Things to do on campus and in Toronto

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I have a feeling I’m kind of abnormal. I go to university, which according to pop culture, means I should be in a sorority, streaking across the quad, or competing in an a capella competition. I have yet to do any of the above, but I still feel like my life is an adventure.

For the past few weeks, my life has been a dumping ground for all kinds of awesome. I saw Argo, trekked through a hail-storm, went on a forest walk, had a banana pancake party at 2 am, and watched a lot of goat videos (let’s not talk about that). In other words, my life is pretty great.

I have no explanation.

I have no explanation.

I was thinking about it, and I realized that you (future students) might not really know much about what there is to do in Toronto. Here are some of the adventury-type things I like to do to get you inspired.

See the city lights. 

If you have a friend with a car, drive down to the Sound Academy to see the skyline lit up at night. This is the perfect night expedition.

The Bayview tunnel in front of Glendon... where many adventures begin!

The Bayview tunnel in front of Glendon… where many adventures begin!

Go for a walk in the Sunnybrook Forest.

This place is perfect for aimless contemplation, bird-watching, and creeping other peoples’ dogs (there’s a dog park 20 minutes down the trail).

The Sunnybrook Forest on a melty-warm winter day. Perfectly serene for a solitary moment.

The Sunnybrook Forest on a melty-warm winter day. Perfectly serene for a solitary moment.

birds birds birds

birds birds birds

dogs dogs dogs

dogs dogs dogs

Go to Keele on the shuttle bus for a meal. 

The food at Keele is pretty legit (i.e. Hero Burger, Mac sushi, the Underground Restaurant, Yogen Fruz, Booster Juice). You can pay for all of the above with your meal plan dollars.

A breakfast of coffee, fruit, and a chocolate chip cream cheese bagel at Keele Campus.

A breakfast of coffee, fruit, and a chocolate chip cream cheese bagel at Keele Campus.

Check out a creative event on campus.

Two weeks ago, my friends Max and Brynn, Four Minutes Til Midnight, and Trouble and Daughter played a concert at the Lunik Coop. Glendon Théatre also puts on amazing drama productions like the Fridge Festival (which I’ll be performing in; you’re welcome to come see!).

Four Minutes Til Midnight performing on the Lunik Café stage.

Four Minutes Til Midnight performing on the Lunik Café stage.

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Go adventuring downtown. 

Dundas Square, adorable cafés, and the Eaton Centre. With a $10 TTC Day Pass, there are heaps of things to do and see in a day off.

Tea with my friend Andy at David's Tea, located at Yonge and Eglinton. This place has lots of shops and little stores. The stretch just south of Bayview and Eglinton is also fulllllll of little shops.

A cuppa with my friend Andy at David’s Tea, located at Yonge and Eglinton. If you’re looking for more cute shops, check out the stretch on Bayview south of Eglinton.

Adventuring is a daily pursuit. Fellow Glendonites, what fun things do you do in your spare time?

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3 essential study habits for university

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eAmbassador Francette getting some readings done!

The transition from high school to university is a baby step for a few, a jump for some, but a leap for most. How ready are you? Find out by asking yourself if you have these essential study techniques.

1. Scanning

A big part of university learning is doing readings. For many courses, you will be assigned 20 pages or more to read every week (that is, per course!).

If you want to keep up, you have to learn how to scan some of your readings. That means knowing what parts to skip and where to slow down, how to identify big ideas in a text , and when it’s okay to not do a reading altogether (which rarely happens, fyi!).

2. Asking

At the university level, course instructors and their assistants do not baby you, but that does not mean that they’re not willing to help. Here’s the catch: you have to ask.

Every professor has office hours during which you can go and see them and most  respond to emails fairly quickly.

Smart students know the shortest path to success is the one with the least guesswork required. Figure out what a professor wants for an assignment or test before you put in the work!

3. Prioritizing

The work load in university is usually heavier than in high school. There are more things to read, more assignments, and the added pressure of part-time jobs and a social life.

You have to figure out what your priorities are and allot your time accordingly. Put first things first and you will not get overwhelmed.

Most students are not able to do everything they’d like to, so the ability to choose what’s a priority and what is not a priority is a vital skill.

The essential quality…

What this all comes down to is efficiency.

Studying is not always about how much effort you put in, but where you’re putting it in.

If you feel like you need to grow in these skills, that’s a good sign. No one is born with these habits, so they have to be learned.

If you’re in high school, what intimidates you most about university learning? If you’re already in university, what study habit do you think is absolutely essential?

Me, the taskmaster

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I have an obsession with tasks. I love accumulating them, categorizing them in to-do lists, and leaving reminders of them everywhere in my room on little slips of paper.

Sometimes, these “shoulds” begin to weigh on me. I begin to believe the lie that I have to be perfect. I let my relationships suffer and I become discouraged about my workload. I can’t sleep. I feel stupid, tired, worthless.

Is this because of my personality, the stresses of university, or just a part of life? Probably all three. And if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that I’m not the only one stressing out.

This is an excerpt taken from an article written by Kate Lunau for Maclean’s on the high incidence of mental illness in university students:

“In 2011, 1,600 University of Alberta students took part in the National College Health Assessment survey. The problems students identified are playing out across the country.

Mental health issue experienced at any time within the last 12 months

Felt things were hopeless: 51.3

Felt overwhelmed by all you had to do: 87.5

Felt exhausted (not from physical activity): 87.1

Felt very lonely: 61.7

Felt very sad: 65.6

Felt so depressed that is was difficult to function: 34.4

***

(U of A total %)”

When you first start out at university, you may feel isolated – it’s normal. One of the most powerful things you can do is reach out to others.

The reality is that the people around you are probably dealing with similar feelings and issues, so I’d encourage you to step out to make new friends. Build relationships, offer and receive support, and cultivate community in your new location.

It probably won’t happen all at once, but you’ve got to start somewhere!

You don’t need to struggle alone.

commuter tip #1: get a locker

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If you’re a commuter, you might want to consider renting out a locker at Glendon. This $30 rental saves your back from carrying stuff like winter wear and extra books. If you want a locker, get one fast because they won’t last (see what I did there?). Instructions for renting a locker can be found here.

A heads-up regarding locker location

Lockers have been removed from York Hall and new ones have been installed in the basement of the Centre of Excellence. Meaning lockers this year are new and shiny, not old and grimy (did it again, forgive me).

Returning.

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Here I am again. In a chair, sitting on my butt, listening to a prof talk about something that I don’t fully understand.

It’s a new season in my life in many ways – I have a new major, I’m living in residence for the first time, and I’m a different person than who I was in the spring – but September has arrived like always, the steady chime signaling the arrival of a new academic year.

I don’t feel anxious. This was not the case in my first or second year. As a first-year, I struggled to adjust to university life altogether, whereas during my second year, I needed to adapt to a new environment after transferring to Glendon from another campus.

Thus, September has beckoned a few surprises, including the luxury of being familiar to something. Of knowing what’s coming next. Of having a routine. For the first time in 2 years, I am returning to something that I know well – student life at Glendon. The result is that I’m a lot less stressed than I have been in the past, but also that life is less of an adventure.

I’m not sure what to take away from all this, except a bit of comfort that the new things that phase us now can eventually be overcome to become the familiar. Our fear in the moment will not remain for a lifetime!

Dear first-years, if you are feeling lost in the newness of university right now, please assure yourselves that you can rise to meet all of the obstacles laid out before you. You will struggle, you will adjust, and you will carry on!

As you meet change, you will be changed. Before you realize, September will find you in 2013, yourself being a little wiser, more grown-up, and slightly more prepared to conquer what’s next.

Good luck with these next few weeks of ‘new’.

University exams: what I’ve experienced so far

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I know what intimidated me as I was entering university: exams. I wondered . . . How hard would they be? What kind of formats would be used? What was a bell curve?

I still don’t know what a bell curve is, but I can tell you about what I’ve experienced as a student so far. Here is what I’ve learned in my first two years of university.

In first year, exams are easy, but not that easy. Is that confusing? What I mean to say is that most freshman classes are about foundations: review, skills development, basics. Professors are preparing you for the rest of university, not blowing your mind with Confucian philosophy and obscure political theories.

Don’t be mistaken. You’ll still have to work hard. Your grades will probably drop as well. But you’ll get the hang of it.

International studies and politics courses usually have essay questions & short answers on exams, not just memory work. These essays emphasize concepts.

As a student writing an essay exam, your role is to identify relevant concepts to an exam question and then to make connections between them. Your ability to memorize will be important, but not in the way it might have been important in your high school. Specifics are less important. 

Overarching themes, networks of knowledge, big ideas. That’s where it’s at.

Average exam length is 2 to 3 hours. That may sound like a lot, but it flies! Personally, I get hungry all the time, so I bring snacks to exams to keep my energy level up.

Smoothie photo cred: Stefan G. C.

Full year international studies & politics courses have yearly or bi-yearly exams. However, other courses (e.g. psychology, natural science, modes of reasoning) stress memorization of specific information so  they have several unit tests throughout the year, rather than one or two exams.

You can expect your profs to be merciful! When I came to university, I was expecting my professors to nail me on exams during my first year. Instead, they prepared me for my exams, telling me what to expect, and giving fair evaluations. I got everything I needed to do well.

So there you have it. University exams aren’t so bad! And I still haven’t mentioned the best thing about them. They are the precursor to 4 glorious months of summer vacation.

Questions? Leave them in the comments! I want to know what you think 🙂

5 major pitfalls to avoid during your first year of university

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Freshman year is a lot to handle. If you were my little sister or brother and just entering university, here are the things that I’d warn you about. 

1. Junk food

The university offers a lot of meal options… the hard part is choosing the healthier ones. Make sure to have a balanced diet (man cannot live on meal replacements, cereal, and bacon alone…). You need to eat vegetables. Real ones.

2. Depression
Many people face this in their freshman year. Sometimes depression is triggered by the drastic life changes, sometimes it’s the stress of being in a new environment. You may find that your support network – parents, friends, boy/girlfriend – is distant or difficult to access.
Make sure to keep the lines of communication open with people whom you trust. And be open and honest.If people don’t know you’re struggling, they can’t help you. Keep in mind that Glendon has counselling services in the manor that you can come to anytime. If you feel embarrassed about looking for counselling, don’t be. We all face hard times.

3. Lack of extra-curricular involvement
Many students miss out on getting involved in clubs and activities during the first few months of school. Then they mistakenly think that they’ve missed their chance entirely! It’s never too late to join clubs. Getting social isn’t just fun, it’s foundational for the rest of your university experience. The connections you make with friends, teachers, and staff can carry you through hard times, and even lesser struggles (e.g. looking for a place to crash overnight, getting a job reference, asking for lecture notes you missed).

4. Feeling trapped in a major
You always have a choice. Remember that. Many, many people change their major during their first, second, or even third year. Remain flexible with your program, plan ahead, and don’t feel pressured to stick with a degree that you’ve realized isn’t for you (I’m saying this from experience).

5. Being ignorant of campus services
York University has a ridiculous amount of programs, staff, and amenities that can help you in almost every aspect of your life. Don’t miss out because you don’t know. 


A final note: Don’t look at the potholes.

Although it’s good to know about these pitfalls, I think it’s better to focus on the positive in the long run. My driving instructor once told me “don’t look at the potholes… you’ll drive towards what you’re focusing on.” His point: focus your energies on where you want to be, rather than where you don’t want to be. That’s sound advice.
Ask yourself: What person do you want to become at the end of your degree? What career or lifestyle are you aiming for? What things do you value? 
The earlier you start thinking about the end, the more prepared you’ll be when it comes. 

Vision is a powerful thing.
Good luck!