What do you mean I have a face for radio? Adventures On Air at CIUT

I had a radio show back in high school and for awhile I was pretty sure that it made me the coolest person of all time. My show was called “The Right Side of the Bed with Whitney and Emily.” Religiously, I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30am to host a two-hour show filled with Belle and Sebastian and The Shins. But of course, nothing gold can stay. After six months, the sleep-deprivation caught up to me and I just needed to sleep in until at least 7am. And my radio career was cut tragically short.

So when Cynthia invited me to be on CIUT‘s Beyond the Classroom, I was more than a little bit excited to don headphones and speak into a microphone again. In case you didn’t already know, CIUT 89.5 FM is U of T’s community radio station that runs out of Hart House. The station, which includes programming from community members, U of T faculty, staff and students, started as a small school-wide station, but now broadcasts from “Barrie to Buffalo, Kitchener to Cobourg.”  Beyond the Classroom is on every Wednesday from 11-12pm. And when Cynthia interviewed me in the first floor studio, that old adrenaline came rushing back. It’s just so exciting to sit in the studio and count down until that little red light indicating that you’re “ON AIR” blinks red.

Photo of the main floor studio courtesy of The Green Majority.

Photo of the main floor studio courtesy of The Green Majority.

The studio on the main floor of Hart House is used for all of the day-time programming, and for live-music performances. CIUT has more offices and studios in the top floor of Hart House. This is also where late-night shows broadcast after Hart House’s building has closed. CIUT is a pretty diverse station. Flying high after my 5 minutes of fame on the radio, I decided that I wanted to get more involved with the station and promptly sent an email to the Station Manager and Program Director, Ken Stowar.

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back from him, so I decided to talk to a friend of mine, Ariel Lewis (you can contact her at arts@thevarsity.ca!), who took over a radio show this summer called Anyway, Anyhow. She told me that she managed to get involved and gain some editing chops largely from working on podcasts, and getting to know people by hanging around the offices. She also advises that one of the best ways to get involved is to listen in until you find a show that you like. After that, you can contact the hosts directly, and a lot of the time they’ll be open to having someone come in and “shadow” them while they’re at work.

The great thing about the station is that it’s content is diverse, and different from main-stream media. There’s room for creativity, and there’s probably going to be a show that interests everyone. For example, Cynthia’s show, Beyond the Classroom, is all about goings-ons at U of T: administrative changes, new  hires, interviews with student leaders, ect., and is largely devoted to spoken-word programming. Ariel, on the other hand, has a music show that plays a diverse array of classic tunes. There’s also a talk show called Sex City on Saturdays from 5-6pm, as well as a show called Animal Voices on Tuesdays from 11am-12pm. Sex City is a show put together by a group of sex educators and Animal Voices is a show about the Animal Liberation movement. You won’t get that on mainstream radio stations!

If you’re interested in getting a show, your first step is to email Vanessa Purdy, CIUT’s Volunteer Coordinator, (vanessa.k.purdy@gmail.com) to check if there are currently any time-slots available. If there are, you should get some basic training from someone who’s already on-air, as soon as possible! (Just FYI, the equipment usually look WAY more intimidating than it actually is. So don’t let that freak you out too much.) The next step is to draft a proposal for the kind of show that you want to do (What would your mandate be? What would you add to CIUT’s programming? Why would people want to listen to your show, or benefit from listening to your show?) and send it in to Vanessa or the station manager. IF he is currently looking to fill a spot (usually the time-slots that become available are between 12am-2am, and the day-time and morning spots are usually a bit more competitive.) You would then have to meet and pitch your show in person. It’s really important here to be sure that you know what kind of programming CIUT already has. They don’t want a million identical shows! From there, if you’ve done your job well, you might either be asked to record a test show (kind of like a pilot), or you might get your own time-slot. Which, I hear, is when the work REALLY begins.

Good night and good luck, folks!

You Don’t Have to Be Shakespeare: Write a Poem with U of T’s Poet in Community

“Poetry is a response to the world, whatever is the clearest most direct and urgent response possible at the moment. Everything feeds poetry whether it’s something you say to your neighbour or something you write on a piece of paper.”

-Ronna Bloom, University of Toronto’s Poet In Community

Sometimes there is an event or an occurrence that really affects us. And we don’t always know why. It can be irrational, like a surge of self-righteous anger after an imagined slight from a friend; or a random experience of happiness at the sight of a beautiful thing normally overlooked. And how do you explain, or even understand this kind of occurrence? Imagine chatting to a friend about how you feel that you’ve reached some kind of emotional truth by watching the early morning sunlight filter through the trees. Your friend is more likely to look at you oddly and ask if you’re sure you didn’t take too much cold medicine before going to sleep last night than to understand and appreciate the emotional significance of your experience.

According to Ronna Bloom this is the purpose of poetry: to express that which cannot be otherwise articulated. As University of Toronto’s Poet in Community since 2008, she believes that the importance of poetry is not necessarily related to the strict, analytical approach of academia. Basically, you don’t have to be Shakespeare to have the ability to express yourself through poetry.

The Poet in Community program is rather unique in scope: Bloom works with Hart House and the Multi-Faith Centre, as well as with various academic departments and faculties to create unique poetry workshops that range from “The Spontaneous Poetry Booth” that was hosted at both Hart House and the Academic Success Centre to a workshop called “The Four Truths: Writing as a Spiritual Practice” that was hosted by the Multi-Faith Centre.

A writing workshop that took place at Hart House called "A Writer's Process."

A writing workshop that took place at Hart House called "A Writer's Process." Photo courtesy of Ronna Bloom.

I spoke with one student, Desmond Watts, who helped organize the programming at the Multi-Faith Centre with Bloom and has participated in quite a few workshops. In general, programming can range from a one-off event to a four-week long workshop with one hour-long session each week. Events and workshops are always free. Desmond explains that at the Multi-Faith workshops there were generally around 15 people in attendance. Bloom will introduce a topic or a prompt, and attendees are given some time to write down something on the page. There are a few rules, the most important of which being: in the allotted time period you’re never allowed to stop writing. Once the time is up there is an opportunity to share your work, but you don’t have to.

“It’s really good sometimes to just stop thinking and write,” Desmond says, explaining that it’s also a really unique way to get to know people. “What you’ve written isn’t that polished image that you show to the world. I can walk by someone from the workshop on the street and say ‘hey’, but it’s cool because you still feel like you still know them differently than even their best friends might.”

To me, this all sounds completely terrifying. Taking a topic and writing in a completely uncensored stream-of-consciousness style is fairly alien to me, even though I’ve written my fair share of essays, articles, short stories and poems. (And blog posts!) I’m not sure if I could share something I’d written about a deeply personal experience without obsessing over my comma usage for at least two hours.

But, then again, there’s also something liberating about the idea of sitting down and writing without having to worry about the consequences. As my fellow humanities students will know, you don’t ever write into a vacuum. Every paper that you write will be judged, graded and qualified. It can be hard sometimes to get any words out onto the page at all without imagining some kind of ghastly editor hovering over you with spectacles and a giant red pen. (Which, incidentally, is the plot of one of my recurring stress dreams.) And these workshops aren’t a classroom, nor are your fellow attendees editors. You’re able to work and to learn, but you don’t have to worry about the dreaded red pen.

The program will continue in September with plans for 12 workshops that will be open to anyone in the university community. The first planned series is “Where Desire Meets Spirit” starting September 28th at the Multi-Faith Centre.

Five Things We Wish We’d Known in First Year: Featuring Guest Blogger, Jennifer!

Bonjour Blogosphere!

I’ve been blogging for about three months now, can you believe it? And I kind of figured that by now you may have gotten a little bit sick of my ramblings. (It’s OK, I understand. Even the greatest love affairs benefit with a little bit of space from time to time.)

So this week I’ve decided to invite a special guest-blogger to help me espouse some sage advice for incoming first-years. But before we get to all of that, let me introduce Jennifer! Hi, Jennifer!

Hello! It’s a privilege to be here. It’s especially awesome because I sit next to Emily in the Office of Student Life every week as she writes these brilliant and insightful blog posts. (NOTE FROM EMILY: It’s true, she does. For a while, I’m pretty sure she was under the impression that my job was to look up lolcat pictures until I finally showed her the blog.) And now I finally get to participate!

Jennifer is going into her fourth year, majoring in Ethics, Society and Law. Jennifer was her college’s orientation coordinator last year and she’s currently coordinating KickStart. Last week, Jennifer and I were talking with some incoming first-year students for a leadership workshop, and we realized that we had a lot to say about our experiences at U of T thus far. So without further ado:

Five Things That We Wish We’d known In First Year

1. Don’t be scared to just show up to something you’re interested in! (For the most part, people are actually nice.)

There’s no denying it: one of the hardest things to do at the University of Toronto is to actually talk to a stranger face-to-face; whether it be going to a club’s open house or actually attending your professor’s office hours…

But one of the great things about being in first year and “just showing up” is that nobody knows anyone else. You can get away with saying “I’m in first year, and I’d like to know more, so tell me!”

And here’s a secret coming from someone who has run her fair share of club events: sometimes you’re just really relieved to see that someone *anyone* actually showed up. And here’s one more secret: sometimes, professors get bored during their office hours. Seriously, I’ve had times where professors were actually relieved to see me because nobody else has showed up and they were sick of grading papers.

2. OSAP doesn’t come ASAP

Remember to file your paperwork because nobody is going to remind you. It takes awhile to actually process the papers, so make sure to get it done sooner rather than later. There have definitely been times when, had a friend not reminded me, I would have totally missed the date. Even going into fourth year, I still had to mark it down in my calendar!

And I think it might be worth mentioning the necessity of budgeting that money once you finally get it. Even if you’re not on OSAP per say, you’re likely taking out some kind of loan or getting some kind of funding that turns up in your bank account as this really nice number with a lot of zeroes in the fall. Do not be fooled. You’re making that money last for an entire year, and it doesn’t go as far as you think it does. Be smart, or you’ll pay for it later!

3.Time management: there’s not as much time in the day as you think there is. (DON’T PULL ALL-NIGHTERS.)

Especially as a humanities students, we have way fewer class hours than we used to in high school. It’s really easy to deceive yourself into thinking: “Oh, great, I have all afternoon to finish a week’s worth of readings… in one sitting…” But that never happens. Ever.

The idea is to get yourself into a routine of working independently. Don’t take your summer habits into the fall. Start early with a ritual or routine that keeps you on-task. It doesn’t have to be grueling, just setting aside a certain time of day or night to do some work goes a long way.

And of course, despite all of my noble words I have still pulled my fair share of all-nighters. And all I can say, is I currently avoid them at all costs. I know it can seem kind of noble, but you’re not going to be as productive as you would be working at any other time of day. Your essays are not going to be as coherent as you think they are at 4am, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll waste at least an hour of the night stress-crying over McDonald’s fries.

I’ve only pulled two all-nighters. It’s definitely not something to brag about. The thing about all-nighters is that things get blurry, and you just don’t remember anything. The only thing I remember from my last all-nighter is having to eat a sandwich to stay awake through my 9am class.

It’s really not the best test-taking technique or paper-writing strategy.

4. A penny saved is a penny earned. Especially when it comes to textbooks. Because they are expensive.

Chances are in first year you’re taking a lot of breadth requirement courses in subjects that you may not want to pursue ever again. So, even though you end up paying hundreds of dollars on these books, you very well may never want to see them again. That’s where TUSBE (Toronto University Student’s Book Exchange) comes in handy. TUSBE is this free website made for students that will connect you with other university students in Toronto who are buying and selling textbooks. You don’t need an account to post a book that you want to sell, all you need is an email address that people can contact you at if they want to buy your book. The great thing about TUSBE is that you don’t have to give a portion of your sales to anyone, unlike other methods of selling your textbooks. (And, you can negotiate the price, and choose a convenient location to meet up with the interested buyer!)
If I’d known about this site in first year I would have saved a lot of money!

5. Help is out there!

I know that we often we fancy ourselves stoic warriors in pursuit of a higher education who need nothing and no one. But I’ve learned from experience that you have to reach out for help when you need it. People want to help you, and if they can’t help you, they’ll know someone who can. University of Toronto has health services, registrars, a career centre, academic aid and a whole lot more in the way of student services. The problem is, it can be difficult to know that they even exist, especially on a campus as big as ours, so you have to be proactive in seeking out the help you need. It is very possible to go through all four years without using any of these services (except for your registrar, you’ll probably need to show up there at some point), but seriously, there’s no need to take on all of the challenges you’re going to face in university alone. That would make you a superhero, not a student.

And those, dear blogosphere, are our pearls of wisdom for the week. Thanks for having me, UpbeaT! It was a pleasure.

Oh, and dear other seasoned upper-year students, what advice do you have for incoming students? Jennifer and I know a few things, but we don’t know everything! Leave a comment, or tweet it to me or Jennifer!

Working for the Weekend: Tips on Finding a Job on Campus

You might wake up every morning and feel like this. (I know the feeling, guys, believe me, I’ve had a nasty cold all week and even getting out of bed has been a struggle.) But even still, the reality is that every fall a bunch of us students look for part-time jobs to help pay for our expenses.

(Sorry, I couldn’t help but post this video. This song is fantastic.) Anyway, working during the school year can be achieved without bringing down your GPA. I’ve seen it done and done well. But I’ve also seen people completely break-down under the pressure of trying to manage too many things at once! It’s all about finding balance and completely mastering the art of prioritizing and time management. If you find the right job and learn to organize like crazy, working and studying is totally doable. And, in the process, you not only get some money in the bank but you get some real-life job skills to put on your resume and you’ll actually have banked up a few employers who can serve as references after graduation.

But of course, with the wrong job — the one that is too time-consuming; the one that has the nightmare boss; the one that gives you stress dreams where you wake up screaming and throw the covers off of yourself like they’re trying to steal your wallet or something — well, with those jobs, the work/study balance can be precarious.

I definitely endorse working and studying at the same time. I did it last year, and I think that it gives you a healthy dose of perspective on how you can make whatever you’re studying applicable to the real world. But the trick is to avoid those nightmare jobs whenever possible.

Working on campus is one of the best bets to avoid bosses like this. As a general rule, most on-campus employers understand that you’re a student, and they’ll be more likely to give you some leeway if, for instance, you’re in the middle of the mid-term schedule from hell.You’ll physically be on campus at work, so it’s much easier to go straight from a shift at work to the library, and working behind the scenes of your regular student experience helps you learn more about the university and how to take advantage of all of the opportunities offered.

A few of my good friends in the Art History program work at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, getting some curatorial and gallery experience while earning some cash, and use the experience they have there to relate it to their work at the Fine Arts Student Union and the Hart House Art Committee.  Another friend did a Work-Study Position in her college’s student life office, which helped her get enough know-how and experience to secure her summer position and score her a cool community-service placement in the fall. The cool thing is that working on campus doesn’t have to just be that thing you have to do so that you can afford your morning coffee. If you do your research and figure out where you want to work and what you want to do, it can be a stepping stone that will lead you to your dream job. (I mean, I don’t want to over-sell it. Maybe it won’t lead you to your “dream job” but it can lead to other cool opportunities which leads to other cool opportunities.)

Ok, so have I sold you on this yet? If I have, be prepared to start your job search immediately! I know that September still feels like it’s a long way off, but in the job hunt you have to start early! a great place to start your search is at the Career Centre. Click the “Student” tab and click on “Job Search.” (You’ll have to either register or log in to get to this next part.) From here, you can do an ‘Advanced’ search and only see the jobs on campus. I just did a quick search, and currently there’s not too many positions listed. But don’t despair! Not all jobs end up getting posted. Some of the major employers on campus are the libraries at U of T, the U of T Bookstore, The Faculty of Physical Education & Health, and Hart House. Check on their individual websites often to see if any new positions have been posted. Also, consider networking with your professors and course unions to hear about any research assistant positions as they become available!

The Work-Study program is provided through the Career Centre, for students who are eligible for financial aid. (And a little bird told me that the Office of Student Life will be posting Work-Study positions soon!) Keep in mind that you don’t have to necessarily qualify for OSAP! You just need to demonstrate financial need to the satisfaction of the office of Admissions and Awards.

The Career Centre also offers a bunch of services to help you GET the job, once you’ve found the job that you want. Check out their resume drop-in clinic and practice interviews to help get the confidence you need to nab the job.

Good luck!