Last week, we were introduced to one of our panelists, Atifa, who will be helping to transition new students to grad life at U of T at our orientation event next Monday. This week, we’re going to continue our introductions with Jacob. Jacob Hogan is in the History department, pursuing his PhD; he is entering his sixth year of study.
Read on for information on Jacob’s time as a PhD student at U of T.
What does a regular day look like for you?
I wake up often around 6:00 am, go to the gym, and then focus on writing my dissertation until 9:00 pm.
Are you local to Toronto, or did you move here for school? If so, from where?
I am from Peterborough, Ontario. I completed my BA and MA in history at the University of Ottawa.
Do you have a favourite study spot at U of T?
The Laidlaw Library. There is a monument of Gandhi and it’s usually quite barren of people. The Grad Room is great too, but can get quite disquiet. Bring earplugs.
Are you involved in any groups on campus? Which ones?
I am the Senior Editor of Re:locations: Journal of the Asia-Pacific Word, and am a member and facilitator of the Academic Success Center’s graduate writing groups.
What is the biggest stress you have about being a graduate student?
Disappointing my father is a worry only because he has financed so much of my education.
What is your least favourite part about being a graduate student at U of T?
The cost of tuition.
Favourite “have-t0-see/go-to” spot off-campus, in Toronto?
I don’t have much of a “social life” right now; instead, I have instituted Jake Time. This is where I don’t go out on weekends, and focus on me. I do, however, enjoy any place there is stand-up comedy in the city.
Do you have a piece of advice for incoming graduate students?
First, realize the tyranny of time is real. As a PhD student, your first two years will have more structure and deadlines—year one will be dedicated to completing your course work and year two is comps. After that the structure ends. Don’t waste year number three–the pivotal year–or your summers. Take a week or two off after you finish your comps, but not a month off. You are not done once you finish your comps.
Second, explore and utilize more of this university than just the library and café. Although I misremember the book and author, I do remember reading for my comps that a university is a tremendous resource for those that use it. Use it. Go Hart House. Take a spin class. Do yoga. Play soccer. The classes are free and sweating is a great stress reliever. Most importantly, expand your network and connections outside your department. Become a mentor. Volunteer. Find part-time work in the University. These are things to do especially in years one through three when you haven’t really started writing your dissertation.
Third, in your department join committees that will be relevant for your CV and your resume. If you are going to be involved in your department, aim for a position of leadership. This will help you when seeking employment—inside or outside the academy. Also realize that when it comes to major awards and grants in your department, faculty members will view your active involvement in the department as a plus.
Fourth, learn how to say no. Don’t go to every single social get together and pub night. Go if you want to go, not because you feel obligated.
Fifth, and most importantly, start writing your dissertation as soon as you can. The best dissertation is a finished one. I facilitate graduate writing groups for the Academic Success Centre and they have been great for everyone that commits to them and attends. We sit down for two and a half hours and write. There are no cell phones allowed; they are turned off and are out of sight and mind. The groups are ideal for first year students working on grant applications or term papers. Janelle Joseph organizes these groups and they are amazing.
Sixth, follow the work of Karen Kelsky, known as “The Professor is In.” She has a twitter account and website. From her work, I took away that graduate school is a vehicle for your career and life, but not a final destination. So many graduate students get comfortable with the lifestyle here. They join committees, get lured into teaching a class that eats away at their writing time, and forget—or ignore– they have to write a dissertation.
Stay tuned all this week for more words of wisdom, key info, and tips to success from your orientation panelists!