You’re new you say?

Some advice from the ‘trenches’ — what students who have survived the MA or 1st year PhD think you should know:

1) If you could give one piece of information and/or advice to incoming students, what would it be?

“The University of Toronto and the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies are very stimulating environments; new students will have the occasion to be involved in virtually everything in and outside of their regular classes — from student groups to productions — and will meet engaging people who are eager to find partners in artistic projects on and off campus. My advice to new DC students would be to get into the habit of making a list of priorities, to learn strategies to manage their time most effectively, to plan some down time in their week and, most difficult of all, to learn how to say “no”. Saying “no” to some activities often means a higher chance of succeess in those you say “yes” to!” – Gabrielle Houle, PhD Student

“Refuse to give up at least one small, private pleasure. The year is a whirlwind and wants all the parts of you. It’s tempting to give in. Don’t. Save a part of yourself for yourself – the yoga; running; long, luxurious bathing; martini-after-class-drinking; art-making; street-fighting; Duke-Ellington-Listening; or sitting-in-the-sun part, for instance.” Jenn Cole, PhD Student

“It’s normal to feel totally unprepared and uninformed when you show up. And it’s normal for it to feel shitty. But: returning students are a great source of information. Pick their brains and ask about their experiences – they can give you a pretty solid picture of what to expect in your first year. Also, know that the DC has been putting students through grad degrees for decades – you might be frustrated by how much you don’t know, but the system won’t let you fall for a lack of info about which hoops you have to jump through and when. Try to take it easy, don’t panic, and you’ll be just fine.” – Cassandra Silver, PhD Student

“Remember to talk to other people when you have questions or are having problems – any problems, be it general confusion on Orientation day, concerns with TPA hours, or simply feeling overworked or stressed. Talk to your cohort, to higher up students, talk to the Exec, talk to professors. Try not to worry about admitting that you don’t know the answer. There is a great temptation to hide feeling overwhelmed, to hide any legitimate problems/conflicts/questions in order to appear more ‘together’ than you actually feel. However, talking to others can at least provide yourself some relief (you’re not alone!) and at most can provide those in charge with helpful feedback on the MA and PhD programs. The Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies is constantly adjusting in an effort to make things better for incoming students, so make your suggestions and concerns heard!” – Grace Smith, PhD Student

2) During your MA year (or first year of PhD), what did a typical week look like for you?

“So much reading, lead questions for seminar, into the Gill, out of the Gill, friendly chatting, beer somewhere, Thursday Grilled Cheese Day at Molly’s, typing away, solitary walks to campus, laughing in the face of my packed schedule, never finishing that glass of wine before falling asleep, leaving dishes undone to read Derrida, leaving laundry undone to read Schiller, hanging lights, counting the rhythms of Beckett’s Quad, rushing to the theatre district, trying to remember what life was like when I had time to write a letter…” Jenn Cole, PhD Student

“First year PhD… well, 3 regular courses a week, lasting 2-3 hours each. I’d guess 10-15 hours of outside-of-class work (reading, note-taking, short response essays). The critical theory courses will be your heaviest workloads at the Drama Centre, and the 20th/21st century one gets properly weird and abstract at times. A glass of wine will help. 😉 In addition, TPA and RA work was super erratic but ever-looming. Some weeks I did 30 hours of TPA work (SMing a show), and others I did nothing at all. Similarly – some weeks the prof I worked with for my RA had me at the books for about 20 hours a week, and others it would be only 5. The important thing to know about TPA and RA is that once you commit to the work, you need to be all-in. However, there is some flexibility about what work you do and when, particularly with TPA hours.” – Cassandra Silver, PhD Student

“Just jam-packed full of stuff. Classes take up a relatively small part of your time, but then there is all the readings (which you will always feel you didn’t spend quite enough time on), working on productions and conferences, meetings for group projects, and (if you are a PhD Student) your Research Assistantship. Every free hour begins to count for a lot. Remember to prioritize, learn to say ‘no’ to things, and become amazed at what an incredibly efficient time-manager you become by the end of the year!” – Grace Smith, PhD Student

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