Hi, my name is Jocelyn and I have just finished my first semester of my Master of Arts (MA) program at the University of Guelph. I am currently studying the impact of expert participation in volunteer tourism and exploring if that leads to critical global citizenship. I have been researching volunteer tourism since the summer of 2015 and finding that research (and a prof who was interested in the same topic) is what helped me confirm that I wanted to start my MA program. Grad school wasn’t really something I had considered until very late in my undergraduate program, but I’m so happy that I chose to apply. When you’re in your master’s program, your school, work, and social lives seem to combine and this unique lifestyle offers both challenges and rewards.
In terms of your school life, the research that you are working on is tailored to your interests, and you are the only one who is researching this subject. This offers a level of gratification that you’ll never experience in an undergraduate program. One of my peers commented that she didn’t know you could study something that wasn’t boring in a grad program. The point of having this tailored program is that you get to pick what interests you, so it will never be boring. There is a lot of reading required and it can sometimes be overwhelming, but it helps that you get to choose the readings that you will look at and they are closely related to the subject you choose to study. One thing that I definitely enjoyed: no more exams! This doesn’t mean that you don’t learn anything – quite the opposite, you’ll learn a lot. Most classes are held as seminars which means that you will discuss the readings as groups. There were even a few instances when I revisited readings that I had completed in my undergrad, but the level of engagement with those readings was significantly higher. Grad school seems targeted at offering a greater depth of knowledge compared to an undergrad, and this certainly makes it easier to engage with school work.
I would have to say that another rewarding aspect of the program is being a Teaching Assistant (TA). There are certainly times when it is challenging: balancing the workload, addressing student concerns, and occasionally having to give out a low grade were tasks that were not always easy. However, most of the time you are engaging with students in a way that is very productive and I was always happy when my students would leave my office with a greater understanding of their assignments. I also loved to see that most students would listen to my feedback and perform better on their future assignments. It helps that being a TA is a paid position – you don’t have to worry about OSAP loans or begging your boss for time off around busy times in the semester. Though I owe a lot to the retail position I worked in during my undergrad, working for my department makes balancing school and work a lot easier and offers work experience that is more relevant to my future career.
Being in grad school is like living in a bubble. It offers a unique sense of freedom while also requiring a lot of effort and dedication. The people that best understand your new lifestyle are your profs and the people in the program with you. Because of this, you quickly form bonds with those around you. The most rewarding thing that has come out of my program so far is my relationships with the people in my program. It seems like every experience that we have in this program brings us closer together in some way. In the earlier part of the semester we would have frequent social events and spend time comparing our research interests, our classes, and our advisors’ various methods of guiding us. At challenging times in the semester, we would work in groups to keep each other accountable and occasionally commiserate about an assignment. This also made it much more rewarding when we finished the work and could celebrate together. The support and guidance that I’ve received from colleagues and friends have solidified these relationships – we have even planned vacations together. I look forward to spending four more semesters with this new group of friends.
Overall, I am so glad that I chose to study at the University of Guelph for my MA. I was very apprehensive about my ability to do the work, and to keep pace with my peers. Though it has been challenging, everyone is very supportive and you will find that you are up to the challenge if you choose to accept it. I’ve spoken to people who have said that they look back on the time spent in their master’s program and consider it to be some of the best years of their lives. It is so rare to have an opportunity to commit yourself to something your passionate about, and build a strong sense of community with other like-minded people. I have only completed my first semester and though it was not always easy, I am looking forward to enjoying these years while I’m in them.
Here group members (and sometimes colleagues and friends from our wider network!) write blog entries about interests, questions, and projects.