To Credit or Not to Credit?

As I write this post I have officially finished 4 out of my 5 exams! (Promptly after I have submitted it I plan on passing out for a nap and then spending the rest of my day watching Christmas movies) However today I also wrote my first exam for a credit-no-credit course. 

At the University of Toronto, Arts & Science students have a unique opportunity to use the credit-no-credit option on up to 2 full credits in their undergrad. This option allows you to take a course in your undergrad without having the final mark appear on, or effect, your transcript. It can’t be used for any courses that are a program requirement, however you can use it to fulfill your breadth requirements! There are a lot of other conditions to take into consideration before you CR/NCR a course, so make sure to visit this page, or talk to your registrar first. 

a computer, notebook, and cup of coffee all placed on a fluffy white duvet in a studying setting

See, maybe if I could make studying as cute as Amie, I wouldn’t have these problems!

Now unfortunately, it’s too late to CR/NCR a course at this point in the semester (at least for 1/2 year courses) – but I wanted to share my experience CR/NCR-ing a course, in case it could help you make a decision next semester! 

This year I decided to take an “elective” of sorts – basically a course that wasn’t in my department but that seemed really interesting to me. Come the first test I was loving the course! I felt that I really understood the content and it was actually interesting to me. So I was not very impressed with myself when I got back my first test with a very discouraging mark. 

I was loving the course, but I knew that a mark like this one would bring my GPA way down. (Especially since the test was worth 30% of my final mark!)  

IMG_1008

All this studying, and nothing seemed to be paying off

I had heard of people credit-no-credit-ing a course, but I didn’t know exactly what it entailed, or if it was really a viable option for me. So I did some research, and on the day before the deadline, I chose to CR/NCR on ROSI. 

The next week in class, I immediately noticed a difference. I wasn’t spending every minute trying to write down everything the professor was saying and I didn’t feel the need to scour through my readings for all exam-worthy information. I was actually enjoying the course content.

Who would have known, but as soon as the pressure of getting a good grade in the course was gone, I actually started to do better. My mark on my next assignment improved and walking out of my exam today I couldn’t help but smile thinking I had done pretty well. 

Life was so much easier when it was just me, my bib, and a cat

Life was so much easier when it was just me, my bib, and a cat

I know that a lot of people utilize the credit-no-credit program for courses they’re worried they might not pass, but for me it was just a great opportunity to take a subject I was interested in without all the pressure of marks. 

It encouraged me to branch out into more subjects that aren’t in my program and re-ignited my love of learning. It’s even made me look into options such as auditing a course, which Life@UofT blogger Elena wrote about in the summer.

So this was my first experience credit-no-crediting a course, and I really couldn’t be happier with the results. But how about you U of T? Have you ever CR/NCR a course? Do you prefer to save these for emergency cases, or utilize them for new learning experiences? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter at @Rachael_UofT

Congratulations and Celebrations

In one of my favourite classes here at U of T, we learned about something called reflective practice. It’s essentially the process of looking back and learning from our experiences. Now that we’re smack in the middle of finals, I’ve been having those “when will we ever actually use this in real life” rants. To keep my morale up I’ve decided to actually apply what I learned in school (!!!!) and be reflective about 2014! How fitting considering this is my last blog post of 2014!

I’ve had the busiest but most rewarding summer of my life, working three jobs while doing summer school. I was a more active part of the extracurricular scene at U of T, joining the executive team of several clubs I was interested in during first and second year. I’ve also even managed to fulfill some of my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions by bringing my grades up, staying more organized and eating healthier.

Picture of tupperware with veggies sitting next to chocolate on the desk

(That last one’s still in the works. But hey, there’s still 3 weeks left of 2014. And miracles can happen.)

But the point of reflective practice is to highlight what I learned and what I could do differently. So what have I learned this year?

  • I’ve learned how to write a killer blog post (All credits go to Tricia!!)
  • I’ve learned enough yoga to strike a perfect yoga pose for pictures
Api and Aviva doing yoga poses

Me and fellow Healthy U Crew member Aviva striking some poses at Unplug Fest. Photo Credits to Carly Michelle!

  • I’ve learned how to get A’s on papers
Photo of api holding a Paper with "A-" written on it

See! I wasn’t lying!!

  • I’ve learned how to plan events to help people get more involved!
photo of tables set up in Hart House East Common Room for Global Health Expo

Throwback to Global Health Expo!

I realize that all these lessons equate to one thing:  I learned how to step out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone has always been with a small group of friends and a small range of activities, but 2014 was the year I made an effort to explore new places, try new activities and meet new people! If this whole process has been me breaking out of my shell, then 2014 was just the first crack! Here’s to 2015 being another year of great experiences! But there is one thing that was the most important thing I’ve learned this year:

Screen capture of tweet by @Api_UofT reading: "Winter in Toronto went 0 to 100 real quick"

I’ve perfected the art of bad drake puns

Congratulate yourselves on the accomplishments and celebrate the victories! Let me know about your year, your holidays or even just how your day is going down in the comments! Happy holidays, and happy finals everyone! Remember, you might actually be able to use some of that knowledge in real life (lol).

Tips for Learning a Language

Learning another language is an important part of many exchange students’ time abroad. In my case, part of the reason why I’m here is to improve my ability to read and write academic papers in Japanese. I have a history with the Japanese language: I started learning its writing system in middle school, and took formal classes in high school. In my senior year, I had the opportunity to study for a year in Hiroshima as a Rotary exchange student. In this post, I’ll share some of the language learning strategies that I’ve discovered over the past few years. Hopefully they’ll be helpful to students on exchange and at U of T

First, let’s tackle vocabulary.

Consistency is a crucial part of learning a language. Cramming might allow us to memorize vocabulary just long enough to regurgitate it on an exam, but it won’t grant long-term memory or fluency. Simple arithmetic shows how effective studying a small amount each day can be. For instance, 15 words per day x approx 30 days in a month x 12 months = 5400 words in a year—A significant and sustainable step towards fluency. There is a Japanese proverb that summarizes this idea: 「塵も積もれば山となる」 (chiri mo tsumoreba, yama to naru). “Even dust, when piled, forms a mountain.” A small effort every day leads to a great outcome.

Of course, there is the question of how one should approach vocabulary to begin with. Staring at words on a page isn’t an effective way of remembering. Writing words out over and over can be a serviceable means for memorizing, but it’s pretty mundane. Moreover, it doesn’t offer a clear system for reviewing old words. Anki offers a great system for learning and reviewing vocabulary. It’s a simple program for organizing digital flashcards. When answering a flashcard, Anki prompts users to gauge the card’s difficulty. The program will then reschedule the card’s appearance depending on your answer. For instance, an easy card might not resurface for twenty days. Meanwhile, a particularly challenging card might resurface within two days. Users can also view statistics about which cards have been most difficult, in order to target particularly troublesome words. Anki’s flashcard decks synchronize between its desktop and mobile apps, which is great for studying on the go.

This image shows a screenshot of digital flashcard program Anki. It displays the word memorization written in English and Japanese (Anki).

Anki  [source]

 

Next, let’s talk about communication.

Immersion is key for improving verbal communication. Exchange students have the privilege of being able to immerse themselves at their convenience. Students at U of T also have lots of opportunities to practice speaking— they just require a little more investigation. You can find speakers of almost any language in Toronto. Eating at a restaurant where the staff speaks your language of choice can be a great way to practice. For a more affordable option, there are lots of organizations on campus that offer free language tables, in which learners and native speakers gather to practice each other’s languages. For instance, the Department of East Asian Studies and the University Toronto Japan Association have both offered Japanese language tables in the past. The Centre for International Experience (CIE) also recently started organizing language exchanges.

Lang-8 offers a great platform for practicing written communication. It’s a blogging site premised on mutual help. All users write in a language they’re studying, and native speakers correct posts written in their native language(s). In my case, I write posts in Japanese, and Japanese speakers correct them. I then correct posts written in English. Once my ego got over other users’ criticisms of my Japanese, Lang-8 became an incredibly useful tool for me to improve my language skills.

Lastly, remember to have fun with your new language! Your ability to communicate will only enrich your time abroad.

That’s all for this week. If you have any questions about learning Japanese, or languages in general, please comment below!

 

How to Procrastinate Properly: The Art of Study Breaks

How to Procrastinate Properly: The Art of Study Breaks

Let’s be honest: it is difficult to not procrastinate during exam season.

“My exam is on Monday! I don’t have to study really until Friday.”

Me sitting and chilling.

Everything is great. I am so relaxed. That is exam is so far away.

BOOM it is Sunday night.

Me worried about my upcoming exam.

Home alone style stress now.

However, I am not just writing this blog to say, “don’t procrastinate.” If that advice actually worked, you probably would not be reading this right now (although thank you for being so awesome, dear reader).

When school overwhelms me, I do not want to focus on the impending final exam. Even when I am studying, all I think about is “oh my gosh, I hope this is not on the exam,” or “when in the world was that talked about in class?” The complete uncertainty of exams is  so daunting sometimes that to “planning to study” is really more planning than studying.

And so, as a fellow procrastinator, I understand the appeal of playing that “one” round of Candy Crush or watching a ”few” Meryl Streep YouTube videos before you “officially” start your studying time. I mean really, they only take like five minutes, right? Until, that is you do five in a row and WHAM! You are down half an hour in study time. Seriously people, when those Buzzfeed Quizzes convince you that you should really be majoring in Defense Against the Dark Arts instead of History, you know you have a problem.

Therefore, telling yourself “I will do it tomorrow” may sometimes feel like the easy way out. Yet, at the end of the day (literally), this mentality is a self-defeating and self-fulfilling prophecy.

Although I know the myth that chronic procrastinators are lazy or apathetic is just not true, I know for the procrastinator it can sure feel like it. In fact, most of the self-proclaimed procrastinators I know actually care a lot about school and their exams. Ironically enough, the importance I place on school makes me actually procrastinate more.

Why? Well, procrastination is often a manifestation of anxiety. 

“So what’s the solution to procrastination Haley?” you may ask.

For me, I find that the art of timed study breaks can help alleviate stress and improve productivity. Whether it is playing with a stress ball for five minutes (they are extremely easy to make) or just standing up and walking around your kitchen – these can be really relaxing activities which can not only help you to de-stress but also get you back on track in your studying

By the way, by ‘study break’ I don’t mean going online or texting your friend (because most likely you will be texting about your upcoming exam!). I am talking about timed breaks which require you to unplug and be away from your screen or textbook for a few moments. You might be surprised at how productive they can be to your overall studying schedule.

A photo consisting of a balloon, a balloon filled with flour, and a sharpie.

So what are you waiting for? Schedule your next study break right now, and get your mind out of the “oh my I am going to fail this exam” paradigm.

And that my peers is the true art of proper procrastination.

Hope it helps,

Haley

Amnesty International U of T: Cities for Life

The other week I attended an event put on by Amnesty International U of T at Hart House. The event was called Cities for Life, and was their annual event for the abolition of the death penalty world wide. The event consisted of letter writing, making origami doves, speeches by experienced human rights activists, music, and an illumination walk from Hart House to the front of UC.

The event was very powerful and moving so I didn’t take many pictures but here are some from the evening.

two hands in focus holding white oragami paper in the process of making a dove. blurred in the background are three more people making oragami doves.  Making origami doves to send to Texas to stop an upcoming execution of a mentally-ill man.one girl bending over to show two other girls how to fold an oragami dove picture of yellow cards that say :stop the death penalty" with reasons below and a sheat of paper that says "URGENT ACTION" and then some smaller print.  a man sits on a chair playing guitar. His head is out of the frame. A guitar case is on the floor in front of him.

After the speeches there was a performance of classical guitar by U of T student Justin Lee.

view from above: a bag piper descends stairs with other people behind him   a crowd outside holds up lit candles. view from inside a crowd of people in coats and other winter gear holding lit candles outside. It's dark outside. At the end of the event we all walked from Hart House to the front of University College with candles. This event is held all around the world and each group illuminates a famous landmark.

If you’re interested in attending any future Amnesty U of T events their facebook page is right here. The next big event that Amnesty is holding is for International Women’s Day on March 6th and it’s going to be a big one!

 

 

Another Year Wiser

December has finally arrived! I always love this time of year. December is a special time when we welcome winter into our lives and focus on getting away from the cold crazy world out there and curl up inside where it’s warm. Winter is also a time of reflection.

Looking out from a dark tunnel in a St. Michaels residence into an open courtyard with a large fountain

Almost through the passage, into bright newness (Photo by Zachary Biech)

This post is my last of 2014! Can you believe it? This semester has flown by so fast! I’ve learned so many new things, met many new people and had many new experiences.  I can honestly say this has been one of the most exciting half-years in my life.

The tangled wilderness and fallen leaves strewn around a secret garden behind the Victoria College library

I’ve done so much exploring, and yet I finally just stumbled into this park at Victoria College (Photo by Zachary Biech)

So much has changed and I have changed as well. I’m still the same old Zach but university life changes everything. I finally embraced that change and even caused some of it on my own.

A notebook page with "thanks" written in Anishnaabemowin, Russian, and English

These are all thank-you’s to my friends and family for their birthday wishes, in the three languages I use these days (I recently turned twenty, just to add more change into the mix!) On my birthday, I wrote a syllabics test for Anishnaabemowin, studied Russian, and submitted an essay which had Russian Politics AND Indigenous studies… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

To cap off the year, I’ll share some key points of my success this semester.

Key #1: Balance.

Balance balance balance! In my first blog, I shared my journey towards balance and how that journey has shaped my university experience. In short, all you need to do is recognize the four areas of your life, (body, emotion, mind, spirit) and give them each equal attention. Trust me, it works.

Key #2: Do what you love.

You are the only person who knows best what you are interested in and how you want to live and work. Celebrate those interests; they are what make you so special! It’s tremendously hard work to be a university student between classes and everything outside of class so it’s important to choose things you are comfortable pouring your heart and soul into (I think you’ll find the hard work feels much easier this way!)

Key #3: Change is as good as rest.

It’s amazing how big an impact you can have on yourself by changing things up. Try getting away from campus for a while, explore new areas and even rearrange some furniture if you have to. Change it up, it really helps!

Key #4: Get involved.

There are so many different groups you can engage with at U of T and in downtown Toronto, there’s bound to be something you’d love. So try going to a couple of meetings and choose groups that you feel you can connect with. The networks and projects you can build are limitless and the skills and energy you develop in those groups is invaluable.

Looking out into a large gymnasium, with many tables of Indigenous artworks and handmade crafts

As promised, here’s a view of the NCCT craft sale I volunteered at! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A table with huge baskets of colourful candies and crafts, which were the prizes for the raffle

Here’s the raffle table from the NCCT craft sale, where I was stationed (Photo by Zachary Biech)

For instance, being a part of the Student Life Blog has been hugely helpful in my life. I get a lot more writing and editing practice which helps me with essays and assignments.  I get to expand and share my experiences, all while connecting with my Blogger peers, who are all amazing friends I am thankful to have!

Looking south over all of the awesome buildings of campus, towards all the huge towers down by Toronto's waterfront (including the CN Tower)

An awesome view of campus from the OISE Nexus Lounge, during the Indigenous Winter Social (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Keep these 4 keys in mind in your life at university and your path will become much clearer.

That’s all from me for now! Wait for my next blog in 2015!

T’was the week before finals

T’was the week before finals, when all across U of T 

Students were cramming, for the sake of their degrees

They read all night, unable to sleep in their beds

With visions of 4.0’s dancing in their heads

Picture of handmade card reading "happy finals"

Yes I made myself a motivational card. Deal with it.

IT’S HERE FOLKS. It’s what you’ve been dreading/waiting/prepping for all semester: Winter finals 2014!

It’s been a long ride. There have been tears, cramming and horrible midterms. There have been successful essays and aced tutorials. And it’s all been leading up to these next few weeks.

Ok, I’ll stop with the melodramatic hyping-up of finals.

I’ve worked hard all semester, and I know I may be very close to losing all my motivation and drive, but I’m hanging in there. I know the reward of finishing finals will be much greater than the stress of actually writing them.

What lies in the promise land after finals, you might ask?

  • All my old friends will be back in the city for the holidays.
  • Peppermint candy cane flavored Hershey’s Kisses.
  • Actual free time to spend time with my family
  • N  E  T  F  L  I  X
  • Other various peppermint flavoured sugary things
Picture of Hershey's candy cane kisses chocolate package

Peppermint everything <3

I’m convinced that the grass is greener on the other side. I know everyone studies their best in different ways, so I’m not really in a place to start giving out study tips. But I can request that we stay positive, and keep that morale up!

This my go-to final exams survival tip that I’ve been following for a while now. It’s been 2 years and counting since my last exam-related, stress-induced, panic ridden, night-before-the-exam break down and I owe it all to being positive. Common self-pep talks phrases include:

  • My grades do not define me
  • I am going to ace it. I got this.
  • Yeah yeah, we in dis BRUH. (my inner gangsta likes to make an appearance during pep talks)

So there you have it folks! Hopefully someone makes use of my personal exam survival to make positivity their ally in the war against finals.

Just remember: We are fabulous. We are fierce. We are in the number 1 university in Canada for a reason. We got this. So happy finals to all!

Picture of inside of card from first image. Reading "You go girl" with a hand drawn heart.

The inside of my motivational card. Treat yo’self. Love yo’self.

*Disclaimer: Not studying at all and then being positive usually doesn’t work. Please study <3

So what are you looking forward to after finals, U of T?

Internet and Outernet

For more than the last eight weeks, I have had no internet access at home. It’s been a difficult time. Undertaking research projects for credit, applying to grad schools, blogging here… all while not having internet access was difficult. No longer could I Facebook from my bed; no longer could I know what the weather would be like later that day (my radio’s on the fritz too); I haven’t watched youtube videos or TV in over two months. In order to do anything, I had to commute to campus, to coffee shops, loitering outside closed cafes at one am hoping that “maybe they left their router on over night”. Instead of having the INternet, I had to make do with the OUTernet; and when I didn’t want to travel to use the OUTernet, I had to put up with the WITHOUTernet. (But not this kind of Outernet: I’m just making a bad pun).

Admittedly, things have been rough: I’ve spent a lot of time on campus, in libraries and offices and study spaces, late into the night. I’ve fallen asleep at desks and on couches, realizing that I can’t get home in time to pass out. I’ve gone to no fewer than six classes which were cancelled by email the day before. (But, I’ve burned a lot of calories running back and forth between house and internet, and that’s okay, right?).

Yet, there are a few things to be said about living without the internet at my fingertips. I have learned to be more efficient with my time online, rather than thumbing around through cat videos and television, mindlessly scrolling through facebook, sending long winded emails, or worrying about keeping the world apprised of my life. And, because of this, I’ve also procrastinated less. Or, rather, I’ve found better ways of procrastinating. Instead of digging deeper and deeper into the unfathomable (and often very very weird) depths of the internet, I’ve been able to actually read some of the books I own (you know that feeling: owning fifty books for every one that you’ve read). And, reading those books has accidentally helped with my research, when not simply just enjoyable in and of themselves.

It’s also been rather good for my mental health, not being constantly bombarded by and accountable to people and posts and emails online. Having time to myself, by myself, rather than that sort of fake time alone where we’re surrounded by hundreds of Facebook friends or tweeters. Being able to have the space to relax, think about the things I need to think about, or not think about the things I don’t, has really helped me survive a crazy year. (Though, admittedly, there is a lot of online self-care I’ve missed out on).

Ultimately, as much as there is suffering, there is growth; cheesy as it may sound. It’s been good to be away from the web. We should probably try it more often, and it’s probably a good thing to try for the exam period: toning down on that distraction and learning to appreciate the internet for what it is.

And with that, I’m off[line?] for the holidays. Good luck with your midterms and exams; we’ll talk again in January.

Some Reminders:

Don’t forget to fill out your course evaluations: let your voice be heard

And, have you had a really exceptional Teaching Assistant (TA) this term? Consider nominating them for a TATP TA Teaching Excellence Award!

Guest Post: Farah from the Career Centre

Hey, U of T! My name is Farah, and I’m a guest blogger from the University’s Career Centre here to tell all about my semester tweeting, posting and liking away as the Career Centre’s Social Media Ambassador.

When I decided to leave journalism school last winter for another, to-be-determined career path, I was more confused by my life decisions than I was figuring out the St. George campus. I was more frustrated with the idea of a ‘career’ than I was with course enrolment.

My mind turned into the anatomical equivalent of the infamously chaotic Convocation Hall.

That’s when I decided to come to the University of Toronto to pursue a broader degree in science – something versatile that would allow me to explore courses before I figured out a set career.

In an interesting – and perhaps fortuitous – turn of events, I joined the U of T Career Centre team as the Social Media Ambassador. It seemed ironic at first: I had no career goals in mind, yet I was working to help students and recent graduates recognize theirs.

As I attended more workshops, events and programs through the Career Centre, I learned that the University offers countless resources for students at all steps of their career paths to learn about careers, learn skills you can apply to literally any profession and plan future moves.

I can honestly say that I’m closer to figuring it all out because of the opportunities I received through the Career Centre. You can learn about them, too, through the Career Learning Network (CLN) at cln.utoronto.ca. Here are some of the highlights I’ve experienced so far:

Career Information Days
Over the course of three days every fall, employers from the arts, life science, computer science and engineering industries came to inform students about their opportunities. This was a great way for me to practise my networking!

Blog Photo_CID

Graduate and Professional Schools Fair
Every year in the fall, Medical, Law, Business schools and more visit the University to guide prospective graduate students. Not only did I network, I was able to see just how many schools there are out there for me to choose from after my undergrad, if that’s the route I choose to take.

Blog Photo_GPSF

Working For Change Conference
In partnership with New College, the Career Centre offered students an opportunity to explore the non-profit sector and careers in social justice. Students and faculty heard from a great keynote speaker named Dave Meslin, a Toronto-based activist and artist. His ideas on civic engagement were presented at TEDxToronto in 2010, and we were lucky enough to hear from him at Working For Change.

Through a series of workshops and panels, I also learned from people of different careers working to bring about social change such as social entrepreneurs who have brought youth-engagement programs to their local communities

BlogPhoto_WFC

BlogPhoto_WFC2

Extern Job Shadowing Program
For two days, I was able to explore the office space of a non-profit called Youth Challenge International and speak with members of the team to learn how they got to where they are today. It was a fantastic career exploration opportunity and I had the opportunity to exercise my informational interview skills.

BlogPhoto_Extern

BlogPhoto_Extern2
There are a lot more workplaces to choose from, and you can take part! Visit the CLN’s “Programs” page to register for the program from now until January 8 for February placements. You can apply for June placements in May. Look out for our social media updates reminding you of all these dates or visit the CLN.

Workshops!
I’ve attended countless workshops this semester. I learned how to identify which skills to put on my resume. I learned how to plan for graduate school, if that’s something I choose to pursue. I even learned how to effectively use social media for work.

BlogPhoto_Workshop BlogPhoto_Workshop2

Looking to attend these workshops? You can view them all and register through the CLN’s St. George Calendar under the “Events & Workshops” tab. You can also visit us in person at the Koffler Student Centre for workshop times and dates.

Next semester, join me for Resume Blitz, a two-day event dedicated to providing students one-on-one resume advice on a drop-in basis. Using the advice I get from Resume Blitz, I’ll network and apply to jobs during the Club and Summer Job Fair. Visit the CLN, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for event updates.

It looks like it’ll be a busy semester, but a successful and productive one! Happy New Year and happy holidays, U of T! See you in 2015.

Impulse Control Disorders: A Cheerful Post For the Holidays

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a class in Con Hall, but next semester I’m going to be in there a lot. I am really excited. I am looking forward to counting the number of first-years who spend the entire lecture surfing Facebook. Or on their phones. Or looking at stores online. Or whatever.

It seems that every other person I talk to tells me that they are “addicted” to some thing or another. Addicted to Facebook. Addicted to their phone. Addicted to this or that video game. I know people who spend hours upon hours per day on the internet, doing nothing in particular. I am one of those people. Is anyone really addicted to this stuff?

It is hard to say. I don’t have a DSM-V, but I did find this nifty article reviewing “impulse control disorders”, including proposed ICDs for the DSM. Among them is: “compulsive-impulsive Internet usage disorder,” which, the report says, “has been proposed as an explanation for uncontrollable and damaging use of the Internet.”

Furthermore, “people with problematic Internet use often report increasing amounts of time-spent web surfing, gambling, shopping or exploring pornographic sites. Others report spending time in chat rooms or corresponding by email. Frequently these people develop a preoccupation with the Internet, a need for escape to the Internet and increasing irritability when trying to cut back their Internet use. Ultimately, their attempt to cut back is unsuccessful.”

Next time you are in Con Hall, and bored, you should look around and count the number of people on Facebook. There will be many.

Addiction is a difficult topic with lots of stigma. Quite frankly, I don’t even know how to talk about it. I don’t know how to tell people that they might be addicted, or what addiction is, or even if excessive use of some gadget or another is a warning sign for addiction or not. But “addictiveness” seems to be a property of social media websites or video games that people use, which is at best totally ominous.

At the heart of it, impulse control disorders cover a lot of ground regarding compulsive, unhealthy behaviours. Pathological gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, problematic internet use, obsessive skin picking, and so on, and so forth. Bad habits that lead you on the path of ruin or keep you from achieving your goals are problems, and if you find yourself unable to stop, then they have become unhealthy. But the good news is, even if there isn’t a specific classified disorder in the DSM, there is still help available.

Counselling and Psychological Services is open during a good portion of the holidays and also free to U of T students. The Centre For Addiction and Mental Health offers services for “those affected by problem gambling or other behavioural addictions, such as excessive video gaming, problematic internet use or overspending.”

I’m actually going to see a therapist today regarding some of my own behaviour. I’ve finished the semester with no credits to show for it, and after some soul-searching and good old-fashioned analysis of how I spend my time, I’m curious to see if a professional thinks that I could benefit from therapy regarding aberrant internet use or if I just have poor time management (in which case, the Academic Success Center is a good resource for learning time management or combating procrastination). Self-improvement is a long and arduous process, sometimes painful to the ego, but there is help available out there.

Happy Holidays.