Developing Those Intercultural Skills: An Introduction

I’d like to think of myself as pretty “internationally-minded” (whatever that means) and I suspect a lot of Torontonians would too, seeing as we live in such a diverse and multicultural city. Apart from that, I lived in a few countries growing up and am still sometimes in conflict with my own cultural identity and what or how I choose to identify myself to others. For me, the question of “Where are you from?” can evoke different responses depending on the situation (and how interested I think the other person is in hearing my entire life story).

Since I chose not to pursue a major that deals directly with issues of multiculturalism I’m always looking for ways to learn about intercultural topics in more formal settings, especially as I’m equally fascinated by the theory part of all this as well.

Canadian passport

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How do they do it? Juggling academics and athletics

As a campus tour guide, I receive a lot of questions surrounding student life and whether a school-life balance is something one can expect to manage at the renowned U of T.

Seeing everyone’s defeated, exhausted expressions on campus, I thought it’d be a good time to share some of my tips and tricks of the trade that have helped me to juggle three jobs, three sports and a full-time course load.

A drawing of a woman with many outstretched hands to juggle different life responsibilities.

Disclaimer: I don’t usually look quite so glamorous while doing it.

1. Sometimes you need to downsize. Sure, juggling five balls looks really cool but if you’re exhausted and you’re about to see them all fall to the floor, consider whether you might be able to take one out of the equation. I know it’s hard, we’re very ambitious students and we prefer to be able to persevere and to succeed without giving anything up, but I encourage everyone to critically evaluate whether the cost is worth what you’re gaining. Continue reading

Passion for Teaching and Learning

If someone asked me the name of my favourite teacher from kindergarten to high school, it would be easy to answer. Personally, I have been to seven schools in five different countries, my experience varying from year to year due to the knowledge I learned throughout the years. The setting in which I learn and really does matter, and for this reason, my high school teachers and my new university professors are not the same. I believe that the main focus of high school teachers is to make sure that the student is learning, preparing them for their higher education. However, university professors are different, they are there to help me in different ways; in this new setting making sure that I am learning is my job. After all, I am an adult now, right?

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My Experience With The Academic Success Center Drop-Ins!

Picture of entrance to the ASC

Hey guys! In last week’s post, I had vowed that I would go to the Academic Success Centre (ASC) during the drop-in hours to meet with a learning strategist to help me prepare for my upcoming midterms. A learning strategist is a trained professional who provides individualized academic support; they help you understand your learning style and guide you towards the appropriate strategies to maximize your learning efficiency. During the ASC drop-in hours, you can meet with a learning strategist for up to 30 minutes.

The ASC is located in the Koffler Student Services Centre building at 214 College St. Drop-in hours for this Fall semester are:

  • Tuesdays: 10a.m. – 12p.m
  • Fridays: 1:30p.m. – 3:30p.m.

Here is an account of my first-time experience with meeting a learning strategist:

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Balancing School and Self-Care (Part One)

The most difficult part of my university experience so far has been learning how to balance. Every September, I am thrown off my feet by my new schedule, and just when I feel like I have a routine set up, midterms hit. As the type of person who insists on combing through every single reading, I often find myself overwhelmed by schoolwork and unsure how to fit in any much-needed self-care activities.

However, spending 8-hour blocks on studying or writing has never worked for me either. I lose focus after a few hours at most, and often end the day cranky and tense from so much studying at once. Last winter semester, during a particularly difficult academic period, I went to see my college’s learning strategist for help. Here are some memorable tips that I learned from her, as well as some personal ones that work for me.

"Midterms" carved into pumpkin

Source: Rusaba Alam

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In Which I Harness Procrastination For Good

I think it’s safe to say I was at the point in midterm season, or huge-influx-of-essays-due-in-one-week season where my mind was frayed.

It was the kind of fraying where I just comfortably threw my clothes on my chair when I got home. I comfortably began ‘forgetting’ to put away the snacks I had on my nightstand. I comfortably hadn’t made my bed in who knows how long. I comfortably stopped using my table as a study space and instead used it as a storage for all the books and articles I had to read.

It was like when Frank Ocean sang “a tornado flew around my room before you came”, only my situation was a lot less poetic and probably wouldn’t win any awards. I’m just going to come out and say it – my room was a mess.

ALT="A photo of my nightstand and corner of the room cluttered with clothes."

An example of how my room looked at the time

Who knew procrastination would not only be the reason for it but also the resolution of it?

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Learning Self-Care Through Parrots

When I learned I had to write my blog about self-care for Self-Care Week, I wasn’t sure what to do. I don’t think I’ve ever deliberately set time apart to recharge before. Sure, I’ve procrastinated and goofed off when I should have been doing work, but I always felt guilty about it afterward. So, for Self-Care Week, I decided to get out a jungle-themed colouring book for “mindfulness” and destressing that had been sitting on my shelf for a while, and set aside some time in my schedule for self-care for what was, probably, the first time in my undergraduate career.

A picture of the cover of a colouring book with designs of the Amazon Jungle. There are partially coloured insects, birds, and vegetation

Who knew a colouring book would lead to an epiphany?

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When Life gives you Readings, Find a Library

I live alone.

I chose to live alone, and for all intents and purposes I truly enjoy living without a roommate. I have the freedom to walk around in my boxers as I please while singing nineties pop songs at the top of my lungs. On a more practical level, I thought that living alone would allow me to live in a haven of focus and concentration. A space where I could hide away and focus on my studies without distraction. It turns out that my apartment will probably never become a distraction-free study space.

A photo of a lap top screen in front of a television screen with a lady on the television

super meta, I know!

But to compensate for the bounty of distraction that I face in my apartment, I have learned the value of essentially living in various libraries, and by various, I mean three different ones. So I thought I would write about them.

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Staying on Track with Your Self-Care

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I think maintaining the self-discipline to actually keep yourself well, both mentally and physically, can be hard at times. Knowing about and trying out different self-care strategies is great, but sticking to them can be another thing. As we’re writing all about self-care this week, I started thinking about why some of the self-care activities and strategies I’ve experimented with haven’t stuck while others have…

Painting of an umbrella (representing and labelled as "self-care") in the rain.

by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer of Balzer Designs.
I love looking through her art journals (click through for an example) when I’m looking for inspirations for my own “art journals” (I use quotations because my attempts are more chicken scrawl than art, to be honest).

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Tutorials 101 or How I Went From a Skeptic to a Believer

I didn’t know if I was going to like tutorials when I came to U of T. I’ve been notoriously known for not participating in class and it was never for any reason except for the fact that I preferred to listen rather than input my thoughts. When I received those syllabi for the first time, my heart dropped. How could participation in tutorials be worth 15% of my final grade? I dreaded going to that first tutorial because I had so many questions. What was a tutorial? What was a TA? How would I participate? What if I said something ridiculous? Never fear, I have the answers here (Ha, I rhymed).

Picture of University College

I once had a tutorial in the basement of UC, which was difficult to find. Can anyone relate? (Source:

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