This week we are excited to profile grad student Kara Chiki, who discusses some of the work she’s doing with Gradminds to address the stigma associated with eating disorders. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and there are lots of events going on in the community. Follow the conversation on twitter #EDAW2015
Name: Kara Chiki
Program of Study: Munk School of Global Affairs
What made you choose your grad program at U of T? Like many students who are unsure of their interests after university, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. When I got into law school, I realized that I couldn’t answer the question, “Why do you want to be a lawyer?” I couldn’t even answer “Why do you want to practice law?” I took that as a sign that I should think more about law school before I make the time and money commitment. At the same time, I recognized that the topics I like to read about in my spare time, international development and micro financing as well as and global entrepreneurship, could very well be the focus of my academic studies.
Favourite Study Spot: In my room in Grad House, with my spacious desk and ergonomic chair (i.e my exercise ball)
What’s on the top of your TO-DO list this week? Putting my health first. Every week, the top of my TO-DO list is to make it to meditation class, yoga, my therapist, and the gym at least 3 times. I told myself last year that I wasn’t going to be one of those cases where working yourself to the bone and disregarding mental and emotional health in your twenties would lead to health concerns later on in life. Life is a marathon, and I plan on running the whole thing.
What’s your favourite way to take a break from school work? I’m a fitness-enthusiast. I love working out. However, given my eating disorder, I’m actually redefining what exercise means to me and strengthening the relationship I have with my body. I’m navigating unchartered territory right now so each exercise session is not only physically but also mentally challenging. It’s the ultimate distraction from school.
What does an average Tuesday look like for you? Tuesday morning I wake up around 7am. I like to eat my breakfast and have coffee when it’s still dark out and listen to the news, usually Al Jazeera or NPR. To me, this is the best part of the day. And it’s also when I feel the most creative. I then make my way over the gym for a morning sweat. I’ll spend the late morning reading for classes or finishing assignments. Every Tuesday afternoon I see my psychologist. I’ve been seeing him for about 4 years now and he’s a very important person on my health team. The rest of the afternoon I’ll spend on schoolwork and then finish the day off with a 2 hour meditation practice at a local centre.
What did you have for breakfast this morning? I have been having the same thing every morning for the past 5 years, and I’ll never get tired of it: steel- cut oats, half a banana, oat bran, peanut butter and chopped almonds. And black, strong coffee. There must be coffee.
What are you reading these days? It’s been a combination of my interest in ensuring total, holistic health, I’ve been reading a lot of medical/health books. I’m currently reading “Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul” by Dr. Deepak Chopra. I’m also reading “When the Body Says No” by Dr. Gabor Matè.
What are your next steps after graduation? I’m exploring a few opportunities actually, one in the public sector and one in the private. I’ve been accustomed to choosing private sector opportunities, given my academic and professional experience in public accounting and banking. However, I’m very interested in this public sector opportunity and in potentially moving to Ottawa. I also plan to continue my eating disorder awareness work in whichever city I end up in, through community centres or public initiatives.
What’s your best study trick? Work smart, not hard. We are so conditioned to believe that the more hours we put into something, the better it will be. I don’t believe in that wholeheartedly. I think that when you’re passionate about something, yes, you may spend many more hours on it in total than something you’re less interested in, but you can and should still strive for efficiency. My mom taught me from a very early age that our brains can only stay focused for about 45-50 minutes on one task before we need a break.
Tell me about the last time you felt really proud of your work. Last semester I took a Leadership course within the School of Public Policy. We were assigned the task of a ‘Change Project’, in which we were given free rein to design the format and avenue by which we accomplish change. I decided to launch a campaign around the stigma surrounding eating disorders. I’ve been working with a local eating disorder support centre to develop a workshop that has individuals currently affected by eating disorders and support workers having an open and honest discussion about the condition and its accompanying and debilitating stigma. In addition to a local eating disorder support centre, I’m working closely with UofT’s GradMinds, a student-run organization dedicated to fostering a strong, supportive campus community regarding mental health concerns. We’ve made great progress on the event and I’m very excited to have a public discussion about this, which will be held on the UofT campus before the end of the semester.
What’s your favourite place in Toronto and why? Kensington market! It actually has everything you could ever need; great food, chill environments, fresh, affordable produce, and cool people.