What Should I Do in Toronto? GRAD SCHOOL

This week I’ve felt like I should be down at the Bell Lightbox, camping out to see my favorite movie stars and musicians attending all the red carpet premieres of their films at the Toronto International Film Festival. I met Emma Watson in Oxford. Surely now it’s well over-due that I meet Daniel Radcliffe, right? Fortunately (or unfortunately), I have plenty else to do besides camping out on a sidewalk waiting for someone famous to walk by. Namely, my first week of graduate school.

I felt entirely rushed after orientation. A whole year summed up in a few hours plus meetings with all the people I’ll be working with over those months over a short pizza lunch was enough to send me into a introvert’s “coma.” I definitely needed some Marx brothers viewing time with my roommate that night. But by the time I got to classes for the first time this week, I was recharged and ready to take on the new challenges. And graduate school so far, seems importantly different from undergraduate.

For one, I feel entirely separate from the undergraduate population here. Not only because I didn’t have the orientation to the college culture, but also because I’m already way past them in terms of maturity and my research interests. My goals aren’t about exploring everything anymore and taking a class on a whim to explore a tangential hobby. It’s made it harder to pick courses, but I think that’s the idea. I have more drive now so it’s time to ask and demand courses and papers that will challenge the questions I want to explore. I never thought this all would happen so close after finishing my undergrad at Rice–only about four short months ago–but I’m already feeling that I’ve moved on. (This doesn’t mean I can’t be friends with undergrads, but there’s a different relationship to negotiate now.)

On the other hand, getting to know the other students in my program and figuring out what graduate school really means is an entirely different story. Orientations have told me repeatedly not to try and come up with a “grad school identity.” I don’t need to be something else than what I am. It’s much harder than I expected because I’m finding myself in classes with theatre directors, actors, the heads of theatre companies, lighting designers, and more who have been in the industry for 20 years or more–or even more intimidating, are around my age and seem to have some of the same established experiences. I have to constantly remind myself that there’s something valuable in what I bring to the table: my “late” entrance into the theatre world, my hand’s on experience with the Rice Players, the ability to work with limited resources, and (duh) the two plays I’ve already written and seen produced. It may seem backwards, but we are all putting those differences of age and experience to the side so we can work together within the framework of graduate school courses and activities. The ideal, as it seems to me, is to pool our collective knowledge and experiences in order to question what theatre is, what it does, and how we can share these questions and answers with the world through scholarship and innovative new work.

So although there are numerous festivals and activities going on in the city, I have to strike a balance and give myself time to navigate these new challenges of York’s masters program. I have to give myself time to explore, but also to focus in on specific research questions. Graduate school seems best explained as a large paradox of learning. If this post wasn’t clear, I hope the following weeks will clarify it for both of us.

But don’t worry about me just sticking my nose in books and living exclusively in libraries–I’m going to see at least one TIFF screening this weekend and theatre outings always *count* as a sort of homework, right?


About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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