November 20th, 2015

Humour to Chase the Blues

By Kat Clark, Gradlife Ambassador

On good days, I love grad school. I love my courses and my professors, find the readings at least somewhat interesting, and actually look forward to grabbing a cup of joe and heading to class. On the not-so-good days though, the smallest things can set me off: a too-long reading, classes in rooms without windows, and coffee that would prefer to live on my white t-shirt rather than in my travel mug. When these small things start piling up, it gets a little too easy to question my decision to return to school after a few years off, and the thought of continuing grad school after my Masters? No way! When these moments hit, I find it helps to remember while my days now may not be all sunshine and rainbows all the time, they are an active pursuance of something I love and that help open the doors to even more things I’m passionate about.

But how do I get back to remembering all of this when there’s coffee on my t-shirt and my boots are being held together with superglue??

I will be (and have been) the first to tell you to hit the gym to boost endorphins, eat right to feel light, see some friends to destress, and to find a good hobby for imagined downtown, but sometimes you just need a quick fix to chase away the blahs. For those moments, I turn to two things: the interwebs and humour. Without further ado, here are some of my favourite chuckles about being a grad student that help put things in perspective when the going gets tough (along with a tide-to-go pen, of course!):

**side note: click the pictures to be directed to source websites that have even more laughs, and some other great info on life as a grad student!**

I feel you meme man, I feel you.

I feel you meme man, I feel you.








Add in a part-time job somewhere and it's accurate.

Caffeine & Sleep: Gotta love 'em!

Caffeine & Sleep: Gotta love ’em!

Add in a part-time job somewhere and it’s accurate.


download (1)

November 12th, 2015

GradTalks Walking Tree Tour: Dinosaur Trees, and Camouflage!

Guest post: Swapna Mylabathula, Community Animator at Grad Room and MD/PhD student

It was a blustery but sunny day, and Fall’s vivid palette of colours were on display across campus. This was the peak of the leaves’ annual colour-changing show, and the perfect timing for a tree tour.

Despite an impending ‘severe wind advisory’, the weather seemed relatively friendly,  so an enthusiastic group headed out from the Grad Room led by forestry expert John Barker. John is a graduate of U of T’s Faculty of Forestry and visits the Faculty as a guest expert to share his knowledge with current students. On this day, we were lucky enough to have him donate his time to act as a guide for the first GradTalks walking Tree Tour. Throughout the tour, which took us across campus and ended in Queen’s Park, John shared his vast knowledge about the interesting and unusual native and non-native trees that can be found on St. George campus.

Path beside University College

Path beside University College

We’re all familiar with coniferous trees – trees like pine and fir trees that don’t lose their needles even as the seasons change, unlike their deciduous comrades. But can you name a deciduous conifer that can be found on campus? That’s right – although unusual, some coniferous trees do lose their needles in the Fall. Stumped? The dawn redwood is one such deciduous conifer, and is native to China. The tour group made its first stop at a particular specimen planted beside the Athletic Centre, where John showed us its unique cones and red bark.


When you picture a Douglas fir, another conifer, do you imagine the forests of BC, or the Christmas tree you decorate each year? Us too! On campus, we actually have these, too – though John did note that these firs don’t tend to do as well in the urban areas. Perhaps not as easy to recognize are the Eastern Pines on campus, but John shared some useful tips for recognizing these beauties: they have bundles of 5 needles, and the cones are found at the top of the tree because they’re distributed by wind. With our severe wind advisory, many a cone must have been blown across campus to sow new trees that day!

If you’ve ever walked by Sidney Smith, you’ve probably seen what look like chestnuts underfoot. With Winter approaching, I can’t help but think that collecting a few and roasting would be a yummy idea! Sadly, on our stop at the horse chestnut trees in Wilcocks Common, John informed us that these chestnuts are not, in fact, edible.  So if you’re looking to harvest the bountiful chestnuts from these trees for your table, beware you’re barking up the wrong tree! There are, however, edible tree nuts to be found elsewhere on campus. There’s the black walnut, which is an edible tree nut, and could definitely be used as that snack in front of a warm fireplace.


On St. George St., we came across another interesting tree – the London plane, a natural hybrid. This tree is distinctive in more ways than one: its bark is patterned to resemble camouflage, and the bark peels quite easily. Because of these things, you may be more likely to notice the bare branches than the camouflage bark. Along the same street, in fact along many streets in Toronto, we can find the Norway maple. This tree is commonly planted for its dense canopy, and can be distinguished from the sugar maple by a couple of key differences – its broader, boxier leaves and the shape of its keys.

The London Plane

The London Plane

Outside Hart House, we got to see a tree that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs – the gingko tree! This tree may have been a favourite snack of some of the vegetarian dinosaurs back in the ‘land before time’. Today, it is a favoured tree to plant in many urban neighbourhoods. It survived such a long time partly due to a helping hand from Buddhist monks who planted ginkgos around monasteries and cared for them over many years.

Ginko tree from the dinosaur age!

Ginkgo tree from the dinosaur age!

The final stop on our tour was in Queen’s Park; there, we admired a magnificent white oak that John estimated to be 100 years old! We also stopped by a red ash with green paint on its trunk; this spot indicates that is has been treated as part of efforts to control the threat of the emerald ash borer. Here, John spoke about the importance of this program, and how changes in the ecosystem such as the introduction of a pest like the emerald ash borer can change the composition of our forests and the trees we see around us.

At the end of the tour, the group dispersed inspired to learn more about the trees on campus and beyond. The tree tour was a great opportunity to step away from our desks for a while, get some fresh air and exercise, and gain a deeper appreciation for the environment that makes the campus a beautiful place to work and relax. As climate change becomes more and more of a hot button topic in mainstream media, talks like these – and getting back to nature – are important to making sure that we have the knowledge we need to keep our trees, and Earth, happy and healthy. This experience was, literally, a breath of fresh air.

November 6th, 2015

Maintaining my Mental Well-Being

A fall walk home through Trinity Bellwoods Park

A fall walk home through Trinity Bellwoods Park

Guest post: Mallory Hilkewich from Healthy Grads

I am a grad student at U of T. Although I study Social Work I am unsure whether I want to be a ‘social worker’. As I continue through my Masters program, I feel like much of the grad experience goes by unspoken. So I thought I could write a blog post to bring voice to what that is for me. I was going to write about student life-financial hacks, but then I thought Buzzfeed will always do it better [see here, here, here & here]. Instead I am writing about something I have been struggling with: mental wellbeing. As a student I (usually) attend classes, work at a placement, try to stay on top of school work, hold a part-time job, volunteer, shower, eat, sleep, clean, deal with emergencies that arise, and at the end of that I try to spend time with family and friends. For those with their own family I imagine this fits in much higher up. For me, time with friends and family is essential to my mental wellbeing.

People have many ways to maintain mental wellbeing. Some enjoy solitude or physical movement, others like crafting, some like gaming or binging on Netflix, and so on. I enjoy intimate social outings – like coffee or dinner dates and walks through parks. These activities create space for me to reflect, debrief, re-connect with people and the world beyond my studies, to think outside of academic jargon, and simply relax my soul.

The finalé of a Korean BBQ feast with friends

The finalé of a Korean BBQ feast with friends

Yet as lives change and schedules differ – people have families or work multiple jobs – it isn’t so simple to maintain relationships. Sometimes the few hours of free time for me aren’t free for anyone else. Sometimes we plan weeks in advance and when the day comes we are too exhausted to get on a long transit ride, let alone be social.

So what do we do? How do we commit to our own practice of mental wellbeing? I asked some fellow students, and one explained that he uses apps to better manage his time. Although this worked well for him – having more phone apps made me feel anxious. Other students said they are working at ‘not being’ perfectionists. Some make lists. Others enjoy a cup of their favourite tea. Some turn up music and dance in their kitchen. Others tell themselves they will be okay & take deep breaths. I know habitual meditators who practice to keep calm and focused. Overall,what I heard the most, is that there is no one solution, but many ways to practice or enhance wellbeing.

It can also take the form of talking with a graduate student counsellor or attending free events like crafting & meditation classes posted on the HealthyU calendar or the upcoming Healthy Grads’ De-stress Circle. Others connect with a like-minded community at the Family Resource Centre, through Accessibility Services, or the Athletic Centre or any of the amazing programs run out of the Centre for Women and Trans People (to name a few).

Maybe this was an unnecessary ramble. Or maybe you connect with something I said. I recognize that not everyone shares in my experiences or holds my views about mental wellbeing. But my hope in writing this is that each of us can acknowledge the importance of, and commit to, even a tiny act to support how we support our own mental wellbeing. So I ask: “What helps your mental wellbeing?”

About Mallory:

Mallory will graduate with a Master of Social Work in 2016- which sounds way more grand than she feels. She is not always good at navigating graduate school, but appreciates reminiscing with others over student fumbles (i.e. snoozing through 6AM class registrations & questioning her educational choices). Mallory has enjoyed connecting with other grad students as a member of the GSU, Advocacy & Equity Committee, working at Health & Wellness as a Grad Peer Educator and doing school work with other graduate students at the Grad Room.


October 28th, 2015

Halloween in Toronto: Tips & Tricks for Trick or Treats

Hint: click on the links below the pictures for more information these Halloween events!

from: Ripleys

from: Ripleys

By Kathryn Clark, Gradlife Ambassador

November is fast approaching, and with it deadlines for papers, tests, and more. So, why not squeeze in a little extra fun before the winter cram begins? Whether you’re new to Toronto (or Canada), or just don’t know what’s happening around the city, we thought we’d put together a list of “must-dos” for Halloween.

We may only be days away from Halloween, and the end of October, but there’s still plenty of time for you to take a moment, a few hours, or a day to do some fun stuff for the holiday. Too often, we forget to take the time for a little R&R, and the holidays are a great excuse to get away from our work schedules and computers for a little while to experience the world around us. It doesn’t do us any good to get so caught up in our books that we miss what’s happening right in front of us.

Without going too much more into the specifics of just WHY it’s good to get away from it all for a while (you know it, I know it, let’s just do it), here’s our “Halloween Haunts” list; we hope you find it as spook-tacular as we do!

Halloween Haunts – Our Top 8 for a Great Trick or Treat

  1. Halloween means candy, and that means visiting the BEST candy shops Toronto has to offer. Check out Sugar Mountain for some serious mouth-watering treats.
  2. All Hallows Eve is code for “lots and lots of scary stuff”, so be sure to take in a haunted walking tour for a dash of thrills, and a wee bit of exercise to work off all that candy.
  3. Have kids in the mix? Ripley’s Aquarium is hosting a “Ghouls & Gills” event on the 31st: first 2000 kids will get a loot bag!
  4. Feel like getting some early and delicious celebrating in on Halloween? Lots of restaurants (including the Drake Hotel) are having Halloween-themed brunches, lunches & more to kick off the celebrations.

  5. If you don’t mind travelling a bit, hop on the TTC or Go Transit, call an uber, or rent a zip car and head to Screemers (Canadian Exhibition Place), or Halloween Haunt (Wonderland) for some super scary thrills & chills.
  6. Like the idea of good, old-fashioned, Fall fun? Many farms are still open for corn buying, maze running, hay-wagon riding, and apple cider drinking on Halloween weekend. Great for big kids who like hay slides, and little one alike.

    From: (farms for Halloween)

    From: (farms for Halloween)

  7. Have a great group costume that you just want to show off? Lots of local restaurants and pubs are having Halloween parties…with costume contests! Prizes to the best/scariest dressed.
  8. Maybe thrills & chills, or going out isn’t your thing, that’s ok. We’ve got some awesome Halloween movies lined up too! The Beer Hall in particular will be screening Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as having some crazy fun circus acts on display (reservations are probably a good idea for this one).
From: Beer Hall

From: Beer Hall


  • If you don’t have a Halloween costume yet, don’t worry. There’s a HUGE costume store at 10 Dundas East that’s open especially for the Halloween season (AND they’re doing zombie makeup tutorials throughout the day on the 31st).
  • Not too worried about getting candy on or before Halloween? Head to the grocery stores November 1st to buy candy in bulk at super discounted prices.

This list just begins to scratch the surface of everything that’s available to students, couples, families, and friends alike on Halloween. We hope you use these as a great starting place for fun this weekend, and would love to hear if you have any other suggestions for some “away-time” this weekend. Happy haunting, and here’s hoping you have a spook-tacular Halloween!

October 21st, 2015

Cheap Eats & Treats: Where to Eat Without Breaking the Bank

By Kathryn Clark, Gradlife Ambassador

Let’s face it, grad school is expensive. Even if we’re lucky enough to be in a program that provides funding, chances are we’re still going to be looking for ways to “tighten our belts”, so to speak. After all, we all know that even the best funding doesn’t cover all of our costs. Between rent in Toronto (which is, real talk, too darn high!), transportation costs (even the student discount on the metro pass means we’re paying over a grand a year on ttc alone), groceries, textbooks (and all the other paraphernalia that comes with being in school), clothes, doctors’ visits (hopefully our new PM will make that better! Wink wink), phone bills, gas & electricity, and so much more, the struggle is real.

takeutOut of that LONG LIST that could really go on forever, a main money stress point is food. We probably all have schedules that need 2 day-planners and a google calendar linked to our phones to stay on top of. The last thing we want to think about is carving out time to trek to the grocery store to stock up on food for the week…not to mention packing lunches every day! Sometimes, it’s just not feasible to pack a “to-go” when you’re running out the door with your keys in one hand and coffee in the other (or maybe you’re heading to Tims?). So, what do we do when this happens? We do what any other self-respecting university student does: we get take out.

More often than not, we’ll find ourselves at cafes or fast food joints because, let’s face it, they’re quick and easy and can be squeezed into that crazy schedule. Over time though, these quick stops add up to HUGE amount of money better spent elsewhere.

ProTipA few quick numbers to make you go, “ugh”. On average, we spend about 15 dollars a day on food and drink. That adds up to 450 dollars a month, 5400 dollars a year.  And that’s just if you’re only spending 15 bucks a day. What happens when you add up those more expensive options?

Done letting that settle in? Good, let’s all take a deep breath and get down to it. We all know it’s not realistic to say we won’t ever eat out again, but we CAN cut down on how much we’re spending on those meals out. Without any further ado, here’s a list of cheap eats that won’t make you feel guilty for ignoring your full fridge, or for not having a full fridge:

El Furniture Warehouse on Bloor: all food, all under $5, all day

Fresh on Bloor: all food, 15% for students, every day

Metro on Bloor: Tuesday is student discount day, grab your reusable bags and get shopping

Bulk Barn on Bloor: Wednesday is 10% student discount day (umm Halloween candy, anyone??)

Sobeys: 10% off groceries, anytime

Toby’s on College: $9 all-day breakfast, Thursday to Sunday

Future Bakery on Bloor: $11 all-you-can-eat perogies, Wednesdays from 5-9pm

$5 breakfasts before 11a.m., Monday to Friday

Daddyo’s on Spadina (now gluten-free!): no taxes on all food, every Saturday

Spring Rolls: at every Spring Rolls, every Friday. 15% off for students.

Over Easy on Bloor: get a classic breakfast for under $10

L’Espresso bar Mercurio on Bloor: 20% student discount

Hot Yam!: Center for International Experience at UofT, $4 every Wednesday from 12-2

Insomnia on Bloor: 20% off all meals, all day/every day (minus weekend and holiday brunches)

Arisu Korean & Japanese Restaurant on Bloor: 10% off for students

Fika Café on Kensington: 15% off for students

Subway (all subways, all the time): 10% off for students

St. Louis on Bloor: $5 off a hot-menu item

20% off food

Melt, Grilled Cheese: $4 student lunch

15% off on Thursdays/Fridays

Mean Bao at Bathurst & Queen: everything under $5

Luther’s Chicken on Dundas: $8 chicken sammies, Wednesdays 5-8pm

Buna’s Kitchen at Richmond & Spadina: $5-$8 soups, sammies, and salads

Sorella in the Junction: $5 lunch specials

Pig Out BBQ on Spadina: Thursdays, Briket sammie & fries, $6.95

Mondays, Pulled chicken & fries, $6.95

And if that list is just not enough for you, you can check out even MORE delicious food options at NOW Toronto’s article on food for UNDER 5 DOLLARS.

Being a graduate student can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat ramen noodles all day/every day to get by. Hopefully, you can hit up one of these awesome food choice locations to stock up on some healthy protein, veg, or gluten-free treat in the near future! If you do, chances are you’ll see me there. Stop by and say hi!








October 19th, 2015

Finding the Resources to Overcome Challenges in Grad School

“We’re all of us just stories in the end,” – Thomas King.

By Kat Clark, Gradlife Ambassador

Gradminds Event

Gradminds Event

If you read my post a few weeks ago on the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, you’ll know that I talked a little bit about the importance of stories, and how each of us are living a complex pattern of tales that are each vital to the fabric of our society.

Sometimes though, when we’re presented with obstacles that we think we cannot overcome, or we are faced with struggles for which we can’t find help, we lose the vitality of our stories. I was reminded of this at the Gradminds speaker series I attended last Wednesday; there, some very brave people found the voice to share their stories, and the struggles inherent in them.

Navigate your graduate and life story.

Navigate your graduate and life story.

I was reminded too not just of the importance of having stories – with the good, bad, the ugly, and everything in between –  but of having a place in which those stories can be heard. Often times, as graduate students, we are so consumed by the upward movement of our academic careers that we internalize our struggles, and our pain, and our challenges. We internalize our stories, and we silence our voices because we have been led to believe that to do otherwise would somehow lessen our chances of moving up that academic ladder. We have been led to believe that asking for help would somehow make us seem weak, or incompetent, or like we don’t really belong in our programs, like we don’t really deserve to be where our classmates are.

How are you feeling today? Get help with your story :)

How are you feeling today? Get help with your story :)

Here’s the thing though: if we are all internalizing our struggles, and we are all limiting what we show to the world, then we are all not telling our full stories. We are hiding what we feel is the worst of ourselves, and presenting only what we feel is the best of ourselves. I want you to know though, that the next person over that you’re comparing yourself to, the advisor that seems traditional or strict, the counsellor you’re not sure will understand you, the administrator you’re sure won’t: all of these people are leaving bits of their own stories untold. All of these people have been faced with challenges they didn’t think they could overcome; all of these people have had days they’ve compared to others, and felt that their own stories were lacking.  In order to succeed though (and I don’t define success as that climb up the ladder), you can’t compare your worst day to somebody’s best.

Easier said than done, but it CAN happen.

Easier said than done, but it CAN happen.

The only thing we can do is have the courage to ask for help, and not let the stories we share be limited by stigma.  The Gradminds event also touched on the limitations of healthcare and wellness services that exist at U of T, and while I agree that there is work to be done and improvements to be made, we can’t forget that these services are comprised of people just like us. Staff, students, administration included: we all have flawed stories, and that’s a common ground we can stand on. Even if our stories are individual, the difficulties we face while confronting our struggles is universal. If our system needs improvement, then maybe we can start by sharing our stories, our whole stories, to build understanding. I read somewhere that only with real understanding can we create respect; perhaps though, that understanding can also create a dialogue of trust that can open the doors to the improvements we need at every level in our society to help people struggling with their own stories.



Perhaps if we can share our stories more, we can begin to see ourselves in others, and be more willing to lend a listening ear and a helping hand.

I’m aware though, that this change isn’t something that happens in a day, and that it takes time to break down barriers and reduce stigma. So, until that time when we are no longer taught to internalize but to speak freely, here are some resources that can help you when you’re down, and help you turn those flawed stories into beautiful narratives made stronger by the falls.


October 8th, 2015

Finding Some Lightness

In the past week, I’ve been lucky enough to host two GradEvents: a yoga for de-stressing, and a tour of the TIFF Lightbox. While these two seemingly unrelated events sound completely different (yoga and a building, hello!), I actually found myself standing on some common ground when I took the Lightbox Tour yesterday.

Sound unbelievable? Bear with me. The name itself should be a dead giveaway: Lightbox. LIGHTbox. No, this is not a stretch. The woman conducting the tour actually told us that the building was designed to let in as much natural light as possible, to connect the building to its surroundings. In much the same way, yoga is about getting a person out of their own head so that they can connect to their body, and ground that body in the natural as well. For grad students whose heads are too often in the books, and not lifted up smelling the fresh air enough, this is a great lesson.

Given that this theme of lightness and connection seemed to be a big one this week, and that we can all relate to needing some extra feel good in our lives, I figured that it should also be the theme of this post. SO, for all of you who are looking for a way to live lighter in mind, body, and heart, or for those of you who simply loved the yoga event last week (huge shout out to Gradminds for delivering an awesome session), or for those of you who simply need a distraction from studying, or are in some desperate need of body movement after being glued to a desk, this is for you.

Whether you’ve never hit a yoga mat before, have attended a handful of classes, or have been yogi-ing (it’s a word now) for years, these resources are a great way to get connected, clear your head, and remember to take life lightly…especially with the summer behind us, and the grey days of winter ahead!


This video is AMAZING. It is incredible what a little perseverance, belief in yourself, and a support system can do for your body, your mental health and your overall wellness of being. This is especially important to remember on those days when we want to give up, drop out, or hide under our covers rather than face our books and advisors. A nice reminder that hey, there’s nothing we can’ t handle. Skip to 35 seconds if you want to skip the review at the beginning.

Ok, this is the best yoga community out there. When I first started doing yoga, I started with a 30day yoga challenge hosted by doyouyoga, and taught by Erin Motz. To do this, I had to sign up for doyouyoga and thought “einh, I’ll send the email to my junk folder”. But, of course, I didn’t do that because I was practicing some good ‘ol inertia, and this is one time I’m glad the inertia won. You’ll be surprised by how many great finds there are: articles that are good not just for yogis, but for anybody who is looking to better themselves physically, mentally, or otherwise! Plus, free video courses, and giveaways! Especially great for us struggling students 😉

If you’re like me and love food and drinks and downtime, then you are part of the Erin Motz “bad yogi” club. Erin is a GREAT instructor with some awesome video classes; you can either head to her site to check out her personal stuff, or you can get some great freebies by typing in “30 day yoga challenge” into youtube. Her 30 day challenge is perfect for a newbie, or someone who has been out of yoga for a little while and needs a reintroduction, or just wants someone to validate justifying your bad food choices with the fact that you moved your body for 20 minutes (sound familiar? Yeah, for me too). Bonus: the classes are usually under 20 minutes, so you can fit them into any busy schedule


Are you a runner? Do you need help waking up? Are you super frustrated by student life? Adriene is the youtube yoga instructor for you. She offers longer classes, but so if you’re looking to deepen your routine, get in a little more exercise, or find videos to fit your good or bad mood, this is for you. Hint: they’re also FREE. Head to her youtube channel here.

For those of you who want to bring some lightness into your life, but aren’t uge fans of the yoga, then consider checking out the TIFF Lightbox website: they’re screening one free movie a week (until December)  in honour of the festival’s 40th anniversary. That means you get a free, awesome video, and a great way to feel happier, and cater to your procrastination once a week. If that’s not a great deal, and an awesome way to feel light, I don’t know what is! Hoping this blog leaves you feeling happier, and lighter than before…and just in time for the Turkey holiday too!

If you have any other questions about yoga, GradEvents, or ways to get moving, always drop us a line. See you after the long weekend :)

October 2nd, 2015

Tackling the Time Management Beast

If you’re in my program, you’ll have heard me griping all day about misplacing my daybook. I’ve always been a day planner kind of gal, but it wasn’t until I lost it that I realised just how much I rely on having everything planned out and written down. As I sit here and mentally cross off the places my day planner ISN’T, I’m also realising that the biggest reason I have for feeling anxious over its disappearance is related to THE question that grads seem to have about their new “life-as-we-know-it”: TIME MANAGEMENT.

Having good time management can be the difference between making you or breaking you, and this couldn’t be more true for myself and, I’m sure, for the majority of grad students everywhere. For me, having good time management means going to bed every night without that awful “there’s-a-test-tomorrow-and-I-didn’t-study” feeling, and waking up every morning feeling ready for my day.

But what If you DON’T have good time management skills? That’s ok. This is one of those skills that’s easy to get the hang of, but to help you get started I’ve compiled a list of tips & tricks that hopefully sheds a little light on the subject.

My Top 10 for Time Management:

  • Write “To Do” lists.

Be specific and do it daily. Leave it somewhere you’ll see it when you wake up.

  • Become a morning person.

Yes, it IS possible: set your alarm, then set it again. If you’re not an early riser, you need to get in the habit of waking up earlier and being happy to do so. Impossible you say? Nope. Just give yourself something to look forward to: a good breakfast, that fancy coffee, a little morning stretch, 10 minutes of reading time, you name it!

  • Give yourself studying time.

Sit down with your class schedule, then pencil in library time; treat it like a class you’ve paid 1000 dollars for and you’ll actually do the work for those classes that you DID pay way too much for.

  • Schedule EVERYTHING.

Not sure when you’re going to hit the gym, get to work, eat lunch, see your family, or simply shower with everything you have to do? Sit down somewhere quiet, make a list of what you need and WANT to do (that’s key! You need to leave room for the good stuff or you’re sunk before you start), then break up your days and pencil in EVERYTHING with their designated timeslots. Once you’ve done that, go over it in pen…that ink is lasting, just like your commitment to getting that stuff done will be.

  • If you’ve penned it in, don’t cancel it out.

If you’ve penned it in, it’s permanent. When you shrug off one thing, it becomes much easier to convince yourself to let the other things slide too; this is a dangerous, especially when you’re just beginning that “good time management” journey. So, how do you make time for the little things to avoid falling right back off that “good management” wagon?

  • Be flexible.

You’re going to have to learn to think critically about what’s really serving you right now, and be willing to bend a little. Run 4 days instead of 5, go out 2 Fridays a month instead of all 4, and so on.

  • Cut the Netflix.

Take a breath, you’ll be ok. Just think of it like this: once you’ve gotten everything else done, you’re going to have so many awesome shows to catch up on over the holidays. BONUS. For now though, sign yourself out of Netflix and hey, if you have the site blocking app on your computer, put it on there. Binge watching shows is the easiest and quickest way to lose time better spent studying, working, or seeing family.

  • Listen to your body.

If you go too hard, for too long the chances of you needing to take a sick day or two skyrockets. This isn’t only bad for your health and mental wellness, it cuts into the time that you’ve so carefully managed. So, if you’re feeling run down, seek out some cold 911 tea and see a doctor. Take care of you first so you can take care of everything else.

  • Have a “Cheat” Day

If it’s all work and no play you’re going to go insane. It’s like being on a strict diet with no cheats; things are going to go really well until they don’t and suddenly you’re laying in bed with an empty pizza box and a tub of ice cream. Your time is the same way. If you don’t schedule time for the things you love to do, you’re going to fall off the clock and end up spending the entire weekend watching Netflix, window shopping, and playing computer games.

  • Let it go.   

Don’t get so stressed out by the To Do list, daily planner, and weekly schedule that you feel guilty when you DON’T get everything done. You’re going to try your best to check off every item on your list, but you’re human. Sometimes, you’re not going to make that lunch the night before and you’re going to have to grab it from Timmies; that’s OK. Part of becoming better at time management means giving yourself a break from time to time and knowing that working a little bit harder tomorrow is all part of getting through. Just don’t start letting yourself off the hook more days than you’re on it 😉

By no means is this a comprehensive list, it’s just some of the things I wish someone had told me in undergrad. Ok, it’s the things I was told in undergrad that I didn’t listen to and really wish I had. Now that I’m a grad student, I’m realizing that my time is important, and that managing it is a skill that will not only help me be successful, but will help me be happier and healthier while getting there.

I hope that these are somewhat helpful to you, but if you’re still feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of time management, you can check out the Academic Success Center’s site for in-depth info on the topic. You can also head head to Gradlife  and sign up for our special offering: “Optimize Your Graduate Experience and Beyond”, on October 28th. We’ve got some great speakers and workshops set up to help you, so if none of my tricks have done it for you, please stop by. We’d love to hear how your grad program is going! Pencil us in.



September 24th, 2015

One Week and a Grad Escape Down

Elvis from CCP introducing Aboriginal Elder, Great-grandmother Pauline

Elvis from CCP introducing Aboriginal Elder, Great-grandmother Pauline

By Kathryn Clark, Gradlife Ambassador

The first week of school is finished, and along with it the first Grad Escape! This past Sunday, a group of graduate students joined the Centre for Community Partnerships (CCP) and Koffler House in their effort to clean up and give back to the community that we get to call home for the next little while.

The Cleanup was an initiative developed by WWF and the Vancouver Aquarium

The Cleanup was an initiative developed by WWF and the Vancouver Aquarium

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup was part of a bigger, Canada-wide campaign to clean up our waters and give a whole lot of very necessary – not to mention stinking cute – animals a better chance at survival. I went into the event expecting to meet some fun grad students, swap stories, and hopefully help generate communication and new connections; what I, and I hope the grads who attended, got was a whole lot more.

As part of our ongoing responsibility to honour the land upon which we’re learning and building our own futures, the CPP and Koffler house asked an Aboriginal Elder (Great-grandmother Pauline) to speak to the MASSIVE group of volunteers about the significance of the water we were hoping to clean. While Elder Pauline did do this (with a beautiful water song to boot!), she also shared with us the importance of stories.

Woodbine beach: the shoreline cleanup location

Woodbine beach: the shoreline cleanup location

She told us that we are each of us a story waiting to be told and passed on to the next generation. She spoke of how the water was each of us, and how it was our responsibility to preserve it because, in her words, it’s our future.

Listening to her talk, I couldn’t help but think of how connected Pauline’s words were to the work we do as grad students.  Whether we’re studying international relations, learning to be teachers, delving into political science, or researching ocean currents, we’re all of us creating stories (perhaps more technical ones, yes, but stories nonetheless) that we hope will have an impact on future learners.

We were lucky enough to spot some very cool kites while at the beach!

We were lucky enough to spot some very cool kites while at the beach!

Echoing the words of Pauline, and thinking back on the great connections I DID make with some of the grad students who came out to the event, I’m reminded that the work we do here, and the studies we pursue, are not arbitrary. Perhaps we are not all of us following our passion quite yet, but that doesn’t mean that what we’re doing right now isn’t important.

As we begin to settle into the routine of grad life, research, and writing in the coming weeks, I hope you continue to remember that you are significant, that your story is important, and that your decision to endeavor to leave something for future learners to study is a good one. I hope you remember this every day, but especially on the ones when you might feel overwhelmed, or isolated, or like you’ve made a complete muck up of your life choices (or perhaps a combination of all of the above). The work we do here is valuable. You are valuable.

A few of the great grads (and honourary wee ones) who came out to help.

A few of the great grads (and honourary wee ones) who came out to help.

In the words of Pauline, a.k.a Thunder Woman, “Always ask questions. It’s how you know yourself, it’s how you know the world around you.” That’s exactly what we’re doing, and  so long as you keep asking questions (and remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question!), not only will you complete your grad programs, but you’ll have created lasting stories that can be told and passed down after our time here is done. Now THAT’S a legacy.

I had a great time hosting the first grad escape, and can’t wait to see some familiar faces – and meet some new ones! – at our next grad escape (yoga!) on September 30th. Don’t forget to sign up here.


September 16th, 2015

Welcome, and Welcome Back!

UofT in September

                                                    University of Toronto

By Kathryn Clark, Gradlife Ambassador and Master of Teaching graduate student

To graduate students just beginning their journey into thesis writing, research, and long nights in front of endless data, welcome! And to those getting ready to dive back into it, with the faint glimmer of hope that the light at the end of the tunnel brings, welcome back!


The Grad Room at 66 Harbord has an info desk. Come ask about Grad Escapes, Grad Talks, the GPS Program and more!

Now that classes have officially started for all attending the University of Toronto this Fall, the sight of students in backpacks, coffees or teas in hand, and looks of despair on their faces will be all too common. Did I say looks of despair? Of course I meant utter joy and happiness at having chosen to further your career in academia with a postgrad degree.

All kidding aside, these next few days and weeks have the potential to be challenging for all of us, whether we’re new grad students fresh from our undergraduate programs, halfway through a master’s or PhD program already, or are re-entering university after a few years off. We’re going to have a lot of information thrown at us, new ways of studying, and the realization for many of us that being a grad student is as different from being an undergad as being an undergraduate was from being a senior in high school (can we even remember that far back??).

No matter what your life or academic experience might be, a new school year can definitely feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to. As a grad student, you might have acquired new academic stressors, but you’ve also acquired an entirely new system of support, resources, and people who are just waiting for you to seek them out, ask questions, and share your stories. I’m one of those people!


“Tips & Tricks” aren’t just for undergrads!

I’m new to both the Gradlife office, and to being a graduate student myself. Trust me, if anyone is going to understand the feelings of newness, of coming back to school after a few years off, of trying to situate one’s self within Toronto & a new group of friends (said she hopefully), and a more demanding course load, it’s going to be me.

All of that to say: you’re not alone. This school year, I and the rest of the Gradlife team want you to know that we are there to offer whatever support you need to get you through the rough spots, to encourage you on the slow days, and to celebrate with you on the great ones. If you’re feeling like you need a friend, someone to talk to, or just need a breather from academia, the Gradlife office has some great Grad Escapes, as well as Grad Talks to help you be successful, coming up that we welcome and encourage everyone to join.

If you can’t come out to these events, or they’re simply not your thing, our temporary home (aka UofT) also has a TON (and I mean a TON) of campus groups, clubs, activities, support services, and more that are open to everyone. Yes, even us graduate students; don’t let yourselves be intimated by a horde of frosh, you’re grad students! These clubs and resources are designed to support us on our journey, and I hope that you take the chance while you’re here to become as much a part of the community as you can.

Because I’m in the same boat and know that you’d probably prefer to spend your time catching up on readings instead of wading through the many pages of UofT’s website to find the perfect resource or club for you, below are some links to get you started;

gradlife5                                                                                                                                      Grad Room has weekly games nights!


Health and Wellness Centre

Grad Room

School of Graduate Studies (now with an embedded counselling service dedicated specifically to grad students):

Make Friends & Build Community

Campus Clubs

First Nations House

Get Fit

Centre for International Experience


I hope to see some of you at our next Gradlife event; if not, please feel free to get in touch via twitter, facebook, our blog, or the Gradlife website. Welcome back!

All photos taken by Kathryn Clark.

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