Kenta: Social Work Doctorate Student

Kenta gives us a sneak peak inside her life as a social work doctoral student at the University of Toronto
By Stephanie Small

social work doctorate student

1. How did you decide to attend this particular school?

This school met all of the criteria I set for my Ph.D. First, it is a research intensive university, secondly it has a great reputation and they have great faculty members who can mentor and supervise my work. There are also many teaching and research opportunities, plus I was offered full funding and lastly, it’s located in a liberal city/college town.

2. Were you considering any others?
I looked at all the top schools in the U.S. and Canada. But this was the only school that met all of my criteria. 
3. What was your community's reaction to your acceptance and decision to attend?
Very supportive. But many were sad to see me go. 
4. What's it like being an American in Canada? How was the transition?
Canada is a great country, and I'm grateful that I'm doing a Ph.D. in a big fun city like Toronto. Transition, however, was very challenging. Leaving my support system and clinical practice (which I loved) for a research intensive academic environment was not easy. 
5. How are you handling finances - loans, working, gifts, etc.? 
I was offered funding for five years, which is rare in my field. I also hold several jobs. I teach in our MSW programs, work in a couple of research labs, act as a faculty advisor for M.S.W. students in practicum, and provide clinical supervision per diem. Still, it is definitely a pay cut from being a full-time therapist. I am grateful that I will likely graduate without a debt.
6. What are the professors like?
I work closely with several faculty members. They all are very invested in my scholarly development. 
7. What are the classes like?
Classes are mostly on theory and research. Most of the first-year courses are required, so students must be rather creative to make the classroom experience more meaningful to their respective work. In the second year, students take courses that are closely related to their own work. Canadian Ph.D. programs generally require a fewer number of courses than American programs. That was also an appealing point for me. 
8. What is your community there like?
This is my first large, public university experience. Students must make a greater effort to connect with others. Feeling connected and being a part of a community require a bit more time and effort here. I have become close to some of my colleagues (not necessarily only from my cohort) who support, inspire and challenge me both on personal and professional levels. 
9. How do you relax?
What? What's "relax"? Ok, kidding. Well, the fact that I'm writing this on a Friday night says a lot about my life as a Ph.D. student. But I have regular lunch with some friends/colleagues to get support from the academic community and also hang out with friends outside academia to stay connected to the outside world. It is so easy to become isolated as a Ph.D. student. So, I make conscious effort to meet up with friends in person. Also, whenever I can (when it's not snowing), I walk to/from the office, which is a 50-minute walk each way. 
10. Looking back, would you have attended this school again? Why or why not?
This is a tough one. It's hard to answer not because of my school or the program per se. Doing a Ph.D. is not an easy path, especially for those who already had a stable career. So the idea of attending a school in the geographic area where I have immediate access to my support system and community is very appealing. Having said that, I still believe that this was the best fit for my learning needs, and I have grown in many ways because I left my comfort zone to come to this school.
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