Many graduate students, myself included, find themselves in a situation where it is impossible to remain in Kingston. Either because of familial responsibilities, or job opportunities in another city, or a plethora of other reasons, many of us are not living in the Kingston area. This presents a whole new set of challenges. Being separated from the physical school can make your degree and writing responsibilities seem very far away. And the distance from other graduate students and the whole graduate school community can increase feelings of isolation. Because of COVID many of us experienced this even while living within the Queen’s community. Ironically, COVID also opened the door to make long-distance graduate school easier going forward into the post-pandemic (?) world.
The inclusion of Zoom options for so many events is one of the ways that long-distance students can stay connected to the graduate school community. It can be tempting to skip talks or events, especially if you are in a different time zone, but try to resist this temptation. These events can get your head back into ‘graduate student’ mode. Online study groups can also be a great way to stay connected to graduate school. These can be unofficial groups run by Graduate Studies or your department, or informal groups of friends and colleagues. Having other people working ‘next’ to you virtually can provide fantastic motivation to write. This year for the first time SGSPA ran ‘Dissertation Bootcamp’ as a hybrid event. I personally attended in-person, and I found it as an immensely helpful atmosphere for focused work on my thesis. And many of the people who attended virtually also reported how successful the event was for their work as well. Now that I have relocated to another city, I am already planning on attending the next virtual offering of Bootcamp, as it is so beneficial and such a supportive environment. Shout out to SASS and SGSPA for planning and running so many great events for graduate students.
There are other ways to stay motivated as well. I know you have already probably heard this many times but setting aside even 15-20 minutes every day to focus on your thesis can make a huge difference. That small increment of time is not as intimidating, and it is an easy way to ‘fit’ things in amongst your other responsibilities. I struggle with this, after my move I found myself out of ‘thesis mode’ and it seemed too daunting to get back into things. That is in part why I am writing this right now. To remind myself that I can write, and that a blank word document is not the scariest thing in the world. The challenge I set for myself today was to write this article, and then to just read the comments that my supervisor sent me on my chapter. Not to edit, not to make a new draft or come up with some amazing creative solutions to address my own shortcomings. Just one tiny step at a time. I have said this is previous blog posts, but the thesis is a marathon – not a sprint. Long distance graduate school is just another ‘leg’ of this marathon, and you are not in this alone, no matter where you are located.