Kieran O’Brien

Kieran O'Brien

Alumna, MA (2017), English

“The University of Toronto has a living library of professionals who are invested in your success as a student.”

I am pursuing an MA in the Field of Creative Writing, through the University of Toronto’s English Department. It is a unique program, in that it requires students to complete both coursework and a writing workshop in the first year of study. In the second year of study, students write a book-length writing project in a genre of their choice (poetry, drama, fiction, or creative non-fiction). The project is supervised by a mentor from the impressive list of faculty and adjunct faculty, all published writers. I am thrilled to have André​ Alexis as my mentor. Looking back on my first year of study, I appreciate that the structure of the program allowed me to grow both as an academic and as a creative writer.

In a word, the U of T graduate school experience is incomparable. Toronto is the best city in the country for writers, with many opportunities to showcase and publish your work, as there is a thriving literary community in this city, and on this campus. In terms of research, the University of Toronto Libraries have never failed me. If I need a book for a course or for mere curiosity, the libraries here seem to have it waiting on a shelf, no matter how obscure the text.

I would advise any prospective student to make time to study people as well as books. The University of Toronto has a living library of professionals who are invested in your success as a student. Take for example, Dr. Jane Freeman: it was daunting to put together funding applications while I was still learning the demands of graduate coursework, so I was glad to enrol in her free course on grant proposal writing, offered by the Office of English Language and Writing Support.

At the time, I also met with a learning strategist at the Academic Success Centre. Dedicating time to improve my study skills with professional guidance helped to build my confidence. It’s easy to forget that graduate school is indeed a learning experience. It’s okay to still be learning how to be a scholar. The professors and the administrators at the department, the learning strategist, the financial counsellor, the doctors at the Health & Wellness Centre make time to meet with these people and take a holistic approach to your well-being as a student. 

In September, I will begin a Junior Fellowship at Massey College; it’s one of many organizations at the University that enriches the lives of graduate students beyond the classroom. With the rigorous demands of study, it can be difficult to maintain that life-work balance that I feel is so important. Becoming involved with committees, clubs, or teams here is a good way to build extra-curricular activities into your schedule. So as I head into my second year of study and begin work on my book of poetry, I am also looking forward to volunteering with the Community Service Committee at Massey, and getting involved with the Massey literary journal, Audeāmus.