February 11th, 2016

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Galantines, Bromances, and Romance

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we thought we’d tale a sneak peek at all Toronto has to offer for the (ok, somewhat over commercialized but still deliciously fun and cheesy) holiday, whether you’re looking to spend the day with a significant other, celebrating a bromance, or wanting to show some love to your galantine (our new favourite term that, according to google, means a gal pal Valentine).

Whether you’re looking for love, are not so much into the love scene right now, or left plans for Valentine’s Day to the last minute like yours truly, here are some ideas for Valentine’s Day activities around the city:

Screening of Thelma & Louise 


What’s better than binge eating a tub of Ben & Jerry’s and watching the bachelor on Valentine’s Day (although, come to think of it, that option sounds pretty good too!)? Grabbing a gal pal and dragging her to see another dynamic female duo on the big screen. On Feb. 14, Rainbow Cinemas is bringing back a classic for your “anti-Valentine’s Day” viewing pleasure.

Side note: if you’re feeling romantic, Rainbow Cinemas is also screening His Girl Friday over the weekend.

Anti-Valentine’s Day Mixer


A little more rage-focused than we usually go for, but if swinging out your aggression against cherub mugs and heart-filled plates is the cure for your anti-Valentine’s day fever, then you might want to make the trip to North York to check out the anti-Vday Mixer.

Ladies Learning Code


Tech Loving Ladies Alert! Toronto Ladies Learning is bringing some educational, kickbutt fun to Feb 14 this year. We’re all about anything that encourages more women to embrace their passion for STEM fields of learning, and this year you can do that with a galantine by heading to the “Ladies Learning Code” for a quickie course on CSS and HTML processing. Heck yes!


Snakes & Lattes 

We know, we know. There’s a current obsession over the cafes and board games idea right now, but we figure it’s popular for a reason! This is a fun alternative to an expensive dinner out, and we hear there are even some great “get to know you games” that make Snakes & Lattes an awesome first-date or “get-to-know-your-partner-better” place to go. We suggest getting there early or making a rezo though, the place tends to fill up quickly.

The Lockhart Cafe

Have a friend/partner who loves Harry Potter? Why not check out the Lockhart bar for a fun night out, which you can follow up with a movie marathon of the favourites! No night is complete without some flavoured jelly beans, buttered beer, and chocolate frogs (it’s in the small details).

Gladstone Love Inn


While Medieval Times has some pretty cheesy (read: amazing) Valentine’s Day events, we think an out-of-the-ordinary, lego & beers kind of night is pretty darn cool as well. Gladstone Inn has a week’s worth of Valentine’s Day events planned for the adventurous at heart. Check out their full schedule by clicking on the picture!

Skating at the Harbourfront 

Yeah, yeah, DJ skate nights happen most weekends in the winter…but did you know the one happening Feb. 13th will feature 5 of “the city’s hottest queer DJs”? If that’s not an inclusive, fun, Valentine’s kickoff then we don’t know what is. Plus, the colder weather and outdoor activity is a great excuse to snuggle up, or warm up with hot cocoa.

Outcasts and Misfits Movie Marathon 


We’re not a huge fan of what is likely supposed to be a hilarious event title, mainly because we see nothing wrong with rocking Valentine’s day with your bad-a** self. We think spending time alone is actually important to developing your sense of self-worth, and opening yourself up to more opportunities for growth and yes, love. So whether you’re with someone, with a friend, or being awesome all on your own, you can head to TIFF Bell Lightbox for a marathon of movies that threaten to pull me off my couch too: Dazed and Confused, Napoleon Dynamite, Moonrise Kingdom, and more!


Don’t forget that Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about over-the-top gestures, sometimes staying home and spending some time with that special someone or any others that we love is just as important. Think of February 14th as a way to reconnect with yourself, with your family & friends, and to take a chance to say the I love you’s that have been lingering. From Gradlife to you, happy Valentine’s Day and enjoy the candy hearts and kisses!

February 4th, 2016

Signs of a Healthy Relationship

Well, it’s February! For a lot of people, February is all about love; showing your partner you love them, telling your kids how special they are, eating heart shaped candies, and buying pink tissue paper in bulk. Since I love the holidays more than anyone I know, I’m definitely one of the people you roll your eyes at because I will be baking red velvet cookies, wearing pink earrings, and basically finding any excuse to be just this side of too mushy with my partner. That being said however, I also think February is a great time to think about all of the relationships in our lives.


Every one of us is in a relationship, be it with a significant other, family, friends, peers, coworkers, bosses, students, you name it. Our everyday lives depend on the interactions we have with other people, how we perceive them, and how they perceive us. Everyday we have to navigate a plethora of relationships, each with a unique dynamic and a new set of understandings and rules that comes with it. With all of this interaction, it’s no wonder we sometimes get a little lost along the way, that sometimes we lose sight of what makes a relationship healthy.

*In case you’re wondering, YES, we are advocating that ALL good relationships are healthy ones, and that YES, you deserve to be happy and healthy in all of your relationships*

I am by no means an expert, but knowing somehow that the relationships I have with coworkers, friends, my partner, and my family are healthy ones, I decided to do a little digging on what exactly makes a healthy (read: happier) relationship, and how we can go about making sure our daily lives are a plethora of goodness and not just a collection of run-of-the-mill, or worse yet, unhealthy interactions.

After perusing too many websites to count, all with their own definitions of what makes a healthy relationship, and after far too many cups of coffee and nibbles of popcorn (I ate the whole bag, let’s be real about the fact that maybe my relationship with food isn’t as healthy as it could be! …see? relationships really are everywhere!), I found a pretty great list that we should all aim to “check off” in our relationships. And if we don’t have the time to check off EVERY item for EVERY interaction, then might I suggest you apply these to at least the most important relationships in your life? Those at least should be getting the time and effort they need to thrive (said she hopefully).


Obviously, not all of these “to-dos” are going to apply to all of your relationships, but I think we can conclude that respect, honesty, communication, and balance should definitely be a part of all of our relationships.


This, for me, is perhaps the most important piece of advice/insight I found while browsing for this “February kick off” blog. I am a firm believer that if you are not happy on your own, and as your own person, and in your own skin, then you will never be truly, completely, 100% happy with someone else, whether this means a significant other, a friend, a family member, or someone else. I’m going to bring it a little closer to home to give you a little more understanding of what I mean.

My partner and I like to joke that we’re both pretty awesome people, so we each enjoy being on our own (without each other) because the company is just so great; being with each other is just the cherry on top of an already fantastic sundae. Joking or not though, I think that we can’t rely solely on other people for our happiness…it’s just not healthy. BUT, if we’re happy and healthy already, just think of how much happier we’ll be when we meet that cherry on top.

*Side note: if you’re thinking to yourself that you might not be in a healthy relationship and want someone to talk to about it, I encourage you to check out the Health and Wellness Centre and their workshops.

January 28th, 2016

Websites for Studying, Success, and Staying Zen in Grad School

Last night, I had the opportunity to join some grad students on a tour of the ROM, and our amazingly funny tour guide talked a lot about the power of names and of the individual voice, and of how we all have something wonderful to offer each other. This got me to thinking about how, over the past few months, you’ve all given me the chance to share my thoughts, opinions, and ideas about being a graduate student and what it means to me to be a graduate student at U of T.

Sometimes though, it can be refreshing to hear new voices, to recount the adventures of other folk excelling or struggling or grinding their way through graduate work, whether it’s at the Masters or PhD level. We also recognize that while U of T has some great resources available to grad students, there are other educational bodies that also have GREAT resources for us to tap…and we want you to be successful no matter where you’re getting your information, support, or daily dose of sanity and inspiration from.

In light of this, we thought it would be fun to direct you to some other great blogs about being a grad student, blogs that can help you with your thesis or dissertation, ones that offer you advice on how to maintain a life outside of research, on how to manage your time, on how to eat better, on how to write better, on how to generally be the awesome human being you are while still being a grad student.

collegepuzzleStay up-to-date on the latest advice from Stanford prof Michael Wurst; he offers tips and tricks on how to get through grad school, and actually do it well!


dartmouthOk, this one is seriously cool. Dartmouth has FREE (yup) online tutorials on excelling in your first year, assessing your learning style, getting to know your profs, and what learning strategies are going to take you from zero to hero (we know you’re definitely not at zero, but we just like the Hercules reference).


freelibraryNeed we say more? Journal articles, books, periodicals, and more on any and every subject you could possibly want…for FREE! So, if our handy Robarts or thousand other libraries somehow doesn’t have what you’re looking for, pop on over to Free Library for a browse.



googlesecretsA fairly short, totally worth it article on how to get the most out of Google. We know, as grad students, there isn’t always time to book a research appointment with our great librarians, so this can be a really handy “next best thing”.


gradshareA professional, legit, great site to connect with experts in your field, other grad students, and advisors on everything under the graduate life sun. Basically, it’s an online help forum from people who get it.


makeuseofSo, this site isn’t TECHNICALLY about grad life, but it does have the latest info about the newest, best (and worst) technologies and other websites that can either make or break your gradlife experience, definitely worth a look. If nothing else, it’s a pretty good “15 minute break” filler.

uncluttererThis site is the site for the everyday adult (didn’t anyone tell you? you’re a grad student, you’re an adult now!), on how to rid themselves of the physical and mental clutter that can otherwise impede your grad-like zen (coffee counts as meditating, right?).

adventuresingradlandFinally, an honest and down-to-earth blog from a just recently graduate student who has posts on how he got through grad school, the hilarity he found during his research, and the transition from school to the “real world” (it’s dangerous to go alone, take this).


Whether you’re tired of listening to my voice in your head while reading (what do I sound like to you, I wonder?), or are simply looking for some new sites to peruse that reflect your reality and day-to-day adventures, we hope that the above sites will give you somewhere to go when you need advice, are having a hard time studying, or simply need a laugh to brush off some data that just doesn’t support your theories (but of course THAT won’t happen!). Happy browsing!


January 21st, 2016

Getting your Thesis Writing Done and Cool Cafes

By Kat Clark, Gradlife Ambassador

Today, the rough copy of my literature review chapter for my thesis was due. I knew I had been feeling stressed about the research, and the writing, and citing correctly, and basically the whole thing. It wasn’t until I hit send on the email that would take my Chapter 2 to my peer review partner that I realised just HOW stressed out I had been. I felt like the weight of a 1000 elephants and a kangaroo had been lifted off my shoulders; my sister will have some wonderful blackmail if she saved the crazy snapchat video I sent her of me dancing in celebration, that’s how happy I was. When I walked into my research course later that afternoon, I felt lighter than I had in days. My friends told me I looked stress-free, that I looked calm, and happier, and you know what? They were SO right. I couldn’t believe that the stress I was feeling had affected me so much that it had been showing up on my face (hello extra bags under the eyes and some pre-teen breaking out), it had been showing up in my body posture, and worst of all it had showed up in my personality even when I tried hard not to let it.

I’m aware that this lightness is a reprieve and that I will soon have to dive back into the workload of editing my chapter 2 rough copy, completing the small, everyday assignments that always seem to pile up, and getting started on chapters 1 and 3 of my thesis as they are coming down the pipeline. And though I have a hundred other things that will need doing shortly, I also know that I don’t want to become stressed again about all of it to the point that who I am changes. I loved the me I was today: participating in class, happy, light, and feeling wonderful about myself, my friends, and the world around me; I don’t want to not be that girl again, and I especially don’t want that girl to go away simply because I have a heavy workload.

As always when I have these kinds of “Aha!” moments of self-realisation, I know the checklist of things that will help keep me balanced and happy: practice mindfulness, do 10-15 minutes of yoga in the morning, eat well, take study breaks, indulge in a coffee every now and then, exercise, have a dance party, be organized, have a schedule, pet some cats. I KNOW all of this, but I also know that the reality of doing these things doesn’t always happen, so I need to find a way that I can study, get my thesis work done, and STILL be happy. There are tons of ways a person could do that, but today I’m going to share with you my favourite way to do that and it all goes back to location, location, location.

For me, a change of scenery and a little nosh goes a LONG way to keeping my heart happy when I’m in overdrive, so here’s a list of some of Toronto’s awesome cafes that will keep you studying, and smiling, even to the wee hours:

7 Charles St. W

7 Charles St. W

7 West Café

I’m NOT advocating that you stay up for 24hrs because that is definitely a mental health nono, but IF it happens, this is a great 24/7 place to be.

122 Bond St.

122 Bond St.


Ok, so it’s technically located on Ryerson’s campus, but how can you not love the quaint, “out-of-the-city” feel it gives you? Plus, they have drool-worthy pastries.

483 Bloor St. W

483 Bloor St. W

Future Bakery

If you don’t know Futures, you’re living under a rock or very, very new to Toronto. This bohemian, down-to-earth, to-die-for, all day breakfast (with a 20% student discount), unlimited perogies on Wednesdays, and some pitchers for Fridays is a must.

600 Bloor St. W

600 Bloor St. W

Snakes and Lattes

Side note, if both Snakes and Lattes are occupied, you can always head to Castle on Spadina, another lattes and board games kind of café; a rose by any other name and all that jazz. Coffee not your thing? You can always head to Bampot Bohemian House of Tea and Board Games (201 Harbord St.) instead; you’ll most likely find me here feeding my tea obsession.

73 Harbord St.

73 Harbord St.

Red Fish Blue Fish Creative Café

I first went here because there was as sign out front that urged me to try their unicorn poop cookie, so I went in and I did, and it was delicious. Also delicious is their Kawartha ice cream, lattes, and the fact that it is described as a “haven for mamas and their babies” (or papas, we don’t discriminate here!). So, if you’re a grad student with a wee one, this could be the spot for you! Or if you’re a grad student who likes unicorn poop cookies.

1028 Bloor St. W

1028 Bloor St. W

The Common

I haven’t been but I want to because it seems cool and trendy in that hipster sort of way that also makes me feel like maybe my hat is too modern for me to go in, you know? I think their reputation for a pretty good cup of joe will draw me in very, very soon, modern hat and all.

Tot Café


298 College St. Yes, these are actual kittens that I played with there!

For those not in the know, I just recently got back from living in Korea where my happy place was a cat café. Every time I was sad, mad, happy, it was my birthday, it was a Monday, it was Wednesday, I went to a cat café. I’m over-the-moon that there is one in Toronto now! Best to go at non-peak hours though, otherwise you’ll be waiting in a line to see the cuties.

There are TONS of other great cafes in the area that I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention, but all of the above will definitely help you find a change of scenery and a place of zen when your thesis has you feeling like you’re stuck on the “Hyde” persona of your personality. Happy studying, and don’t forget to turn your frown upside down every now and then!

January 14th, 2016

Choosing the Right Path: When to ask for help, and how to get it

Guest blog from: Julie Weisz, Healthy Grads Peer Health Educator

In between the first and second year of my Master’s in Social work, I decided to do a French Immersion program in Quebec to get a break from my time in Toronto, and to reflect.  While in Quebec, I had this constant nagging question – Was I really in the right program?  I had enjoyed my first year of Social Work, but my interests didn’t really align with what some people might label as “typical social work”.  I didn’t have a lot of interest in working in a hospital, in child protection, or in doing casework.  I liked other areas of the field, like teaching, and public education, and I began to wonder if I had chosen the right career path.

Who can help?

It took a long time for me to figure out what to do.  I was feeling stressed out and insecure about the program I had chosen.  I wanted to make sure that I was really in the right place and that I wouldn’t have to do another program after I was finished my degree in social work (because $$$!).  I tried thinking and reflecting on my own, researching, and annoying my friends. What I really wanted though, was someone I could bounce my ideas off of and who could give me feedback or more information.


the seals on the St. Lawrence were cool, but not that great at helping me with career advice.

This is when I decided to book a Career Advising Appointment* at the Career Centre. The career centre offers a range of services that are useful for graduate students. Aside from career advising and résumé consulting, they can help edit LinkedIn Profiles, have Drop-in Appointments for quick questions, and can help grad students strategize if they are considering pursuing careers in academia.

*FYI it’s not completely obvious where this is on the Career Centre website, it’s under the Tab “CLN” (Career Learning Network), you can also find it here: http://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/cc/cln

Getting to the Career Centre:

I considered just dropping by the Career Centre, but instead opted for booking an appointment in advance online. As the Career Centre is part of Student Life, it’s located at the Koffler Student Services Centre (214 College Street), a short walk from Queen’s Park station. On days when the weather is particularly aggressive, I hope on the streetcar at Queen’s Park station to get there (don’t forget that transfer!). The Career Centre is located in a very open space on the first floor near the Second Cup…if you get confused like I did, just head to the reception desk and they’ll point you to the right place.

What Happened?

I was told to wait at one of the desks in the main room.  The appointments typically take place out in the open, but you also have the option of asking your counsellor to move to a private office if the “whole class” share idea isn’t for you. When I met with my career counsellor, I talked to her about my dilemma: Should I stay in a program I am uncertain of and risk having to pursue more education later? Should I stop now and switch paths?  She asked questions about what I wanted to be doing and where I was now, and how I felt about it all.  She helped me to realize what resources I already had, like friends who had graduated from the program, or who worked in fields I was interested in, and gave me tools and ideas that I could look into, like contacting people on LinkedIn for informational interviews.

Overall, it was a pretty good experience, though I do wish that the appointment could have been longer given that it was only 30 minutes and focused more on my specific questions without going into broader advice. That being said however, the appointment was definitely more productive than my many rants to friends had been. I left the Centre with some specific suggestions for research I could do on my own, and more questions I could ask myself.  Even though I have a few more weeks of pondering in store, I left the Centre feeling more secure in my ability to choose the right path for myself, and with some new resources to help me get there.

Julie is a second year Masters of Social Work student, in the stream of Social Justice and Diversity.  Aside from her academic interests in creative counseling, post-structural therapies, and public health, Julie also enjoys taking classes in theatre and random athletics (hot stone yoga, olympic weightlifting, etc) checking out the various parks around Toronto, and discovering the best ice cream in the city.

January 6th, 2016

New Year, New Cheer

source: phdcomics.com

source: phdcomics.com

Whether you’re approaching this side of the break as a graduate student who is soon to be moving on to the “real world”, as a student who is heading into the final push of your first year, or as one of the 200 brand new grad students to UofT (Welcome!), there’s a lot of pressure to work harder, perform better and succeed. Add those pressures of being a grad student to the hallmark January 1st date that comes with an added push to write resolutions, to do more, and to be more than you were in 2015 and you have a recipe for grad student disaster. Let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate: you’re awesome. Whether you’re a “write resolutions” kind of person or not, the fact that you’re pursuing your passion, learning new things, filling in gaps in the literature, and striving to add more to your immediate and global community is phenomenal. Don’t forget to take that into account as you forge ahead into 2016.

Now that we’ve dealt with that piece of 2016 news, let’s talk more about what this coming year might hold for us. I’m definitely a “make goals for myself” kind of gal, and judging from the caliber of grad students that attend UofT, I’d say most fall into that category. That being said however, there’s a healthy way to go about setting goals for ourselves; one that won’t burden us with more “to-do’s”, that won’t make us feel like we’re failing if we don’t achieve them, and one that might actually help to make us healthier, happier people.

That’s the key here: healthier, happier people. Don’t forget that you may be a grad student, but you’re a person first, and that person has needs and goals and desires totally separate from your identity as a grad student. That being said, how can we make goals (I purposefully use the word goals because I think working to better ourselves is a lifetime deal, not a once-a-year checklist) for ourselves as people without compromising our positions as grad students?

  1. Don’t forget that you’re a person first! Notice how I added that again? Pretty important.
  2. Be specific: no goal has weight if you don’t break it down. Being specific makes a goal concrete, achievable and tangible.
  3. Make a plan: we’re grad students, we know how to do the research and make an outline, so use these skills to make your life easier! When you have the how-to’s of a goal, it becomes a whole lot more possible to achieve, making it less stressful on yourself while getting there.
  4. Be reasonable and realistic: we all have major life goals, but when you’re transitioning out of Grad school or working hard to get your thesis done it’s important to remember that the small things add up to the big ones. Make small goals that you can achieve everyday, every week, every month. The small successes will reinforce your self-improvement, and generally work well toward making you a happier, more well-rounded person who can go on to achieve those wonderful life goals down the line.
  5. Learn that not achieving all of your resolutions right away isn’t a failure: pure and simple, life happens and it gets in the way of even the best laid plans. Sometimes, we have to dial back our goals and resolutions to fit a change in our lives, sometimes we have to put resolutions completely on the back burner when something more pressing demands our time. That’s ok. Just know that the goal is simply on the back burner, it hasn’t been dropped to the ground and kicked under the sofa to collect dust. You can bring it back to the forefront whenever you are able to, whenever you want to.
  6. Know that resolutions aren’t just for 2016: there isn’t an expiry date on a resolution. If you are committed to making any sort of change in your life, that change doesn’t evaporate or become less important when the clock strikes 2017 next January. Time is what we make it, our goals are what we make them,and how we incorporate them into our lives is up to us, not a date on the calendar.
  7. Be kind: above all, be kind to yourself if you’re thinking of making a resolution or two this year. We all have faults and flaws, but we are also all made up of some pretty wonderful things that we can’t forget about as we head into 2016.

Now that we’ve talked a little about how we can make healthy resolutions and goals for the coming year,I want to share with you Gradlife’s hopes for you, as grad students and as people, for the coming months:

We hope you find joy in the small things, that you take care of yourselves first, and remember to appreciate the obstacles you’ll encounter for the lessons they can become. We hope you appreciate who you are everyday and know that even if you don’t set any resolutions this January, you’ll still accomplish things this year that are resolution #1 on someone else’s list.

We hope, most of all, that you don’t undervalue the strengths that you have, and that you’re able to carry these strengths with you to have a wonderful 2016. Happy New Year, and welcome back!

December 16th, 2015

The Holidays Away From Home

By Kat Clark, Gradlife Ambassador

One of the best parts about working with Gradlife is that I get to meet new people on a regular basis; people who come from all areas of the world, who are interested in a number of different things, and who can teach me new ways of looking at life. Many of these grad students I’ve talked to have mentioned the fact that they are going to be away from home for the holidays, and weren’t sure how they felt about that. Having just recently been in the same situation, I know that as much fun living abroad is, it can be a little disheartening around the holidays to be away from the ones we love. With this in mind, and knowing that there are many people in our U of T community probably feeling the same way, I want to share with you some of the things I did to combat the “winter blues” and “holiday ho hums” when I was away from home in the hopes that it will help you out if you’re ever longing for home.

Take Time for You

source: google

source: google

For some, the holidays are less about huge celebrations and more about taking the time to relax. As grad students, that’s more often a case of “easier said than done”. This year though, especially if you’re away from home, I encourage you to take some time to yourself to reset and restore. We all suffer with extremely busy schedules during the school year, so taking the time to have a bath, read a favourite book, or listen to some music is a great way to rest your mind and get you ready for everything the New Year has in store  for you. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the business of the season (school or holiday wise), don’t be afraid to take a step back, think of what brings you some calm and focus, then go do it. Many people will say that the holidays are about showing goodwill to others, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be good to ourselves too.




The holidays are about family, but the great thing about travelling is that we get to choose our family. When I was living abroad, my friends who were also new to the country (and conveniently ALSO found themselves at a loss around the holidays) became a wonderful support system. We made Thanksgiving meals together, ate Christmas lunch together, did Secret Santa, and reminisced over the holidays at home while finding happiness in each other’s company. As we get older, our families become made up of the people we choose to love and not just the people we grew up. This year, if you’re feeling a little blue being away from home, grab some of your chosen family friends/wonderful friends and create your own celebration. The holidays are about being with people you love, no matter where you are.

Celebrate YOUR Way

More simply put, do what you would do at home.

Is your tradition making a huge turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and veggies? Great! Make your own version. A lot of grocery stores offer holiday meal specials that you can take to go: Whole Foods on Avenue Rd. has a great selection of this type of food, even if it is a little pricier. If you’re looking to stay on budget, head to Loblaws or No Frills to pick up a chicken as a turkey substitute. Looking more to sit down and enjoy some atmosphere while you eat? A lot of restaurants in the area are also offering holiday menus where you can enjoy a delicious dinner with none of the preparation or clean up stress.

If turkey isn’t your go-to meal, that’s ok! Toronto is FULL of restaurants just waiting to be discovered. A quick Google search of your favourite food from home will present you with endless possibilities to find comfort in a little familiarity.

Embrace Technology



AKA Skype. Skype in during family traditions, skype in to chat and catch up, skype in for a movie date, skype in just because. Technology is a wonderful friend to the traveller, so don’t be shy about using it to connect with the people back home.

…Then Get Out of the House

One of the easiest things to do during the holidays, especially when you’re celebrating them alone, is to become cooped up inside binging on familiar TV shows and comforting foods. While this kind of downtime is sometimes a good thing, it can also lead to something we ALL want to avoid: cabin fever. To avoid getting down in the dumps about being alone, get outside the apartment (or dorm) and surround yourself with people, immerse yourself in nature, or simply stretch your legs for a trip to the nearest coffee shop so that you get SOME sort of face-to-face interaction with other people. You don’t want to realise at the end of a few days that you’ve forgotten what you sound like because it’s been so long since you talked to someone.

When in Doubt, Try Something New

The Badlands source:google

The Badlands source:google

A great way to avoid the winter blues (especially in this dreary, wet December we’re having), is to plan a trip. It can be as simple as a shopping trip, an afternoon spent reading, or a night out skating. For those with the time and the budget to do something a little more extended, why not plan a trip solo or with a few friends in the same boat? Head out of the city for a bit: visit Niagara Falls, see a show in Stratford (or do the Justin Bieber tour), visit the first Tim Hortons shop in Hamilton, browse the Christmas Market in Kitchener, explore the Badlands, or visit Dundern Castle in Hamilton (pro-tip: it’s BEAUTIFUL at Christmas). Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re surrounding yourself with things that inspire you, excite you, and bring you joy.

Whatever you end up doing over the winter break, we hope that you find time to have fun, to connect with the people you love, and that you get a little downtime from those assignments and research papers. Happy Holidays! See you in the New Year :) 

December 10th, 2015

Cool Apps to Get You Through the Crunch Period

By Kat Clark, Gradlife Ambassador

Last night as I was turning off my computer and getting ready to hit the sack, my downstairs neighbour showed up at my door disgruntled over the fact that I “wasn’t keeping it down”; upon informing the gentleman (who was clearly a student) that I was simply walking from my living room to the bedroom, he mumbled rather wildly about barnyard animals and having no pride. No stranger to being a student, or to apartment living, the light suddenly dinged and I realised that this guy wasn’t disgruntled…he was a university student seriously stressed out by the endless presentations, exams, and essays that this time of year brings. Not being able to yell about barnyard animals to the roommates he also mentioned having, he took out his anxiety on the only other person available: his upstairs neighbour.

Now, I get it. I have been there, done that, and in fact am there all over again. That being said, I don’t barge up to MY upstairs neighbour’s apartment every time it sounds like bowling balls are being dropped on the floor (seriously though, what IS that about apartment buildings?). So, in an effort to help you keep your cool during this end-of-term crunch time, and to feel less inclined to explode at a stranger who could turn out to be a really cool cookie-baking friend (just sayin!), we’ve compiled a list of some great apps that will help you study, encourage your calm, and hopefully bring you a little clarity this pre-holiday season.

**most of these apps are compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows, and can be accessed via your phone or computer**

Study-Based Apps to Get You Through:

taken from LaptopMag

taken from LaptopMag

Evernote (FREE): a great app to organize all those notes, graph photos, to-do lists, and pre-holiday obligations. Evernote helps you to: take notes, make to-do lists, set reminders, attach files, and also save a photo as a document or post-it.

Taken from LaptopMag

Taken from LaptopMag

Khan Academy (FREE): Strictly speaking, this one isn’t a study organizer, but it DOES have cool videos on basically any topic, which means you can watch LeBron James introduce a probability problem if you need a quick reminder on the basics of a topic, or just want to browse a different subject as a study break.

Taken from LaptopMag

Taken from LaptopMag

Wolfram Alpha: This app isn’t free, but it IS a tutor, report & graph generator, and formula explicator that you get all for $2.99. Not too shabby!

Taken from LaptopMag

Taken from LaptopMag

Easy Bib (FREE): We all know that writing the bibliography of a research paper is the wrst part, so why not make it easier on yourself? EasyBib is great because you can access it from your phone, now you can work on those pesky citations when killing time on the subway!

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

My Study Life (FREE): need to keep track of a crazy study, research, class, lab schedule? Want to access it across multiple devices? Look no further!

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Flash Cards Deluxe: Too cool NOT to include, even if it IS $3.99. This app lets you create personalized flashcards for anything. ANYTHING. And you can use them on your phone, and NOT waste more paper or get hand cramps writing out your notes on cue cards.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Sleep Cycle ($1.69-1.99): Knowing WHEN to wake up, no matter how early or late you’re going to bed, is key to making sure you get a good night’s rest and your brain is ready to go even without that coffee! This app will tell you when you need to wake up depending on your sleep time, and helps you get there too.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

The Now (FREE): This app will help you keep your chin up by sending you mindfulness messages throughout the day.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Talkspace: Don’t have time to book an appointment with UofT Health Services but really need someone to talk to during crunch time? For $25 a week, you can message with a therapist from your phone. The app IS free, but that version gives you limited access to therapists.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Smiling Mind (FREE): This app gives you guided meditation practice based on your age. Ucertain about this one? A little mindfulness each day is actually a great way to boost your awareness, and create a sense of peace…something we could all use when research papers loom.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

SuperBetter Games (FREE): Basically, these are games that help improve your resiliency, mental health, and encourage creative thinking to hard problems. A very productive way to take a study break if you ask me!

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Songza (FREE): For me, there is nothing better than instrumental music to keep me focused when studying, a little old rock to get me having a dance party when I need to move (aka when I can no longer sit at my desk), and some upbeat tunes when I need to put a little happiness back in my mind. Check out Songza for music playlists to fit your every mood, activity, genre, and occasion!

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Magic Window – Living Pictures: Can’t actually get outside to take a walk and take in nature? Try Magic Window, it will send you peaceful nature scenes from around the world to put everything right in your world.

While we certainly hope these apps help you de-stress, stay centered, and get through this busy period more easily, don’t forget to take care of yourselves and to seek help in person here if you need to. Good luck!

December 2nd, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: 10 ways to Explore Toronto this December

By Kat Clark, Gradlife Ambassador

With the Santa Claus parade behind us, and Saturday night’s Cavalcade of Lights a memory blinking brightly out of the recordings on our cell phones, it’s time for the official holiday season to begin! Since this week is the first in December (and that means less than 30 sleeps until Santa!), we thought we’d give you a breakdown of some of the awesome things happening in and around Toronto that you can attend.

Whether you’re a grad student with a family, are spending this year’s holidays with friends, or are simply looking for a budget-friendly festivity, we’ve got you covered. Read on for Gradlife’s “Hopping Holiday Happenings” (the English major in me couldn’t resist the alliteration!):

**click on the underlined titles or pictures to be taken directly to the corresponding website for more info.!)**

  1. Toronto Christmas Festival – Dec. 12-Dec. 21 @ Yonge-Dundas Square: live music, food & drinks, pictures with Santa, and a laser show at 10p.m.! The best part? It’s FREE.
Toronto Christmas Festival

Toronto Christmas Festival


  1. Holiday Magic – Nov. 14-Dec. 31 @ Yorkville (near Bloor & Avenue): beautiful Christmas lights and great atmosphere; grab a coffee or cocoa and take a stroll through the lights. The cost? Your coffee, and your winter mittens.
  1. Toronto Christmas Market – Nov. 20-Dec. 20 @ the Distillery District: Christmas crafts, mulled wine, good food, great music. FREE admission Tuesdays-Fridays, $5/person Sat. & Sun (closed on Mondays). Want to check it out? Gradlife is headed there Dec. 9th, click here to sign up!
Toronto Christmas Market

Toronto Christmas Market


  1. One of a Kind Christmas Show – Nov. 26-Dec.6 @ Enercare Centre (Princes Blvd. & Canada Blvd.): 800 artisans with even more Christmas stuff/gifts to explore and buy (or not!). $13 for adults, $7.50 for seniors/youth, FREE for kids 12 and under. Buy your tickets online to save $2!
  1. The Christmas Story – Dec.4-Dec.20 @ Toronto Church of the Holy Trinity (close to the Eaton Centre): If you’re looking to keep it traditional, or really want a cheap play, you can see 100 performers take part in a great production of the nativity story. The entrance fee is by donation, but they do suggest $20 for adults, and $5 for kids.
  1. Santa’s Giant Storybook Experience – Nov. 24-Dec.17 @ Sherway Gardens Mall (West End, a bit of a commute but worth the trip for the wee ones): 30 minute show and photo op for kids with Santa, they get to take part in a fun Christmas story to help Santa find his reindeer! $15 entrance fee. If you’re not able to make the trip to the West End, you can always head to the closest mall for a photo op with the big guy in the red suit, too.
  1. A Christmas Carol – Dec. 3-Jan3. @ Young Centre for the Performing Arts (Mill St. & Cherry St. in the Distillery District). Not up for the traditional nativity story play? This performance is a wonderful adaptation of a Christmas classic, and is great for individuals, couples, friends, and family alike! Tickets range from $29.50-$89.
A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol


  1. Celebrating Chanukah? Check out blogT.O.s GREAT list of Chanukah parties for friends and family that are happening all around the city. Find things like: fireworks, parties, plays, poolside candle lighting, and more! Dec. 6-14.
Click here for great Chanukah celebrations!

Click here for great Chanukah celebrations!


  1. Holiday Cookies! Aka Gingerbread. Tis the season for baked goods in the shape of gingerbread men, Christmas trees, and snowmen. Find some awesome deliciousness at places like Mad Batter Bakers (Liberty Village), and Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (Kensington Market).
  1. Spectacle of Lights – Nov.28-Jan. 1 @ Toronto’s Waterfront. Whether you’re looking to do a little shopping and strolling, or simply want to take in a gorgeous view away from campus, you can head to the Waterfront to check out 4 sites draped in magical lights. Plus, it’s FREE (unless you’re shopping, of course!)

While all of these are a great start to checking out the holiday magic as we reach the end of another year, don’t forget that there are other ways to spend your break and feel great. Something as simple as grabbing a few friends for a warm drink, taking a break from studying to window shop, or getting to the gym to fend off the seasonal feast are great ways to enjoy December even if you’re not feeling in a festive mood.

If you’re the type of person who likes to move more away from the commercial side of things, why not consider checking out Volunteer Toronto as well? A lot of places love to have extra volunteers this time of year, and need the added help for Toy Drives, Holiday events, and gathering supplies as the days get shorter and colder.

Whatever your style, Toronto is a big city with lots of opportunities to “get in the spirit”, wherever that might take you!



November 26th, 2015

10 Skills PhDs Master that Give them an Edge over Other Job Seekers

Guest post: Hamidreza Saghir, PhD student, and blogger for GradCompass

A PhD has traditionally been the path to a career in academia. However, recent job trends point to a placement rate of  STEM PhD graduates in tenure positions that is less than 1%. Although this is not the most encouraging statistic, there might be a silver lining. With the growing demand of tech companies for a highly skilled work force, and the ample reports of unfilled tech jobs, PhD holders and companies can find a mutually beneficial relationship by keeping an open mind to the possibility of PhD holders filling those vacant tech job slots. In fact, this idea of PhD students finding industry jobs once their graduate work is complete is becoming more and more popular with current students.

Depending on the industry and the job, there are varying demands for technical skills in the field. However, there are some common skills that almost all companies value. In a survey by CareerBuilder, 77% of employers indicated that they were seeking candidates with soft skills. Although traditional academic training needs a serious review in light of new job trends, it still constitutes a solid foundation for successful employment in many of these highly sought-after job placements. These skills include:

1. Problem solving. In order to stay competitive in the business environment, tech companies need employees that can effectively solve problems and think critically. Critical thinkers rely on evidence and weigh the influences of motives and bias while avoiding emotional impulses in jumping to conclusions. Objective thinking often reveals hidden layers of a problem that are not evident at first glance.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Hiring managers usually ask candidates about a time they had to overcome a challenge in the workplace, they do this to measure a candidate’s ability to think objectively in the face of obstacles. Critical thinking and problem solving are skills that PhD students consistently practice during the course of their graduate studies, and is a requirement for successful academic publishing. By the time a PhD candidate finishes their studies, they have already gone through multiple rigorous review processes that require critical thinking, and are well prepared for problem solving challenges that might appear in the workplace.

2. Willingness to learn. The world changes at a rapid pace, and companies need to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and information to stay on top. To do this, these companies need to hire people who are willing to change with the times, and who have the drive and capacity to learn new things. Because PhD candidates  need to stay up-to-date with recent works in their field, they are in a constant loop of learning during their graduate training. The literature review process for PhDs continues up to the end of their graduate studies, and ensures that PhD students are the type of people who will always be open to learning.

3. Work ethics. Companies value employees that are dependable, meet deadlines, and stay focused at work. Working at least four years toward a PhD with minimum payment is a great indication of devotion, loyalty to an idea, and keeping the personal out of the professional. A good work ethic is pivotal to a successful PhD degree, and a successful career. 

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

4. Coaching co-workers. Many employers value strong teamwork skills. Employees who are willing to help co-workers, and coach them along the way, are a great asset to a team’s overall success. Just as PhD students have helped new lab-mates get up to speed on projects, so too can they provide the same coaching for any new team members in a future workplace.

5. Presentation Skills. Regardless of the position held, many employees are expected to be able to present their work to management, colleagues, and customers. After going through grad school – where presenting their work  to lab-mates, supervisors, departments, and at conferences is a common occurrence – PhD students are well-versed in this essential skill.

6. Humble confidence.   A confident employee who voices their opinion will be heard; one who is also open to feedback will be listened to. Our experience working with supervisors has given us the tools necessary to be independent researchers/workers driven by success; at the same time, however, we have also learned how to accept constructive criticism, and know how to adapt our methods to reflect this feedback. An employee who welcomes chances to improve will only be an asset to any company they choose to work for.

7. Creativity and innovation. Creativity is one of the most important agents of change and development for companies. During an interview, hiring managers usually ask candidates about a time when they were assigned a new project, and what steps they took to see this project through. This question gives the hiring manager an insight into an interviewee’s ability to think outside the box. As PhD students, we’re well adept at coming up with creative solutions to difficult problems; use this to your advantage in an interview! Employers want to know that the research you perform (or the work you do) is authentic, and that you have the ability to not only curate information, but to create it too.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

8. Cultural fit. Many employers want to hire employees who are a great fit with their company philosophy and culture. PhD graduates are, for the most part, individuals with a sense of purpose and a set of values that drives their research, work, and life. Finding the right company to fit your values may take some searching, but when a company and candidate’s values align, both parties benefit from the relationship. Your workplace will be one driven by shared values, passions, and ideals…not just monetary incentives. Find the company that works for you, and get them to let you work for them.

9. Work under pressure. An employee that can work well under the ever-increasing pressures of the workplace is a great asset to all companies. PhD graduates have a proven track record in this regard. Almost all PhD projects involve a great degree of uncertainty where students aren’t sure whether any given project will be successful. Grad students have the wherewithal to stay motivated, focused, and on-their-game when deadlines loom and the pressure mounts.

10. Flexibility and focus. Oftentimes, deadlines and projects change at the spur of the moment in the workplace, and employees need to adapt quickly while staying focused. In situations with a high degree of uncertainty – for example, in a PhD project – this is very often the case. Grad students have learned to adapt quickly to meet new deadlines, and to adapt to minute changes in data and project outcomes. Responding with grace under pressure is something all employers look for, and something that we – as grad students – have more than a little experience with.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Putting it all together, there is a great opportunity for both companies and PhD graduates to keep an open mind about the possibilities that can be created by the presence of scholars in the industry. The success stories of many PhD graduates working outside of academia attest to this fact. GradCompass is trying to bridge the information gap between PhD graduates and their career options by providing relevant information for pursuing a career outside academia. We are hoping to add value to the lives of grad students by providing easy access to hard-to-find information that is not typically shared in grad schools. We welcome any input you may have as grad students pursuing a career whether outside academia, or within it. Stay tuned for more information from GradCompass on nailing the interview process.

Hamidreza is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering. He is also co-founder and CEO at Recreate Robotics. Jobs for advanced degree holders is a cause he cares about and he blogs about the process of getting a job after a PhD on GradCompass.


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