May 19th, 2016

How to Have a Summer When You’re in School

As of May 17th, I officially started back at school for the Spring term. Eventually, that will melt it’s way into the Summer term and that means I’ll be inside during the best construction days of Toronto; I’m sure this is no different for any of the other many grad student wandering a still-busy campus these days.

PhD Comics

PhD Comics

One of the drawbacks about going to school for the Summer term is that we miss out on, well, Summer; but that doesn’t have to be the case. Even if we do have to think about readings, and research, and grant proposals, and more university jargon than I care to mention, it doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy everything Toronto (and Ontario, and Canada as a whole) has to offer during the warmer months. Goodness knows there’s plenty of time during the colder part of the year to stay inside, so we should take advantage of the sun while it’s here…classes, or not.

So, without further ado, how can we make sure we still get to enjoy the warmth while we’re enrolled in courses, and doing research? Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of the coming months:

  1. Plan weekend trips – you might have to work part time, but make sure you book at least 1 weekend getaway so you can enjoy the weather. Maybe head out to one of the National Parks, you can even take the Park Bus to places like Algonquin Park, Bruce Peninsula, and Killarney. Also check out Airbnb for cheaper places all around the country for some great, student-budget-friendly options.
  2.  Plan Ahead – make sure you know when you have deadlines, so that you know when you can take time for yourself, to hang out with friends, sit on patios, and still retain your educational sanity. Don’t forget my favourite word: balance. Plan ahead to make time for school and summer fun.
  3. Look up Toronto blogs – there are tons of blogs floating on the web that will help you fill in the free-time slots of your schedule once you’ve done that planning ahead. These sites have information on food festivals, concerts, free movies, and more.

    source: google

    source: google

  4.  Eat lunch outside – since you have to take a lunch break anyway, you might as well take your take-out or packed baggie and head outside to find a soft spot on the grass. Bonus: reconnecting with nature boosts your happiness, calms you down, and recharges you.
  5. Do homework in the park – if you don’t need to be plugged into a computer, or bent over a specimen dish, why not bring readings you might have to a park? Hint: Queen’s Park is darn close to campus, and has some great comfy and shady spots to relax in the sunshine.
  6. Eat and Drink Summer – snacks and treats can be in season. Try a coffee float, or make salads with fresh strawberries, pecans, and goat cheese. Maybe head down to your closest farmer’s market (Bloor & Borden, starting June 1st) to pick up the freshest veggies and noms.
  7. Summer Your Study Breaks – treat your study breaks (which you need to do to retain good mental health, and productivity) as a mini me-cation and do something you love. This way, you can still get your work done, but also take some vacation-like downtime. Need ideas? Go for a walk, get an ice cream, read a book, lay in the sun (with sunscreen!), take a quick bike ride.

    source: google

    source: google

  8. Hit Up the Free Stuffmovies in Dundas Square, concerts at Casa Loma, and Shakespeare in High Park. Need I say more? Oh yeah, these aren’t huge time commitments, so you can enjoy some of the classics that summer in Toronto has to offer without feeling guilty about missing school time.

 

 

Now that the weather is heading into the 20s, we hope that these ideas give you a platform to begin enjoying your academic summer. Just because we’re in school, it doesn’t mean we can’t experience life outside of our research. In fact, we encourage you to explore everything life and Toronto has to offer outside U of T; your research is important, but it’s not everything you are, so get outside, enjoy yourself, and be happy!

 

 

 

May 12th, 2016

Being Yourself with Second City Improv

source:google

source:google

Growing up, I participated in speech contests, and usually did pretty well. In high school, I minored in drama. In university, I worked as a tour director for grade 8 students; my main job description was making a fool out of myself in public to make learning interesting. Most recently, I won the 3 minute thesis competition at OISE. My background is littered with public performance, so you can imagine my surprised when I found myself reluctant to “put it all out there” at the Second City Improv event Gradlife hosted two weeks ago.

It turns out, it’s a lot easier to be silly in public when you’re performing from a rehearsed script. Putting your entire self on display though, spouting out your thoughts honestly as they come? Not so easy. And it’s especially not easy for grad student who spend more time with research and professors than on a stage. There’s something about improvisation that forces a person to break down the walls we’ve so carefully crafted to keep ourselves safe.

13174002_10205450994708048_4114092615329039458_nIn everyday life, those walls make sense. It makes sense that we’re able to say no, that we don’t reveal all of our cards to strangers walking by in the street. In improv, however, those walls have to come down. Our wonderful instructor told us that performing improv is all about chipping away at those walls little by little until there’s only you left on the stage, raw and open for the world to see. Kinda scary, huh? Well, yes, but it’s also very freeing, and it lets you develop an honest bond with relative strangers that is seldom experienced in everyday life.

When you create a supportive environment where everyone is going to cheer you on even when you fall, especially when you fall, then the scary aspect of being yourself goes away. It turns out that the only reason doing that is scary, is because we all have little voices in our heads telling us that we’re being looked at, and being judged. “What if I look stupid?” “What will they think if I do this?” “Oh god, I’m just not funny”. Here’s the thing about that, it also turns out that everybody else is too busy having those exact same thoughts to even worry about what’s going on with you.

13166094_10205450994348039_729475979443087147_nRealistically, we know that complete strangers aren’t going to clap and cheer when we stumble, but if we can shake off the little things as they come, and be a little more honest about the selves were putting forth, then maybe we can start to break down some of those walls that keep us from meeting new people, and taking chances. At the end of the day, the Second City Improv event was an amazing experience for 20+ adult, graduate and PhD students to let it all loose, to shake off the bonds that keep us facing inward, and a chance for us to really have fun and be ourselves beyond the “I’m a Masters/I’m a PhD candidate” definition we tend to label ourselves with.

And hey, I learned that if you stumble (like I did at the improv class, quite literally), then you just need to brush yourself off, take a fabulous bow and move on. Everybody else already has.

 

source:google

source:google

*Side note: this event was so successful that we’ll likely be running it agains soon, so stay tuned for opportunities to sign up for some fun!*

 

April 29th, 2016

Tips & Tricks to Nail that Interview

source: google

source: google

In addition to working at Gradlife, I also spend some evenings and weekends scraping together pennies for school at a restaurant downtown. Like many restaurants, most of the people who work there are either starving and struggling artists, or starving and struggling students. Like any student who suddenly find themselves without courses to study for, or research to complete, or labs to finish, a part time/summer job suddenly seems like a very good idea to line the pockets for the coming school year, and to enjoy the summer sun.

As part of my position at the restaurant, I screen applicants and accept resumes from incoming potentials. If the initial meetup goes well, these friendlies will get interviews with my managers, which I also get to witness and hear about. Over the past few weeks, as students make the rounds, I have seen some GREAT interviews, and I have seen some not-so-great interviews. So, in the hope of helping any grads who might be searching for some summer employment, here are some tips & tricks from my own experience applying to part-time jobs that might just make the difference between a yay or a nay.

source: google

source: google

 

  1. Handing in the Resume – DO bring your resume in person, DO ask to speak to a manager (leave your resume, and get the manager’s name and number if he/she is not available).DON’T have a stack of resumes on display to show the place you’re applying to that they aren’t even number 1 on the list
  1. Securing an Interview – if you talk to the manager, then a follow up is much easier. Call back, ask to speak to the same manager, and let them know you’d love to speak with them some more about the position that you are still very much interested in. If you didn’t speak to the manager, let the person who answers the phone know that you’re following up on a resume you handed in, and then ask to speak to the manager and follow the above steps. DO be flexible about timing for the interview. DON’T say you have other interviews that you need to factor into your schedule. Even if it’s a short-term, part-time job, the place you’re applying to should know they’re a priority.
  1. During the Interview – DO research the company you’re applying for. If it’s a restaurant, know something about their philosophy and their menu; if it’s a retail job, know about their products and their mission. You can ask better questions, and make your experience apply more specifically to the position you’re applying for.
  1. Know Your Resume – it’s not enough to have a well put-together resume, you need to know it well enough to apply your previous jobs to skill questions that are thrown at you. This also lets you give specific and concrete examples of your accomplishments to help show off just how well you’re suited to the position in question.
  1. Know Your Body Language – be open, be friendly, be confident, and be yourself. Most of all, make sure you have a firm handshake (DO shake hands with your interviewer at the start AND end of the interview), and good eye contact. If you have no confidence in yourself, why should the person hiring you?
  1. After the Interview – DO sincerely thank the person interviewing you, and DO follow up quickly. In this day and age, the question of whether an email or a written thank you note is more appropriate is debatable, but do send something. Also make sure you follow up with a phone call to reassure the interviewer that you are still interested, and would love the chance to work for the company. That being said, know the difference between following up and being annoying. One call a few days later? Ok. 5 calls the next week? Not so much.
source: google

source: google

Whether you’re on the job hunt now or not, these tips are good for anyone who will ever consider having a job sometime in the future. Use it now, bookmark it for later, or simply read it once and tuck it into the back of your brain, just know that a lot of talking with anybody is about being open, honest, and sure of yourself. Remember that the person in front of you is just that, a person, and a job interview should be seen as an in-depth conversation and not an exam. This is not one thing you can cram for, nor should you. So breath, relax, and hopefully see you on a patio sometime this summer season!

*Don’t forget that U of T also offers wonderful Workstudy Positions that will fit your student schedule. Find them here: cln.utoronto.ca*

April 13th, 2016

Where to Find “The Great Outdoors” in Toronto

source: google

source: google

Today, I looked at the weather report for the coming week and I am cautiously optimistic that I can say, “Spring, is that you?” No strangers to cold weather in Canada, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that it is mid-April, and after the mild winter we’ve had we are SO not ready for it to be Winter in Spring. So, cautiously optimistic as I am, I’ve decided to take my renewed gym-time outdoors. Now, the only problem with running outside in Toronto is that you’re constantly having to dodge pedestrians, wait at stop lights, and frantically wave away the smell and smoke that comes spluttering out of an idling car (a moment here to shout a big “What the heck?!” at people who just sit in their cars and idle, seriously, have they not seen the news about climate change?).

Alas, as much as we inwardly groan about the car exhaust and people, there’s just no getting away from it in the city. Or is there? To those new to Toronto, or to those who grew up in Toronto but haven’t had the chance to explore it in-depth, there are a surprising amount of nature trails and parks that are ideal for bringing the exercises outdoors. Whether you’re a runner, biker, hiker, walker, or simply looking for a place to escape the concrete jungle for a little while, here are some great spots to ditch the sidewalks and spot the flora & fauna this Spring (fingers crossed):

Bruce Martin Trail (blogT.O.)

Bruce Martin Trail (blogT.O.)

  1. Top 5 Running Trails 
  2. Hiking and Walking Clubs in Toronto – don’t fancy walking alone? There are clubs for all sorts of nature-lovers here; they go everywhere from urban parks, to the Bruce Peninsula Trail. There’s even a wonderful Out and Out Toronto club for members of the LGBTQ community.
  3. Toronto Cycling Paths – this map shows some great spots to bike in and around downtown Toronto; from cycling past Casa Loma along Davenport, to the Waterfront Trail, it has a little something for everybody. Printed maps are also available at civic centres, libraries, and specialty bike shops.
  4. The Outdoor Club – this club is awesome! It has weekly scheduled hikes in and around Toronto (the length of the hike/walk is given for each event, so you can choose whether you’re feeling low key or daring), and the club also hosts events like camping, canoe trips, and Sunday football.
  5. High Park Toronto – not only does High Park have a beautiful lake and tons of trails, but it’s also the start of their cherry blossom season. April 14th marks the change in temperatures, which means blossoms will (hopefully) start to bloom in late April, or early May.
  6. Toronto Islands – if you really, really need to step away from the city, then taking the ferry out to the islands for a day or jogging, picnicking, or tandem biking might be just the thing you need. It’s a little too chilly to add swimming to the outdoor exercise list just yet, but you can always scope out the area before the summer crowds hit.
Cherry Blossoms at High Park (highpark.ca)

Cherry Blossoms at High Park (highpark.ca)

Over the next few weeks and months, I’m going to be checking out some of these wonderful paths and clubs because, sometimes, the high rise buildings blocking out the sun, the car idling in bike paths, and the construction that you have to jog around just gets to be too much. If you’re looking to recharge, reconnect, and destress, why not check out some of these spots with me? You don’t need to be tackling your physical fitness to enjoy the beauty of nature; sometimes, the best thing we can do to help our mental and emotional fitness is also to get lost (metaphorically speaking) down a tree-studded trail. Happy Spring, and happy exploring.

*Don’t forget that U of T also has a great outdoor club that you can join too: http://www.utoc.ca/ *

April 7th, 2016

Dealing with Exam Stress for T.A.s

This week, OISE had their conference for graduating students to present their research. As a first year Masters student, I had the opportunity to sit on some thesis presentations on mindfulness, and I was blown away about how applicable the educational research meant for elementary to high school students was to undergrad students at U of T.

Source: Google

Source: Google

As graduate students, a lot of us are also teaching assistants, which means that we’re administering exams for undergrad students. This also means that we’re going to be dealing with a lot of students who experience stress, and test anxiety. Now, we all expect a certain amount of stress and anxiety in university, but when that stress and anxiety starts to affect academic performance, and creates undue emotional trauma for students, then it becomes a problem. But how can we help undergrad students deal with these negative feelings that might severely interrupt their educational and personal growth?

Some of the graduate students I heard from addressed ways that teachers can help students deal with this anxiety and stress, which I’ll share with you here in the hopes that we can help create a more supportive learning environment at U of T:

  1. Teacher Commitment – the number one factor in reducing student anxiety and bringing mindfulness into the classroom is teacher commitment; if you can show your students that you’re dedicated to their wellbeing and success, you might be surprised at the quality of their response. We also need to remember that part of teacher commitment is being non-judgemental; in order for students to step out of their comfort zone, and maybe ask for help and support, teachers need to be non-judgemental.
  2. Differentiated Instruction – remember, all students learn differently. A lot of people focus on differentiated instruction in the elementary and senior grades, but we can’t forget that graduating from high school doesn’t magically make the way we learn go away, nor does attending university suddenly dictate that we all become uniform thinkers. To this end, it’s important for us to remember, as educators (because every T.A. IS an educator), that our students are depending on us to help them succeed to the best of their If you don’t know what differentiated instruction is, or have no clue what I’m talking about when I say that everyone learns differently, check out the links below for more info and surveys you can use to find out the different ways in which your students learn. You might just learn a thing or two about yourself as well.

Multiple Intelligence Quizzes:

http://www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/ks3/ict/multiple_int/questions/questions.cfm  (with audio version)

http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-assessment

Info on Multiple Intelligences and Differentiated Instruction:
http://www.mypersonality.info/multiple-intelligences/  (brief overview)

http://www.businessballs.com/howardgardnermultipleintelligences.htm  (in-depth explanations if this tickles your curiosity bone)

http://printables.scholastic.com/shop/prcontent/Multiple-Intellgence-Questionnaire/9780439590204-001 (printable)

http://www.readingrockets.org/article/what-differentiated-instruction

Source: Google

Source: Google

  1. Mindfulness – help your students with deep breathing, and self-reflection techniques (click here for more info). If you don’t feel prepared to offer this type of advice to your students, then direct them to one of the many on-campus mindfulness events to help them find calm during stressful times. Also check out the book “Full Catastrophe Living” by John Kabat-Zinn. Studies show that mindfulness can help with: mental health, self-regulation, academic performance, student enthusiasm, and classroom management.

Now, most of these benefits pertain to studies done elementary through grade 12, but university students are still students, which leads me to think that if we can apply this same teacher commitment, mindfulness, empathy, and differentiated instruction for the multiple intelligences of the students we’re T.A.s for, then we can help reduce the anxiety of undergraduate students, cultivate better learning habits for our own selves, and create a more supportive and successful academic learning environment for the students at U of T.

March 31st, 2016

The U of T Bucket List

Now that the year is starting to wind down to an end, and spring is in the air (ignoring the call for snow this weekend), we thought this week would be a good chance to let you in on some of the “Must Do’s” at U of T before you say adieu to this place…or you know, if you’re not quite leaving this campus yet, just some great things to do while the weather’s nice!

 

Seems pretty obvious, but Philosopher’s Walk is definitely a must-do. If you haven’t strolled from Bloor to Harbord St. and taken a moment to sit in the amphitheater, you’re missing out. Also see if you can spot signs of the lost river that used to run through there!

observatoryVisit the U of T observatory – once a month, the observatory offers a free lecture and tour. Follow the link for more info on these awesome events.  

Take in a performance by U of T’s Gospel Choir: if you’re thinking that this may not be for you, listen to this clip by them and you’ll be adding this to your U of T bucket list faster than you can blink. 

 

Music not your thing?  Why not check out a play at the Hart House Theatre? There’s even an amazing dance festival coming up soon that gives you the best of both worlds! 

library

 

Visit the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library … maybe even get a prof to help you take a hands-on peek at one of the rare books? No? If you can’t do that, at least check out the changing exhibits the library puts on; right now, it’s of Shakespeare’s Folio, definitely a “not-to-miss” chance.

See Skule Night, the engineering society’ annual, awesome collection of comedy and musical talent. The year’s showing might be over, but stay tuned for next year’s 96th installment of the open house. 

bamboo-dan-245x299

 

Explore campus! This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes we get so set on our routes that we miss out on beautiful discoveries, including: Trinity Square, The Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at Hart House, and the Indoor Bamboo Gardens at Donnelly Centre…just to name a few!

Take a free-for-students class through Athletics & Recreation: Zumba, spin, weight training, and more. Might as well take advantage of that “free” gym pass before your time is up!

Hit up another free event for grad students: weekly yoga at the Gradroom, every Monday from 530-630.

Without breaking the bank, see if you can hit up all 40 locations to eat on campus. Pick up a food map from any campus cafeteria to get started.

This is just a VERY short list of all the really cool things you can do at U of T that have nothing to do with your studies; so, if you ever need a break, maybe take a different route to class, linger a little longer in a building you’ve never really explored, and just stop to smell the flowers. A little new in the familiar is a great way to reset, recharge, and remember that there’s always something to look forward to. Happy discovering.

Photos: Google

March 24th, 2016

Weird & Cool Facts about U of T

A few weeks back, I had the chance to host a trivia night for grad students at Harvest Noon Café. First things first, if you haven’t been to Harvest Noon Café, it is high time you got your body over there and sipped some organic deliciousness in their cozy, super relaxing, and very welcoming space. I haven’t been to the café during open hours as of yet (I always seem to have those pesky things called classes going on), but the venue screams awesome. I can’t wait for a free afternoon to drag some other grads with me, so I might just see you there!

Now that we’ve taken care of that, we can get back to what we were talking about: the trivia night.

It. Was. Great.

Not only because we had a great group of students come out to join us, but also because trivia nights are just plain fun. This one was especially cool because it dug up some interesting, and probably long-forgotten, information about U of T that is funny, intriguing, and downright perplexing. Feeling like this information just HAD to be shared, I’ve compiled some of the more “makes-you-stop-and-wonder” tidbits to share with you. Happy reading, and if you come across any that I’ve missed, feel free to add them in!

Fun fact #1.

A professor at U of T invented what is probably the swankiest instrument ever: the hydraulophone. Basically, these instruments work like woodwinds, but use water instead of air to make sound.

 

Fun fact #2.

U of T’s art collection has 2 pieces (a tiny stone mask, and a figure) that date back to the Bronze Age…that’s 4000 years! And you can see them, for free.

Fun fact #3.

shakespeareU of T is home to Canada’s only copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, printed in 1623.  There are only 228 surviving copies, and fetch 6 million dollars at auction. I don’t know what that kind of money even looks like! But, thanks to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, I can see what the folio looks like! From now until May 28, the library is doing a celebration of the Bard’s work, so stop by and see the Folio or check out the media library on the 3rd floor of Robarts to see film adaptations of his work.

Fun fact #4.

In the 1920s, Hart House actually banned jazz and ragtime from being played on its pianos. The ban was only lifted in 1957 for the Peter Appleyard Quartet and Moe Koffman’s group. Check out the video to hear the man who brought back the music.

Fun fact #5.

NASA once asked U of T’s aerospace institute for air-pressure calculations that would ensure the safe re-entry of a capsule crippled in space. NASA gave the scientists 3 hours to do the calculations; they did it without computers, and without knowing that they were the ONLY scientists assigned to the problem. The crippled capsule in question? Apollo 13.

Fun fact #6.

After playing a concert at U of T’s Varsity Arena in 1969, an iconic popstar split from his band. Who was it? John Lennon. And here the world always blamed Yoko Ono for the Beatles splitting up.

Fun fact #7 (and perhaps my favourite)

U of T used to hold an annual winter carnival; at the carnival, a Snow Queen was picked based on some pretty unique skills. What were those skills, you ask? Why, her ability to snowshoe, saw wood, and cook pancakes over an open fire, of course!

Things like these trivia facts make me appreciate my campus a little bit more, and help me to realize that there is a whole lot of history just waiting to be discovered in the most unlikely of places. So, the next time you’re strolling down Philosopher’s Walk, or headed to Hart House for a work out, why not stop and read a plaque or two? You might just learn something cool.

Want the whole story? Check out these sites for even more info. on U of T:

http://magazine.utoronto.ca/cover-story/36-amazing-things-about-u-of-t-campus-records-feats-facts/

http://magazine.utoronto.ca/feature/75-little-known-facts-about-u-of-t/

http://www.narcity.com/toronto/50-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-university-of-toronto/

March 16th, 2016

March Break Madness

It’s March Break around the GTA, which means that kids are free from school, parents in grad school are dealing with juggling home life and school even more than they usually are, and some hardier grad students might be pursuing some extra money by working day camps and more. Whether or not you fall into any of the above categories, or whether life is chugging along as normal for you because your March Break was reading week, we could all use a little break from the grind; with the warm weather slowly starting to grace us with its temperamental, on-off presence, I’m also even more gung ho than usual about trying to find things that will get me out of my house, away from studying, and into the world just a little bit more.

Cheap Transportation Bonus: From March 12 – March 20, individuals or groups can buy a Day Pass for unlimited travel on the TTC for 12 dollars. Even better? Kids 12 and under will be riding for free. So, grab the kiddos or some friends and get exploring.

Kids in Tow (or for the kid inside):

*click on the names of the activities for links to more information*

GLwizardworld

  1. Wizard World Fun Park – I went here as a camp counsellor with 20 out-of-control kids about 6 years ago, and they had a blast! With far fewer kids in tow, I’m sure you would have even more fun exploring rides, bouncy castles, arts & crafts, and more. Open from March 13-March 20.
  2. Sugar Maple Syrup Festival – open year-round, the Kortright Centre is hosting some special March Break, family-oriented activities from March 5-April 3. Drop by for wagon rides, pancakes, and campfire treats!
  3. Toronto Comic Con – March 18-March 20, this year’s comic con is happening at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
  4. Superdude and Dr. Rude – an awesome kid-ruled, wild musical about beating villains, this is a great show to take the kids to. Running from March 14-March 20.
  5. Disney on Ice – Running from March 17-20, you and the kids can have an awesome time reliving the Frozen experience on ice.

For the Older Kids:

  1. Romeo & Juliet Ballet – ok, so this play is my least favourite of Shakespeare’s (I know, I know), but the ballet is apparently a gorgeous piece of theatre and dance, so even I might get past my love for Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V to attend. Runs from March 16-20

  1. Harlem Globetrotters – technically, the Harlem Globetrotters don’t roll into Toronto until April 2nd, but they’re such an awesome “to-see” that planning ahead of time is never a bad thing.
  1. GLStpaddysPaddy’s Day – if you missed the parade or Steamwhistle run this past Sunday, there’s still plenty to keep you occupied and having fun this Thursday. But, since making a list of ALL the things that are going to be happening around the city, here are some links for you to browse at your leisure:

https://www.ticketscene.ca/st-patricks-day/

https://nowtoronto.com/food-and-drink/drinks/five-biggest-st-patricks-day-parties-in-toronto-2016/

http://www.toronto.com/articles/ways-to-celebrate-st-patricks-day-in-toronto/

  1. GLsimitandchai2Simit & Chai – don’t have time to head out of town or attend a larger event? There are new restaurants opening in Toronto every week it seems, and one of my fave newest is Simit & Chai. Located on King West, Simit & Chai is a Turkish café with European bagels, baked goods, tea, and more yumminess.

Mind buzzing with March Break ideas yet? If you still need more inspiration, head to http://www.todocanada.ca/march-break-activities-toronto/  to check out their 50+ family-oriented activities that younger and older kids alike might enjoy.

Happy reading, happy March Break, and happy almost-beginning-of-Spring! Don’t forget to stop and smell any flowers you might see blooming before heading back to the library, research, and labs.

March 1st, 2016

Student-Supervisor Relationships and What to Do in Times of Conflict

Guest post: Natalie Pankova, G2G Peer Advisor, Conflict Resolution Centre for Graduate Students

Though complex in nature, the grad student-supervisor relationship is extremely important to the success of students during their graduate career… this means it is definitely worth investing extra time and care in developing and nurturing it!

In recent years, many Canada-based studies have shown that not only is a good student-supervisor relationship essential to individual success, but the tensions that might result from these relationships can put even more stress and worry onto a student during an already difficult period.

GLCRC4

I’m sure most grad students can agree that the relationship is analogous to something between an arranged marriage and a tightly-woven student-teacher interaction, often lasting upwards of 6 or 7 years. Fortunate enough to have a great supervisor myself, I have never-the-less witnessed many of my peers suffering through tough situations arising from poorly managed relationships, and if this relationship is a key element of our success, then we have to ask:

What is the seemingly elusive key to a great student-supervisor relationship?

Looking at my own graduate education, and having spoken to a number of peers during their graduate careers, it seems this boils down to this:

  • Having mutual goals
  • Having a mutual understanding of those goals before starting the graduate work

Therefore, if I can offer one piece of advice to other graduate students it would be this – find out what your supervisor’s goals and interests are; what are they trying to achieve in the near future? Perhaps it’s one of the following:

  • Tenure
  • Publications
  • Commercializing a product
  • Obtaining a large grant
  • Developing a course

And any of these may have a large impact on how your graduate career turns out. Unfortunately, many students start their studies without having done the adequate research. Which is paradoxical considering how much research they will often have to do during the course of their degrees. It’s a wonder to think that a lot of students start this big step following only a 20 minute conversation with a potential supervisor – the person they plan to work very closely with, potentially for the next five years or so. To achieve the best possible relationship from the beginning may require to go beyond the one-time meeting. Ask a potential supervisor for a coffee and see if you actually enjoy having a conversation with this person. If you went on a week-long international conference with only them to hang out with, would you be able to do it? Building a relationship with them allows you to get a better idea of what it would be like to work side by side. And remember, your supervisor is a person too, and they too want a great working relationship with you.

The G2G team

The G2G team

Since most of us are beyond the point of choosing our supervisor from scratch, and in a situation where the relationship has already been cemented over a few years, consider doing the same thing whenever you feel that the relationship is hitting hard waters and conflict may be on the horizon:

  • Adopt their perspective and think about what your supervisor wants in the near future
  • Think about what their goals may be

Likely it’s the same thing as you – to complete the work, publish, and have you graduate. Use this perspective and goal alignment to come to mutual agreements when issues arise. Seeing things from another person’s standpoint is a proven conflict resolution and leadership tactic. Good leaders know that doing this can get the best results in the workplace. Students often perceive their interests as being the most important – after all they are paying for an education, and the ability to do research, publish and graduate. The majority of students don’t consider the interests of their supervisor or what they are trying to accomplish. On top of that, students may never consider that they may have to work at managing this relationship, placing the entire burden of authority on the supervisor. Often times, supervisors are individuals who have never spent a day outside the academic circle, and don’t have much experience managing a diverse group of people. Students should be conscious of this and consider that they also have a responsibility for the outcome of their graduate education. Taking on the supervisor’s perspective is a good first step to building or repairing this relationship. And keep these points in mind:

  • This route of action may lead to compromising to an extent at times
  • Compromise is a part of any relationship

The key is being able to compromise without sacrificing things that are vital to you. So if conflict in the relationship arises, think about where you would be willing to compromise to come to an agreement.

Overall, setting expectations as early as possible in the relationship can prevent conflict arising down the road. If the relationship is well in its course, having this conversation when an issue has arisen may also be beneficial. That way expectations for the remainder of the study period can be clarified. And if you’re a grad student and you’re really struggling with conflict during your graduate studies, consider stopping by for a chat with a grad-to-grad peer conflict resolution advisor. http://gradcrc.utoronto.ca/

Natalie P.

G2G Peer Advisor, Conflict Resolution Centre for Graduate Students

GLCRC3

G2G Way of Life

February 22nd, 2016

Finding Your Joy

This month has been all about joy at U of T, but if you haven’t been feeling the love or haven’t seen the spreading of joy, then check out the #JoyAtUofT hashtag on twitter to get in-the-know, and to find some more reasons to smile…after all, February is chilly enough and sometimes a little “winter blues-y” enough already, so finding reasons to have joy, love, and feel good is never bad thing!

LifeatUofT

blogger Madelin from Life @ U of T gives some awesome advice about finding your flow, and some links to great videos on how to do so!

It’s easy to fall into the winter blues trap, to feel the pressures of school, family, work, and love lives piling up, and to lose sight of the things that bring us joy. From having 40+ libraries to choose from, to dramafest, to intramurals, to something as simple as taking a stroll down philosopher’s walk, there’s a lot of little, everyday things that have been lightening the February load of U of T students this past month, so this week we’d like to bring some of that to you.

I recently read a story about a woman whose friend invited her to drive to the dentist’s office with her; the woman said the dentist was 15 minutes away but that it took 45 minutes to get there. When asked why there was a time discrepancy, she replied, “Oh, I always take the scenic route.” I love this, I love that every journey can be treated as an opportunity for fun, for adventure, and for magic. I love that the most mundane of tasks can bring with them the possibility of newness, and yes, of joy. After reading this story, I began to wonder if there were more everyday tasks in my life that I could apply the “scenic route recipe” to, and what would happen if I did?

tedtalklove

And because February is the month of love, which is definitely about joy, here’s a Ted Talk about choosing happiness in love, and how to keep choosing that happiness every day.

So, I tried it out. I discovered that I had an extra hour to spare in between my placement and work one afternoon this week, and decided to “take the scenic route”, so to speak. Part of my detour did indeed include a walk, which took me past Casa Loma and gave me some time to admire it in the snow and in detail, but part of the detour included stopping at a café to sit and have a tea quietly. As far as taking the scenic route goes, this was a pretty small foray into the idea, but it did show me what adding in those moments for small joys can do; that day, I arrived at work a little less frazzled, a lot less rushed, and a little happier than usual for having seen something beautiful, and for having had that quiet time to myself.

Even though February is dedicated to the joy hashtag at U of T, we’d like to encourage you to find the joy in the everyday throughout the rest of the year, and to find a reason to smile even when you don’t feel like it, perhaps especially when you don’t feel like it. So this week, see where your scenic route can take you, you might just find some joy.

tinybuddha

For the original story of the scenic route, and some tips on how to find your joy, click this picture :)

 

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