iiirg conference_Chris

As always, it’s been great reading my fellow bloggers’ entries about their graduate school experience at Memorial. I’m glad to see that the different thoughts, concerns, and excitement that I’ve been experiencing during my graduate journey are being shared by my peers. It’s also really great to get diverse perspectives from students at various points in their graduate training, and from many different academic departments.

As promised in my last entry, I’ll tell you a bit about a recent conference that I attended in London, England. I was invited to present a poster at the 9th Annual International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (iIIRG) Conference, and it was a great time. I was able to share my findings with many different researchers and practitioners from all over the world, including Dr. Barry Parsonson as shown in the picture above. Dr. Parsonson is a practitioner from New Zealand and offered some welcomed insights into my current findings (thank you, Dr. Parsonson!). Similar to the hints given by some of my co-bloggers, I echo that it was really cool to be at a conference sharing the dissemination platform with all of the main ‘rock stars’ within my field. Of course, within my own focus of forensic psychology (and an even more specific focus of investigative interviewing practices), it’s a rather small group of researchers. Nonetheless, I did get pretty excited when I realized I was standing next to, or conversing with, some of the well-known researchers in my academic world. One of my lab colleagues, Zak Keeping, also attended the conference to present his master’s research, and he did an excellent job of representing our lab’s work and Memorial on the world stage. It was also really great to have a wing-man along for the ride. The conference was especially awesome for meeting other student researchers from all over the globe, too. Zak and I connected with a bunch of great student peers from the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden; the University of Portsmouth, in England; and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, based here in Canada, and we furthermore met many other forensically-related practitioners from France, Norway, United States, and New Zealand (just to name a few). Although the academic side of the investigative interviewing world is relatively small, it’s wonderful to see that this field has a wide reach to many parts of the globe. Since being back on campus, I’ve been working diligently on my main research project for my master’s degree (which is also related to investigative interviewing). I hope to have the opportunity to be invited back to iIIRG next year to present any interesting findings from this new research endeavour, and I look forward to reconnecting with many of the people I’ve met at this year’s iIIRG conference.

A lot of the blogs that the other student bloggers and I have written have contained mainly academic related first-hand information. That is, these entries have been ranging from our experiences during class lectures, and sharing about the rewarding (and challenging) aspects of studying at this academic level, to talking about our in-school jobs as teaching assistants for various courses, and attending conferences both locally and well beyond Newfoundland and Labrador’s borders. Yet, another very important aspect of the graduate student life that is often overlooked, but is a vital part of the graduate school experience, is housing. We put so much effort into choosing our program of study, which advisor we want to work with, and then once we arrive to school we invest many hours during the day into our academic work; but after the day is over, where do you put your head at night, and how much effort went into selecting your current living arrangement?

I thought it might be an interesting topic to blog about since it is around this time of year that some rental leases are finishing up, and if you’re a student who rents, you may be faced with the decision of whether to renew your lease, or to consider alternative options. Hopefully the introduction of this next idea isn’t novel to many of you, but even if you know about it, it’s a worthwhile reminder for all students living away from their regular home during their university careers: Live within your means. In a location like St. John’s where rental prices may be higher than you’re used to, it’s important to have a sensible budget worked out before you sign on the dotted line. Furthermore, given the economic history of the region (both past and projected), it is a good house-keeping practice to consider (pun intended!), especially as a student when your financial status can be uncertain at times.

So what are some options for housing arrangements? Well, first of all, you may need to consider whether you would prefer to live alone or if you would rather share a living space with a few of your friends. Both options have their advantages. For example, living with fellow students or other friends can often help lower your personal costs associated with the living arrangement (i.e., rent, utility bills, groceries); however, living solo can provide you with a 24/7 quiet study space which could come in handy closer to exam time. Of course, there are disadvantages to both options as well. For example, sharing a space with many people might be more challenging to keep clean. During my undergrad degree, I lived in a house with four guys, and the kitchen sink was perpetually filled with dirty dishes… not exactly a daily experience I want to relive in graduate school. Living by yourself, however, can sometimes feel isolating and can seclude you from the important social aspects that graduate school offers. Something else to think about is, the distance from your home to any of your personal needs (i.e., campus, grocery stores, George Street…), but this factor might simply be dictated by your means of transportation – having a car vs. taking the bus vs. walking. Needless to say, there are a lot of factors to consider.

I want to be clear that I’m not advocating for one arrangement as compared to another. My point is simply that you need to evaluate what is best for you and your goals while at graduate school. I’m also not suggesting that you solely become a hermit, and only go from your isolated cave to your academic responsibilities and then back again. Rather, what I am encouraging you to do is find out what is the best way to maximize your graduate school experience: learn a lot, have a lot of fun, and make important memories that you’ll reflect back on later in your life and/or career.

If any of this housing stuff is new to you, don’t worry! There are many resources at your disposal to help you make these decisions. In fact, Memorial has information online to help you address housing needs while at university, whether it’s for on-campus or off-campus spots. Actually, Memorial’s newest graduate student residences at the Battery Facility is sort of a hybrid of the ‘on-campus/off-campus’ options, and it looks aaaaaah-MAZING! If I could give you any advice on housing while attending Memorial as a graduate student, I’d suggest giving this spot some serious thought. Besides having a great view and being in a great location that is close to downtown, a shuttle service from the Battery residences to campus is also part of the package deal (it’ll even take you to the grocery store if you want). If you’re interested in living closer to campus and with friends, I’d suggest checking out Burton’s Pond Apartments. These apartments are located on the edge of campus, only about a 10 minute walk away and have utilities and WiFi included. Each apartment is equipped for four students, each with a private bedroom, as well as a shared kitchen, bathroom and living/dining room.

Whatever you decide, enjoy the experience and connect with as many people as possible. My own personal experience has taught me that the people at Memorial and within St. John’s (including your supervisor, lab colleagues, class mates, landlords, friends, and many others) are always more than willing to help out one of the b’ys!

Until next time…