At the risk of sounding too “Eat, Pray, Love”…

Long time, no see, U of T! I’ve been caught up in exams and the culmination of my undergraduate career, and as life goes, the time has just flown by way too quickly. (Exams went well overall, so I am quite pleased). 

Me sitting on the grass on Hart House Lawn
Me at the start of this school year (me now below)

And somehow I landed here at this moment, writing my last post for Life @ UofT and bidding you all a warm farewell. I’m hoping it won’t be too lame or cliché or sentimental, but since I am all of those things it probably will be.

Top 189 types of Instagram posts using the #UofT hashtag

Just kidding. I mean top ten. Can you imagine 189???

Happy birthday week to UofT! 189 is a ripe old age and our academic institution has seen lots of growth and development over the duration of its existence. Danielle’s recent posts on major historical moments at UofT give a great outline of what we’ve been through to arrive at this point. The present-day lifestyle of a UofT student is rather different than what it used to be, on account of there being significantly more glass buildings, less trees, a lot more online presence, and a lot more hashtags.

UofT logo with birthday hat edit.

In celebration of our university’s 189th birthday, I took the liberty of perusing through the ever-so-reliable information forum popular amongst us millennials (Instagram) to bring you the top ten types of Insta posts that use the #UofT hashtag, to see whether this is indicative of a current student’s UofT experience. One takeaway from this week’s blog: UofT students are AMAZING photographers. 

Attending the World Vision Campus event “Raw Hope: A Night about Refugees”

Last Friday, I attended an event hosted by U of T World Vision Campus. It’s an annual titled “Justice Works,” and this year’s theme focused on the refugee crises that have been regularly making the news. WVC also hoped to showcase the “Raw Hope” World Vision initiative which serves children living in conflict zones such as Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, etc., providing immediate aid and working towards longterm safety and care.

The Raw Hope flyer/donation card on my lap.

The power of student-run conferences and how they’re like mini UN assemblies

Student-run conferences have become a big part of my involvement in campus activities. By “conference,” I refer not to a United Nations-like assembly of prominent politicians in suits but to a much less intimidating form that has really enriched my learning experience.

The UN General Assembly Hall filled with world leaders and national delegates.
Student conferences may not be on such a large-scale level as a UN General Assembly… but a Con Hall psych class may give it a run for its money.

I’ve participated in a few and have had great experiences with them. Smaller events will often be free while larger events may require a fee that covers food, speakers, or renting out the space. In January, I attended the UTGB Student Leadership Conference where we discussed the impact of international short-term volunteering and the importance of understanding the underlying social and political context of the countries we serve. Just last month, I registered for the Fraser Institute seminar on public policy, which touched upon a range of diverse topics such as Aboriginal title in Canada and free market trade.

A lecture hall filled with students listening to a guest speaker.
Listening to Dr. Lawrence Loh’s talk on how to optimize long-term outcomes with short-term volunteering during the UTGB Conference.

There are some cool advantages to attending student conferences – here are some features I personally enjoy:

Alternative on-campus food options (or How to Avoid Subway)

Unpopular opinion: I am not a fan of Subway. Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve been there so many times while on campus that the prospect of having to eat one more chicken teriyaki sub makes my stomach curdle.

Me holding a paper bowl filled with mac and cheese and a fried cheese fritter on top. In the background is the ballot sheet with all the names of the chefs who participated in the event.
There’s more to campus food life than muffins and pizza! Check out for ongoing food events, like free Vegan Breakfast or this annual Mac ‘N’ Cheese Smackdown!

Did you know that aside from the usual Starbucks, Spring Rolls, and Subway (i.e. The Holy Trifecta), U of T actually has quite a number of alternative food options for the studious library-goer in search of their next meal? If you’re sick of buying from the same places all the time, consider some of these if you haven’t already:

Reading Week + Reading Lists

Happy Reading Week, y’all! It seems cruel that Winter with a capital W finally decided to kick in during the one week we don’t have school. But to make the most of these frigid temperatures, I’ve spent this Reading Week doing exactly that — reading. Since I’ve gone home to visit my family over the break, relaxing and curling up with a book in a warm house sounds pretty ideal after a strenuous round of midterms. 

A view of the UC Quad on a rainy afternoon.
It’s probably too cold to be reading in one of my favourite spots on campus – the UC quad – but this shouldn’t stop us from enjoying a good book!

Now there are many ways to go about setting yourself a reading schedule for Reading Week. Personally, the obvious choice is to power through the entire Harry Potter series (7 books, 7 days of Reading Week? This was clearly meant to be). However, since I’ve done this exact feat on at least 12 different occasions, I thought I’d branch out. Here’s what’s been on my Reading Radar for the 2016 Reading Week:

UofT Snapshots: Fourth Year and the Future

I am in my final year of undergrad and scheduled to graduate this June (by some terrible twist of fate, I graduate on the date of my birthday thereby having to spend my 22nd year of life in CON HALL). These past four years have been spent strolling around King’s College Circle, cramming at Robarts during unspeakable hours, and attending every puppy therapy event U of T has to offer. The fact that I may not be coming back next year has only recently hit me. As much as I tried to prepare for (see also: dread) the future, it actually did not occur to me that I’d soon be done my Bachelor’s. It’s a bittersweet feeling.

I embarked on a HONY-esque quest across campus to hunt down fellow fourth-years and ask them about their plans. Are you graduating? Taking a fifth year? Taking some time off? What have you learned here? What’s been a memorable U of T experience? Please share intimate details of your life with this random, unnaturally peppy stranger!

From my mini adventure I have concluded that 1) Apparently no upper years go to school because it proved quite difficult trying to find fourth years on campus and 2) Apparently all upper years are in the same boat of worry, anticipation, and excitement for their futures. So fear not, fourth year friends! Here are just some of the lovely students that attend our school, starting with the loveliest of all (me):

Nancy, Neuroscience:

I’m graduating this year! I want to do an MSc in neuroscience research. I’m also looking into professional programs in public policy and global health. The biggest takeaways from my time here is to go after what you want, enjoy yourself, and that the best person to compete with is yourself. I’m super grateful for all the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made!

Winter is leaching me of my creative juices

Foil lit under a blue light.
Winter got me seeing all shades of blue

If ever we had to designate a time of the year that made people feel the most “BLAH,” it would be around now. The dreary weather and post-holiday lull make for a very uninspiring landscape that certainly do not help to foster creativity. I too fall prey to the monotony that is the mid-winter blues. (Is it even mid-winter? Realistically, has it even been a true winter this year? Are we feeling the ramifications of global warming? All good questions). Feeling like a sad, deflated, grey-tinged marshmallow, I can get really unmotivated to deal with work and school – which can be quite problematic at the start of a new semester. However, I have a few tricks to try and inspire creativity and productivity: 

Life Sciences Undergraduate Research: How do I even?

As a Life Sciences student, I understand the pressure and trepidation you feel when someone in class goes “So in my research lab…” Meanwhile, you’re screaming internally about how you can barely fold laundry properly let alone have your life so put together as to be in a research lab.

Meme of shiba-inu and the caption

Whether you plan on pursuing a career in healthcare or science research itself, having research experience on your CV and learning lab skills are a bonus when you apply to professional or graduate programs. But where does one even start? It’s daunting trying to maneuver the Interwebs to find viable and worthwhile positions. I’ve compiled a list of possible scientific/medical research opportunities by the year you might think of applying. But first, a few preliminary questions to ask yourself:

A Drake-themed guide to Robarts during exam season

Exams are upon us, U of T. Time to buckle down, catch up with readings, and hit up the nearest campus library for some serious studying. Robarts is the natural go-to choice for many students. Exams may make you miserable, but at least being around other people who are stressing out as much as you are is somewhat comforting. Also comforting is knowing that you’re making Drake proud by acing that calc exam. And always remember that if Aubrey Graham could go from a teeny-bopper D-list actor on Degrassi to a bonafide rap legend, then you can certainly power through these final weeks of the first semester.

Drake leaning against a large storage container and a stereo, using the stereo as a desk to write lyrics on a piece of paper.
Even Drake’s gotta constantly put in werk (Source: Instagram @champagnepapi)