A day in the life of a Graduate student: Joana Bettocchi

August 27, 2015

Latin American Studies Master's student Joana explains how biking to class can turn a commute into the best part of your day.

About Joana:

Hi there! I am a graduate student in the Latin American Studies program. 

Why she chose SFU:

I decided to pursue my MA at SFU because I value the professors in my program, and I am simply in love with this city.

Vancouver has so much to offer; the sea wall, the mountains, the community centres, and parks are just a few of the things I value here. The cycling culture and infrastructure make commuting to the downtown campus the best part of my day — how often can one say that?!

I don't know why Vancouver gets the reputation for being a "boring" city! There's always an exciting event happening around town! My evenings are usually packed with free yoga at Dude Chilling Park in the summer, and film festivals in the fall (check out the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival).

Insider SFU tips:

The administration staff in your department are your greatest allies while you are here, and after you graduate. They know so much about how the university works, and always help you out if you are in a pinch. Also, meet regularly with your supervisor to make sure that both of you are on the same page regarding your project. 

Also, use your insurance plan! Did you know massage therapy and physiotherapy are covered? And that there is a clinic in the Vancouver campus? It took me a while to figure it out, but now I use them regularly and file my claims online.  

Joana's bike, safely locked to one of Vancouver's many heart-shaped bike racks.

Advice for anyone moving to Vancouver:

Buy waterproof gear! Unless I’m buying sandals or running shoes, any new pair of shoes I purchase has to be waterproof, or be able to sustain a waterproofing spray. It was expensive to shell out for my first pair of waterproof shoes, but it was so worth it — it became enjoyable to walk around the city and explore new areas because my toes were dry and warm. The store Winners usually sells a good selection of winter shoes for a reduced price, and if you can hold out just past Thanksgiving, most stores will have massive sales.

Speaking about sales, stores will have sales happening at least once a month.  There seems to be a sale every week in Vancouver, and if you get the SPC Student card ($10) you can also get a discount at a lot of places, including coffee shops. 

Lastly, if you study at the SFU Vancouver campus, get a bike and a fob for the bike room. I hadn’t ridden a bike in 15 years, so I was scared to death at the thought of cycling in city traffic. I was pleasantly surprised, however, at the number of bike lanes in town. If you are new to cycling, I recommend looking at Hub’s website, a great community organization that puts on Bike to Work Week every season.

You don’t need to fork out a lot on a bike; places like Our Community Bikes or Craiglist usually have a good selection to pick from (just make sure it’s not a stolen bike — eek!). The Bike Doctor on Broadway was a great place to ask questions and not feel pressured into buying products immediately. Momentum Magazine, based here in our city, also has great guides for beginners and advanced cyclists. 

Joana loves exploring her favourite spots by kayak.

What is the best _____?


A "typical" day at SFU

Earlier in her degree:

Classes during the daytime, with my TA in-class hours sprinkled in. In the evenings, I would usually head down to a coffee shop or the library with classmates to catch up on readings, class assignments, and preparing tutorials.  

As soon as I got home, I ate dinner and went for a walk in our neighborhood. On the weekends, I would spend at least half a day marking and giving students feedback on their work. One or two fun activities would be planned ahead of time, such as an easy hike, an outing to an event, or hanging out with friends.

Thesis Boot Camp is a great way to get started writing.


I work from 8 am until 1 pm, and from 1:30 pm until about 6 pm I work on my thesis. Afterwards, I go home, eat dinner, and try to do something relaxing (colouring, gym, going for a walk, etc).

I’ve devised this current schedule, after struggling to structure my time. Towards the end of your program, it can become increasingly difficult to get through the last rough patch. Don’t be afraid to seek help, the Vancouver campus has a counselor you can see.

Workshops like the Thesis Boot camp or the Writing Spaces at the Vancouver Campus are a great way to structure your time, receive feedback on your writing, and meet people.

To connect with Joana or find out more, see:

                                                                                                                                Profile by: Kayla Phillips

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