Cycles of Change

November has arrived and fall is in full swing.  For me, everything seems to have changed all at once. Over the weekend after my latest midterm, I got back into my housekeeping and admin routine. Though my tasks were fairly straightforward, things just seemed different. It’s hard to describe.

Looking up at the main Victoria College building, towards the dark green coverings on the scaffolding. The building seems to be undergoing some lengthy renovations

Everything needs change every now and then (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I felt new energy starting to lift me into the new month. Even little things were ready for change like my decision to clear out some of the year-old sticky-note reminders I had left myself about lists of CDs to buy (yes I still buy CDs) and miscellaneous ideas for cheesecake baking.

Two shelves full of CD cases, with everything from Jeff Beck to Van Halen, in alphabetical order of course.

I think I’ve listened to these ones about 1000 times each… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Rarely does the shift into a new month or season feel so abrupt in university as the days and weeks often blend together amidst the midterm madness. I’ve been trying to figure out where this new energy is coming from or more importantly where it’s leading me. After reflecting on the semester so far, I quickly realized that this rejuvenating feeling is definitely no accident. I’m simply completing a cycle, and launching into the next one.

I think it’s important to recognize the cycles we experience in life. For most U of T students, I think the cycle may look like this: Wake up, eat, studystudytstudystudy, sleep, repeat. Hmmmm. That doesn’t seem very healthy does it? Read my earlier posts about balancing and time management if you want to break this cycle.

Cycles are larger in scope than we realize. I’m not sure what’s all in the cycles of university life but I can tell you that to complete your cycle, you really need some social time. September and October have been very social for me and I think the positivity of nurturing relationships with friends has really contributed to the momentum I’m feeling.

For Thanksgiving, a friend was very kind and invited me to Mississauga to have lunch with their family and friends. What a grand feast! And I have to add that it’s well worth it to hop on the Go Train and get out of downtown if you’re stuck down there like I am. I made sure to soak in some refreshing new sights and spent some time exploring some of the peaceful neighbourhoods in Port Credit too. Good for the mind.

Halloween was also a brilliant final piece to finish off October. Me and a big group of friends all dressed up and headed to the Hart House of Horrors Halloween event.  Rest assured, we were terrifying.  Let’s just say that every Halloween from now on, U of T students will remember the fear that overtook them when the lord of the night, Count Zachula, first appeared from the shadows…

A selfie of me nad my terrifying fake vampire fangs.

Count Zachula strikes! With a selfie… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

The Debate Room in Hart House, only lit with a faint red glow, with many strange clown creatures lurking in the shadows

Some of the rooms in Hart House were turned into a freaky carnival, complete with the clown monsters (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A large clown mannequin, with a particularly snarly smile

This is my friend Fred, we met at the Hart House of Horrors. When I asked him to show me around, all he did was shrug and glare at me with murderous intent… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A small archaic looking switchbox sitting next to a monstrous fellow in a straight-jacket and hooked to a starnge machine, with a sign that reads "Pull Switch...If You Dare"

One of my friends dared to flip the switch. We thought the mannequin in the chair would do something, but instead the switch-box flipped open and a monstrous Jack-In-The-Box began cackling at us maniacally (Photo by Zachary Biech)

First Nations House is a great place to stop by every week if you need a little socializing. Every face is friendly and every conversation is worth every moment. Just sayin’…

What do you do to socialize? When’s the last time you finished a cycle and entered into something entirely new?

Me staring aimlessly into the background (wearing my fangs and cape),in front of a photobooth backdrop

Count Zachula, blissfully unaware that the photobooth machine was still taking pictures (Original Photo by Snapshot Photobooth)

What’s the deal with “Open Access Week”?

Last week was Open Access Week (or OAweek as the hashtag goes), both at UofT and around the world. The UofT Libraries and the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office were pretty big on pushing OAweek, but when I mentioned to the other bloggers that I was planning to write on it this week they asked: “What is OAweek and what does ‘open access’ mean?”. Good questions. Important questions. Let me start answering by asking another question:

How much would it cost you to write your last essay without library access?

That means, if you had none of the free access to journal articles, papers, ebooks, and other resources provided through the libraries here, how much money would you have to pay to access those resources you needed to write that last paper? Andrea Kosavic did the math on one of her papers about open access (yup: ironic); her answer? $488.96 USD. And that’s only because half of her sources were open access (we’ll get to defining that in the next paragraph). I took her example and did the math on one of my own papers. Thankfully, most of my works cited were open access too, but the three papers I cited which were not would have cost me $38.97.

Can you imagine paying almost $500 to submit a class paper?

The fact is, we have great access to resources through our library system, but a lot of the world does not. The Open Access movement is about creating unrestricted online access to peer-reviewed scholarly research. That means that anybody, anywhere, should be able to have access to scholarly research and knowledge, for free, online, from anywhere, regardless of who they are. There are a few reasons to do this. First, it makes it cheaper for students to access scholarly research needed to do the work we’re assigned. Did you know that the University spends $14,000,000 on journal subscriptions per year?! That’s more than the tuition of 2,317 domestic students. That’s a huge amount of money to be spending to make resources available, when they could be free.

And it’s not just students, but researchers everywhere. It’s hard to do original research when you need to pay money to do it, and especially hard for those who do not have access to the resources we are privileged with. How many researchers do you think there are at institutions who can’t afford journal subscriptions, or who aren’t even affiliated with academic institutions? How can public libraries afford to keep up with costs like this? This is what OAweek is about: raising awareness for open access issues. The video below (by the guy behind PHD comics) gives a really good survey of what we talk about when we talk about open access, as well as addressing the money matters: the costs of publication and the roles they play in the open access movement.

What roles can we play? Well, as potential future academics, we can make a commitment to ensuring our own future publications are published in an open access paradigm. More open access journals are popping up all the time, so it shouldn’t be a difficult task in the end. But there’s also a need for an attitude check. It’s not just about making articles free and available, but recognizing that everyone ought to have access to knowledge and knowledge media. Keep that in mind when you’re pricing out your next paper.

Have any questions or thoughts on the Open Access movement?
Leave them in the comments below!

UC Does Rocky Horror Picture Show

This past Wednesday I attended the UC Follies Rocky Horror Picture Show Shadow Cast presented by the UCLit.  Although I’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show many-a-times, I’ve never actually been to a live performance or interactive screening of it.  I’ve heard how fun it can be, getting to throw rice onto the stage or yell things back to the cast, but nothing prepared me for the night of shenanigans the Follies had in store for us.

I think a part of me was still expecting things to be toned down the way they were in high school.  They couldn’t possibly re-enact every provocative scene from Rocky Horror… could they? 

Two Photo Set: Photo on the left is of a man standing on a table with a movie projector in the background. He is naked except for a small blue speedo and bandages across his chest. He has a crazy look in his eyes and has just been "created" by the mad scientist. Photo on the Right: one of the party-goer characters being thrown into the air in the middle of a dance routine.

Oh my naive, naive mind. 

To start off the night, my best friend and I came dressed as the main character duo of Brad and Janet – gaining ourselves entrance into the intermission costume contest along the way. The University College JCR was packed full of people in costumes enjoying food and drinks, and discussing all the insider secrets of an interactive Rocky Horror show.

Photo of boy and girl staring at each other seductively, posing heavily for the camera. Man is dressed in a lab coat and white briefs with slicked back hair and nerdy glasses. The girl is hidden behind a large red bed sheet.

My friend Matt and I dressed as our very best interpretations of Janet and Brad!

At 9:30 the lights dimmed, and the show began.  I actually didn’t understand what a shadow cast was until the show had began, but essentially the UC Follies acted in the foreground while the movie played in the background.

Two picture set: Picture on the right is of characters Rocky and Janet laying in bed together. The second picture is of Janet after her "transformation" performing the final number.

At the beginning of the show you could buy a “kit”, the purchase of which went to support the chosen organization SKETCH.  The kit included all of the things you would need to interact with the show such as rope, a sponge, and newspaper.  The narrator behind the screen would announce to the crowd when to get their object ready, and on cue from a line in the show, we would throw the object into the air or out onto the stage.  The first opportunity to use this arose when Janet and Brad were stuck out in the rain, and the chorus came around spraying the audience with water unless you put the newspaper over your head.

The cast was absolutely amazing, and the production was hilarious.  They had the crowd (myself included) laughing, gasping, and even singing and dancing along at some points. The characters would walk through the aisles, dancing with audience members and eliciting involvement, all while staying perfectly in character.

Girl dressed in outlandish costume of leather and fishnets with largely teased hair and over-the-top makeup, throwing her hands in the air dancing.

The cast leading us in the Time Warp dance!

The whole night was a perfect break from midterm stress, and definitely an amazing first Rocky Horror experience.  The UC follies do a variety of performances throughout the year, including musicals such as this, as well as dramas and improv nights.  Any member of University College can join and exercise their acting muscles, or just come along and view one of their shows.  Check out more pictures from the night, and find out more about the UC Follies, at ucfolliestheatre.ca

Mythbusters: Teaching Assistant Edition.

Last week, we shared a moment about tutorials, and briefly mentioned that they are usually run by Teaching Assistants (TAs). What exactly a TA is can be elusive to most students, and I think it’s important to spend a few minutes together this week to talk about TAs and bust some myths.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting with some of the folks at the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation (CTSI) and the Teaching Assistant’s Training Program (TATP), and students and TAs, to find out what exactly is the deal with TAs. So, without further ado, onto the mythbusting:

           1. TAs are Good Bags Screenshot of a google search, where "Teaching Assistants are" is autocompleted as "Good bags" and "Great bag"

Contrary to popular belief, most TAs are actually human beings, and most of those are graduate students at the university.

2. TAs are only there for the money It’s true that TAs get paid to do their jobs (would you grade a few hundred papers for free?), and that often falls as part of their funding packages. But, most TAs are there teaching because they’re big ol’ nerds who love what they’re teaching!

Think of it this way: most of your TAs are graduate students, studying things in graduate school, at one of the best universities in the world. This means they are some of the most passionate students in the world about what they’re studying, and they probably really want you to study and love it too.

3. TAs know everything It would be great if TAs knew everything, but here’s a secret: they usually don’t. Many TAs are first year grad students, meaning that they haven’t taken many more classes than you might have. Some of them have never even taught before. The truth is, TAs don’t know everything, and are constantly worried about how to engage students in the classroom, how to answer questions they don’t know the answer to, and how to help students learn. They’re there to learn with you.

4. TAs are only there to teach and grade Nope! If you tuned in last week, you’ll recall that tutorials are supposed to be about engaging with material, not just learning even more. TAs are there to help foster your engagement with the material, and help build understanding: not to teach twice.

5. TAs don’t care whether you succeed Go back and read the last four myths getting busted: TAs are big ol’ nerds, who used to be undergraduates like you not so many years ago. If you ask anyone at the CTSI or the TATP, they’ll tell you that grad students are constantly asking questions about how they can improve their teaching skills, and how they can best help students to do better. TAs are not robots, they are not good bags: they are people who are passionate about teaching and about helping you.

So there you go: myths busted. Have any other myths to bust? Queries about TAs? Let me know. Until then, my thanks must go out to all those with the CTSI and TATP who let me pester them for this post and last week’s: Bethany Osborne (TATP Tutorials Training Coordinator), Megan Burnett (Assistant Director of CTSI/TATP), Michelle Majeed (TA; Course Instructor Training Coordinator), and Elliot Storm (TA; Microteaching Training Coordinator). See you next week!

*** Is your TA doing a great job? Consider nominating them for a TATP Teaching Excellence Award! Nominations open November 17th.

Have other questions about TAs, or myths you’d like busted? Let me know in the comments!

 

The Diner’s Club Experiment

After seeing my first post in writing, I felt I needed to get out more – out of my own head, out of my own room, and into the wider U of T community. It was no good to claim difficulties in meeting others and getting “out there” if I could instead develop solutions.

Having returned this year to U of T after a two-year absence, I observed that the biggest adjustment was eating by myself. I had the good fortune of two years of family dinners, so this was the most obvious difficulty. Now back at school, it has again become much easier to take food out in a takeout container – I thought I’d feel more isolated and look silly by being alone in a room full of people eating as groups, and I could catch up on CBC Radio or This American Life podcasts in my room. Practically speaking, takeout containers slung over one’s arm in a shopping bag are just easier to manage than a cafeteria tray. But the alone meal time made me feel worse; I knew something had to change.

Please don’t misunderstand me, U of T, I do have friends. But a couple of years away means that those closest to me in residence with me are long gone – having moved off-campus, graduated, or having left the city altogether .

So a solution to my loneliness problem became obvious: I couldn’t eat alone in my room anymore. This became a week-long experiment, the results of which I present to you now.

The first thing, in any experiment, is to lay out the hypothesis for that experiment. For me, it went something like: “I will feel more connected to my residence and to U of T in general if I eat in the cafeteria every day for a week.”

Then, all variables but one must be fixed, so that the researcher (me, in this case) knows how the changes in one variable alone affect the hypothesis without being affected by other variables. For me, the variables in question were as follows:

  • My residence building and room remained unchanged (I wasn’t going to live differently.)
  • The food would be the same (I wasn’t going to change how I ate.)
  • The staff would also be the same (this was obviously beyond my control, anyway.)
  • The environment in which I consumed it would be different (in our Hogwarts-esque dining hall rather than in my room.)

Great Hall of Christ Church College

The Great Hall of Christ Church College at the University of Oxford was replicated to create Hogwart’s Hall in the Harry Potter movies. [Image: Flickr | nathanaels (CC BY 2.0).

Having established my framework, I laid out some rules of engagement for myself.

  1. I didn’t necessarily have to eat with others if I couldn’t find them, but I did have to eat in the cafeteria for every meal.
  2. If given a takeout container (by awesome staff who remember my usual preferences) I had to eat in my residence common area.
  3. I could not have my phone with me when eating (what’s the point of eating in public if my mind was elsewhere? I’m also really afraid of damaging my phone with food.)
  4. I had to use a tray when ordering and carrying food.

The experiment itself was uneventful – I got food “for here” on a tray, and was often helped (very kindly) to a free seat by cafeteria staff. What surprised me was the almost instantaneous effects.

I felt more at home than I have all term, possibly my entire university experience. Something about eating on a real plate at a table with silverware, and not out of a cardboard container on my bed with plastic cutlery made me feel more welcome. I was never able to meet up with others to eat (I kept missing my new neighbours), but this didn’t bother me. I wasn’t joined by others, but I didn’t feel so alone. Perhaps because I chose this experiment: I wasn’t left alone by my peers, I was among them and alone voluntarily. Of course, I would have preferred company sometimes, but perhaps the thought that I was making more effort to be with my peers was comfort enough for now. Self-isolation due to fears of regressing back to a lonelier, more anxious incarnation of myself, and worries of looking weird eating alone kept me away, but a willingness to show up and be visible gave me confidence I could never have imagined.

Another interesting effect was how I ate. I didn’t wolf down food as though it were a necessary but inconvenient interruption in my day – I slowed down and took the time to enjoy my meals. I let my mind go blank. I confess that this often meant that I eavesdropped on my fellow diners. I have no shame in this: I figure if others people-watch, I’m entitled to entertainment of my own. ;)

There was only one uncomfortable moment when I sat down directly across from a group of friends. I felt I was too physically close not to be intruding on their lunch.

Overall, this experiment was a greater success than I could have ever imagined. I took it on doubtfully, but now am a full supporter of public, voluntarily solo eating.

The next logical step is to make more efforts to find people to eat with and reconnect with existing friends in Toronto. But I’m headed in the right direction towards socialization, however slowly I’m getting there.

Hi, My Name’s Sarah

the word hello and a smiley-facein a computer fontHi U of T! For my first post as the Arts & Science blogger, I wanted to introduce myself to my fellow students. But then it occurs to me how downright uncomfortable introductions to my own peers can be — especially online, which by nature, is a rather detached way to communicate.

It’s not ALL personal introductions I have difficulty with. I can go to a networking event in a room full of professionals (and strangers) and generally hold my own. I participate in class if I have something I think is worth saying. By nature of my disability, introducing myself to instructors and teaching assistants is a must — it’s my own peer group I have trouble with.

Here’s the thing: I don’t consider blindness a hindrance on a day-to-day basis: it can be an inconvenience at times, but it’s only one part of who I am. In the case of introducing myself to peers however, I feel it definitely holds me back.

How will I know, for instance, if the person I want to speak with (say, beside me in class, or in my residence common room) isn’t otherwise occupied? Perhaps they’re reading and haven’t turned a page yet, thereby giving an audible clue? Perhaps they’re on their phone or have earbuds in? Perhaps they’re looking the other way, or have smiled or given some other visual acknowledgement of my presence and further attempts to engage in conversation might be considered pushy or “trying too hard”?

Perhaps I have met them several times before but haven’t memorized their voice yet, so reintroducing myself would be incredibly awkward for all involved? (In a perfect world I’d ask them to identify themselves from the moment they said hi, but I still don’t know how to do that without feeling embarrassed). What if someone else joins us: how can they be brought into the conversation and introduced to everyone present without being weird? Worst of all, perhaps someone in a group’s gotten up and moved away, leaving me to talk to thin air? I have a bit of vision, but not enough to always know whether the dark blob that was a human near me a second ago is still there.

Of course, all of these concerns could happen with instructors, teaching assistants, or members of a professional networking event, too. But there’s something about these groups that makes me feel less judged than by students, a perception I can’t quite explain.

Perhaps it’s the notion that those “adults” – who may indeed not be much different in age than myself – will be less intimidated by a blind person and therefore more willing to talk to me. My lack of vision limits conversation topics, but in more professional situations this isn’t usually a problem. With students, however, since I can’t talk to someone about a picture on our phones, any clothing or accessory they have, or anything at all on Snapchat or Instagram, I feel awkward and behind the times. My conversation topics can be a bit more personal – a person’s program of study, the courses they’re taking and what they think of them, their commute, their interests, even their future aspirations. I understand this can be off-putting to some, and I fear I sound like some weird hybrid of a person’s mom, grandmother and social worker.

It is therefore with a great deal of hesitation that I seek out peers to meet. I’m not unfriendly – on the contrary I think I’m quite the opposite – but I usually let people come to me. Sure, I’ll say hi to classmates and neighbours, but I’ll hesitate to really get to know them. I let my fear they’ll think I’m “too much” rule my desire to make new friends and have company.

So, dearest U of T students and friends, I say hello to you now in writing, and will work harder to do it more in person. Maybe we’ll be friends, or study buddies, or maybe just see each other in class and leave it at that. Just do me one favour, okay? Identify yourself when you see me: “Hi Sarah, it’s Fred” gets you instant blind street cred; “Hi Sarah” alone (unless I really know you) doesn’t do much for me.

What do you think? Do you hesitate to meet new people? Or are you one of those master communicators who can talk to anyone? Let me know in the comments.

Finding A Little Balance

If you could only tell one story about yourself, what would you tell? Is your story long, or short? Deep, or lighthearted? How would you break the ice?

I’d start with an introduction: My name is Zach and I’m in my third year at U of T, in the undergraduate Public Policy and Governance program. I also minor in Aboriginal Studies and Russian Language, just to keep things interesting. I’m from Calgary and more used to mountains and meadows than I am to towers and transit. Some of my ancestors were Cree and Russian. These roots guide my story.

Pathways through the trees.

Sometimes you find yourself in need of a guide, and that’s actually a good thing (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

But I’d go beyond the basics. I’d include other parts of my life, to paint a better picture. In short, my story needs balance. Actually, my story is about balance.

I’ll start back in grade school. I think I’ve always had some mental balance. I always found time to work hard for my marks. Don’t get the wrong idea, I had time to goof around too. In class. In front of teachers. Oops.

Before grade twelve, I lacked physical balance. I’d get home from school and eat a whole pizza sub or two for a snack. I wasn’t a shining example of athleticism. But after recognizing this imbalance, it was easy to change my ways. Ok, not that easy. My calves burn just thinking about the exercise regimes. Finding the willpower to eat healthy was even harder. Thankfully, I dropped over eighty pounds. It’s great although I miss binging on chips and milkshakes.

Next, I landed in Toronto. Imagine you’re an alien visiting another alien world even crazier than where you’re from. Now you know how I, a small-town Albertan, felt in big, bustling Toronto.  After wobbling around in this immense place like a goofball for a year, I read the writing on the wall. I needed emotional balance. Over the second year, I dealt with every emotion known to man (and maybe some unknown ones as well) and came out on top. My goofball score dropped dramatically too. I think.

A view out over the Bow River Valley in the foothills of southern Alberta

My old view from my home in Alberta (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

Toronto's impressive skyline on a bright clear day, from 18 floors up in a tower

My new view from my Toronto apartment (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

Afterwards, I still lacked something. Maybe you’ve felt the same way like you need to complete your soul’s inner circle. Profound, right? I simply realized I needed spiritual balance. So I worked up some courage, embraced my heritage, and dove headfirst into Toronto’s Indigenous communities including U of T’s First Nations House. Engaging was easy and I received the warmest of welcomes.

The vines and trees just outside the First Nations House building

Just outside First Nations House (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

Mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual balance were vital for embracing my Indigeneity and finding my personal, academic, social, and spiritual center at U of T. I even enjoy my other interests more fully, like music and cooking. If I could only tell one story, I’d talk about balance to show my perspective. But luckily, I have much more to tell! I also like listening and I think we can have a great time storytelling together.

How balanced are you?

If you could only tell one story about yourself, what would you tell?

Looking straight upwards at the big blue sky, through foliage and campus buildings

Finding centre at U of T is not as hard as you’d think; you just need to know where to look (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

 

UTSU Clubs Day 2014

Hey there U of T! To all those participating in orientation week, I hope you’re having a blast getting to know your new home for the next four (or more) years. to everyone else, I hope you’re enjoying this last week of summer and gearing up for the new year!

DSCF4041

On Wednesday, UTSU held their annual clubs fair where each of U of T’s 250+ clubs get a table at Hart House Circle and give out information (and occasionally free stuff) to students. In case you missed the fair, or couldn’t fight your way to the front of a line to sign up for a cool club, Ulife has a directory of clubs right here.

Check out some pictures from the Clubs fair below!

clubs1

Hanging out at the Student Life booth! There was popcorn! And books with my face in them!

clubs2

So many clubs and student associations to join! I’m very excited to see the Importance of Being Earnest at Hart House this year and I salute the brave souls in the U of T bees club!

clubs3

So U of T, what clubs are you excited to get involved in? 

Last-Minute Orientation Week Events

As you walk around campus today, you will notice something profoundly different. Hoards of people dressed in the same colour shirts are walking around screaming and cheering. Campus buildings are dressed in their newest and brightest banners, advertising different events and programs. The once quaint study spots you occupied all summer have been over-taken with obstacle courses and mass barbecues. It’s officially Orientation Week here at the University of Toronto! 

Image via. http://utsu.ca/utsu-fest/

Source: http://utsu.ca/utsu-fest/

While it’s undeniable that Orientation Week brings a unqiue energy and sense of life to campus, not every first year feels the need to paint themselves purple with the engineers, or block traffic intersections with UC. That’s why U of T offers hundreds of different orientation opportunities, and even though the week has already begun there’s still great events you can sign up for.

Kickstart is one of the most unique opportunities you can sign up for here at U of T. It runs for two weeks from September 2nd until September 11th, but the schedule of events is entirely customizable to fit your wants and needs. Although you register for one week or the other (or both!) the idea is that you only attend the events that sound interesting and helpful to you.

Choosing Orientation Week events like...  via. www.andxthennn.tumblr.com

Choosing Orientation Week events like…
Source: http://andxthennn.tumblr.com

They offer things such as workshops that help you transition to university writing style, a panel of upper-years (including myself, Amie, and Api!) who can help answer some of your burning questions, and tours of Hart House and Robarts library. You can still register for kickstart at http://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/Student-Resources/Kickstart/

The Univerisity of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) is your next place for no-strings-attached Orientation Week events. They host a series of events to welcome you to campus and let you meet students from every college, faculty and campus of U of T. Their annual events, such as the Clubs Fair, Parade, and Street Fest are massive events that showcase all the unique opportunities U of T has to offer. To attend any of these events, you only have to be a University of Toronto student – no registration or commitment required!

Source: http://www.blogto.com

The UTSU Parade through St. George campus & downtown Toronto!  Source: http://www.blogto.com

So to all my Orientation-registration-procrastinating friends out there – there is still hope, and more importantly still time! Even if Orientation Week sounds like something you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, what’s the harm in taking a casual walk around Clubs Day day, or attending a FREE Tokyo Police Club concert? (There isn’t any – I promise!)

Put yourself out there this week and enjoy the energy of the campus. To see all of my Orientation Week adventures, make sure to follow me on twitter at @Rachael_UofT.

Orientation Week Survival Kit

Your expectations for your first year probably come from the stories of your family, your campus tour (if you were lucky enough to take one) and inevitably, the hundreds of Hollywood movies based around college life.

I’m here to tell you, as someone who only just experienced this 1 year ago, Hollywood does not prepare you for what orientation week is really going to be like. Neither do the stories of your older siblings or the posts on the “Accepted at U of T class of ____” Facebook page. That’s because the only person who can dictate what your orientation week is going to be like – is you!

Me during my frosh week last year with the people that would soon become my best friends!

Me during my frosh week last year with the people that would soon become my best friends!

Orientation Week at the University of Toronto (here at the St. George campus), is almost entirely customizable. There are multiple different options for every experience from the classic “ra-ra” cheering with your college or faculty, to one or two day seminars that help prepare you for the academic expectations of university. Check out all of these different options and more on the Start at U of T Orientation Calendar.

Regardless of the experience you choose for your Orientation Week, it’s going to be busy week. Between meeting new friends, running to different locations on campus, and trying to squeeze in as much as you can before class starts, here are a few things you should keep on hand. An Orientation Week Survival Kit of sorts;

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 1.46.01 PM

  1. A Backpack – on top of using this to carry around everything else you’ll need for the week, most events come with an endless supply of pamphlets, booklets and free swag. The last thing you want is to be carrying that around all day. Keep your hands-free and bring a backpack!

  2. A Water Bottle – one of the things I wish I had known about U of T before I came was that no where on campus sells bottled water! This environmentally friendly initiative means that having a reusable water bottle, that can be filled up at hundreds of places around campus, is a must.

  3. Flex Dollars – speaking of eating & drinking, trying to run off campus every time you want to eat is not always do-able. It’s also not necessary as U of T offers hundreds of different locations on campus where you can get everything from locally grown sustainable produce, to favourites like Pizza Pizza and Subway. Make things easy for yourself by purchasing some Flex Dollars on your TCard, so that you always have money to eat!

  4. TTC Tokens – that being said, there will be times when events are off campus! And while transportation is usually always provided, it’s good to have some TTC tokens in your pocket so that you always know you have a safe ride home.

  5. U of T Lanyard – remember the early 2000s when wearing a lanyard around your neck (with your one house key and tamagotchi attached) was so cool? Well I’m not saying lanyards are back in that sense but I will say that all of my friends in first year used a lanyard for their residence keys and their TCard. The U of T Bookstore sells special lanyards that house your TCard in a clear plastic sleeve for easy access!

  6. The U of T Map App – for anyone who hasn’t yet downloaded the U of T Map app, this is your new favourite tool for finding the location of events. Just type the location name into the app, and the map will show you were it is on campus! It also has features like where’s the closest ATM, or the closest Coffee shop.

So that is my Orientation Week Survival Kit! Just a few things to keep on hand to make sure you have an amazing, and safe, week!

Myself, and the rest of the Community Crew, will be on campus all week and we would love if you said hi! So no matter what Orientation option you choose make sure to share what you’re doing with me on twitter at Rachael_UofT.