Graduate Studies is What You Make It
By Daniel Sirivar- Master’s student in Social Work
As a Masters student in Social Work, I remember arriving at the St. George campus and being completely overwhelmed by the mere size of the university and the number of students who go here. Being from an undergraduate university of only fifteen hundred students, I felt as though I had entered another world. But as I took the time to get to know the campus and the services offered, I quickly began to feel better about my decision to study here. Offered was an extensive list of services that work to help students in a variety of ways. From Career Services to the Health Services Center, I found that each of the questions I had about the university had a service or department to answer them. There was a dynamic and inclusive way that the university’s network of services discretely supported the various needs of students.
Graduate studies’ is premised on self-directed learning, critical thinking and problem solving. For many students the transition into the self directed learning is unfamiliar territory and can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. I remember wanting to find out what the expectations and academic challenges were so I could prepare myself. I felt as though if I could smoothly transition into my graduate studies I would be in a position conducive to success.
Luckily, I came across the "Graduate Student Initiative Program" [now gradNAV]. This program is series of events and workshops designed specifically for graduate students. It really informed me of the various aspects of the graduate student experience. Most, if not all of my questions were addressed in current or upcoming events or workshops. I really appreciate the email updates regarding upcoming workshops and events. I particularly like how the "G.S.I" program offers a forum through workshops and events to relate the experiences of other graduate students throughout the university.
The graduate student experience is surrounded by and embedded in a richness that need only be recognized in order to be enjoyed. The friendships, skills and passions we hewn here will impact and direct our personal and professional lives. More so now than ever before our graduate experience will be the result of what we decide to make it. Often, in our moments of stress and amongst our new academic challenges, we forget about the skills and abilities that brought us past successes and to this point. Moreover, we neglect the extensive resources and community that surrounds us at the University of Toronto. In order to ease the transition of become a graduate student one should take in mind these three tips.
Three tips to a smooth transition:
Investigate Program Expectations – (Don’t just simply read the syllabus, find out what doing well means in your program, make a plan to get there)
Investigate your programs expectations. Find out what is considered to be good work but also the methods and strategies that are conducive to producing "great" work by your program’s standards. Making this distinction will help you employ tangible strategies that benefit and improve your work and strengthen your methods.
De-stress – if you work hard, enjoy yourself when you can. Try and keep some normal routines of life in times of stress, (i.e. going to the gym)
Without a doubt, hard work, motivation and often perseverance have brought you to this point. It is important to recognize that those same attributes will be needed throughout your graduate studies. It is import to stay motivated and focused as you engage in new academic challenges. Yet it is equally important to de-stress and work to ensure your life has balance. De stressing is a tool that will allow you to rejuvenate ensuring your performance is optimal while keeping tasks manageable. Our campus is filled with dynamic happenings and hidden gems you should check out.
Stay connected to the Student Community – (Staying connected is a vital part of making the most of your graduate experience, meet fellow students!)
As a group we have the benefit of the experiences of our fellow students. Many of the questions and challenges we have, may have been posed and answered by our fellow students, past and present. Staying connected to what is being offered by the graduate student community may help you navigate various problems and concerns. If your program is multi- year, talk to students in upper years. Ask them for advice or strategies regarding concerns you may have. These professional relationships will influence your career and the resulting friendships will enhance your graduate student experience.