A gift giving guide for the grad student in your life

Sophie Cousineau, a PhD candidate in Microbiology and Immunology, gives some timely gift suggestions for the students in your life that won't break the bank.

[Editor’s Note:] This article first appeared on the GradLife McGill blog. Sophie Cousineau is a PhD candidate in Microbiology and Immunology.

By Sophie Cousineau

‘Tis (almost) the season for gift-giving! If you’re still racking your brain trying to come up with some ideas for gifts that

  • 1) will have a positive impact on the recipient’s life and
  • 2) isn’t just a box of chocolates, this is the blog post for you.

It’s accepted wisdom at this point that when it comes to purchasing happiness experiences are better than things. However, I would argue that some objects can still enhance overall happiness by helping smooth over rough patches of daily life, or by making day-to-day experiences more pleasant. The following eight things, for example, have improved my life in small but tangible ways, and they could make good practical gifts for a grad student in your life:

For less than $10:

  • A vacuum wine bottle stopperWine is great. Drinking an entire bottle because you can’t recork it? Is not. And having your wine go bad because there was too much air trapped in the bottle when you recorked it? That’s just sad.
  • Fluffy, warm socks 

    Winter in Montreal is cold, and of the three apartments in which I’ve lived so far, two have been drafty. Warm socks are always a good choice, but lounging socks with little plastic grippy things at the bottom of the feet are even better.

  • A good travel mugThe ideal travel mug keeps drinks warm, does not leak, is easy to wash (the fewer crevices and nooks to clean out, the better!) and looks good. I’m still looking for a mug that fits all four criteria, so if you have any product suggestions please leave a comment!

Between $10 and $20:

  • Good decaffeinated coffeeI love coffee, but caffeine doesn’t love me back. Many coffee roasters make decaf coffee that is just as delicious as their fully caffeinated roasts, so keep an eye out for those options! Be careful, though: this could be a controversial gift for a grad student. Bestow it judiciously.
  • An extra phone chargerGetting myself a phone charger that I just leave at my desk has improved my life at least 150 per cent. Since I’ve been able to charge it before leaving work, my phone has not died even once on my bus ride back home!

Between $20 and $50:

  • An AeropressI’ve tried several different ways to make coffee at home – from French Presses to Biatelli espresso makers you put on the stove – and the Aeropress is by far my favourite way to do it. It is fast: once you have boiling water, it’s just a question of pushing it through the coffee and filter, and you’re good to go within seconds.

Between $50 and $100:

  • Bluetooth headphonesI haven’t gone back to plug-in headphones since I got these. They’re just so convenient – I no longer have any wires flopping around when I go for a run, and I no longer have to untangle wires out of my scarf in the winter.As a bonus, my headphones use the same kind of micro USB charger as my phone, so my extra charger is extra useful!
  • A fluffy and soft robeThe softer and fluffier the better! When I need to relax after a long and stressful day in the lab, I just put on my warm socks, wrap myself up in my robe and making myself a good cup of (decaf) coffee. It feels decadent in the best possible way.
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6 years ago

To help you on your quest for the ideal travel mug, I’d like to share my favorite: https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5050-872/Microlite-720ml-UL-Vacuum-Bottle?colour=BK000 It’s super light, seals (and you can lock it shut so the cap isn’t accidentally released while it’s kicking around in your bag), and very easy to clean (the lid breaks into four pieces with two rubber seals and no difficult crevices). It’s also fairly durable, considering how light it feels – I’ve dropped it a couple times, and while it has a minor dent and a few chips, the finish still looks good after a year of hard use. The only… Read more »