January 9th, 2018

Navigating utoronto.ca

Written by Cricia Rinchon, GradLife Ambassador
Photo by Jason Krygier-Baum

“Congratulations and welcome [back] to graduate studies at the University of Toronto! The beginning of the year, especially for students moving to Toronto for the first time, can be a disorienting time. We at GradLife are excited to offer services to you in order to ease this transition. As the new GradLife Ambassador, part of my role is to help orient you on these services.” September Welcome Back Blogpost

If this is your first term here at UofT, I’d like to congratulate you on successfully changing your status from “Prospective Student” to “Current Student”. First things first: let’s get oriented on the UTSGS website’s major tabs:

Registration & Enrolment. The difference between registration enrolment is that registration refers to paying tuition and incidental fees, whereas enrolment refers to adding courses. The web interface important to both processes is ACORN (Accessible Campus Online Resource Network). Something important to note is that although you enrol on ACORN, the material for courses is posted on the Learning Portal (often referred to as “Portal”). ACORN is also the interface you use when ordering a transcript, which you’ll need when applying to awards.

Academics. Under this tab you’ll find a quick link the 2017-18 SGS Calendar, which lists Important Sessional Dates. A few key ones to note:

  1. JAN 12: Registration deadline for students registering or starting their program this term.
  2. JAN 22: Final date to add winter session course.
  3. FEB 19: Family Day (university closed), and many students have the 20-23rd off. If you find yourself having more leisure time during this week (although the SGS doesn’t have an official reading week, many graduate unit still cancel classes) be sure to register for our Grad Escape: Trivia Night at Harvest Noon Cafe.
  4. APRIL 30: Tuition deadline to avoid service charges on unpaid fall/winter sessions. Students who have a Major Award, Research Stipend, or Teaching Assistantship and were granted a tuition deferral must pay their tuition by this date.

Enhance Your ExperienceYou’re at UofT and likely a keen student and go-getter in life. Doing the bare minimum isn’t what got you here, so why stop now? You’re probably always thinking about how you can improve not only your weaknesses but also your strengths, planning next steps after graduate school, and keeping up to date with ways you can further your education as an academic and professional. UofT offers many programs that will help you through this like the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication, the Graduate Professional Development team, and the Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) program. Outside of academics, we also offer a lot of wellness support through the GradLife program.

If you have any other questions, feel free to tweet at us @UofTGradLife or send us a message us on Facebook. Be sure to check out the FAQs on the SGS Website as well here.



December 15th, 2017

Winter Activities and Grad Escapes

Written by Cricia Rinchon, GradLife Ambassador

Skating has been a common leisurely winter activity in Toronto, with our first outdoor commercial rink opening as early as the 1800s. Toronto’s newest synthetic ice skating rink is being housed at Ontario Place, where you can also enjoy 12 illuminated exhibits by 20 local artists and illuminated paths with twinkling fairy lights. Additionally, a longstanding Toronto-tradition is the Harbourfront DJ Skate Nights (every Saturday, 8-11pm). You can also skate at Nathan Phillips Square until March, but note that you can only visit their Holiday Fair until 6 pm on December 23rd.

Another holiday market you can’t miss is the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District, ranked one of the best holiday markets in the world by various magazines where you can pick up locally handcrafted souvenirs, listen to live music, and enjoy free wine samples. Be sure to go on a weekday for free admission, and head over before sunset to avoid long lines! 

A less well known Christmas Market that’s open up until the end of this year is Evergreen’s Winter Village (open from 10 am to 5 pm). There you can join a guided hike on the trails through the Don Valley, grab some hand-made souvenirs from the Holiday Etsy Market, and enjoy local treats with a toasty drink around the cozy campfires. If this has piqued your interest but don’t want to do exploring alone, be sure to sign up for our upcoming Grad Escape: Winter Hike to Evergreen Brickworks in the new year!

Other Grad Escapes to watch out for if you’re more of an indoor-person include the Games Night at Bampot House of Tea, Trivia Night at the Harvest Noon Cafe, an Improv Class at The Second City, and Dodgeball at the Athletic Centre. Be sure to visit the GradEscapes page here to learn more. 

Happy Holidays — hope to see you in the New Year,


December 8th, 2017

Leading Together: a Student Leadership Conference

Join us on January 13: Leading Together

Guest Blog by Joanne Lieu, Leadership Programming Development Assistant

The inception of Google began from a disagreement between Larry Page, a prospective graduate student of Stanford University, and Sergey Brin, a student who was assigned to show him around. Despite their differing views, they developed a partnership a little over a year later working from their dorm rooms to build what we would soon know as Google. It could have been the case that Google would have never formed if both students didn’t see the merit in their different views. Fostering an environment that allows disagreements to evolve into innovation is essential for creating leadership.

With the semester coming to a close, how can I cultivate innovation and leadership with others at U of T?

We have you covered.

Join us on Saturday, January 13th from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. at Hart House for “Leading Together” – a student leadership conference planned and presented by student leaders across U of T. The conference will facilitate peer-to-peer learning and community building, with students presenting workshops  about what they’ve learned, practiced, or are curious about.

Our keynote speaker is Peter Limberg, an entrepreneur and an author of the upcoming books the Stoic Circle and Active Understanding (with philosopher Andrew Taggart). He is the co-founder of Stoicism Toronto and the founder of Intellectual Explorers Club (IEC).

Peter firmly believes we live in a world where we have to interact with people who have different views and beliefs than our own. If constructive dialogue is to ensue, it is critical for leaders to communicate in the spirit of understanding. In his 90 min workshop, future leaders will learn the skills to listen with clarity, communicate forthrightly, and lead with the spirit of joint-discovery. By learning and regularly applying these skills you will develop the characteristics of verbal comprehension, intellectual humility, and principled compassion.

Who are the presenters?

Entirely run by U of T students across campus, we have among the many talented presenters, Alexia Yeo. She will be presenting on Fostering Leadership Skills: Success in the Job Market and Academia.

Alexia understands leadership as a vital skill treasured by many job marketrecruiters and admissions officers. In Alexia’s presentation, she will discuss how she fostered her own leadership skills in order to become a successful candidate for the “big four” consulting job applications and graduate school applications. Alexia’s conference talk will present her use of Olivia Hua’s “Pedagogical Approaches to the Natural Science which includes techniques such as presentations, peer interaction, literature reviews and exposure to new ideas. Alexia will describe how she used these techniques to take ownership and leadership in her own research and community  projects. She will then discuss how she was able to demonstrate her leadership skills through these experiences to become a compelling candidate for recruiters.


Register here or connect with us.

November 26th, 2017

Surviving an Academic Conference

Academic Conferences (1)

Written by: Cricia Rinchon, GradLife Ambassador

“How are you finding it?”
“I attended once when I was in undergrad for 3 days, but this is my first time getting the 5-day experience. It was pretty overwhelming!”
“I’ve been going to this for countless years, and I still find it overwhelming.”

Last week I was in Washington, DC for Society for Neuroscience, an annual academic conference where over 30 000 neuroscientists congregate for 5 days. As a huge planner who obsesses over optimizing time, I found it incredibly overwhelming. Each day there were over 200 events to choose from ranging from specialized symposiums to sponsored socials! I survived, Here are some tips I congregated by reading blogs of more seasoned veterans and talking to my peers and mentors on surviving giant academic conferences:

Do your homework. Indeed, you will look at the conference program and optimize your itinerary to know WHAT you want to learn and get out of the conference–but it may be even more important to do your homework behind WHO you’ll meet there. My roommate and I shamelessly Googled what important authors in our field looked like so we could recognize them. Part of my motivation behind this was hearing a horror story that a trainee had unsuspectingly asked our supervisor if he was familiar with a technique that he was actually one of the founding fathers of…

Plan which socials to attend, yet be open to leave your schedule flexible. In terms of events, I am a HUGE planner. Before I commit to an event, I like to know the when, where, and for how long. Ironically, at this conference I had to abandon my incessant need for control in order to truly optimize my experience. Aside from the larger sponsored networking events, there were smaller ones that my group found out about unexpectedly! It would have been a shame to miss just because I didn’t feel prepared.

Reconnect with old peers and mentors. Academia often brings people to other parts of the world, and common conferences are a great place for reunions with old colleagues and mentors. If you’re still working in the same field, it’s important to keep them updated on how their research family tree is growing–and if not it’s a great opportunity to learn about the contrasting opportunities where your common background could take you.

Follow up. Your conference experience doesn’t end on the plane ride home! One of the goals of international conferences is to encourage collaboration. I’ve heard of a lot of great projects and ideas starting from a casual conversation at a conference. Maybe start with: so how was your day?

Best of luck,


October 27th, 2017

Grad Escape Reflection: YES AND… Improv Class


Post by: Cricia Rinchon, Gradlife Ambassador

Did you know that The Second City – Training Centre is the largest school of improvisation and sketch comedy in the world? Last Tuesday a group of us went to The Second City for an improv class. When we walked into the “classroom”, our instructor invited us to put our coats on hooks and set our bags down by the walls. He wrote “YES, AND…” on a whiteboard and instilled the theme for the rest of the class: learning how to accept information, and then adding to it.  

Throughout the class, our group of a dozen strangers from various graduate disciplines bonded as we were immersed in the safe and trusting environment The Second City created for us. I couldn’t help but think that this class is the perfect team-bonding exercise as there were many common principles between a good improviser and a good team-player.

Here are a 3 principles we learned from our improv instructor that I found incredibly applicable to working in a team: 

“Be selfless and think about your partner.” First and foremost, good improvisors want to make it easier for their fellow improvisors. This mentality promotes providing support for our teammates. For example, being reactive to the information you received from your partner is only half the battle, as it doesn’t provide your partner with much material to work with for the next step. This relates to teamwork because it reminded me that getting my job done was only half the battle–the other half was ensuring my contribution fitted well with the team’s greater mutual goal.

“Only give information to someone who is ready to accept it.It’s really difficult for your fellow improvisors to tell the difference between standing and being ready to catch an invisible “ball” versus holding invisible “ball”. This relates to teamwork because when I become too task-oriented, I may overlook the importance of soft skills that make the process easier for my teammates. This was a great exercise of communication, as checking that the timing and way information is being conveyed can be just as important as getting the information across.

“Forgive yourself.” Everyone makes mistakes. During our class, each person goofed at one point or another, and if we got too caught up in that mistake the momentum of the scene would dissipate. Improv encouraged me to remember to not be so hard on myself and to not get too caught up in striving for a false sense of perfection, as more often than not it slows down the momentum of team workflow.

I highly encourage everyone to check out The Second City’s classes! It could be a great way to bond with your friends, family, or coworkers. If you’re not sure if you’d like to make the financial investment just yet: try grabbing a group of friends to do the exercises from Improv Encylopedia for free. Finally, be sure to checkout our Upcoming Events for more GradEscapes!  



October 16th, 2017

Leadership for Graduate Students


A guest blog by Joanne Lieu.

Hello fellow readers!
My name is Joanne and I am so humbled to be here as a guest blogger to bring another perspective to Grad Life! A little bit about myself: I am a first year Master of Education student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto (UofT). I currently work with Student and Campus Community Development as the Leadership Development and Programming Assistant (LDPA) to develop ways to nurture and cultivate your leadership skills at UofT. I want to know where your passions lie and bring out the best in you to help you become successful. That being said, I hope you find my insights, milestones, and struggles as a graduate student helpful.

I’ve never considered myself a leader by profession. I was involved in campus clubs and other organizations but leader was not actively a term I used to describe myself. So before I get into a discussion of what makes a good leader, I want to acknowledge that you all can be (and most likely are) a leader in some form or fashion–whether you are aware of it or not.

I challenge you to look at your current duties: perhaps you’re a teacher’s assistant, research assistant, or you’re with a campus club and you regularly send out e-mail to your executive or campus club members. Maybe you sat down with a family member recently and got the inescapable question of , “So what are you doing now?” I’m certain that once you dig deeper, you’ll find yourself realizing that you were in a leadership position at one point or another.

Once I began my journey of self-reflection, I realized my Classroom Cleaner position in elementary school evolved overtime as I now work as a workshop facilitator. Despite the fact that I still pick up crayons, I now perform data analysis and curriculum development. That being said, you don’t have to be in a formal position to consider yourself a leader.

So what makes a good leader? A good leader realizes that through lifelong learning they can build themselves and others. Reflective thinking and taking the time to slow down can go long ways to making you a better leader personally and professionally. Nurturing a growth mindset allows you to realize where your shortcomings are and where your strengths lie. Visioning where your goals are and how you can progress to them showcases accountability and scope.

What  resources does UofT offer for us to grow our leadership skills?

  1. Student Life Programs & Services. Particularly, their Leadership for Graduate Students Workshops. These workshops tackle topics such as characteristics of a good leader, facilitating a team, and exploring leadership and management. If you attend a minimum of three workshops you get CCR-approved! They also have a great Facebook Group if you want to join the online community.
  2. The plethora of clubs available at UofT. Clubs aren’t just for undergraduate students! There are many opportunities for graduate students to get involved and exercise their leadership skills. An example would be the Healthy Grads, a student-led team that provides health promotion programming by graduate students for graduate students. A great place to start is to look at your department’s graduate student association. 

Taking the first step to any new commitment can be challenging but perseverance and commitment will almost always pay in fruitful rewards. With that, I’ll leave you with a quote from Dr. Seuss that always leaves me inspired:

“And will you succeed? Yes, you will, indeed (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed) Kid, You’ll move mountains.”


Joanne Lieu


October 5th, 2017

Fall Activities in Toronto for Graduate Students



By Cricia Richon, Gradlife ambassador

Congratulations on surviving the first month back to school! I hope you’re making the most of the beautiful weather and scenery before we start hiding indoors due to the cold Canadian winter. Remember that it’s important for your mental well being to not get too consumed by your graduate studies. Take breaks to explore other aspects of your identity and explore Toronto!

Do you identify as a…

Sports enthusiast? Attend a Varsity Blues football game!

Today our Varsity Blues football team will take on the McMaster Marauders in the Varsity Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM, and tickets are free with a TCard. The UTSU is hosting pre-game homecoming festivities from 4-7 PM at the University College Quad. Can’t make it this week? View the rest of the season schedule here.

Preservationist? Visit the Evergreen Brick Works Saturday Farmers Market!

Evergreen is a Canadian charity based in Toronto that aims to inspire action to green cities, and has connected, collaborated, and catalyzed green initiatives for more than 25 years. The Evergreen Brick Works, located at the Don River Valley Park has a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays 8 AM – 1 PM. Each Saturday of October there’s a new theme: Thanksgiving, chicken, waste reduction, and Halloween. This is really North of campus, but there is a shuttle bus that runs every half hour from a parkette by Broadview TTC Station. Read more here.

Bibliophile? Attend Toronto’s International Festival of Authors (IFOA)!

Take a content break from your own writing and attend Toronto’s International Festival of Authors (IFOA): a celebration of words and ideas of writers and readers. At the Harbourfront Centre from October 19 to 29, there will be readings, poetry slams, panel discussions, interviews, and book signings. Tickets are free for students and $18 for general admission. View the full schedule here.

Foodie? Explore the Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sunday!

Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s most vibrant neighbourhoods that is considered an important tourist attraction and addition to Toronto’s cultural life. Every last Sunday of the month from May to October, it hosts “Pedestrian Sundays”. Between 12 to 7 PM, the streets are closed to traffic and opened to pedestrians to explore vendors showcasing what the Market has to offer with live music. October 29th marks the last one–don’t miss your last chance to experience this before having to wait until next year!

Musicphile? Listen to jazz and explore Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada!

At the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada there are over 16,000 aquatic animals, featuring North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel, with over 100 interactive opportunities. Ripley’s hosts a unique musical underwater adventure on the second Friday of every month: Friday Night Jazz. These tickets are included with the Sharks After Dark or Express Anytime general admission for $28. Be sure to have a look into your affiliations’ group rates; for example, the University Health Network offers a discounted ticket prices for their graduate students. Read more about Friday Jazz Night here.

September 27th, 2017

Creating an Online Presence as Graduate Students

online presence


By Cricia Richon, Gradlife Ambassador

Branding was once a strategy to differentiate products, services, and companies to build value for the consumer and brand owner; later it evolved to broader areas such as the personal life or careers of individuals. The term personal branding refers to what you promise to bring to the marketplace and the world. The most efficient way to convey your personal brand to the world is: online. When was the last time you Googled yourself?

Personal branding is a way to provide coherence to your story, allowing your audience to easily understand your strengths and interests. This is why in the global job market, personal branding is often considered indispensable. This “story” can refer to your personal life story, your work story, or for graduate students:  your research story. As the impending scholarship season is pushes graduate students to update their academic portfolios, some may also consider amplifying their personal brand through their online presence.

Why is having an online presence important? Academically, many institutions advocate for their academics to create an online presence because it provides a professional profile, allows control of an online image, broadens access to research, and (perhaps most importantly) make connections through online engagement.

What are some useful tools? To start, research portals allow you to read and discuss publications, create exposure for your work, get statistics on your research, and connect with others in your field. Two popular research portals are ResearchGate and Academia.edu, which have similar features and are often referred to a “social network for scholars” as you can receive updates and initiate discussion on recent publications by your colleagues. A more social route would be Twitter: the form of micro-blogging academics use to learn about talks, publications, job opportunities, and interact with the public. Its instant nature can be taken advantage of to optimize your outreach and engagement. For example, many conferences and events can be attended virtually now with live tweets and Periscope (the live video streaming app Twitter acquired).
What’s the difference between online presence and your personal brand? As you delve into different tools to develop your online presence, it’s important to remember that online presence cannot be substituted for a personal brand. In a research setting, your personal brand can be thought of the story that you want your CV to convey. Your online presence can be thought of as the number of points on your CV. Quantity is nice, but quality definitely overrides quality. Without a balance, the quantity can begin clouding the quality. This is where your online presence may begin to become a distraction, and why social media like Twitter sometimes get a bad rap. However, with the growing popularity of tools like Altmetric, which looks at the broader influence and impacts of your work beyond academic citations, playing with this balance may be worth the time investment in the long run.

Photo credits: Kenneth Jones

September 19th, 2017

Welcome [Back]!


Congratulations and welcome [back] to graduate studies at the University of Toronto! The beginning of the year, especially for students moving to Toronto for the first time, can be a disorienting time. We at GradLife are excited to offer services to you in order to ease this transition. As the new GradLife Ambassador, part of my role is to help orient you on these services.

Last September, I started my research-based program with UofT’s Institute of Medical Science. I treated the first few weeks like clockwork. Lab from 9AM-5PM delving into my thesis topic: neuroplasticity in chronic deep brain stimulation patients with Parkinson’s disease. The isolation that easily comes with graduate studies didn’t occur me until I realized how difficult it was for me to answer the casual question: “how was your day?” GradLife exists to prevent this isolation as it encourages you to:

Connect with people. Alone, we are limited to our stream of consciousness and experiences. Through making connections we can expand our scope of knowledge, strategies, and perspectives in both academics and other aspects of life. I am a huge advocate for reaching out to people in your institute, program, and to those outside academia. By getting involved with the Trainee Affairs Committee at my research institute, my departmental magazine, and one of UofT’s many dragon boat teams, my self-inflicted feelings of isolation dissipated. An easy suggestion for you: attend one of our GradTalks, and introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you. Ask them how their day went.

Explore Toronto. Graduate studies allow students to become rare specialists on topics, and thus they are often propelled towards opportunities around the world. As graduate students of the University of Toronto, the more you allow the culture of this city to enhance your graduate experience, the more you’ll be able to embody a University of Toronto alumni at a national or international level. I hope to inspire you to discover Toronto for the beautiful city by Lake Ontario, rich with multiculturalism, and traditions that it is. Easy suggestion for you: seek an experience that is novel for you through one of our GradEscapes. Did you know that Toronto has a Shoe Museum?

Ask questions. No question is too simple or too complex. We are here for support. Easy suggestion for you: e-mail us at gradlife@utoronto.ca or tweet at us @UofTGradlife.

Hope your day is going well.



September 8th, 2017

Starting the Semester Right

Whew! Orientations are slowly drawing to a close (but don’t forget, the Gradlife transition event will be happening Monday, September 11), and that means the real work is right around the corner. I know there was a lot of information thrown your way this week, and that you might be starting to feel some anxiety about how you could possibly juggle it all, but not to worry! We’ve got you covered 🙂 If you don’t have time to check out all of the wonderful resources available to you on campus right away, then read on!

In an effort to help you stay calm, collected, and on top of things, we’ve compiled a list of some great apps that will help you study, encourage your calm, and hopefully bring you a little clarity during the start of the term.

Good luck with your research and courses!

Apps to get through it all without wanting to order 100 coffees

**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!

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