Stacks on Stacks (of books)

In the immortal words of Arthur:

libray card gif

Truer words have never been spoken. Source:

As U of T students, we get a handy little TCard, which gives you access to numerous services on campus but also, as many of you may know, the TCard also serves as a… LIBRARY CARD!

It opens the opportunity to explore the thousands of books in the 44 libraries on campus!

The U of T libraries offer so many facilities and services both online and in person that it’s a student’s dream! But this post is dedicated to one of my favourite things to explore on campus: The stacks!


What a beautiful sight

For those of you who don’t know, the stacks are basically the main area where the books are held. My first time navigating the stacks was a little overwhelming, but it’s not as complicated as that long call number on the books may indicate!

For example, I recently really wanted to read the English version of the Mahabharata (an ancient Indian epic) but I couldn’t find a copy anywhere. On a whim, I decided to try our own library. Spoiler alert: they had it!!

It didn’t take much effort either! In a few easy steps, I had my book.

1) Search for the title you want, or keywords. I used the website catalogue, but you can often find them using the catalogue in the libraries. You’ll see what the libraries have on the results page. Each book result has the library it’s located in, the call number of the book and also whether the book is checked out or not. Being the nerd I am, I did a tiny bit of background research to see which version I wanted.

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2) Note down the information you need to find the book: the call number and the library it’s located in.

3) Find out where in the library the book is located. For example, if the call number started with PR, it would be on the 13th floor of Robarts Library. This information can be accessed online or will be on display in the libraries (Fun fact: The inside of the elevators at Robarts have one of these signs).

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*Just for Robart’s

4) Use the last few numbers to exactly find your book of choice! 

See, U of T? Easy peasy! So next time you want a reference textbook for that assignment on viruses, a copy of that $200 textbook for that course you have to take or just a modern translation of an ancient epic, don’t hesitate to try out the stacks!

Just don’t let the power get to your head.

dw evil

With great power comes great responsibility. Source:


Time to Say Goodbye


Goodbye, U of T! (I couldn’t resist a kitten in marshmallows) (via

So U of T, I guess this is goodbye! It’s hard to believe that this is my eighteenth and final blog post here at Life @ U of T. Do you remember when two-month summers in elementary school seemed to take years to creep by? Why does time seem to go by so much faster now? It really does not feel like a full four months since I was introducing myself to you all!

The end of writing for this blog also marks the end of my time at U of T. I’m starting to realize that the next time I sit in the Knox College quad or read paper in Sid Smith might be years from now, though I do feel prepared to jump into life as a U of T graduate. Like I do in any time of transition, I’m trying to look back on what I’ve experienced while also planning and getting excited for what comes ahead.

Seems like just yesterday!

Seems like just yesterday!

First, looking back: I think that I’ve definitely accomplished everything I set out to do with these blog posts. I wanted to try new things on campus, which I did by trying new restaurants, courses and fitness classes. I wanted to practice covering some fun aspects of science; I covered topics like space, solar racing and science outreach. Writing a blog post each week kept me thinking about the huge number of opportunities at U of T, and I was inspired to make the most of them.


Images from my science-y blog posts.

I did learn a lot about different services and opportunities at U of T, but more than anything I’ve developed a willingness to explore new aspects of my school. Pretty handy, considering I’ll be starting at a new one next week! I’m making that my main goal for the upcoming semester: even though I won’t be writing about it every week, I want to be involved in student life and experience all that my new campus has to offer.

Because exploring was what made this summer so memorable, and getting involved outside of the classroom was what made my U of T experience as a whole as memorable as it was. It’s so important to balance gaining skills and learning in the classroom with growing as a person in other ways.

For me, that growth happened while writing and editing for a number of campus publications. It also happened during countless long dinners with my friends in residence. And it definitely happened when I decided to go for it and apply for this job!

There's so many opportunities out there at U of T - go and get them!

There’s so many opportunities out there at U of T – go and get them!

So, U of T, some parting advice: go to Clubs Fair next week and sign up for a new campus group. Sign up for opportunities that you are interested in, even if they scare you. Visit that building on campus that you’ve never been inside. Study at a new library. Take an interesting elective. Your experience is what you make of it, so you might as well make it awesome!

Orientation Week Survival Kit

Your expectations for your first year probably come from the stories of your family, your campus tour (if you were lucky enough to take one) and inevitably, the hundreds of Hollywood movies based around college life.

I’m here to tell you, as someone who only just experienced this 1 year ago, Hollywood does not prepare you for what orientation week is really going to be like. Neither do the stories of your older siblings or the posts on the “Accepted at U of T class of ____” Facebook page. That’s because the only person who can dictate what your orientation week is going to be like – is you!

Me during my frosh week last year with the people that would soon become my best friends!

Me during my frosh week last year with the people that would soon become my best friends!

Orientation Week at the University of Toronto (here at the St. George campus), is almost entirely customizable. There are multiple different options for every experience from the classic “ra-ra” cheering with your college or faculty, to one or two day seminars that help prepare you for the academic expectations of university. Check out all of these different options and more on the Start at U of T Orientation Calendar.

Regardless of the experience you choose for your Orientation Week, it’s going to be busy week. Between meeting new friends, running to different locations on campus, and trying to squeeze in as much as you can before class starts, here are a few things you should keep on hand. An Orientation Week Survival Kit of sorts;

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  1. A Backpack – on top of using this to carry around everything else you’ll need for the week, most events come with an endless supply of pamphlets, booklets and free swag. The last thing you want is to be carrying that around all day. Keep your hands-free and bring a backpack!

  2. A Water Bottle – one of the things I wish I had known about U of T before I came was that no where on campus sells bottled water! This environmentally friendly initiative means that having a reusable water bottle, that can be filled up at hundreds of places around campus, is a must.

  3. Flex Dollars – speaking of eating & drinking, trying to run off campus every time you want to eat is not always do-able. It’s also not necessary as U of T offers hundreds of different locations on campus where you can get everything from locally grown sustainable produce, to favourites like Pizza Pizza and Subway. Make things easy for yourself by purchasing some Flex Dollars on your TCard, so that you always have money to eat!

  4. TTC Tokens – that being said, there will be times when events are off campus! And while transportation is usually always provided, it’s good to have some TTC tokens in your pocket so that you always know you have a safe ride home.

  5. U of T Lanyard – remember the early 2000s when wearing a lanyard around your neck (with your one house key and tamagotchi attached) was so cool? Well I’m not saying lanyards are back in that sense but I will say that all of my friends in first year used a lanyard for their residence keys and their TCard. The U of T Bookstore sells special lanyards that house your TCard in a clear plastic sleeve for easy access!

  6. The U of T Map App – for anyone who hasn’t yet downloaded the U of T Map app, this is your new favourite tool for finding the location of events. Just type the location name into the app, and the map will show you were it is on campus! It also has features like where’s the closest ATM, or the closest Coffee shop.

So that is my Orientation Week Survival Kit! Just a few things to keep on hand to make sure you have an amazing, and safe, week!

Myself, and the rest of the Community Crew, will be on campus all week and we would love if you said hi! So no matter what Orientation option you choose make sure to share what you’re doing with me on twitter at Rachael_UofT.

On Majors, Subject POSts and Change

This was the first year I actually had priority enrolment and got into almost all my courses because: *drumroll* I got into my subject POSt!

I’m going into third year so maybe I’m a bit late, but picking majors and figuring out what you want to do is one of the most confusing parts of university. So I’ve decided to share my own subject POSt story, in the hopes that maybe it will help someone!

open book

It’s story time ~ Source:

You see, I entered U of T with the intention of a double major in human biology and health studies. I then learned how subject POSts actually work and what on earth a type 2L major was and all that fun stuff. We don’t declare our program until 2nd year, which meant that I didn’t have to worry about that yet, right? Not quite.

I spent an entire year doing the general life sciences and social sciences prerequisite courses, which is where I realized one very important factor: I was not a science person. I find it interesting and I wasn’t horrible at it, but I didn’t love it. So there I was, at the end of my second year, having finished the first-year courses for a program I no longer wanted, and having to apply for a program that had specific mark requirements. Just my luck, at the end of subject POSt enrolment, I didn’t get in.


Not getting into your program can elicit this reaction Source:

After much panic, I finally got myself together and looked at my options. I sat down for an afternoon with the course calendar and poured through courses and programs and made not one plan, but several. I also got some guidance from every U of T student’s favourite place: the registrar! After painstakingly waiting out the priority enrolment period, I managed to get into most of the required courses for the majors I wanted to pursue so I wouldn’t fall behind.  I also took a couple of summer school courses to completely catch up. By the time subject POSt enrolment rolled around this year, I was prepared! I reapplied and got into a major that I love, and thus my course enrolment was saved this year! Yay Api!

Accurate re-creation of my got-into-my-major happy dance! Source:

Accurate re-creation of my got-into-my-major happy dance!

Although I hope that I don’t end up changing up my plans too much in the future, I realize that it’s a part of life. Some students will go on to study exactly what they always planned, and some won’t. What’s important to know is that you have options, and you have resources! It’s scary having my education in my own hands but it’s also reassuring to know that I’m not in it alone!

I want to hear your stories too, U of T! Let me know how you got through it! 

Getting Ready for Grad School!

I live for colourful school supplies! (via

I live for colourful school supplies! (via

The weeks leading up to the school year are always a busy time: finalizing courses, buying fancy pens, setting new school year resolutions. This time around, though, my back-to-school preparation is an entirely new beast. Instead of returning to my usual routine as an undergrad, I’m heading to grad school in a couple of weeks!

And just like first-years heading to university for the first time, my brain is a mix of excitement and uncertainty. Before I came to U of T, I spent as much time as I could reading about my school and the university experience in general (including this very blog!), but I’m finding it harder to do that this time around. The grad school experience is much more specialized and individual based on your program and interests, and it probably doesn’t help that Googling for advice on how to succeed in my professional program mostly leads to articles debating whether it’s worth going in the first place (journalism problems! But that’s a whole other story).


Hoping to be as stylish as this cat in grad school. (via

While I’ve come to peace with the fact that there’s no way I can be perfectly prepared for the challenges ahead, here are some things that I’m doing to get ready for the next step of my education:

  • Reading and re-reading all of the information sent to me from my school, taking the time now to do everything that I can. Just like preparing for undergrad: you need to get your TCard, set up your online accounts and make sure you’re enrolled in courses!
  • Moving! While I’m not moving to a new city like I did for undergrad, I am changing apartments. Each day, I’m trying to clean out a little bit of my current room, getting rid of the piles of stuff I’ve accumulated over the years.
What I'll probably look like by the end of the month. (via

What I’ll probably look like by the end of the month. (via

  • Applying for jobs on campus! One of my biggest regrets from undergrad is not working on campus during the school year. It’s great experience, flexible with class schedules and some extra money is a wonderful thing to have.
  • Preparing myself mentally. Since I’m entering a journalism program, this means making it a part of my day to read, listen to and watch news, as well as getting a head start on some of the readings that I got in my information package. (And this is all actually fun since I love the program I chose!)
  • Trying to experience my last weeks of summer as fully as I can. This is probably the most important one on the list; I want to make sure I’m going into the program recharged and ready to take it on! This involves spending time with friends, staying up late on weekends and reading for fun.

What are you doing to prepare for the school year, U of T? Especially if you’re heading into undergad or grad school for the first time! Let’s support each other!

A Series of Unfortunate Grades

You’ve probably heard this a lot, right? You’ve heard it from your teachers, from leaders at your orientation, even from your heart. It’s in the same league of common knowledge that tells you not to write “LOL WTF” to conclude your paper on neoliberalism.

This knowledge I’m talking about is of course, is the awareness that your grades will drop in your first year of university. I really could’ve just said that at the beginning, but I’m a big fan of ridiculously unnecessary explanations.

It is estimated that the average first year university student will see a 10% drop in marks from their last year in high school.

My face when. via:

I was consistently reminded of this in high school, and I always thought it was bogus. First of all – teacher, you know my name, not my story. Second of all, I thought you guys were supposed to be the wind beneath my wings – why won’t you let me fly?

Well they were right. I’m glad they prepared me. Preparation was the key to my sanity. Grade deflation happens to almost everybody. Maybe some people won’t drop as far as others, but it is unrealistic to assume you can keep up the same momentum that you did in the comfort of high school.

Sigh. via:

The drop in grades is inevitable. There are so many things you have to adapt to in university – whether it is living alone for the first time, balancing your social life, or dealing with the fact that “hamburger” essays just don’t cut it anymore. It would be absurd to assume that you are able keep up a 90%+ average in university in your first year, all while trying to adjust to a completely new environment.

The most important thing to remember is that this is not permanent. Your grades will get better, and eventually, with enough dedication, you will be able to bounce back and start receiving grades that you were used to getting in your high school days. In first year you’ll learn from your mistakes, and grow from them..Can I have a mac with that cheese?


You’ll learn the importance of time management – maybe you shouldn’t go the Green Room if you have a final the next day?

You’ll learn the importance of taking courses that you’re actually interested in – sure, if you take that botany class, you’ll have Thursday AND Friday off, but do you even know what botany is?

You’ll learn that first-year grades are just that – first-year grades. You still a few more years to improve your GPA, and be honest with yourself. Do you really think most grad schools will be rejecting you on the basis of your first year grades? (Hint: they will not.)

You after first year. via:

So, UofT, just like that one poster you’re embarrassed of owning says: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Hollywood North

My view of the "Pixels" movie set last week.

My view of the “Pixels” movie set last week.

My first clue that something unusual was happening on my walk to work last week was the trucks and trailers full of equipment. Once I saw the overturned cars (including some that were cut in half, surrounded by block-shaped debris), it became obvious: I was on a film set!

It turns out that the movie being filmed was Pixels, starring Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage and Ashley Benson, all of whom were spotted on campus near the Huron Street set. It’s apparently about a group of video gamers charged with fending off an 8-bit alien attack, which makes the giant blocks/pixels make a lot more sense! It was great to talk about the set with you all on the Life @ U of T Facebook and Twitter pages, especially when some of you got to meet the stars of the film.

The timing was perfect, since the week before I asked you on social media about your favourite movies and TV shows filmed at U of T (I’m not psychic, I swear!). Since my movie-related excitement hasn’t yet died down, I thought I’d share my own personal favourite on-screen U of T sightings.



5. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

I’ve never actually seen this one, but the screenshot that @UofTGradRoom shared with me on Twitter was too good not to include! The film features the destruction of beautiful Knox College, and apparently also a military invasion of the Koffler Building.



4. Fringe (pilot, 2008)

The pilot of the science fiction show also features Knox College (understandable, it’s gorgeous there!), as well as UC and King’s College Circle. I remember crowding into a common room with friends in first year to watch this episode, solely to spot our new campus home.

3. One Week (2008)

I loved this movie about a cross-country journey in search of meaning when I was in high school. But since I was about to move to Toronto to go to U of T, the most exciting part was definitely the montage at the end, when the main character returns to the city. I can’t find a picture of it, but there were shots of both Trinity College and the statue in Queen’s Park!



2. Mean Girls (2004)

You saw this coming, right? Mean Girls is pretty much a classic. In case you saw it back before you were familiar with U of T, the mathletes competition towards the end was filmed in our very own Convocation Hall!



1. Orphan Black (2013-present)

Orphan Black is seriously one of the best things on TV right now. If you haven’t seen the science fiction thriller yet, your homework is to watch the first episode tonight! Tatiana Maslany plays a group of clones, and the range of their personalities and mannerisms is astounding. One of the clones is a graduate student studying evolutionary developmental biology, so she spends a fair amount of time at collegiate locations like the above St. Michael’s College.

What are your favourite movies or TV shows filmed on campus, U of T?

Museum Mania

One of the big reasons that I chose to come to U of T over other Universities was the city of Toronto and all the things it has to offer. As a history student I love all the Museums in the city, most of which are all super close to campus. Being a student however, means living on a limited amount of cash and fun things are notorious for being mean to your wallet. The museums get this though and many museums and galleries offer free student days. All you need is your TCard and you can spend hours hanging out with the busts of your favourite people from Ancient Rome, pretending to live in the Victorian dining room, or getting really freaked out in the bat cave.

The Royal Ontario Museum: Free every Tuesday for U of T students with a TCard. My favourite galleries are the Ancient Greece and Rome and the Style through the years ones (8-year-old me really loved digging for “dinosaur bones” but the children look at 20-year-old me strangely when I try to do it now).


Some people really hate the new facade of the ROM emerging from the old building, but I think it looks really really awesome.


Middle: somehow I had never been in the Canada gallery (I’m ashamed at myself too) but I actually really loved it. I also want that red couch.


Snaps from my fav places around the ROM: the Egypt Gallery, Ancient Greece and Rome Gallery, Totem Pole, Canada Gallery.

The Gardiner Museum: free for U of T students every Tuesday. This is right across from the ROM on Avenue Road and has Ceramics, Clay, and Glass (I love the contemporary Canadian Gallery, there is an amazing suitcase in there). It’s so close to campus you can actually see a Vic Building (Annesley Hall) in these pictures. They also have clay classes here that you can sign up for if a visit gets you super inspired to create. DSCF3809DSCF3815

The Bata Shoe Museum: Every Thursday evening between 5 and 8 pm, admission is Pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $5. If the name didn’t clue you in this museum is all about shoes which means it’s got a lot of information that you won’t really find elsewhere. I went on a class trip here (oh yeah, some University classes have field trips  and they’re way better than in High School) and we got to see a presentation and a lot of shoes from history up close - it was super cool.  DSCF3828DSCF3832

The Art Gallery of Ontariofree every Wednesday from 6-8:30pm. On Dundas and McCaul this is a bit further from campus but is well worth the walk because ART! (although I need someone to explain Modern Art to me… Why is a pile of rocks and cheetos on the floor art??). 



same, dude


What’s your favourite Museum/Gallery in Toronto? Leave it in the comments below! 

Monday: Funday


Statistically proven to be the most vile, evil, and dreadful word in the English language.

If you are a normal human being, and not some sort of computer, you would know what I mean by that. We Homo sapiens are mortal and have a lot of weaknesses. On top of things like getting burned by fire – billions of years of evolution still has not saved us from the too-real-for-words “Monday Blues.”

I’m not going to sugarcoat it… I don’t like Mondays. If Monday was an ice cream flavor it would be vanilla. Actually, no, that’s too nice – Monday would be vanilla ice cream mixed with the mud you find in the Trinity College quad after it rains. It’s both bland, and ghastly at the same time.

Me on Mondays. via:

So how do I do it week after week? I don’t. I’m kind of just forced because as an undergraduate student, I unfortunately do not have the power to get rid of Mondays.

There’s no power in this infinite universe that can make Mondays objectively appealing, but there a few things that you do can do to add some chocolate chips into that vanilla.

No, no, I promise! via:

First and foremost, organize your weekend: I’m extremely guilty of leaving all my work until the Sunday, and then deeply regretting that choice. No, I’m not saying that you should do all your work on Friday – I’m saying that you should spread your work out evenly throughout your break, and make Sunday your relaxation day. Nothing feels worse than having to crawl into Monday after having spent the entire day beforehand catching up. It basically turns Sunday into Monday, and Monday into Monday #2. The worst.

Monday #2. The reason why doves cry. via:

Then voilà!  You have Sunday to be happy! It is your day to do whatever you want. For me, this usually ends up with me baking inappropriate amounts of banana bread while watching old episodes of The Real Housewives of New Jersey (only the ones where they were really trashy) whenever I’m not napping. Basically, I turn into a hermit, and that’s okay! I need to recharge my social battery; it helps make my Monday a lot more tolerable, and [audible gasp] even enjoyable. You may be different though, and that’s okay as well, everybody has different ways of entertaining themselves, the point is you should try as much as possible to make Sunday about you.

While it’s important to have fun, please don’t try and have too much fun. By that I mean, don’t be like me and think it’s a good idea to stay up until 4am trying to figure out the cheat codes to the Kim Kardashian Hollywood game, because it’s 4am and getting on the A-List is the most important thing in your life right now. It may seem that way, but it’s not. Having proper rest on a Sunday night is imperative to the sanity of your Monday mornings!

Dressing fab on Mondays will also make your day a bit more sensational. via:

Lastly, always remember that Monday is just another day. Don’t let it sour your day, stay optimistic, and your day will be positive.