On A Magic Bus

One of the great things about university is the endless opportunity to experience, learn, and engage with new perspectives and worldviews. Last Saturday I went on a Multi-Faith Centre hosted event, a Bus Tour of Houses of Worship in Toronto and the GTA. I saw a poster for it at Hart House a week ago. The tour visited a Sikh Gurdwara, an Islamic Mosque, and a Christian Presbyterian Church.

The bus tour left from Hart House at 10 am. Everyone had to register before hand, and as we boarded the bus, the organizer checked our names from the list. We were given name tags and encouraged to speak with the people sitting in front and behind us. The bus was packed.

I talked with an exchange student from Paris, France, who had been a little undecided whether to come to Canada or the United States for her term abroad, but she said she was enjoying her decision very much. She registered for the bus tour because it allowed her to explore Toronto and Canada in a safe and comfortable way and experience the variety of communities and cultures that live here.

We arrived at the Sikh Gurdwara first. The building reminded me of a library mixed with a gymnasium. It was very quiet and clean, and we had to remove our shoes and don shawls to cover our heads. Our Sikh guides, a young woman and an older man, gave us a tour of the different prayer rooms, and eventually led us to the cafeteria where they were offering lungar, a free meal to which all are welcome. On the floor, we ate vegetarian curry and naan bread and vegetables tossed in a special batter. It was delicious! The Sikh religion believes in inclusivity, equality, and good will to all of humanity.

We got back on the bus and drove a short ways and arrived at the Islamic Mosque. Welcomed by a very cheerful and entertaining volunteer, we discovered that the building was also a community outreach centre, a registered private school, and a place of worship. Inside the prayer room, I was surprised by the lack of symbols and images. The room was plain and undecorated. Our host explained that individual prayer is integral to Islam, and so they don’t have intermediary symbols and signs. The religion is largely about how to be a good person.

Our final destination was the Christian Presbyterian Church. I went to church when I was younger, and I recognized the smell of old wood, the dim light of stain glass windows, the Bibles on the backs of the pews. But I know very little about Christianity. For instance, I thought the Gospel was a song. Nope. The Church employee cleared that up, explaining that the Gospel is the triumph over evil, and that Church is the celebration of the Gospel. She also told us that the church is involved with local Toronto charities, offering Out of the Cold and ESL programs.

All in all, the Bus Tour of Houses of Worship brought to my attention the vastness of my own ignorance. But in a good way. I realized that the opportunity for understanding, and the potential to explore and learn is open to me, and to every student, here at U of T. We have such an unbelievably magnificent invitation to open our eyes and see the world beyond our own life-styles, beliefs, and understandings. It was a great day. Plus I got a free lunch!

‘Til next time, U of T, stay diamond.

- Stephen.

A How to House Hunt Post

About this time in first year, I started thinking about where I was going to live in September. I had decided to move out of New College residence, to the great dismay of my stomach, but I just really wanted my independence in second year. The tricky part was finding an apartment in Toronto.

http://maryhomegirl.tumblr.com/page/5

http://maryhomegirl.tumblr.com/page/5

I had gotten together with two friends with the idea that we would live together. We started looking for places, just sort of walking around the Annex, Kensington Market, and the East end near Bay and Yonge. We had the funny notion that the perfect apartment would just appear on the side of the street.

Around this time I went to an apartment search information session hosted at New College. It explained what to expect from landlords, rent agreements, what to look out for, such as poor plumbing and infrastructure. There was an interesting fact that the majority of people never look up and examine the ceiling when they enter a new room or building. There could a giant hole and most people would miss it. So look up!

http://giphy.com/gifs/IMn4tpvHpBM40

http://giphy.com/gifs/IMn4tpvHpBM40

U of T Housing Services offers a lot of information and resources to help students with the house hunt. They provide students with a Housing Finder, a Roommate Finder and a really cool Interactive Home Inspection tool that offers tips, reminders, and questions to ask landlords about a new apartment. Also, in June and July, Housing Services will be holding Explore Off-Campus Housing Workshops at select residences. Check back with their events page for full details!

In my own search, I eventually turned to other options in Toronto for finding an apartment, such as Craigslist and Kijiji. There is another really good online and mobile service called Padmapper. These services offer a lot of options, a lot of listings, which is good and bad. It’s bad because it can seem overwhelming to wade through it all, but it’s good because you’re bound to find a good, affordable place.

One thing I discovered about these sites: September apartments really start showing up around late June to July. April and May are good times to think about where you want to live, and to try to find roommates. But don’t worry if you aren’t seeing any September 1st listings. In time!

http://www.mishlovinlife.com/2013/10/sfo-lax-or-jfk.html

http://www.mishlovinlife.com/2013/10/sfo-lax-or-jfk.html

Lastly, there was a useful event that is still being offered at U of T, the Housing Fair on April 5, 2014. It’s a networking event to meet other students who are looking for apartments, roommates, or seeking someone to sublet for the summer. A nifty trick, if one were so inclined, is to meet someone who is subletting and then find out whether they are returning in September. If not, the apartment will be up for grabs!

Ultimately, apartment hunting should be fun, like a mini safari around the Toronto wilderness. Go into it with your friends and explore. Meet landlords, look at ceilings, test water pressure, look in the fridge. Don’t be shy, and really just have fun!

For me, it was my first real apartment. I lived there, I loved it, and I will remember it forever. It was fun!

‘Til next time, stay diamond, U of T

- Stephen

Need A Place To Study . . . In Silence?

There is a new dimension beyond those known to U of T students. It is a dimension of sight and mind, but without sound. A wondrous land of study and contemplation. It is an area called The Silent Zone.

Source: http://thedogladysden.com/category/entertainment/

Source: http://thedogladysden.com/category/entertainment/

This was essay week for me. I work well at Robarts Library, so I packed up my things and headed off to the big ol’ turkey. It think it’s the altitude, like working on top of a mountain. Anyway, when I got there I saw a notice on the wall promoting these new Silent Zones. Of course, I had to check them out.

http://onesearch.library.utoronto.ca/news/looking-quiet-place-study-robarts-library-now-has-silent-and-quiet-zones

http://onesearch.library.utoronto.ca/news/looking-quiet-place-study-robarts-library-now-has-silent-and-quiet-zones

There are a few different Silent Zones at Robarts Library. I visited each one to get the full experience. The first one is the Reading Room on the second floor, and I’ll admit I was surprised when I first walked in . . .

It was quiet. It was also pretty big. And it was packed. I had never been to the Robarts’ Reading Room before, but at 4pm on Wednesday it was a popular place to be. I stayed only for a few minutes, mostly to scope out the vibe.

http://postgradproblems.com/50-step-guide-to-sending-out-the-vibe-at-a-bar/

http://postgradproblems.com/50-step-guide-to-sending-out-the-vibe-at-a-bar/

The second floor Reading Room is designed for studying. Three rows of single person study-cubbies fill the middle of the room, with lots of four-seater tables set along the walls and across the windows. Each of the four-seater tables has a power plug built into the middle of it, which is pretty great for computers, tablets, phones (on silent!), and anything else, so you’ll always have power!

http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35r7pb

http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35r7pb

There is another Silent Zone on the third floor, in the Reading Room, right above the second floor with an overlooking balcony. I liked this room more than the last. There are three tall, bright windows in the corner that look out over St. George St., giving the whole room a good open feeling, like you could really work undisturbed and comfortable. And the only sound was the occasional . . .

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/09/quiet-office_n_4551290.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/09/quiet-office_n_4551290.html

Then there was the Computer Lab on the fourth floor. Another place at U of T I had never visited. It’s a fairly small room, but there are a lot of computers, and the walls are made of glass. Was it silent? No, not really. There was an instructor preparing to teach a class on one half of the room. But it was okay. It was like most computer labs . . .

http://www.gifbase.com/gif/1705

http://www.gifbase.com/gif/1705

I got up to the 9th to 13th floors, and I was beginning to doubt the integrity of these Silent Zones. The 9th floor was already pretty quiet. How much less noise could people make? But as I rounded the corner towards the Harbord Apex and the designated Silent Zone, I all at once noticed a strange noise fill my ears. It was sudden and overwhelming . . .

Silence.

Yes, I kid you not. The Harbord Apex of the ninth floor of Robarts was utterly silent. There were students working and studying, but I couldn’t even hear the keyboards. The only sound was the gentle hum of the ventilation, which might easily have been a calming breeze. Truly, I was on top of a mountain. It was nice. And I wrote my whole essay in a few hours.

So, if you are walking around in Robarts Library, and you happen to feel a stilling sensation fill your ears, a sudden sense that you’re standing on top of a mountain, then you may have just entered a Silent Zone.

‘Til next time, stay diamond, U of T!

- Stephen.

More Harm Than Help: A Perspective of Black History Month

I like to think that a good majority of people at U of T — and in Toronto itself — are perceptive and accepting towards distinct racial identities. However, as the end of February approaches, I realize I still understand little of Black History Month other than the basics —  the intent is to raise awareness of African-American heritage, and people are polarized about its existence — and was curious to learn more about whether or not students felt it had a positive impact on their lives.

Agape Amponsah-Mensah is a third-year student pursuing a double major in Equity Studies and African Studies. Agape currently acts as the African Students’ Association Public Relations Officer. Conveniently, she also happens to be a good friend of mine, so I decided to interview her to gain an understanding of Black History Month from a student who is a ‘Black Canadian’ (and on why she prefers to simply be called ‘Canadian’, but more on that later). Accompanying her is friend Elo, a fourth-year History/Diaspora and Transnational Studies student who serves as the Educational Director of the Black Students’ Association, who also offered a unique insight on the setbacks of Black History Month.

Both ladies share the consensus that Black History Month is problematic. “Canada claims to be a ‘mosaic’, a melting pot society, and yet you still label it ‘black’ history… that already segregates the black community in itself,” Agape argues. She believes the month of observance steers closer towards trivializing black history, rather than promoting it. As such, she prefers not to be labeled a Black Canadian. “Yes, I’m black. Yes, I’m Canadian. But the phrase itself is a setback because it suggests that I’m not a genuine Canadian, when really, I’m as Canadian as Canadian gets. I have learnt to embrace the multiculturalism that comes behind being a Canadian who isn’t a white Canadian. But it was nothing that was influenced by Black History Month at all.”

Elo interjects to add another major setback of Black History Month — the homogenization of one race. “It’s a celebration that draws from African-American history, which has its good intentions, but it ignores all the hundreds of other distinct diasporas within Canada itself. That means that there’s a lot of generalization when it comes to the prejudices associated with ‘black culture’. And everyone may celebrate ‘blackness’, but only a certain type.” Being of mixed ancestry myself, I imagine this would be similar in some respect to everyone assuming you celebrate Chinese New Year just because you are Asian (FYI: the Lunar New Year is celebrated by many other different ethnicities and nationalities, each with their own traditions).

Agape continues, “being black is different from being African — for example, having to deal with hair, getting it done at a salon — that’s black culture, not African culture.” That said, she expresses great pride in being black and says it plays a vital role in where she fits in at U of T, especially as a minority at the university. “You see what education means to someone who is like yourself. You become hyper-aware of your race, and you’re constantly having to defend your ‘blackness’ even if it’s something you don’t personally identify with. When asking for an example, Elo lists having to give your thoughts on a certain issue of slavery even if you don’t have one as a major one. “There’s always the comfort in being surrounded by individuals who can share your understanding of identity and culture, as that’s hard to find around campus,” Agape adds.

As a final word of advice, Agape encourages fellow students to embrace their roots. “Understand that we are in a place of privilege, to gain an education like this, but don’t allow that to skew your views of countries that are not westernized. If you are African, Caribbean, anything, consider that you have a home in Canada but remember that who you are as an individual is multi-faceted in culture.

I asked her how should students embody and empower being black, if Black History Month detracts from the very purpose of its inception. Agape insists on the importance of not letting prejudices define who you are as an individual. “If you want to change the black stereotype because of a stereotypical view of ‘black culture’, then you as an individual will need to help progress the world’s mentality of what it means to be a black person, by embracing who you are every day.”

Get Your Adventure On

I hope everyone had a wonderful reading week! I spent most of my time eating, sleeping, and watching The Office. Some might say this was an unproductive use of my time, and I would have to agree. But it was awesome!

http://www.gurl.com/2013/05/02/being-lazy-gifs/

http://www.gurl.com/2013/05/02/being-lazy-gifs/

I regret, however, that I stayed inside so much. Last year, I went up north to South River to visit a friend who works near Algonquin Park. We stayed in a log cabin and went snowshoeing and saw a family of deer and got stuck in a snowstorm. It was a regular adventure, and it was GREAT!

Although reading week is over, there are still plenty of weekends left to get outside. An outdoor adventure is especially important at this time of year, because it can seem so difficult to actually GO DO IT. Luckily, there is a club designed specifically to help you. It’s called the U of T Outing Club.

Fifty-years old, the U of T Outing Club is committed to getting students, professors, staff, and alumni out of their classrooms and offices and houses and into the wild.

http://www.nothingisknown.com/Blog/Manitoulin-Island/

I got a chance to meet with an executive of UTOC, who helped explain what the club is all about. First of all, the club is about meeting people. With such a long history, the club has attracted a large number of people from different places in their lives. A lot of exchange program students join UTOC, because it’s a great way for students to explore Canada beyond Toronto. Every member, however, shares a love for outdoor adventure.

In addition to planning and hosting outdoor adventures like camping, canoeing, caving, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, and rock-climbing, UTOC also owns a cabin in the Niagara Escarpment that they use almost every weekend for group getaways. The club has also organized road trips into northern Ontario, around Georgian Bay and even Manitoulin Island!

http://www.nothingisknown.com/Blog/Manitoulin-Island/

The heart and soul of UTOC are its members. Trips and adventures are usually planned and lead by group members, while the executive team helps with the headachey technical stuff that can sometimes seem burdensome and difficult. It is UTOC’s goal to help students become comfortable and safe in taking the initiative to plan and experience outdoor adventures beyond the U of T campus. They’ve been doing it for 50 years!

The club website offers a detailed calendar of upcoming events, and they have office hours on Wednesdays 3-5 at Sid Smith. If you have an idea for an outdoor adventure that you needs help putting together, don’t hesitate to contact UTOC!

I’ve been reading Jean-Paul Sartre, and he writes that life becomes an adventure only in the re-telling of events. But I say there is much adventure in the real act of living, much, much adventure. So get out there, visit UTOC if you need some help, and get into it!

‘Til next time, stay diamond, U of T!

- Stephen.

* Photos courtesy of Michael Chahley

Adventures with NSSE, the Student Engagement Survey

So, NSSE . . . Oh, you mean Nessie, the giant, Scottish lake monster. Um, well, sort of . . .

Here, let me explain!

If you’re in first or fourth year, you may have received an email from the President of U of T, Meric S. Gertler, asking for your participation in the National Survey of Student Engagement. It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 1.34.51 PM

Basically, U of T “wants to improve your educational experience” and we, the students, can help. In fact, we can actively change the university experience for the better. How? By filling out this online survey. Plus, you could win prizes!

http://tomowa.soup.io/tag/CHANGE

http://tomowa.soup.io/tag/CHANGE

Actually, Simba, change is easy—with NSSE! I’m not saying that filling out the survey will instantly make U of T the best university in the world, but it will contribute to the on-going mission to make U of T better for students.

I spoke with David Newman, Director of the Office of Student Life, and he helped me understand what NSSE is all about. He explained that the survey helps the people who run U of T identify the strengths of a U of T education and prioritize issues for change. The survey reveals important information on how students engage with the university, on academic, social, institutional, and personal levels, which allows the head-honchos to judge the efficacy and relevance of U of T’s programs and services for students. Sounds pretty good, right?

Past NSSE results have helped change U of T with things like First-Year Foundational Programs like Vic One, the Student Initiative Fund, NGSIS (our online student resource network), Interactive Campus Maps, Mentorship Resource Centre, the new Co-Curricular Record, and more. In short, NSSE gets things done!

http://notredame.247sports.com/ImageUrl/1062865?View=Detailed

http://notredame.247sports.com/ImageUrl/1062865?View=Detailed

The actual survey takes about 15 minutes. It’s all multiple-choice questions, no writing. Just read, think, click, and repeat!

The survey asks about your courses, how often you engage in class, whether your courses influence your understanding of societal, political, and racial issues, and how helpful are your instructors.

The survey asks about your assignment types, your study habits, and whether you have any career/academic paths and plans like internships, studying abroad, independent research courses.

It asks about your interaction with non-academic areas of U of T, like housing services, your registrar, and academic advising. It asks about the university’s impact on your development as a person. It asks about your social-life, work, family-issues and your experience with U of T support resources.

It asks if you could start all over would you still go to U of T. That’s an interesting question. What do you think?

Then it asks you specific questions about your current year, what you study, what grades you get, how many courses you take. Then it asks your sex, year of birth, ethnicity, and that kind of stuff.

The last thing is an option to add any personal thoughts, concerns, or issues. You can elaborate on your university experience. You can suggest improvements. You can tell the university anything you want about your time at U of T. In the end, what’s most important is the 15 minutes you took to participate in making U of T a better university for yourself and future students.

‘Til next time, stay diamond U of T!

- Stephen

Making Mistakes at the U of T Public Speaking Club

On the fifth floor of OISE, in a large room full of wheely-chairs and a whole wall of windows, the U of T Public Speaking Club comes together. Every Friday from 3-5pm the club holds its general meeting, an open session for newcomers and regular members. Each meeting the club explores a new theme of public speaking, and last Friday the theme was making mistakes.

http://www.thejayfk.com

http://www.thejayfk.com

This was my first time at UTPS. I heard about it online before the break and made a mental note to check it out. As it turns out, the club is still pretty new. The president, Jeff Cui, created the club to give students a comfortable, welcoming space to practice the art of public speaking, a skill that Jeff, and the whole UTPS exec team, considers valuable in many ways.

Before the meeting began, I got to speak with Llyvell Gomes, the Vice-President, who told me more about the club’s real goal. It’s all about creating a warm, friendly environment, he said, where students from all disciplines and experience levels can come together and practice some vocal self-expression. Whether you’re working on speaking more in class and tutorial, or practicing the speech you’ve written for your brother’s wedding, UTPS is here to help and encourage you.

http://www.celebquote.com/10441

http://www.celebquote.com/10441

The club is all about active involvement. Yes, they want everyone to be comfortable, but they also want to push limits and move beyond comfort zones. Basically, public speaking is a fear. For most people, at least. UTPS recognizes that, and they want to overcome it.

We began with some vocal warm-ups. We had to strike a ‘power’ pose and shout out our name. They said sometimes they sing a song, anything to liven the pulse. Then we broke off into smaller groups of themed exercises.

The first exercise was to stand up in your group and talk about what you look forward to on your way home. While you were talking, however, you had to pick a moment to stop. You had to stand in silence. You had to feel your face redden and your hands tingle, as you look into the eyes of your audience. Then, once you’d basked in the awkward pressure and silence of your ‘mistake’, you got to sit down and the next person went.

http://gifsoup.com/view/3019873/awkward-silence-on-ellen.html

http://gifsoup.com/view/3019873/awkward-silence-on-ellen.html

The next exercise was to do something embarrassing before you start talking. I did a silly little dance. Someone else did an impersonation of Russell Peters. Another person sang She Bangs, William Hung style.

http://www.badtvblog.com/2011/06/dancing-gif-friday-tom-hanks-esta-muy.html

http://www.badtvblog.com/2011/06/dancing-gif-friday-tom-hanks-esta-muy.html

It was weird, it was silly, but it was a lot of fun. Everyone was laughing, and the environment was very welcoming and supportive. No one in the club is a professional. Some are more comfortable, more experienced, but all levels and perspectives are welcomed and appreciated.

The meeting ended with an opportunity for anyone to come up to the front and speak. I stayed in my seat. Maybe next time. I’m certainly glad that a club like UTPS exists at U of T (a little late for me), and I’d highly recommend it to every single person in the world.

‘Til next time, stay diamond U of T

- Stephen

 

 

Finding Massey College…and More

Last Monday I heard about a reading by author David Bezmozgis being held at Massey College and decided to check it out. Stepping through the gated entranceway, past the porter’s lodge, along the stone pathway of the water garden, I was unsure of my expectations. I can say now that I was pleasantly assured, surprised and encouraged by my experience.

If you didn’t know, the University of Toronto is home to the Jack McClelland Writer in Residence program, under the joint sponsorship of the English Department and Massey College. The writer joins the U of T community to work with staff and students in the field of creative writing. Last year they had Joy Kogawa, and this year they are pleased to host David Bezmozgis.

In addition to holding office hours for students, the writer in residence also leads a non-credit creative writing workshop, usually in the spring term. There is a limited enrolment, and it’s very competitive (seems a lot of people out there want to be writers).

Source: http://bushwickdaily.com/tag/writers/

Source: http://bushwickdaily.com/tag/writers/

Admission to the workshop, however, all depends on the tastes of the resident writer. Maybe he will like your work, maybe he will hate it. Who really knows? If you like creative writing, apply, apply, apply!

If you have never visited Massey College, please do! I often hear people comment on the similarity of U of T to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But Massey College is different. Massey College is more reminiscent of a Buddhist monastery or something.

Source: http://ocs.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/onscholcomm/SEIA

Source: http://ocs.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/onscholcomm/SEIA

Tucked, rather nondescriptly, into the west side of Devonshire Place, across from William Graham Library, Massey College can be easily missed (especially in the winter). Inside, however, there are study spaces, a dining hall, and a quaint library. In a way, Massey College feels like a separate oasis within U of T, a secret get-away for those “deeper” meditations. Or just a nice place for a nap!

The Upper Library, where the reading was held, is a small, charming room, lined with books and blue stained glass windows. I had expected a larger turnout, but there was a good mix of workshop members, fans and readers, and academics. It was a casual reading, followed by a reception of coffee and tea and things.

David Bezmozgis, whose latest book sounds like a moral-political thriller, pleasantly debunked the stereotype of the disgruntled, cynical novelist. Well-spoken and approachable, Bezmozgis explained that writing can be a force of enquiry into unknown, disagreeable issues. If you look at the world and see that something is wrong, then write about it!

Source: http://rebloggy.com/post/gif-love-american-horror-story-evan-peters-hot-show-world-fox-fx-wrong-asylum/33844260366

Source: http://rebloggy.com/post/gif-love-american-horror-story-evan-peters-hot-show-world-fox-fx-wrong-asylum/33844260366

He spoke also of his process. Three years of research, reading memoirs, travelling, and endlessly talking to people. I found this, most of all, to be a helpful reminder that the skills and habits we learn at university are very useful, and often necessary in later life. Even the free, boundless writer has to do research, readings, and talk to people!

These events and programs are great because they encourage young writers to pursue their passion and their craft. We have the opportunity to meet and mingle with professionals, faculty and other students, who share similar interests and goals. As a professor of creative writing adroitly noted, even ‘old’ writers can benefit from encouragement.

U of T is home to many programs and groups, and events are happening all the time! If you follow your interests, even on a whim, you never know what opportunity will just appear out of the side of a snow covered street. #TryitUofT

‘Til next time. Stay diamond.

- Stephen

Fun Times at the UC Date Auction

At five minutes to eight pm, Sammy’s Pub at Hart House was bustling. There was a constant chatter coming from every table, as everyone talked and laughed waiting excitedly for the night’s entertainment. Last night I attended a University College organized Date Auction, the proceeds of which went to support the Toronto Humane Society and the UC Water Dragons.

The pub, in the lower level of Hart House, was already packed when I arrived. At the front of the room there was a line-up of eager students, all holding their 19+ I.D.’s to receive a free drink ticket. On the left side there was a round table of free catered food. Yep, all free!

Watching new people arrive, as they spotted friends and hunted for seats, I was filled with a really good feeling. It was the kind of event one would expect from a smaller arts college. But I suppose that’s exactly what it was, replete with college cheers, “Hey UC! Can I see you [ I probably can’t write this]“. There was a strong sense of school spirit, community and friendship, and I was glad to be there.

The hosts of the evening, Paige and Sarah, could be seen dancing on the stage, priming themselves for the task of guiding the show. The music, once it started, promptly changed several times in mid-song, but everyone was still smiling and laughing. There was a wonderful vibe of amateur, improvised style, which is exactly how a college event should feel. It’s about having fun, expressing oneself and being involved.

Once the music started, everyone settled into a seat (sometimes two per seat). That seems to be a universal signal that the show is about to begin. The “auctionees” had been clandestinely whisked away into the hall, the food platters were devoured, everyone had a free drink, and we were ready for the show!

First off, the hosts explained how the auction would work. They accepted all forms of payment, except human sacrifice, and the biddings would begin at twenty dollars. Then, in came the auctionees!

There were ten of them, a good group of brave, adorable souls. But they were more than pretty faces. Each one had prepared some talent or other to help encourage their bidders. Also, the dates were complemented with gift-cards to restaurants and bars, such as The Keg Steak House.

I stayed only for the first three rounds, but right from the start there was singing and sparkler-lit dancing. These auctionees wanted to be sold. And the audience didn’t disappoint. The first auctionee went for $170! People were throwing hands up all over. With a good cause, such as an adorable kitten, even starving university students can be charitable.

I have faith that the rest of the event went off without a hitch. I did hear, from someone or other, that Michael Mousa’s friend, Michelle, stole the show. You’re welcome.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a great time. I was certainly laughing, which is all I ask for from any live show. There are many free and exciting events like this happening all over campus all the time. All you have to do is look for them and then #TryitUofT!

Stay Diamond,

Stephen!

Thinking About the Future

Just before we begin, let us take a brief pause. This is a fine moment in the academic year, before second semester really comes on full swing, to consider where we are, what we’ve done, and what we’d like to do next.

I am coming to the end of my university career. This semester I have two courses, both of which are electives. This is my fifth and final year, and I do feel that I have come a rather long way.

I can remember reaching the end of my first year and having to enroll in a Subject POSt, and deciding then that I wanted to study English rather than International Relations. I can remember the spring term of second year, when I scrambled to meet the early application deadline for the English Department’s creative writing seminar. And I can recall the end of my third year, when I discovered 4th year Independent Study course options, but was too late to apply for one. If only I had considered the matter earlier.

Once it starts, these next weeks are going to vanish into April. There is still a little bit of time right now, however, for proactive consideration of the future. The new Degree Explorer and Course Finder can help. So can looking through the Course Calendar. This is something, honestly, that I never did, but that I wish I had. Yeah, I still fared okay. But I’m certain there were many opportunities that I could have seized, and could have benefited from, if only I’d thought to look for them earlier.

I’m currently in the process of applying to Graduate School. It’s hectic and hurried and definitely cause for some unneeded stress. All because I didn’t think about it earlier; well, I thought about it, but not thoroughly. I never actually invested any time in the thought, rather I mused on the idea of Grad school. Now, I have to pay for my negligence, my indifference, my whimsical attitude towards my university career.

And it’s not just academics that can benefit from a moment’s consideration. Joining clubs and groups, trying out for athletic teams, applying for summer jobs, internships, or work-study programs with the university; there are many sides to life at U of T. For instance, this semester I’d like to visit the U of T Public Speaking Club to test my rhetorical skill, and frighten myself!  It’s not all about courses and grades. But whatever your goal happens to be, a little bit of forethought will certainly help focus your efforts.

It’s true what some of my fellow bloggers are saying; January is both the continuation of the academic year and the beginning of a brand new year and a chance for new opportunities. So take a few minutes, on the weekend maybe, right after breakfast or just before bed, put on some good music (I’ve been listening to this dude named Bach because it calms my grad school insanity), and think about what you might want to do next. And feel free to share your plans and pieces of advice with the rest of us at #TryitUofT!

 

Good to be back, U of T! Glad you stayed diamond!

-Stephen