With Universities closed and social distancing in effect, we’re all learning to navigate a new reality. Here’s some ideas for staying in touch with your fellow grad students that will keep you in the loop.
Set up a virtual happy hour/lunch meeting.
Reach out to your grad school peers or lab mates (especially those that live alone) and ask if they’d be interested in setting a regular time to chat. This could be a morning check-in, lunch, or a 5 à 7; daily or a couple of times per week. It is not a formal meeting, so don’t expect everyone to be there all the time and on-time. While we’re staying at home, we are missing out on a lot of the casual conversations that happen in hallways or over coffee. These check-ins help us stay in touch with other people.
Write consistently by starting a writing group.
If you’re currently working on a writing project, maybe a paper or your thesis, create accountability for yourself and others with a writing group. Research shows that people who write a little bit everyday are more productive than people who write in bursts. A great way to keep yourself committed to a regular writing schedule is to share it with others! Reach out to peers who might be interested (or join a GradProSkills peer writing group), and decide on a videoconferencing platform and time to write together. In your meeting, you can discuss your goals for the next week, how you fared on last week’s goals and any challenges you experienced. Chances are your peers have had similar experiences in the past and might have tips and encouragement that will help you reach your goals. There are many resources for supporting you in that process, including at Concordia, and in books and blogs. Some online writing groups also use a pomodoro timer.
Learn a new skill.
Find peers who want to learn the same skill, pick an online learning platform (ex. Udemy, Versatile PhD), and learn it together. A great example of a skill that is better learnt together is programming languages: they’re fun to use when you gain some proficiency, but can be frustrating when you are just starting out. Find people by posting to a department mailing list / Facebook group, and then set a schedule of lessons to complete each week. At your weekly meeting, try exercises or troubleshoot your code together.
Have fun with your peers.
There’s lots of ways of having fun together from a distance. You might decide to have a watch party for your favourite TV show and recruit some friends. Or you could try out some free online board games like this or this. Or, start a good-news-only group chat where you can share recipes, pictures of your pets or things that make you happy. Virtual Dance Party? The sky is the limit!
Stay on top of literature by starting a reading group.
Too many papers, not enough time? If reading falls to the wayside in your busy schedule, create accountability by meeting with others to discuss papers. This is a great opportunity to connect with people in your lab, and you can involve undergraduate students as well. You could decide to have everyone read the same paper and discuss it. Another very effective format for reading groups is to have everyone read a different paper, and then summarize it in 5 minutes to the others in the group. That way, everyone reads papers directly related to their research, and finds out about a handful of other papers. Explaining a paper to others is a great way of making sure that you understood it, and you’ll be able to see your progress in gathering information from papers more quickly.
If you are interested in an academic career, Twitter is a great place to connect with peers, keep up to date on your field and ask for advice. The easiest way to “do Twitter” is to start off by following people in your field and check in on their conversations from time to time. If you want an introduction to the dos and don’ts of Twitter, attend our Twitter workshop to get started right.
Join an existing writing group at your university.
GradProSkills is hosting a virtual Peer Support Writing Group - PSWG (GPLL52) workshop to help graduate students throughout their writing journey. This innitiative has the objective to create a supportive community for graduate students to achieve their writing goals. Students will meet weekly on Zoom for two hours over the period of three months. The PSWG information session is scheduled on April 8, 2020, 13:00 - 14:30, and you need to register online. Learn more about it here.