A day in the life of a Graduate student: Ali Asghar Merchant

School of Engineering Science

July 06, 2015

Engineering Master's Student Ali offers his advice for incoming graduate students on everything from what a typical day might look like to his favourite hiking spot.

About Ali:

I have been an IT professional for the last four years. The combination of my professional and academic experience allows me to be a bridge between customers and the internal team of developers. 

Why he chose SFU:

I received a couple of acceptances from various universities across Canada to pursue a Master's Program in Engineering Science. I immediately conducted some research and found out that SFU has a very strong community involvement factor. This really helped me decide to choose SFU as I was coming to Canada for the very first time and needed a sense of community engagement while being far away from home. 

The peak of Goat Mountain

What he likes most about living in Vancouver:

If you love nature and scenery, Vancouver has got to be the place! 


Advice for students moving to British Columbia:

The day I came to Vancouver, I walked out of the terminal and into a light rain. After that, the rain just got heavier. It is a wise thing to keep an umbrella/rain jacket accessible when you arrive in Vancouver. If you are deciding to go on hikes, you will definitely want to capture scenic views. If you are into photography, a good DSLR camera should be on your priority list while packing your suitcase.

Insider SFU tip:

I would suggest to jump out of your comfort zone whenever possible. SFU is a place where you can learn. It is okay to make mistakes and improve. If you do not utilize the resources that the university offers, then you will never be able to realize your full potential and talents. 

Garibaldi Lake

What is the best _____?

Place to study: SFU (Burnaby campus) library.
Coffee: Nature's Garden
Value food: Pizza Hut
View: Top of Garibaldi Lake
Outdoor spot: Lost Lake, Whistler
Chill Spot: GSS Grad Lounge

A "typical" day at SFU


Yup that’s right, I don’t like getting up early. I am one of the late night people. I feel waking up at 9:00 is just about right for me. After getting ready and grabbing a quick bite, I head out to Tim Hortons or Starbucks depending on what I feel like having.


I’ve grabbed my frappe and now it's time for my first lecture of the day. Lectures are usually 50 minutes or an hour and 20 minutes instead of an hour or an hour and a half. This allows for ten minutes to get between classes.

The SFU Dining Hall


Stretching out of the lecture room, I text my friends to find out who’s available for lunch. I like to have a good lunch so that I have enough energy to work during the rest of my day. There are three main options for lunch at SFU if you haven't packed your own:


I head to the library, find a decent spot and put my head down to work. Sometimes I get too involved in my work and don’t realize the time. My Fitbit alarm buzzes me when it is time for my next calendar item: Teaching Assistant (TA) office hours. What I love about being a TA is the ability to teach students. I feel satisfied when I am able to transfer knowledge to other people. I help students reach their full potential and generally be useful. 


The best time of the day! Time to head down to the recreation centre to kick some ball and meet friends. I also try to squeeze in a quick swim to feel refreshed.

Ali's favourite cafe on campus.


Voluntarily moderating informal discussions like the ones organized by Philosopher’s café at SFU is my way of engaging with the community. I am going to Nature’s Garden at Cornerstone to meet some exciting people. Afterwards I'll catch the 135 bus home.


I reach home and start preparing dinner and lunch for the next day. After having dinner, I watch one of my favorite shows or play a video game before going to sleep at around 12:30. Sometimes I have to stay up late to finish work, but I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.

Connect with Ali or find out more at:

                                                                                                                                                   Profile by: Kayla Phillips

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