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!

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.


The beginning of a story…

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @na0mirlima

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @na0mirlima


Definitions of stories are enough to say that they are the way our life runs, works and expresses itself. Every act, every action, every single gesture or word is a component of that story that we tell by living. Then, let’s write a different story, one that would not describe a graduate life as a report, but one that conveys the sensations that graduate students feel in their day-by-day journey. Let’s put a character in the middle of something, a character that shows the way we are, faces reality the way it is, as many of us do. Although generally known as fiction, sometimes narratives can be the only way to clearly describe what we feel, what things are and not what they should be. Enjoy.


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.


Happy Un-New Year!


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

A lighter jacket, a lighter mood

Photo by Kristina Kasparian

Wasn’t it just yesterday when we were blogging about the new year and all the winter festivities Montreal had to offer? It seems that some of us have had our noses far too deeply buried in our thesis work and manuscripts to have fully grasped that spring is here! (Alternatively, it could very well be fright and denial, given that the months and seasons are rolling by at a much greater speed than that at which our research work is progressing).

Yup, it’s time for possibly the most drastic change of season of the year. We’re so used to winter that it takes a bit to notice the change. We start to see signs of it – often subtle – like a crocus peeking out of the still dry, leaf-covered, unturned winter soil. Another sure sign is when every single person around you has a bad cold and, try as you might to immunize yourself, it’s sadly only a matter of time until you catch it too. Other times, the signs are not subtle at all, but rather quite blatant – like this year’s 25 degree weather in the middle of March, throwing us off kilter as we dug out clothes that we usually only inaugurate in mid-June. Still, we know the sneaky tricks Montreal can play, and are reluctant to get our hopes up. “Is it spring?” we wonder, “are we done with our coats and boots for good?“, secretly bracing ourselves for that one last crazy snowfall that could very well blanket the whole town just in time for Easter. But waking up to a symphony of bird-calls in the morning, and watching the trees bud makes you feel pretty darn sure that the time has come to bid winter farewell. Soon enough, it’ll be summer in this glorious city.


Poinsettias and Panettone: Chasing the holiday spirit

Since my previous blog post, I have fully accepted that Christmas is coming. By now, I am ready to embrace the holiday spirit and to feel my senses rejoice with all the simple pleasures this time of year brings along with it.

When I lived in Europe, this pre-holiday season would make me giddy with wonder and happiness. Late-November in Milano meant the massively tall Christmas tree would be set up — with the help of mega-cranes — in front of the Duomo (Cathedral) and the most wonderful lights and building projections would liven up the grey, fog-cloaked city. The cobblestone streets would be made all the more narrow with Christmas markets selling handmade arts and crafts, and after only a two-minute stroll, I’d suddenly be overwhelmed with the desire to fill my already-overweight suitcase with handcrafted Italian Christmas tree ornaments. Shopping for gifts in tiny, artistic shops (or even gorgeously decorated department stores) never felt hectic or crazily consumerism-driven, and the way the clerks would gift-wrap everything for you automatically with the most amazing paper and with such classy flair always left me smiling. Late-November in Milano was the season of outdoor markets, of Christmassy musical concerts in churches, of poinsettias and panettone, and of the scent of roasted chestnuts permeating the crisp foggy air.

Photo credit: Kristina Kasparian


Ode to November

It was the first day of November, a Tuesday morning, and I was on the bus. Between songs on my iPod, I would overhear students dissing the poor month that had just begun. “I hate November”, “November sucks”, “Oh, November’s always so grey and boring”. I couldn’t bring myself to agree with them. Not on that morning anyway. I gazed out of the window, squinting from the sun, as the bus climbed steadily uphill along Pine Avenue, the downtown cityscape coming into view behind a colorful row of still-relatively-leafy trees.

“I can’t believe it’s November already!” another student exclaimed. Now that I could agree with. Time’s been flying. It was September just two seconds ago. Before we know it, it’ll be winter and time for the holidays. A time for going home, or coming home, or realizing that by now you kind of have two homes. The change in clothes is inevitable now, and so is the inauguration of the good old winter coat. How do we do this again? After a long, hot, sunny summer, who on earth could possibly get psyched up for waterproofing, ice-proofing and frostbite-proofing ourselves all over again?


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:


Winter wonderland

Parc Angrignon

Parc Angrignon

I felt the soft crunching beneath my soles. With every careful and calculated step, so as not to slip and fall flat on my face, little white pebble-like clumps flew in all directions and seemed to cleared the path before me. Behind me, was a visible trail of footprints. For a while, or at least until the next snowstorm, I can trace where I have been, and remind myself where I came from. Sometimes in the midst of the ups and downs of life, that knowledge somehow offers comfort and consolation. (more…)

Cold yet?

view of Montreal from Mont Royal

I remember going to bed one night, barely two months after moving to Montreal. It was chilly,  around 5C or so. In the gathering wind, shadows of bare trees danced on my window.

The next morning, I was woken by the excited voices of newcasters on my alarm-radio. At first I lay there, in that twilight zone between sleep and awakeness, and listened to the morning weather report.

“…looks like Winter has finally arrived. It’s going to be a cold, cold morning, currently -8C outside, -15C with the windchill…” (more…)

Falling leaves

View of Montreal

Leaves shook on the branches, causing hushed whispers to suddenly sound all at once overhead. A leaf, slightly curled up and crisp from age and the pendulum swings between the warmth of an Indian Summer and a foretaste of the frigid chill of  Winter, fell slowly.  It wandered in mid-air, almost hesitant and cautious of its fall. For a few moments, the breeze carried it. On invisible wings, the leaf blew sideways and almost brushed against me. Then it spiralled, turning and twirling like a ballerina, before it softly landed and became lost among its other fallen brothers and sisters. Falling leaves almost always return to their roots.


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