Author Archives: Viel

Master of Arts vs. Master of Education

by Viel
MEd, Adult Education & Community Development

Upon graduation from my Bachelor of Education, I was already looking into pursuing graduate studies. At first, I wasn’t really sure about what the difference was between a Master of Arts degree and a Master of Education degree. I definitely knew that Adult Education and Community Development would be the program of choice, but I didn’t know which stream I wanted to complete.

Based on my own research, I’ve compiled a list of the differences between the two degrees.  Again, this is somewhat of a general overview of what the program-specific requirements are.

  Master of Arts (MA) Master of Education (MEd)
Overall Degree Components ·         Research-based Program

·         Based on coursework and thesis component

·         8 courses and thesis work

·         Professional Program

·         Based on coursework

·         10 courses

Program Length ·         Full-time: 2 years ·         Full-time: 1.5 years
Funding? ·         Yes – they are part of a funded cohort. The funding details will be a part of your admissions package. ·         No – However, there are opportunities to apply to scholarships/bursaries within your department and external awards.
Doctoral Opportunities PhD – If you would like to continue towards a path of research, the MA fits best when you would like to pursue a job in academia or find an opportunity to also enhance your workplace within a certain field. EdD – If you are looking more to enhance your professional opportunities an M.Ed. is definitely the way to go. Again, this blends both professional and research, but leans towards more how you can apply this to your workplace, just as an M.Ed. aims to do.

Though you may want to later pursue a PhD after an MEd, there might be certain requirements you need to undergo.

Why did I choose a Master of Education over a Master of Arts?

In comparing the two, I chose a Master of Education because I felt that it would open up more professions for me as a current educator. I am also not as interested in pursuing any field of research, but interested more with enhancing my knowledge within the field of Adult Education. I think it was a practical solution for me for my own career goals. It really depends on what you want to do and what your interests are. I think there are just as many opportunities with a Master of Education as with a Master of Arts, it really depends on what you want to do in terms of learning and career goals. Again, there are also different options and different pathways, but hopefully, this will give you a general sense of what can be done with an M.Ed.

Questions? Email me at oise.ambassador@utoronto.ca

Course Spotlight: LHA1122 PRACTICUM IN ADULT EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

by Viel
MEd, Adult Education & Community Development

Back when I was studying for my Bachelor of Education here at OISE, one of the main components that was required to successfully graduate was the practicum.

A practicum is exactly what you would think…it is an opportunity for students to essentially “practice” and to implement their skills and knowledge into the workplace. With regards to theory and best practices, there is so much to remember. In class, there were educational theories upon theories, legislation after legislation, and curriculum everywhere. There was so much that we were learning in such a short time frame, but what really galvanized my skills as an educator was the practicum. This was an excellent opportunity to really put theory into practice.

I believe that practicums are an important part of one’s learning, partly because you can utilize what you’ve learned in the classroom and implement them inside someone else’s “classroom”. Another benefit of the practicum piece is the opportunity to network within your space. It allows you to visualize yourself in that work environment and it definitely opens up the possibility of employment at your practicum site. Though you may not get a job there, you can certainly ask the employees about their journey towards that career.

So, with that in mind, I was hoping that I had the same opportunity once I began my MEd in Adult Education and Community Development.

You’ve probably seen Professor Jennifer Sumner’s name in my previous blog post in my reflection about my first semester. She is one of the professors here at OISE, in the department of Adult Education and Community Development. In taking her class, I’ve not only learned about OISE’s role and leadership in Adult Education, but also the importance of sustainability and advocacy for social change in this field.

This semester, I am taking her other class, The Pedagogy of Food, to enhance my knowledge about the food systems in relation to educational, political, sustainable, social and economical systems.

There is a course, however, that I was supposed to take, but I couldn’t because it conflicted with my schedule. Even though I couldn’t participate in that course, I still think it’s one of the many reasons why I decided to choose OISE. One of the factors that made me decide on this program is the opportunity to participate in a practicum. In my opinion, practicums allow someone who is interested in the field of Adult Education to be able to visualize themselves in that particular workplace.

The course is called LHA1122 PRACTICUM IN ADULT EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT. 

If you are interested in this course there are a couple of things that you need to know:

1) The Prerequisite: Permission of the Instructor

When you are choosing your courses, you are able to add this to your course schedule, but ultimately, you would need Professor Sumner’s approval about the course. I would recommend contacting her and telling her about the practicum that you intend to take once you’ve added that course. Then, she will send you a proposal form that you must fill out with the guidance of your practicum supervisor, who will help you to decide what project you would like to undertake. Once you hand it in, it will be submitted to Professor Sumner and all you will be waiting for is whether or not your proposal has been approved.

2) Course Structure: Weekly Seminars

The thing that differs from the practicum is that you are still required to come to class to discuss your learning. On top of your practicum hours, you will need to go to class on a weekly basis. During class, there are a lot of opportunities to talk about your learning and how your practicum project is developing. This is a perfect way to learn about the skills required in the field of adult education and the types of responsibilities an adult educator may have. In retrospect, when I was taking practicum during my B.Ed, I wished that there was an opportunity to reflect on my learning, because I feel that reflecting allowed me to grow as a professional and developed my knowledge about the field of adult education.

3) Types of Projects

The reason as to why I chose this course is the fact that it was so open-ended in terms of the projects that I wanted to undertake. Many of the past students of this course worked on interesting tasks, such as an associated research project, policy documents, and curriculum or programme development. Basically, you are able to work on anything that you may feel will work to enhance your skills as an adult educator. Your field supervisor will then evaluate your tasks on the basis of the proposal that you’ve developed prior to your class and as well as per the guidelines of the professor.

4) Successful Completion of the Course

To be able to complete this Pass/Fail course, you must attend the weekly seminars, spend about 36-50 hours at your practicum site (about 3-4 hours/week), and as well as write an integrative paper to help you reflect on your learning goals and the success of your project.

It’s really important to ensure that you are cognizant of the time frame before you start  this class so that you are not in a rush to find a field supervisor. I would recommend contacting Jennifer beforehand to get a good idea about your practicum project and if you are going in the right direction. I think this is a really good opportunity to help you delve into the world of adult education, because from what I have learned, there are a variety of fields you can work in as a graduate of the Adult Education and Community Development program. If you’re interested in this course, but don’t know what types of projects to do, there here is a list of past initiatives our AECD colleagues decided to undertake.

If you would like to learn more about this opportunity, please check out the website.

 Questions? Email me at oise.ambassador@utoronto.ca

Student Support Service Spotlight: The Indigenous Education Network

by Viel
MEd, Adult Education & Community Development

While I was completing my course about Indigenous Knowledge: Implications in Education, I began looking at ways in which OISE is able to infuse indigenous education into our faculty. There are many support services for indigenous and non-indigenous students who are looking for insight and guidance from the indigenous community in improving educational practices. We are so lucky to be a part of a faculty and a university that strives to ensure that indigenous students are able to find support in a meaningful and authentic ways, while working within faculty members to help bridge relations with non-indigenous students, as well. So, in searching for these OISE-based initiatives, I stumbled upon the Indigenous Education Network (IEN).

The IEN is housed on OISE’s seventh floor. They have their own meeting space and as well as a few services that indigenous and non-indigenous students can access throughout the year. They also plan out events and socials that OISE students can take part. It is a great way to learn about the ways in which indigenous worldviews can be applied into the scope of the teaching practice.

Found on the seventh floor, the Indigenous Education Network provides services not only for indigenous, but also for non-indigenous services in conjunction with the First Nations House. Here are some of the services that they offer to OISE students:

1) Academic Advising: This service, which is in partnership with UofT’s First Nations House, students can speak with an academic counsellor. In terms of what services they offer, they can give you both academic and financial advice, as well as give support and referrals to other services on campus.

2) Networking: This is a great opportunity to meet and mingle with Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, and as well as other community members. These types of meetings will help you to establish relationships and sometimes, there’s even food! It’s a great way to know the various support services for indigenous students and get to meet leaders in the community.

3) OISE Elders: Students, faculty, and other community members are able to meet with an indigenous elder. I was fortunate to meet with Elder Jacqui and speak with her about indigenous culture and how non-indigenous people can become allies within the university and in the greater community. It was such a wonderful experience in speaking with her and I look forward to meeting with her again. If you would like to meet with an Elder at OISE, you can visit them on a walk-in basis or if you would prefer to do so, you can also make an appointment! Her availability is usually on Wednesdays from 1 to 5 pm.

4) Indigenous Graduate Student Collective: This is a group dedicated to Indigenous students. This collective organizes events and provides support throughout the academic journey.

From my previous experience at OISE, we were introduced to the Deepening Knowledge Project, which is an initiative started by Jean-Paul Restoule, a former professor at OISE. In terms of what this project entails, it is basically a toolkit in which teachers can use within their teaching practice. I think that this is an important step to pave the way towards Reconciliation.

This OISE initiative is also part of a larger effort in indigenizing education through research, collaboration with indigenous faculty and community members, and as well as the implementation of Indigenous collaborative programs and courses across the various departments at OISE. In participating in my first Indigenous education course, I have learned so much about resources and services that OISE and UofT offers for both indigenous and non-indigenous students, and as well as indigenous worldviews that I can infuse in my practice.

There are so many ways in which OISE is indigenizing their way into educational practices and methods. If you’re interested in learning more about indigenous education, visit the IEN during your time at OISE!

 Questions? Email me at oise.ambassador@utoronto.ca

Semester One Overview: Reflection and Learning Outcomes

by Viel
MEd, Adult Education & Community Development

I honestly can’t believe that my first semester of grad school is quickly coming to a close. With my last assignments and presentations in tow, I’ve come to a conclusion: I really don’t want this to end. There have been so many things that I have yet to digest and I am surely going to miss the rhythm of grad life—the plethora of readings, the colorful and lively discussions, the thought-provoking lectures, the unfamiliar new faces that have become my friends, the early morning, coffee-fueled library sessions, and the intellectual discourse of my professors—I’ll miss it all over the winter break! And I know you might think of me as too keen or too intense as a student, but I’ve genuinely enjoyed my time here. I’ve come to learn so much and am constantly in awe that every class I always seem to learn something new. Though I do admit, adjusting to grad school was a bit difficult at first, I feel like I have grown accustomed to it and am now willing to further step out of my comfort zone. It’s been a long, arduous three months of constant growth, learning, and reflecting—I’ve definitely come a long way and I’m looking forward to more in the coming semester. You may have been wondering what classes I’ve been taking all this time and so, here’s a peek of the classes you might be interested in and some of the things that I’ve learned from them.

Courses Learning Outcomes
LHA1100 Introduction to Adult Education

Professor Jennifer Sumner

In this class, we talk about the traditions of adult education and how it can be both applied to the traditional and non-traditional classroom settings. Not only do we discuss adult learning theories and forms of learning, we also look at the historical implications of Canadian Adult Education and how they have been ingrained in social movements. Through readings, class discussions, and review papers—we’ve learned about the heritage of Adult Education in Canada through the Antigonish Movement and Frontier College. In the spirit of Canadian Adult Education, we also discussed ways to move forward with the Indigenous peoples of Canada through the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Overall, we’ve learned how Adult Education continues to be a dynamic field and continues to work in this social justice and anti-oppression framework.
LHA1102 Community Development: Innovative Models

Professors Sherida Ryan & Jack Quarter

In this class, we challenge and deliberate the romanticized notion of “community”. Through our lively discussions of social networks, social economy, social capital, asset mapping, we look at the ways in which community members and developers can address social inequalities and advocate for the marginalized. We talk about various models of community development that have worked for Toronto, such as co-operatives, social purpose enterprises, and asset-based initiatives. Our professors give us the opportunity to discuss the role of the government and which models of development are effective and ineffective. Through our lectures, we also have had the opportunities to meet community leaders who apply these models in their own community development practices. We’ve had guest speakers from places such as  Community Health Centers, The Furniture Bank, Alterna Credit Union, Acorn, U of T’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work,  and Urbane Cycling Co-Op. Our guest speakers allow us to learn about issues, such as social housing and access to healthcare, from the perspective of these leaders working in this field.
LHA1184 Indigenous Knowledge: Implications for Education

Professor J’net Ayayqwayaksheelth

 

In this class, we talk about how the Indigenous communities can move forward through Truth & Reconciliation. We discuss and learn about the traditional worldviews of the indigenous peoples of Canada. Our professor uses non-traditional teaching practices that elicit the indigenous ways of knowing and how they can be further applied to our own teaching practices. In our discussions, we talk about how we can act as indigenous allies and learn how to critically self-reflect on our own values, perspectives, and beliefs to be able to move forward to create an inclusive and diverse classroom community. We also have the opportunities to meet various Indigenous leaders in the community who continue to apply indigenous worldviews in their work and within institutions. Our professor, who is also an arts educator at the Royal Ontario Museum, talks about how art is an important vehicle in continuing traditions and challenging assumptions faced by indigenous people today.

As you can see, my first semester at OISE was well spent debating, presenting, writing, reading, learning, and most importantly, growing not only as a student, but as an educator. I have definitely come a long way since day one of my studies and I’m sad to leave this semester behind. I have come to familiarize myself with new faces and spaces, to challenge my assumptions and my perspectives, to learn how to listen and respectfully challenge other perspectives, and to step outside of the box. It is in this semester where I found myself continuing the conversations outside of class, looking forward to something new everyday, and applying my newfound knowledge in practical situations. As I end this semester with celebratory treats and dinners with my professors and my peers, I am looking forward to a well-deserved break, but I am also eagerly anticipating the upcoming semester. When I first began school, I was anxious and uneasy about how this first half of my studies was going to unfold—the classes, the professors, the people I would meet—but after completing my first semester, I’ve realized how fortunate I am that I was given this opportunity to continue to learn, to network, to reflect, and to further expand my educational horizons. But don’t worry–my blogging has yet to come to an end and will be continuing until the holiday break! So even though my classes may be coming to an end, my blogging has not!

What are some things YOU are looking forward to in Grad School? Are these some of the classes you’re interested in? I would LOVE to hear from you–comment in the section below!

Questions? Email me at oise.ambassador@utoronto.ca

The Ultimate Presentation Season Survival Guide

by Viel
MEd, Adult Education & Community Development

It’s Presentation Season!

It’s that feeling of “fight or flight” when you first step into the spotlight…your body recognizes that your audience, or rather the judgement that will ensue, is a threat to your overall well-being. That’s why public speaking is regarded as one of the biggest phobias where 75% of individuals suffer from this fear. But don’t worry, there’s hope. I used to be part of that 75%, but I learned how to reluctantly overcome this fear. I found that when I became a Student Ambassador at UofT Mississauga, it really pushed me to come out of my comfort zone, since one of the main responsibilities was to give tours around campus to prospective students and their parents. My presentation skills were further cultivated during my undergrad and especially when I went to teacher’s college at OISE, as there were so many opportunities where I had to push my limits—with every interaction, every presentation, and every group project, and every teaching moment—I was forced to take risks, to refine my speaking skills, and most importantly, I learned how to be OK with making mistakes in front of people.

Once I started grad school, there was more of a group/class discussion and presentation element to all of my classes. My courses have required me to take part in both individual and group presentations, which is something that I had expected before I got here. You need to remember that your presentation skills are just as important in both your academic life and your professional life. The best opportunity for self-reflection and self-assessment for your public speaking skills is through your classes—your professors really look at how you present in front of the class, and not just the content of your slides or your research. So, think about your grad school presentations like a free “Toast Masters” Class! If you really think about it, in the future, you may consider pursuing your doctorate or find a job that requires public speaking, so this is where you really need to have the skill to present, to facilitate discussions, to ask questions, and most importantly, to learn how to persuade your audience. Presenting is a both essential and a dynamic tool for you—so take the opportunity to practice, practice, practice!

To help you “beef” up those presenting skills, I’ve compiled a couple of things that you may want to consider when you start thinking about presentations:

1) Eye contact. Remember when your teacher/your classmates coached you to look at the back wall to completely avoid the anxiety that comes when people are looking at you? Well, believe it or not, this “tactic” is not a good way to connect with people during your presentation. In both formal and informal settings, you need eye contact to make connections and to ensure that people are actually listening to you. One of the best pieces of advice that I got was from professional speakers who said that the best way to solve this eye contact conundrum is to actually just scan the foreheads of people. That way, if you’re a little bit hesitant about looking at people, just look at their foreheads! They said that it gives the illusion that you’re looking at everyone without having to make any eye contact. Obviously eye contact doesn’t hurt once in a while—again, you still need to establish that connection! So maybe you want to balance scanning foreheads and making eye contact, and then, when you’re confidence grows, make eye contact a habit!

2) Keep it short and simple. This point is especially relevant to your PowerPoint slides and even when you are elaborating on a point. You do not want to lose your train of thought and go on a different tangent, something that I struggle with from time to time. So just make sure that you don’t lose your focus and just keep it straight to the point, while making some personal and relevant touches to your speaking points. If you keep trying to find things to talk about for each point, you might lose what you actually want to say.

3) Organization is key. My Adult Education professor first told our class that as an adult educator, you must always have to organize your space. So take the time to organize yourself before your presentation and set out your essential presentation tools. Also make sure that you have your slides organized in a way that shows both the beginning, the middle, and the end. Your organization skills are important, so that your presentation goes smoothly and you’ll be able to look like you are knowledgeable about your topic.

4) Rehearse, but keep it natural. If you do not rehearse or prepare yourself for this presentation, and you just solely rely on the notion of “winging it”…be prepared to discover that this may not be the best idea. We’ve all been there before—where you struggle to get your point across, because you may have missed one of your points. Practicing for presentations is a key tool to avoid making mistakes, but you also want to make sure that you don’t want to appear to be too rehearsed to the point where you look unnatural and sound almost robotic. Again, connecting with your audience really gets people to engage with your presentation! This will also help in situations where technology fails you and you cannot show your slides—you’ll be able to handle those technical errors like a pro!

5) Pace yourself. You may have good points, but they might become lost in the blur that is your presentation. Sometimes, you find yourself speaking too fast to the point where no one can understand you. Always take a deep breath before you speak and in between those transitions. This will even help you to avoid those “uhs” and “ums” that fill those moments of silence! Make this your mantra of presentations: Breathe in confidence, breathe out knowledge!

6) Use humor. Obviously, you would like to keep things professional, but it doesn’t hurt to add a little bit of humor into your presentation—again, engaging and connecting to your audience is the goal! You also want to make your audience feel that you’re comfortable with them and that you’re confident and knowledgeable about your topic. Laughing a little won’t hurt, it’s something some of the greatest public speakers use to ease that tension between them and the audience!

7) Take advantage of the cloud. Backup is super important when it comes to presentations, whether it’s a PowerPoint, a Prezi, or a video—making sure that you have a backup space to put them on will allow you to avoid those technical blunders. Print out your slides, bring a USB, and always create a Plan B when you are presenting, this will enable to get that presentation done and over with, without having to cause any delays! Again, if you practice and know your slides, you don’t even have to look at your notes or your slides–making you look even better!

8) Be heard. You also need to learn how to speak loud and clear. You want to make sure that your speech is natural and not robotic too! If you’re a soft-spoken person like me, sometimes I find it hard to speak up—but again with practice, you’ll be able to overcome that shy voice! I always remind myself to find that “teacher voice” within.

9) Assess Yourself. A great way to get better at presentations is to self-reflect, which will help to assess how you present and what you can to do better for future presentations. Don’t be too critical of yourself, but just be open-minded about giving yourself that room for improvement. A good way to assess yourself is to record a video of you presenting—it’s probably the weirdest feeling to watch yourself actually presenting, but it also helps you to see if you’re lacking eye contact or emotion in your voice, and maybe you speak too much with your hands! You really need to see what will make a good speaker and see how you can apply that with your own presentation skills.

10) Participate. One of my professors during my undergrad always told me that sitting at the front of the class will help you to not become conscious of what people think about you when you are participating in class. Participating in class will definitely alleviate those feelings of anxiety when you present—you’ll also become comfortable with your future audience and it’ll just keep pushing you out of your comfort zone. So go ahead and participate!

Remember, presentations aren’t easy. It may come naturally to people, but for the majority of us, it takes a great deal of practice. Don’t be afraid to take risks and make those mistakes, because it’s the only way you can learn and enhance your skills. One more thing, before you start your presentation—never forget to introduce yourself! After following these recommendations on enhancing your presentation skills, people will probably want to know who you are! So don’t forget to take time to tell your audience your name!

Do you have any tips on surviving presentations? Comment below!

Questions? Email me oise.ambassador@utoronto.ca

Borrowing Research Knowledge from Your Personal Librarian

by Viel
MEd, Adult Education & Community Development

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”

― Neil Gaiman

There’s an app for that. Just Google it. Did you look on Wikipedia already?

Here are some of the common suggestions when you ask about something—people always tend to lead you towards the internet. These are probably some of things you do on a regular basis and it’s something that I do on the daily. Our reliance on technology doesn’t always allow us to get the right answers though. In fact, if you were to think about when our parents or grandparents were writing their university papers, they probably had to manually look things up in the library system or look something up alphabetically in an encyclopedia. Nowadays, accessing information is quite simple…all you need to do is just Google it.

So, what do you do when your professors ask you for a credible source? What if they ask you about empirical evidence for your theses and not just giving away facts? Where do you need to go to get this help?

Have no fear—Desmond is here! Desmond is part of OISE’s library and not only that, he’s also my personal librarian. Sounds pretty special, right?  But don’t worry, it’s not just for me! This program is available to you too, once you become an OISE student.

Desmond, OISE Librarian

The University of Toronto piloted the Personal Librarian Program (PLP) 6 years ago. All the universities’ colleges have the ability to voluntarily run this program within their libraries, depending on the resources available to them. In fact, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has made the Personal Librarian Program available to all their first year students.

OISE signed up for the PLP 4 years ago to help support grad students. This program is only available to first year grad students, who may be new to the area of research and writing papers, but you can certainly keep in touch with them afterwards. OISE’s librarians all come from different backgrounds —Desmond’s primary research is in both Social Justice Education and Indigenous Studies. The PLP usually matches you with a specific librarian who can help you in a general field of study. They try to check in with you at certain points in the year, such as the beginning of the year and when it usually starts to get busy with assignments. You can basically book an appointment with them or talk to them via email so that they can help you with your research, citations, creating bibliographies, the Dos and Don’ts of Wikipedia and Google Scholar, as well as knowing how to access the various databases found on our library system.

Believe it or not, UofT belongs to the top 10 largest library systems in North America, while OISE is the largest Education Library! Just think about your access to all these resources—the books, digital media, databases, journals, curricula—it’s boundless! And the best thing is that your Personal Librarian can help you find the resources that are tailored to your research interests!

Still not convinced about the wonders of University of Toronto libraries? Here are some interesting facts about the libraries you may not know about:

  1. UofT has 44 libraries in total and Robarts, our main library, houses about 8, including the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library.
  2. Bored? Maybe rent out a board game or an old PlayStation console and some old-school video games from Media Commons found in the Robarts Library and play it during your free time!
  3. Our library system isn’t just home to books and journals—they offer digital archives, old films, DVDs, and CDs!
  4. The UofT Library is home to the Internet Archive Canada Headquarters—an amazing collection of old websites, videos, which is in itself, like a digital library!
  5. You can borrow anything from all the libraries—except teaching material (only for Master of Teaching Students) and some items from other colleges that might be restricted, but in general, your access is unlimited.

Overall, I think that your time at OISE and at UofT in general is valuable—especially in terms of your research goals and your research interests! Only looking to Google Scholar or Wikipedia, discredits the hard work of our librarians in collecting and researching resources for all the students! I would highly recommend you pop by and say hello once you are at OISE! Getting to know your librarian not only enhances your OISE experience, but it also gives you access to things you may not know about if you didn’t ask. You can also meet the OISE librarians in your classes, when they hold research workshops that your professor organizes!

My advice: Don’t take your library for granted—they are so knowledgeable in what they do and are great resources to help you cultivate those researching skills. So, get to know your librarians and make the library your go-to place for all your research needs!

*Special Thanks* to Desmond from OISE’s library for taking the time out of his busy schedule to enlighten me about UofT’s extensive library system and services, as well as allowing me to learn about the Personal Librarian Program!

Questions? Email me oise.ambassador@utoronto.ca

 

The First Few Months of Grad School: What You Need to Know (Part II)

by Viel
MEd, Adult Education & Community Development

I’m sure you are anticipating the second part to my blog post–so, here it is!

#7  Balance your time to “hit the books” and to “hit the gym” 

Living a healthy lifestyle is important—and it’s not just your overall physical health that I’m talking about, it’s also your emotional and mental health! Exercising and meditating are excellent strategies to relieve the stresses of assignments and readings. As a UofT student you also have access to the numerous gym facilities around campus—there are also mindfulness workshops that you can participate in if you feel like meditating! Take part in an intramural, dance with our Zumba instructors, or maybe workout at one of the many gym facilities you have access to with a swipe of your T-Card. There are so many things to do on campus to get you active and to help you to de-stress from all those readings, assignments, and lectures. The best part of it is that all our facilities and so are our fitness classes are all part of your tuition!!

#8 Don’t be afraid to approach your professors 

Sometimes, talking to professors can get intimidating and it is as if though approaching them may not seem to be the best idea at first. In my personal experience with OISE professors, they are very open to talking over assignments and readings with you one-on-one. Remember, the last thing they want to see you to do is not do well in your assignments. Establish a rapport with all your professors—ask them questions about things discussed in class, their take on a current event related to your class, or even just by saying hello to them in the hallways. They are also easily accessible by email. Professors also play an important role if you want to further your education in doctoral studies, especially as references or possibly as mentors for your specific field of research. Again, networking is super important when you are in grad school—so take a hold on all those opportunities in front of you.

#9 Get Out of Your Comfort Zone 

From the first time I stepped into a university to becoming a grad student, I feel like I’ve grown and accomplished so much, but it’s all thanks to stepping outside of my comfort zone. There’s this saying going around that “life happens outside of your comfort zone”. And I think that this is completely relevant, especially in grad school, where your limits are really pushed! You definitely have to step outside of your comfort zone in class discussions, presentations, or even when you are at one of OISE’s many events and workshops. It’s really important to recognize that this is all part of your learning. When I first started at OISE, I was a little apprehensive, because I didn’t know anyone in my program and I didn’t know what to expect when I got here. But as the first few weeks progressed, I met so many new people and I’ve become attuned to my surroundings! Just remember, you might feel a little nervous at first, but once you get started, all your worries will disappear—it all takes time getting used to.

#10 Get Support When You Need It 

Whether you are stressing out about a paper or stressing about what to do after school—OISE has got your back! There are so many student support services available to all of our students! For example, if you need help writing a paper, you may find it useful to go to OISE’s Student Success Centre and get help with your paper or perhaps you can go to OISE’s library if you are having trouble with research. You can also head over to various departments or OISE’s Office of the Registrar and Student Services to seek assistance for your particular situation. When you first step into OISE as a student, you already know that there is a huge network of support that you can access!

#11 Say Yes to Everything  

I attended a UTM convocation ceremony where Bob McDonald, the host of CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks, was the guest speaker. I always remember his convocation speech , because it was not only enlightening, but it also rang true to me! He said that when an opportunity presents itself to you, you always have to say yes, because you don’t know where it will take you. He went from being a construction worker to a teacher at the Ontario Science Centre and now to a host for one of CBC Radio’s popular programs. He credits all his success to keeping an open mind and saying yes to opportunities that were given to him. So, I took his wisdom and applied it to my own journey and I must say, I have grown so much as an individual and as a learner. At your time at OISE, just say yes to all the opportunities that are available to you, because you really don’t know where it will lead to. So in the words of Bob McDonald, “Just say yes!”

#12 Make the best out of your program

To put this blog post into simple terms—make the best out of your program! You may only be here for a year and a half or possibly more, but something you must keep in mind is that it is important to make sure that you take advantage of all the services and extra-curriculars while you are here. In doing so, you will enhance your university experience and at the same time, meet so many people along the way. I assure you that your time at OISE will fly, but just make sure you enjoy your time and here and be resourceful with all the things available to you.

So, this concludes my extensive list on all things that helped me get through my first few months of grad school. I hope that sharing this will help you to start off in the right track when you get to OISE and to also to get a sense of what to expect when you first get here.

Do you have anything that you want to know about other things about grad school? Comment below!

Questions? Email me oise.ambassador@utoronto.ca

The First Few Months of Grad School: What You Need to Know (Part I)

by Viel
MEd, Adult Education & Community Development

Assignments here, readings there, and oh…wait, don’t forget those presentations.

When you think about how many things you have to do when you are in grad school, you kind of have to brace yourself—there is so much to do and it seems like there is only so little time. My colleagues and I always wonder how it’s possible to juggle school, home, and work at the same time. But by the time you think you’ve got the hang of it, the semester is already over. September and October have flown by and now we are into November—it only seems like yesterday since I’ve accepted my offer and made my decision to go to OISE. At this point in time, I already feel like a seasoned veteran who has got a hold of OISE life and I am making my experience here worthwhile.

I wouldn’t have gotten to this point without a couple of things I’ve learned along the way. And so here, I present to you to Part 1 of the 12 Things You Need to Know About the First Few Months of Grad School--and hopefully, with these insights of mine, you’ll be able to get through your first few months of grad school like a pro!

#1 Graduate Studies are completely different from your studies in Undergrad.  

Depending on what types of courses you’ve taken during your undergraduate degree, you might find grad school much different. I wouldn’t want you to expect that your experiences will be similar to that of your undergrad. In my own experience, my undergraduate was comprised of tests, essays, and presentations. Looking back on my undergrad, there was a lot more lecturing than actual discussion, just because the majority of classes ran for only limited to two hours. When you get to grad school, everything is a little more condensed and there are more opportunities to voice out your opinions, your analyses, and perspectives towards the topic of discussion. As for assessment pieces, professors usually assign research papers, reflection pieces, and presentations. So, expect to be more vocal and open in your grad studies, because your colleagues also come with a vastly different set of perspectives and there is a plethora of opportunities for you to participate!

#2 Organization is key 

Organization skills are an asset to have when you are in grad school, because like I’ve said before, there is so much happening at OISE. Your best bet to making sure you stay organized is to invest in a calendar and mark all the important dates once your professor gives you the course outlines. This way, you already know ahead of time when everything is generally due and whether or not you have overlapping due dates. It makes it easier to plan for other things and when you should start your assignments. It also makes sure that you can plan things not related school, such as hanging out with friends or work.

#3 Be Prepared to do the Readings and Always Keep Up With Them  

Yes, I understand—readings are quite overwhelming, especially when each of your professors assign 50 pages at a time. How do you keep with 150 pages per week? And is it necessary to do all of them? While you may think that you don’t have to complete all your readings for all your classes, you might actually want to re-think that! Remember, your professors don’t just assign those readings to overwhelm you, but they are there for a purpose! Those readings not only come in handy when you are discussing it in class, but they are also handy when you are writing those papers/presentations! You need to show that you are able to apply your knowledge from lectures and your readings when it comes to assessments! So don’t procrastinate, DO those readings!

#4 Network, network, network.  

The best part of grad school is the different people you meet in your classes. Each class comes with a unique set of perspectives, values, and experiences. Whether they are working in law, are part of a faculty/staff of a university or college, or just students that are fresh from their undergraduate studies, they all bring something to the discussions. Depending on what you would like to achieve in your Master’s program, your colleagues could help guide you with the various career paths that you would like to take. That’s why it’s important to network with them and get a sense of what their learning goals are, because they could align with your own learning and career goals. If you’re feeling a little shy, just start off with a smile or a hello and then once you establish a rapport with them, you can talk to them about the class and what program they’re in! Your colleagues provide you with a fresh new set of insights and career paths that you may have never even thought of–so network, network, network!

#5 Get Involved With Extra-Curriculars  

Whether you enjoy playing sports, learning different languages, or meeting people in your program—UofT has so much to offer when it comes to extra-curriculars. Extra-curriculars are so important to your student life, just as your classes are. Getting involved really enhances your overall university experience. Within the first week of school, various UofT clubs and associations hold a “clubs week”, this is a great opportunity to talk to members and see what their interests are and how to get involved. It’s a great way to meet friends, faculty, and to get to know your campus!

#6 Broaden your learning horizons with events, seminars, and conferences.  

Speaking of meeting people, at OISE, we have a plethora of events that happen throughout the year. Many of our presenters include current OISE faculty, students, leaders of various fields, and visiting professors from all over the globe. As part of my Comparative International Development Education collaborative program, one of the requirements is to take part in 5 seminars. The best thing about this is that you get to meet other people in different programs! And don’t worry, it’s not just collaborative programs where you have access to these opportunities, but each department organizes various events and conferences. In my department, LHAE, a staff member sends out weekly emails to tell us about events related to Adult/Higher Education and for the most part–they’re almost all free! Again, it’s a great way to enhance your experience at OISE and it also gives you the opportunity to use those networking skills. So, remember to fit those events into your busy schedules!

Well, that concludes Part I of this blog post–stay tuned for Part II!
What do you think about this list so far? Would love to hear your thoughts–comment below!

Questions? Email me at oise.ambassador@utoronto.ca 

 

Pros and Cons To Being A Commuter

By Viel
MEd, Adult Education & Community Development

One of the biggest factors in your university experience is your commute to and from school. The great thing about going to OISE is that it is in a central location in the west end of Toronto and is accessible by both GO Transit and TTC. There are so many ways in which you can get to OISE and University of Toronto in general, and depending on where you live, it is not a very long commute. In my classes, I’ve met colleagues coming from Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, and Scarborough, and they all roughly take about an hour or so to commute.

Not sure whether commuting is for you? Below, I’ll be posting both pros and cons of being a commuter and maybe this will help you decide if commuting is right for you!

Pros Cons
  • Saves on Gas Money: You do not need to worry about spending too much on gas, most of the money that you spend on getting to school is on transit, and if you were to calculate it, on average, you save money on gas!
  • Environmentally-friendly: By commuting you are doing your part in helping lower the carbon emissions from waiting in traffic or simply by driving your car. Grab a friend and carpool to the Go Station to help the environment even more!
  • Less Stress: Commuting can sometimes get stressful with the delays and the crowds, but overall, it’s not as bad as you think. Not having to drive saves you some time to relax and for some, to sleep!
  • Additional time: I love to do my class readings on my morning commute. My commute is about an hour long, but I don’t mind having time to destress and to relax. If there are days when I don’t complete all the readings, I just set aside a reading or two for my commute for the day of my class! It’s a great way to help you balance your time!
  • Costly: Depending on where you live, you might have to take on form of transportation. I take both the Go Train and the TTC to get to school, so yes, it can get a little costly. BUT the good news is that, starting January 2018, TTC is cutting their fairs by 50% for Go Train users! Another way you can save on your transit money is to switch your PRESTO fares to “Student” status, you just need to complete a form on the Go Transit, and they will send you a Go Student Pass.
  • Delays: Delays are especially prevalent in the winter, but making sure that you plan your commute ahead of time will help you some situations. I usually leave earlier so I do not have to worry about delays! If you come to school early, it also gives you some time to possibly grab a coffee and do some more readings!
  • Crowded: Sometimes taking transit can get a little overcrowded, especially during the peak hours (rush hour). As I said before, sometimes you need to plan ahead of time to avoid these types of situations! I haven’t really had these issues, because transit usually schedules shorter wait times during these hours, to help ease the crowding. Overall, I don’t really have this problem getting to school!

As you can tell, commuting definitely has its perks and its disadvantages, but to be honest, I don’t mind commuting! It’s fast, effective, and it gets you where you need to be without the hassle! Yes, it can get a little costly, but there are ways you can save money! Overall, I am content with my commute to OISE and hopefully, this will help to weigh out your commuting options!

Questions? Email me oise.ambassador@utoronto.ca

Your Go-to-Guide to the Application Process

by: Viel
MEd, Adult Education & Community Development

You’ve attended OISE’s First Open House. Check.

You’ve talked to current students, alumni, staff, and faculty regarding your options. Check. 

You’ve completed your first step in going to the Open House. And now you’re ready to apply! Fortunately for you, you were able to get a sense of the OISE community by participating in the Open House! So hopefully, that’s helped get you a better idea of what to expect!

So what’s next? Or what do I do now? Is probably what follows after attending all those information sessions. It reminds me back to when I was a prospective student exactly a year ago. I was in the same boat as you—I researched my way through the website, looking for all the answers to my questions, and somehow, I didn’t know exactly where to start.

How long will this degree to take to complete? What do I need to provide? What exactly is a statement of intent? How do I get a hold of an academic reference? Will I have everything by November 15th?

When you are confronted by all these questions, simply starting the application is a daunting task. Then you see that you only have a little less than a month before the deadline. There seems to be so many things to do and so little time to complete everything. So what’s my advice to you? Follow these 6 tips to help you complete your application properly and on time!

Tip #1: Do your research. I HIGHLY recommend you look at our brand new website and click the Future Students tab. You will find almost ALL your answers there, whether it’s to a specific question or a general one. If you click “apply now” it will lead you to a page where it outlines all the steps you need to take, and conveniently, each step has a “Frequently Asked Questions” section to refer to when you feel stuck.

Tip #2: Start ordering those transcripts now. You might run into some problems with your transcripts, so it’s best to make sure that you order them right away. Don’t wait until the last minute for you to send your transcripts. Once you’ve sent them, just check in with your application to see if we’ve received it.

Tip #3: Contact your references. Your references need to know that you are applying for the program. By letting them know that you have chosen them as your reference, they will be on the lookout for that email. You also need to give them time to fill the reference section out. By giving them a heads-up, you’re giving them more time to think about what they need to write and the time frame that they need to work with to get it done.

Tip #4: Stuck on that statement of intent? Or don’t know what to write? Well, you might want to check out Step 3 of the Admissions website. It gives you a general idea of what they are looking for. Writing statements of intent are a little difficult at first, but you need to make sure you plan it out ahead of time. Do your research about the programs and try to align your interests and your goals to that particular program.

Tip #5: Fill out your statement of intents, your resumes, and other supporting documents on a Microsoft Word document, so in case the site crashes, you have it saved directly on your computer.

Tip #6: Have a checklist of all the things that you need to complete. Every time you get something done, check it off!

What to do if you’ve followed all these tips and looked up all the Frequently Asked Questions? Contact Us! You might have a very specific question and we will do our best to answer them.

And by now, after reading all of this—you’re probably set to go. Now all you have to do is click that “Apply” button! Always make sure you also check in with your application from time-to-time to see if all your documents have been received or if you are missing anything! Best of luck!

Do you have any tips on doing your application? Comment below!

Questions? Contact me at oise.ambassador@utoronto.ca