even though my experiences surely did have immediate educational value, the greater value is in these experiences as a whole and their effect on me as a human being.  What I have learned is how I respond to difficulty, and how to recognize signs of stress or of grief in myself.  What I have learned is how I can bounce back from some difficult emotional experiences with joy and renewed passion.

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A simple thought on scientific research in grad school.

Working on a project for years can be arduous, exhausting and unsurprisingly lead to many dead ends. Finding motivation in these tough times is an obstacle faced by most grad students. Recently, while mulling over a short conversation I had with a colleague, I realized one of the principle sources of motivation for grad student researchers. (more…)

GRAD life

"It will cost you $200,000 to put me through university and grad school. If you invest that money instead, I can retire at age 18!"—Cartoon by Randy Glasbergen

The transition from undergraduate to graduate studies can be quite challenging. Gone are the lecture filled days of old. Instead, self-directed learning is the basis of all graduate pedagogy. (more…)

On finding motivation

Grad school is a marathon…an ultra-marathon…a long and arduous journey…and along the way, your bound to have a few setbacks. It’s important to understand that everyone around you has also stumbled at some point. Find solace in the tales of your peers and mentors. Learn from their mistakes and your own. Take it easy, we’ve all been there. (more…)

Powerless

My research is frustrating. Power engineering is such an unfamiliar realm of study for me – still. My undergrad electrical engineering background did not really cover concepts of power very in-depth; very few undergrad electrical engineering programs do, unfortunately. The concepts of power converters and power system dynamics fascinate me. But, I really suck at implementing models of these systems. But, I really want to. I mean, the graphs look so pretty when everything works out well.
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