A Story About Stories

You know what I need? A story. When I’m working hard, my mind soothes itself by wandering into stories. It could be a movie, book, movie about a book, or even adventure tales from childhood days. It’s easy to get lost in thought especially when you have access to YouTube or Netflix. I even get lost wandering in the wilderness on Google Maps from time to time. Ok, a lot.

Sitting in the fancy little common room lounge of Whitney Hall, holding a gigantic Stalin book amidts the Victorian-style decor

Back in first year, ploughing through this 700 page biography of Joseph Stalin for my TrinOne IR class (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I need new stories during the busy academic year and real stories best fill this need. Nourishing your relationship with places and peoples through these stories connects you to countless generations and the vast world that shaped them. By doing so, you are also shaped. Better yet, with such mindfulness, you can live these stories.

A massive stack of eleven thinck Russian Foreign Policy books from Robarts. Putin's picture is glaring at me from one of them.

More stories for TrinOne. My holiday homework and my old buddy Mr. Putin (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Take for instance the names of the places we live in. People romantically think Toronto means place of meetings. But different histories show that Toronto comes from the Mohawk word tkaronto which means where there are trees standing in the water. This name refers to weirs used by Indigenous fishers in the area. What a drastically different story to be surrounded by. Are you intrigued yet?

A view looking to the west from my 18th floor apartment, over the greenery of Queen's Park, the Legislature, and U of T, out across the water towards Mississauga

End of summer 2013: my new view in my apartment was great, though I knew I’d be watching the story of that tower’s construction unfold right before my eyes… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

In the twilight of a fall dawn, with pink skies, this picture looks out down Bay Street towiards the twinkling  lights of the towers downtown

By the Fall of 2013, this living city had already evolved into a new world; and the building across the street added like 12 floors and was already beginning to take away my view! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

The same view south towards downtown, but with the city blanketed in snow and the tower across the street now almost totally blocking my view to the west

The first snowfall of the 2013 winter: the tower grew ever so slightly, but never stopped completely during even the coldest times (Photo by Zachary Biech)

An even more pink dawn twilight shor of downtown from my apartment, with the lights still on in the windows of the towers. The building across the street is beginning to peek out above others in the area

Once the winter had faded, Toronto emerged from it’s snowy slumber into the bright spring dawn. And like any good character in a story, the building across the street fought against all the odds and persevered…to block my view even more (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A clear sunny day, looking south from my apartment again. The tower across the street is absolutely massive now, dwarfing all the others in the area. I give up!

So one year since I moved here, and there is now an obnoxiously tall condo across the street trying to intimidate me all day (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Spadina comes from an Ojibwe word—Ishpadinaa–referring to high hill which the present-day avenue ascends. High Park was a savannah used by various Indigenous communities for farming. Philosopher’s Walk followed what used to be Taddle Creek, which was a vital waterway and gathering place for local Indigenous peoples who originally called it the Ziibiing.


From a small rise, this shot looks out over the paths, bridge, and amphitheatre of Philosopher's Walk with the orange and yellow leaves of Fall now on the trees

Though there’s no creek here now, I try to feel the stories of Philosopher’s Walk when I’m passing through (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Ever wondered why Davenport Road doesn’t follow Toronto’s grid? That’s because it follows an ancient Indigenous trail. And have you heard of the Franklin Expedition? Long story short, they sunk. But Inuit peoples who’ve lived near the ships’ resting place kept the Expedition’s story alive through oral tradition for many centuries. Epic, right?


An ancient river called Old Man River flows in Southern Alberta near where I grew up. The amazing stories of this river have shaped worldviews and histories of many peoples including the Peigan of the Blackfoot Confederacy. How has the land shaped your life and history?

In my Alberta hometown of Cochrane there is a historic ranch. Can you guess the name? Yes, it’s called Cochrane Ranche. Better question: can you guess what the town is named after??? Yup, the Ranche. I’m more fascinated by tales I’ve heard about the rocky ridge overlooking the site. I’ve heard this ridge was a buffalo jump long ago. It’s good to see home in a different light.

In the evening, looking West at the vast Rocky Mountains over my sleepy little foothills town, with the twilight sun still gleaming from behind the mountains.

This is a view from Cochrane, looking west towards the Ranche. Just to give you an idea of the aura of the place (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Still looking west over the Cochrane valley into the foothills, towards the Rockies, but this time in the bright midday summer sun

And now here’s Cochrane in a different light! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Now that you’ve read my story about stories, I want you to tell a story. Tell your friends or family a story about the world they live in. Go and find a story to listen to, if you need. I’m going to the ImagineNATIVE film fest from October 22-26 for this exact reason. First Nations House might have some free tickets if you’re interested. Maybe I’ll tell you a story about it sometime.


Once you’ve told some stories, ask yourself what stories are right there under your feet or in the air around you. What story are you living right now?

Looking up at the CN Tower from it's base in the dark of night, with the tower lit in pink and all the fog around it pink as well

Even the Tower can tell you a story (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Looking south from my apartment at night, at a Green and Red - lit CN Tower in the holiday season

No matter what time of year, the Tower plays along and changes with the seasons. The tower can even show it’s festive side during the holiday season! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Another nighttime shot of the Tower from my apartment, this time lit up is bright green

Here’s one from last St. Patrick’s Day, when the Tower had some real shamrock luck on (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Another nighttime shot looking up at the CN Tower from it's base, but this time it's lit up in blue and wet with rainfall

The Tower can even hold memories as part of your story, like this shot I remember from a particularly rainy night after Derek Jeeter played his final game ever against the Jays in Rogers Centre (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Asking questions in office hours

In the past few weeks, most of the bloggers here have been offering tips to succeed in classes, and what resources are available on campus. Among the answers we usually give is “go to office hours, they’re really helpful!”. But saying that only goes so far. After repeating the statement so many times, I’ve started to hear the question:

“But Charles, how do I know what’s a good question for office hours?”
“Good question,”
 I reply, immediately spinning you into a spiral of positive feedback.

I talked to a few of my current and former professors and Teaching Assistants this week about their own office hours, and there are a few things to share. First: there is no such thing as a bad question in office hours. There might be less relevant questions—it’s probably not really relevant to ask your fluvial geomorphology professor whether they think Jar Jar Binks was a necessary addition to the Star Wars franchise—but there are no bad questions.

Usually the questions that instructors will hear and encourage are questions about course material: if you don’t understand something from class, have a question about how concepts relate, even about assessment, office hours are a good time to ask. Most profs and TAs are also totally okay with biographical questions about their lives; they love sharing their experiences, their own research interests, advice—so long as you’re not holding up a line of other students.

Old photo of soldiers lining up in swarms for the mess hall.

Ask questions, but don’t be a line-up-Leonard and hold up the line. [source]

But profs and TAs are often interested in your research interests and ideas too! Don’t think that you can only go to office hours if you have a question. Office hours are a great opportunity to share the ideas that you don’t get to articulate in class, or don’t want to interrupt a lecture with.

Here’s another good office hour question I’ve been asked: 

Are there better questions for TAs rather than professors? Is there a difference between the types of things you should ask an instructor and the types of things you can ask a TA? My perception is the “help me solve this problem” questions are for TAs and the “broader smarter-sounding discussions” are for the instructor.

The answer is “not at all!”. Typically, if you have questions specifically about your tutorials or about your grades, you probably want to go to your TA—the person running the tutorials and/or grading your work—as your prof is unlikely to have the answers you want right away. That aside, there’s no reason to think you have to pretend to be smart to impress a professor, or that you can’t ask them for help: that’s exactly what they’re there for, and that’s why their office hours are being run!

To distill this post down, the “TL;DR” would have to be: Go to office hours, be polite, ask questions, and don’t worry.

Have other questions about office hours, TAs, or profs?
Let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you!

Doing Assignments the Day Of: A Primer

Doing assignments the day they are due is a terrible idea, and I do it all the time. Of course, I never do it on purpose. Nonono. Whenever I find myself with thirty minutes to produce some math proofs or English essays, it is always some unanticipatable calamity, and never my fault. But these cruel twists and happenstance have given me a certain grace under pressure, and I would like to share my strategies for getting things done at the last minute, for reasons which should be in no way discernible from the previous paragraph.

Accept your work will be terrible. The first step is simply admitting to yourself that you will not be able to produce the Great Canadian Homework in the span of an hour. If you are at this stage, considerations of quality will only hold you back. Finish what you have to do, and if you have time later, look back on it and revise.

Remove yourself from all distractions. If you don’t need your computer, turn it off. Repeat this step for every electronic device which brings you joy. If you are on the computer, close all programs and tabs that you are not using. Every errant glance at anything that is not homework is a waste of time. Your time for luxuries has come to an end.

Do it. This is always the difficult part. The key is to break it down into steps. For my English essay writing, I begin by choosing a section of the literary work which I want to write on. Then the next step would be to come up with some argument. Then I would write my first paragraph. And so on and so forth. Obviously, this is highly simplified and will likely result in work which is sub-par at the university level, but excellence was thrown out the window a long time ago.

Consider handing it in late. If you don’t manage your time perfectly, there will come a day when you will consider this. I myself have gone entire semesters where I based which homework was getting handed in at what time based on their total mark value in the course and the late homework policy of the course. I am not proud of this academic triage, but given my mental state at the time it was necessary for me to do so in order to pass my courses. When it comes down to earning marks, it is a numbers game, especially in very large courses. If a one day late penalty results in ten percentage points taken off but you feel confident that you can improve your homework immensely (i.e. more than ten percentage points) then mathematically it makes sense to take that extra day. In some courses this won’t be possible, so:

Hand it in even if it isn’t done. You will feel awful, but at least you won’t get a zero.

There are a few more optional steps afterwards:

Don’t let it happen again. If you analyze what went wrong, you can attempt to prevent it in the future. Hopefully, you won’t have to produce sub-par work in a short amount of time ever again. Prevention > cure, as they say.

Go speak to your professor. If there is a legitimate (i.e. medical) reason that keeps you from completing homework on time, and you can provide the proper documentation, you might be able to be accommodated. You could also go speak with Accessibility Services.

Let it go. In the grand scheme of things, a hastily completed assignment falls somewhere between a mite and an ant. Focus on doing better next time, instead of focusing on your mistake.

I would like to say that I have gotten to the point where I complete everything in a timely manner, but that is simply not true. But I can say that I complete assignments in a more timely manner more often, and hopefully you can to.


My name is Brett, and I’m a third-year student double-majoring in International Relations and East Asian Studies. Around this time last year, I was in Graham Library filling out an application to U of T’s Centre for International Experience (CIE). Right now, I’m living in Tokyo.

My new neighbourhood.

My new neighbourhood.

I’ll briefly explain why and how I ended up here. I have a long-standing fascination with certain areas of Japan: its tech industry, modern history, and cityscapes, to name a few. This fascination directs my studies at U of T, where I devour courses on Japanese history, politics, and literature. But, studying in Toronto for the past two years has been somewhat bittersweet for me; my Japan-related courses allowed me to study topics that I am genuinely interested in, but they also reaffirmed my desire to actually be in Japan. Studying abroad at the University of Tokyo presented itself as a perfect way for me to continue my undergraduate studies, while satisfying my desire for fresh experience.

When I began my application to study abroad, I was right in the middle of a busy period. Essays and exams seemed endless. Now that I’m in Tokyo, I’m really glad that I took a moment to apply. When school gets tough, it’s easy to become shortsighted; next week’s midterms and essays might seem infinitely more important than anything beyond even a month away, e.g. an exchange. The good news is that CIE’s initial application is simple. It only requires a résumé, a brief (250-350 words) statement of interest, and two reference letters (just give your professors lots of time to write them!).

After being nominated, that is, accepted by U of T to go on exchange, CIE gave me specific instructions from my school of choice. In my case, there was an interview at CIE and some paperwork from the Japanese government. Once I finished those two things and went to a few orientations, I waited until June, when I received my letter of admission from the University of Tokyo. Finally, I arrived here on October 1.


Narita Airport

At Narita Airport

Now that I’m in Tokyo, I’m watching months of planning come to fruition; unfamiliar locations on maps have turned into tangible places. The past three weeks have been a blur of orientations, moving in, and starting classes, but my time here has been fantastic so far.

Entrance to the University of Tokyo

Entrance to the University of Tokyo

Ginza at Night

Ginza at Night

Tokyo is a metropolitan maze of themed districts – Night life? Shibuya or Shinjuku. Electronics? Akihabara. Street Fashion? Harajuku. Fish markets? Odaiba. The list goes on. To provide a sense of the city’s complexity and expansiveness, here’s a comparison of the TTC’s subway map versus the Greater Tokyo Area’s train network.

TTC http://s3.amazonaws.com/hs-static/transit_maps/137665090_6053bd1e7ed509dbf382e35bb87bb4de.jpg


Tokyo's train network (http://www.meik.jp/2rosenzu/jpg_640/tkyo_yko_chba.jpg)

Tokyo’s train network

Tokyo’s size is intimidating at first, but it also promises a wealth of things to see and experience. I’m looking forward to sharing these experiences here over the next few months. For now, I’ll wrap things up with a track from Tokyo’s very own Nujabes:

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee: A Search for an Alternative around Kensington Market

Like most students, I absolutely love coffee. Although I am not a PSL drinker (if you don’t know what that is, pat yourself on the back), I do love my vanilla lattes and cappuccinos. Recently, however, I have been drinking more, most likely to substitute for my old nicotine addiction…

Whether it is a cappuccino,

Whether it is a cappuccino,

Or an ice cap...

Or an ice cap…

or good-old tasty residence coffee...

or good-old tasty residence coffee…

I love my coffee <3

I love my coffee <3

However, when I had one of those notorious “coffee migraines” this week after not having my morning coffee, I knew this habit was no longer in moderation.

Me off Caffeine

And so, when I was at the lovely Aunties and Uncles for some, well, coffee, I decided to go walk around Kensington Market for a healthy alternative.

But here is the thing: I am not the most intelligent person around when it comes to food in the green, red, and orange colour categories.

When I walked into these markets that had vegetables and green things that looked like vegetables, I just got plain confused.

blog 5

I found miniature trees!

What is that? Are those the tasteless leaves people put in soap?

What is that? Are those the tasteless leaves people put in soap?

I didn't know they had vegan dog treats.

I didn’t know they had vegan dog treats.

I was just shocked by all the colours, the variety, and the health smell of the place. I left pretty quickly to find only THIS:

blog 7

Indeed, the patriarchy is in healthy doses at Kensington Market. So with my options limited (because of course, I made them limited), I just went to buy some apples and walked home.

But then a funny thing happened. As I was eating one of these lovely red apples on my way back, I realized I was not crashing like I usually did before my second cup. So I looked it up and found out that although apples do not have the same stimulation as coffee, they give you more energy (i.e. calories, vitamins and minerals)!. They also contain 4g of fiber, which helps you feel full and energized for longer. An apple a day keeps the coffee away, am I right?

So tasty, so cheap, and so much energy?

So tasty, so cheap, and so much energy?

“So did you give up coffee, Haley?”

No, dear reader, I have not and nor do I plan to. But what I am trying to do is put my coffee drinking into moderation. Quitting smoking sucks, but I still need to maintain a healthy balance. Now my body has gotten used to being without nicotine (four weeks free, hurrah!). Organs take time to heal it seems, especially the brain.

And so, if you are searching for a healthy (and cheap) alternative to your potentially unhealthy lifestyle, check out the Health and Wellness’ 5-Buck Lunch happening next Wednesday, October 29th from 11:45am-2pm at Hart House (Great Hall)

Here are the slightly verbose details:

5-Buck Lunch is a culinary voyage around the U of T universe that doesn’t empty your wallet! Experience the tastes, sights and sounds of your university while enjoying a fantastic meal.

OMG I want to go on a culinary voyage!

Alright, all for now,


Staying Organized and Having Fun: a de-stressing strategy

Last week the rest of the crew posted about mental wellness and their posts were all super awesome. My mental wellness week post is a bit late but A for effort right?

Wellness for me is about taking care of your whole self: sometimes that means that I make myself eat vegetables (although I often feel like Ori), while other times it means just taking a break from school stress and having fun with my friends.

My main way to keep myself from turning into a big ball of stress is to stay organized. I’m pretty type-A so i have list upon list that keeps me on track. What I’ve found really helpful is a tactic that I’ve done since first year: putting my schedule in the calendar app on my computer/phone/iPad like so

a screenshot of the week view of a calendar app showing class schedule from last year, all class times and places are in there along with the readings for each class for that week.

doing this helps me see what free time I have and lets me look up the readings for each week without having to go into the syllabus every time. Having my due dates in a bright colour helps me easily visualize when everything is due.

a screenshot showing the month view of a calendar app showing classes each day plus any due dates or important dates

I remember the week of the 9th-15th, assignment free bliss

In addition to this I have a weekly planner that I write assignments in, a big sticky note with all my assignment due dates, and a running to do list app on my phone and laptop.

screenshot of to do list showing that I need to do various readings, fun things like brunch, community crew panel, and disney movies are also scheduled in

This was a pretty light to do list as I did most of my readings on Friday. Setting myself a reasonable amount of work everyday helps me get it all done and makes me feel good when I see everything crossed off.

The second way I take care of myself is by taking breaks and having fun with my friends.DSCF4280After finishing the readings for two classes on Friday I took a break to read some blogs (this article in Vogue about Jony Ive was such a great read, and I really liked these pictures of flowers on vintage photos) and listen to records before starting to study for a test I had on Monday.

This little break, sitting on my window seat, looking at my plants, and hearing the lovely songs from Camelot helped me recharge from a busy morning and helped me study better; since I had already caught up with the internet I wasn’t tempted to take breaks after every 3 pages. By setting a specific to do list, I was able to keep myself up to date with my readings and pace myself, knowing I only had one more thing to do today helped me feel okay about taking a much needed break.

On Saturday I knew I had to go out for brunch for a friend’s birthday, participate in a panel for fall open house, review for a test, and do a few housekeeping things.


Community crew shenanigans post fall open house panel knowing I only had a little bit of studying to do that afternoon meant I had time to frolic in the leaves with these goons.

Going out for brunch for a friend’s birthday on Saturday was another great way to relax, I mean, food is a necessity of life and hanging out with friends is a great way to start the day. After brunch and the panel I buckled down and did some review before having a fun disney movie marathon that night.  picture of brunch food: fries, eggs, tea

Those are my strategies for keeping myself from getting too stressed but whatever strategy works for you is best! The important thing to remember is that a little bit of stress is healthy and keeps you motivated but if you feel you need help, there are a ton of resources availible at U of T (most of them were outlined in the crew’s posts from the last week).



The Distillery District! (feat. Segways)

If you guys didn’t know yet, I’m the Male Head of Non-Resident Affairs at Trinity College. Being a student leader comes with many duties – some duties are infinitely more enjoyable than others. You know, attending Finance Committee meetings sometimes just isn’t fun.

But enough with that blah, my favourite duty as a Head is organizing “Trin Goes to…” events. It’s exactly what it sounds like. My partner Head and I organize events outside the campus that the whole College is invited to!

Me and Kalyna posing in front of a fireplace, while dressed formally.

Me and my partner Head, Kalyna!

And it’s all because we are 20-something billionaires à la Mark Zuckerberg.

No — I’m just kidding. It’s because our College’s student government is excellent at managing student funds! Clubs and Heads are given a considerable sum of money to organize events that bring together the wider student community.

So, having a great foundation like the TCM, I was able to take a group of 25 students on a full Segway tour of the Distillery District. Usually, it costs about $70 per person, but we were able to subsidize that cose so that each person only had to pay $10. Not a bad deal at all, I’d say. We were even able to pay for the TTC ride there!

Me smiling while tightly gripping on to the handle bars of the Segway. Behind me are a few of my friends trying to photobomb the shot!

Look at me, not falling!

When we arrived to begin our tour, we were immediately trained to use Segways. The quirky tour guides acted as the wind beneath our wings. I can’t say it was easy at first, but after about 5 minutes on those bad boy vehicles, I felt like the Segway was one with my body — I was Steve Wozniak. After training was done, we zoomed all around the Distillery District like Tweens illegally skateboarding in malls. I’ve never felt so free. I was a bird.

After we were done riding, we proceeded to do a walking historical tour of the area. Did you know that the whiskey they produced back then had upwards of 70% alcohol content. I didn’t! Appropriately, we did a beer (with ID!) and chocolate tasting after we were finished the tour!

Finally, we got back on our Segways, and were divided into groups to race each other, and I was prepared to put on my Mario Kart game-face. I wasn’t there to make friends, I was there to win. Thus, I obviously won. Okay, I didn’t, but I did win in spirit. I may not have my full driver’s license yet, but I have mastered the mystical Segway. That’s a win in my books.

Me and my friends taking a selfie before we begin the race. We're all wearing helmets and i'm making the peace sign at the back.

Selfie before the race! 

We concluded the evening by having dinner at the Mill St. Brew Pub, and that can just be summarized with one word: scrumptious.

Me photobombing my friends. They're trying to make the shape of a heart together in front of a wall full of locks. I block their heart and try to make a heart of my own.

Before dinner, I felt the need to photobomb every photo.

UofT, if you ever have the opportunity to visit the Distillery District, and ride its Segways, I hope you have as much fun as I did. Make sure to take your friends — not for friendship, just so you can see their faces when you crush them in a Segway race!

Group picture of all of us. Some of us have helmets, and me and my Head partner are standing on the Segways!

“Smile for the blog!”

Total Test Result Turmoil – or how the Academic Success Center can save your neck

It’s that blessed time of year again – mid-terms. Or, for our friends in engineering or music, the time of year when students in every other Faculty get a small and terrifying glimpse into every week of their term, mid or otherwise.

In the whirl of essays, labs and tests, it is inevitable that one – or several – will not go as planned and you’ll get a mark back that is much lower than you ever thought you’d receive.

Take heart, young grasshopper, life will go on!

Take heart, young grasshopper, life will go on! Source: Aleksey Gnilenkov (CC BY 2.0).

It is important to ask yourself though, and answer honestly, “what happened?”

Obsessing over every question on a test, or inwardly ranting about how you “should have known that, dammit!” is not a good use of your time or brain power, but asking yourself “In future, how could I handle that better?” is certainly not.

This is not meant to shame you if you didn’t do well, but there are ways to handle the fallout which will better ensure success next time round.

Consider the following questions:

  1. What is your mark, actually? If you failed a test, that’s different; but if you got a “bad” mark in your terms, where does that leave you? I came out of high school with the impression that an 84 was a disappointment. If you got a 75 and you’ve never seen marks that low, recognize that standards in university are different. Some may compare themselves to the class average, but I prefer rather to discuss my concerns directly with an instructor or teaching assistant. Perhaps they’re just tough markers. Maybe I didn’t understand the type of answer they were looking for. Maybe (and this is unlikely but possible) they misgraded it and speaking to them would get that rectified.
  2. How did you study? Consider making a trip to the Academic Success Center (ASC) if information isn’t sinking in, or you’re having trouble with motivation, memory or concentration. You can make One-on-one appointments with a learning strategist, but they have fantastic handouts and articles to help you with everything from motivation to time management while you wait for your appointment.
  3. If you didn’t understand the material at all, where can you fill in the gaps? Your Teaching Assistant and instructor are the first resources to try, but there is always University of Toronto Peer Tutoring, your College’s or faculty’s writing center (a directory is here), or YouTube.
  4. What stopped you from “getting it” in the first place? No one will be perfect in every subject, but if you can pinpoint the fact you find lectures hard to follow or don’t understand the problem sets or readings you’ve been given, that will help to isolate your particular challenges. Again, the academic Success Center is a great resource here.
  5. Was it an issue of running out of time during the test? Were you incredibly anxious and forgot things? Consider talking to someone at the ASC for support in managing your test-taking challenges.

At the end of the day though, the important thing to remember is that this is but one evaluation of several. It’s as much about your self-awareness as it is your ability to recall information. It feels bad when you get a bad mark, but it does not mean that you won’t pass the course, and it certainly doesn’t mean that your grades won’t improve ever or that you’ll be unceremoniously chucked from the University of Toronto with no friends or future prospects to speak of. It is but one bump in the academic road, and the only thing to do now is to keep on truckin’.

Stay strong, U of T, we will get through this.

U of T Student Deals & Discounts

If there’s one thing I still haven’t mastered in my second year at U of T, it’s the idea of having a “student budget”.  I mean hypothetically I know going shoe shopping in Yorkville after class with my grocery money isn’t smart – but actually being able to stop myself from doing so is a different issue.  But hey, admitting you have a problem is the first step to finding a solution right?

There are hundreds of articles online telling you how to save money as a student, and while these tips are great in theory, a lot of them can be hard to implement.  I know personally, I enjoy going out for food and drinks with my friends.  It’s something that I like to do on my off-time, and it’s something I’m willing to spend money on.

Two photo set. Photo on the left: young blonde girl sitting at an outdoor table taking smiling and taking a picture of the food in front of her, which is two large salads and a sandwich. Photo on the right: a photo of the author, a young girl with brown hair sitting in a restaurant looking at a taco in her hands before she eats it.

Wait, so you’re saying getting a good instagram picture is not justification for going out to eat…?

So how to you balance?  

Well it’s hard, and if I knew how to master it I would share my tips, but unfortunately I’m sitting here with a VISA bill that indicates I clearly don’t.

Luckily, as U of T students we have some awesome deals targeted specifically for us.  Different restaurants, attractions, and shops all around the city offer specific student deals and discounts to help make student living a little easier.

Check out my top deals by week day; (all of these deals require you bringing your TCard with you as proof of ID) 


  • Head over to Toby’s Pub & Eatery any day between Sunday and Thursday for 15% off food and drinks. Student favourites include their nachos and wings.


  • Today is the day to stock up on groceries. Head over to the Metro on Bloor St. for 10% off your purchase. This Metro is open 24 hours, so it’s easy to come by before or after your classes.


Photo of Groceries including Multigrain Cheerios, Kraft Dinner, Peanut Butter and a carton of Milk

It’s embarrassing how long I could live off of these basic groceries. Don’t be me – use the Metro discount!


  • Time to stock-up on inexpensive dry goods, or bulk candy and treats for an upcoming event or meeting. Bulk Barn offers 10% off to students on Wednesdays.


  • Make-up addicts (myself included), brace yourselves because Shoppers Drug Mart on Bloor offers 20% off to U of T students on Thursdays. Stock up on basics like shampoo and toilet paper, but also keep your eye out because shoppers can have great deals on things such as chips and soda too.
Photo of a whole wheat wrap with tomatoes, lettuce, tofu chicken and fake bacon with a side of fresh cut fries.

If you go to Fresh, make sure to try the “chicken” club wrap! It’s my favourite thing on the menu.


  • You made it to Friday, which means you deserve to celebrate! Fresh Restaurants and Spring Rolls Restaurants all around the city offer 15% off to students (excluding specials). It’s the perfect excuse to go out and celebrate the week, or catch up with friends you haven’t seen all week.

So these are my favourite student deals for U of T students!  Many of them are great ways to save on basic things you need every day, while others just provide a way for you to still enjoy yourself on a student budget.  If you know of any other deals I should include, leave them down below or tweet them to be at @Rachael_UofT.

Holistic Living for a Busy Schedule

My head can really get spinning. With so much going on, including schoolwork, tests, classes, extracurriculars and events, things can get crazy. Stress is a part of university life especially during flip-out times like midterms. But stress is natural and if you aren’t a little stressed about your university activities, you aren’t doing it right.

Let me explain; stress in controlled, healthy amounts is actually a good thing. Going into a mental tailspin, however, is not. If you have a balanced schedule full of activities you enjoy, the stress won’t feel like stress. It will feel like energy. This energy is good and there are many strategies to access it.

Two erasers standing vertically, with pop bottle caps for helmets and paper clips for rifles

Meed Bob and Ted, some veteran study soldiers from my first year. When you are overloaded with work, you can always count on your ability to distract yourself. (photo by Zachary Biech)

I’ll give you an example. Early October has been crazy for me. I’ve never spent so much time doing so many things all at once. In my opinion, it’s a little early in the year to have two midterms and a heavily weighted essay all in October’s first week. But here’s the strange thing. I’ve been working fifteen hours a day for a month straight and yet, my brain never went into code-red meltdown mode.

First reason: My schedule is full of things I love. There. Boom. Easy.

If you fill your day with your passions, it won’t feel like such a battle.

Second: My schedule is balanced.

Your schedule can’t be too heavy on the work and too light on fun and health-oriented activities and vice versa. All work and no play blahblahblah. But how much of each part of your life is necessary and what should actually be included in your day?

First Nations House has an Elder-in-Residence whom I’ve visited a number of times. His name is Andrew Wesley and he is Omushkego Cree from Fort Albany. Elders have invaluable, immense knowledge to share. The teachings I’ve received include protocol for ceremonies which have greatly helped me. At FNH as well as the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto there is plenty of help finding whatever medicines you may need. Also, you can talk with FNH’s Learning Strategist, Bonnie Jane Maracle.


Four small medicine bags, made of yellow, red, blue, and white cloth all pointing outwards in the four directions.

These are medicines of the four directions placed in my apartment to ensure it is a safe place to be. The entire atmosphere changed instantly when I put these up. (photo by Zachary Biech)

A small dream-catcher with dark red, white, and teal beads and a multicolour cloth from a Métis sash

My special dream-catcher. The cloth is a small piece of a Métis sash, given to me by Bruce Dumont, President of the Métis Nation of British Columbia. (photo by Zachary Biech)

Elders in Toronto have also really helped me grasp the value of the medicine wheel in balancing life to maintain healthy relationships with the four parts of our beings. You can definitely explore teachings like these at university. There’s more to learn than I could ever teach.


A small living room with tall white bookshelf cubes and TV stand, with a red coffee table and red doors in the white furniture, and with a white with blue ripples in the fabric

The original colour scheme of my apartment: balanced but needed one more colour of the four directions. Can you tell which one? (photo by Zachary Biech)

Here’s a beginner’s guide: life is a continual four-part cycle of our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves. Only you know what fills these areas in your life, but rest assured, they all should be respected.  Every Saturday, I spend four hours or so scheduling my week. Though massive, these schedules are balanced in the four areas and allow me to maintain physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. They’re even colour-coded. Thus, I get more done, I’m healthier in the four areas, and the stress isn’t all that stressful.

A large agenda book with one page of colour-coded daily schedules and the other filled with notes for action items

A relatively light week (photo by Zachary Biech)

A close-up view of daily schedules with colour-coded action items and symbols that only I can understand

When in doubt, colour-code EVERYTHING. My system has become so elaborate, I have a whole new symbol language in there too. (photo by Zachary Biech)

A small memo booklet open to a page with meal plans for each day of the week

An example of my personal management system: The meal plan for this week from the meals section of my memo ledger. (photo by Zachary Biech)

My strategy for balance may not be a perfect match for you, but I think the idea of balance definitely is. If you approach university life holistically, and you fill your days with projects that you love, it’ll go way smoother.

A list of personal action items (music, exercise, ceremonies, reading) and a medicine wheel drawn in my large agenda book

Balance is a big part of my schedule. (Photo by Zachary Biech)

What do you do to maintain your wellness?

pictures of home, cloths for medicines, and a mezmorizing blue lava lamp

Some tools for balance: pictures of home, cloths for medicines, and a mesmerizing lava lamp. (photo by Zachary Biech)