Where is your phone right now? If you are like me, the answer is almost certainly face-up on the desk beside you, or in your pocket on vibrate. I keep my phone within arms length at all times.
Where is your phone right now? If you are like me, the answer is almost certainly face-up on the desk beside you, or in your pocket on vibrate. I keep my phone within arms length at all times.
If you’re like me, you probably have some go-to strategies for dealing with stress in your life. These may be coping skills or activities that help you slow down, relax, and take a break from life’s many pressures and expectations.
I like to call this my stress-busting toolbox.
It allows me to keep my stress under control, or under lock and key, if you will.
So the question is,
Why do I still experience stress sometimes?
Stress particularly shows up in my life as a delibitating pain in the pit of my stomach (colloquially referred to in my family as the “stress tummy”).
It’s familiar. It’s tangible. It’s unwelcome.
When I think about it, most of the stress that I experience can be traced back to the feeling that I’m not in control.
I feel in control when I feel my life is balanced. When that balance starts to slip, I feel myself starting to panic. My stress-busting tool box mysteriously goes missing. I stumble for one second, and my tummy is being attacked from every angle by stress.
When I am not stressed, I feel I can control my mealtimes, my study habits, and my self-care routines. However, these very things become challenging when stress builds, and often it feels like the stress itself comes out of nowhere.
Recently, I was studying under a tree on a beautiful autumn day when a piece of acorn landed in the fan of my brand new laptop. Unexpectedly, this caused my laptop to overheat, which led me to dramatically change my plans the next day to accommodate the necessary diagnostics and repairs.
WABAM! “Stress Tummy” Strikes Again
When these unplanned occurrences happen (often in combination with a loss of something, technology failing, or something breaking) I tend to quickly fall victim to the “stress tummy”.
Some of the remedies I have developed to help me deal with the “stress tummy” in my tool box are: the Magical Medicine of Movement, afternoon napping, drinking (caffeine-free) tea, and partaking in some mindful breathing exercises.
But I’ve noticed that sometimes it is not enough to be reactive. Sometimes I have to be proactive in preventing myself from the “stress tummy”.
Here are some of the ways I work to defend against the “stress tummy” from striking in the first place:
Paying attention to the things I can control
My dental hygiene
Waking up before the neighbourhood garbage truck wakes me up
Filling up my water bottle at the water bottle refill stations on campus
When I shift my focus to these small, seemingly trivial accomplishments I feel like I am in control of the going ons in my life. The idea is to celebrate the small victories, and allow the focus to shift to what is going RIGHT in my life (and there is always something if I think hard enough!) as opposed to what is NOT.
By giving myself permission to focus on the things that I can control, I can dramatically reduce the amount of stress I expose myself to.
Last but not not least, I try my very best to find joy in the spontaneous or the unplanned—the joyful, unscheduled solo dance parties that take place in my bedroom, for example.
Stress is def not invited.
Wishing you a stress-free week,
What does your stress-busting toolbox contain? Comment below!
Up until last Thursday, I don’t think I had ever actually seen a professor up close.
I mean, sure, I’ve sat front row in lecture or passed them while walking to class, but I am really bad at actually talking to my professors. I never bring my questions to them after class, or go to their office hours. I do all of these things with my TAs, but something about actually talking to a professor intimidates me.
I think that I’m always worried I’ll sound stupid, or that I won’t have anything worth occupying their time with. When in reality, my philosophy professor would probably actually enjoy discussing Plato with me. I mean, isn’t that kind of why you become a teacher? To teach.
So when I was invited to the UCLit Coffee with the Profs: A Panel Discussion on Poverty and Homelessness, I immediately thought no way!
What could I possibly bring to this discussion that one of the expert panelists couldn’t say better? Do I even know anything about poverty and homelessness in Toronto? Do I even know ANYTHING AT ALL?!!?!!
But doing things that are out of my comfort zone was one of my new school year resolutions, and has created most of my other content here on the blog. I survived all those other awkward situations, so why not this one?
Coffee with the Profs is a regular event held by the UCLit. Anyone can come, and each event has a different theme or topic. Some, like this one, are panel-style, while others are more of a social and networking event. The atmosphere is always casual – they order pizza and make a cozy corner of couches in the JCR – and there are UCLit reps scattered throughout the group to ask a question when things get awkward and silent.
The panel I attended was more of an informal round-table discussion than a panel, and included Professor Hulchanski from the Centre for Urban and Community studies, Poet Laureate George Elliot Clarke, and Jesse Surdigo from the Yonge Street Mission. Each guest brought a different perspective to the topic as they discussed questions such as; what is poverty, why is it so difficult to escape, and what can we be doing to help?
I found that although I didn’t have a wealth of knowledge on the subject, I was able to ask more specific questions about what was being discussed – rather than overarching philosophical ones. I actually ended up leaving the panel having formulated the beginning of my own opinion on the subject.
I overcame my fear of feeling inadequate in the presence of professors, and learned some new things in the process. I even engaged in a bit of twitter-talk with Professor Hulchanski after the panel!
If you’re nervous about talking to professors, I would definitely suggest hitting up one of these events! The informal setting makes it a lot easier to interact, or to just sit back and watch if that’s what you’re more comfortable with. I would also suggest going if you’re particularly interested in one of the topics, as it’s a great place to share your passion with other academics and students.
Congrats to the UClit on hosting such a great series of events! I can’t wait to see what topics you bring up next!
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to participate in an Aboriginal Peer Mentorship Program put on by OISE this semester and my first mentoring session happened this week.
OISE Elder-in-Residence Jacqui Lavalley and I went to visit a grade 11 Native Studies class in a Catholic School somewhere near the edge of the GTA. Jacqui is delightful, and we had a lot of fun travelling to and from the school. Jacqui gave a traditional opening ceremony to the presentation and also gave a wonderful teaching to the students. Next, I spoke about my educational journey as an Indigenous person, though there was not enough time to say as much as I wanted.
The students were great listeners and asked great questions and even gave us Tim Horton’s gift cards! I’d never been to a Catholic school before and I’d never encountered school uniforms before either so the trip was a great learning opportunity!
However, visiting a high school forced me to revisit some old feelings I haven’t encountered in a long time. Jacqui had mentioned that the tobacco tie I’d been given in the ceremony knew everything about me and that I could not hide anything from it. That’s an important fact and I finally realized I’d been hiding some emotions from myself ever since I left Cochrane High School.
Even before I left to go to the mentor session, I noticed myself falling into old trains of thought. I stood in front of a mirror and questioned my own appearance and physique because that’s what I was used to every day in high school. That can’t be healthy, right?
Many different feelings came back to me in a big rush. I remembered how hard it was being viciously judged by other kids for every little thing you did or said or wore. I remember how alone they all made me feel.
I also don’t drink or party and that left me excluded from 99% of social activities.
One of the students at the mentoring session asked me an amazing question: “How did you keep from caving in to the peer pressures?”
This question really helped me remember the good parts of high school. I remembered that I was proud that I wasn’t like those goofy peers of mine! I was proud of my accomplishments, my grades, my individuality, my interests, my heritage, my ability to say no to alcohol.
I learned to be proud because my parents always told me how proud they were of me. I can’t thank my parents enough for that support. When you are proud of yourself and you stay true to your heart, it doesn’t matter what a bunch of confused teenagers (or adults, for that matter) think of you!
It breaks my heart to think other students out there don’t have parents who will say they are proud. Everybody has plenty to be proud of, no matter what. Everyone is important.
After returning from the mentor session, I had an evening lecture in First Nations House for my Anishinaabemowin class. I remembered how proud I am to be in U of T, learning an Indigenous language and reconnecting with my community. I remembered how good it feels to walk into a place like First Nations House and have great conversations and laughs with real friends in a supportive environment.
I remembered how far I’ve come and how far you can come too.
Last week I attended the annual UFashion Spring Fashion show, held in co-ordination with the UClit and U of T Students for Wishes.
The event is put on every year by the student-run organization UFashion. It showcases different Toronto-based designers and stores, aiming to appeal to a variety of different styles and student budgets.
This year’s event was held at Fiction nightclub, and proceeds benefitted the Make a Wish Foundation. Tickets to the fashion show were $10 a piece, and included entrance to Fiction after the show was over.
Before attending the show I had never actually heard of UFashion before, so I didn’t know entirely what to expect. Creating fashionable looks that are not only locally accessible, but student-budget friendly, is difficult to say the least. Although I was excited for the experience of the show as a whole, I wasn’t holding out high hopes of seeing anything that I would “just have to have.”
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The looks were edgy, fashionable, and well put together. There wasn’t a linear catwalk, but instead models walked a path that wound throughout the entire club. The audience was sat on the large velvet couches, and the layout gave everyone a front row view.
The stores showcased included Toronto locals such as Over The Rainbow, Feroce, Parloque, Sauvage, and Original Penguin. It also however, featured an online store created by two University of Toronto students. Haakem Bajwa and Parham Chinikar created their clothing line Cabaret Vesture in the attempts to create pieces that they would wear on a daily basis. Instead of striving to achieve a certain aesthetic or style, they let their creativity guide them into making whatever pieces are inspiring them at the time.
I left the fashion show having had a wonderful night, but also fuelled by a new interest in this aspect of UofT life I didn’t know existed before. Almost at the end of my second year here, I still feel like I haven’t found something that I’m truly passionate about. With hundreds of clubs I never expected it would be this difficult.
However attending the UFashion event opened my eyes up to the world of UofT fashion, beauty, and style. It introduced me to an entire network of other students who share my passion for style, but who share many of the same student-related constraints.
If UFashion sounds like something you want to get involved with too, check out their blog www.ufashiontoronto.blogspot.ca, or like them on Facebook here. I’d love to get any suggestions of other beauty/fashion related clubs in the comments below, or hear your story of how you found your passion at U of T! Until next time, keep up to date with me on the other events I’m attending by following me on twitter at @Rachael_UofT.
Wow, this semester has flown by! I turned around twice and *poof*, February is almost over. University years are the fastest and wildest, after all.
What university students do is not easy. We have all taken some blows to make it through. That being said, I know from my experience that there is a tremendous amount of hope on this campus.
I always say it starts with your own balance. Work hard on your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self and you’ll find your university work will flourish, as well as your personal and extra-curricular life.
I’m in my third year, so I’m already starting to look at my next steps. This search reminds me of the big journey towards university which began in my late high school years. Those were crazy times! The decisions high-schoolers have to make are so big, and yet they are so young.
Choose the programs which best fulfill your passions! I could not work as hard as I do to fight for every single mark if I did not have an infallible connection to my interest areas. What I do is a part of me, and what you do should be a part of you too!
U of T also has a Transitional Year Program for university applicants who don’t have the full high school requirements and an Academic Bridging Program for applicants over 20 years of age. Miizwe Biik also offers a high school-level diploma program to help applicants get their GED!
The next key piece of the puzzle is the community you connect with. Always remember, you are not alone. First Nations House is a great place to start and from there I guarantee you will make many new friends, get academic support and connect with other Indigenous organizations on campus (ABS, IEN, SAGE, NSA, ALSA, UTSCISA to name a few) and beyond! There’s also a ton of excellent events put on by these groups year-round, so keep your eyes open!
FNH is even sending 2 Indigenous students for an exchange program atthe International Institute for Sustainable Studies in Belize this year!
I must also share a little secret which has helped me greatly. Here’s my special healthy, quick, and cheap recipe for rye biscuits whenever a tasty boost is needed!
My reading week was split into two tasks: (a) grading midterms for the class I TA, and (b) presenting at an conference in Michigan. I’ve been at UofT for five years, but this is my first year applying to conferences. Upon reflecting, I wish I had done so earlier, and I want to spend this blog post trying to convince you to at least consider applying to conferences (even if you don’t plan to continue into higher higher-education!).
Why apply to conferences? There are a few good reasons. First, it’s a great opportunity to get feedback on your work. A prof’s comments on an assignment can only go so far. Here, you can have a number of people providing important insights on your work that you might not have gotten otherwise. Second, it’s a great way to practice presentation skills. Whether you’re planning on staying in school, or going into the work force, presentation skills are valuable. Third, it’s a great way to network and meet people you may be studying or working with in the future. And finally, it’s a chance to explore new ideas from other people. (It also looks good on a resume or CV, if you’re into that sort of thing).
Am I good enough for a conference? Despite what you may think, you probably are! Firstly, conferences usually have more lax criteria than do journals, and are in part there to provide you with a platform for testing out your work in progress, as much as sharing it. Secondly, while you might want to apply to specific or big conferences (and there’s nobody stopping you!), there are a lot of undergraduate conferences out there dedicated to accepting only undergraduate work. So you can feel safer amongst your peers. Don’t think your GPA has any bearing on how you can perform at a conference, and know that it’s OKAY to present a not-so-perfect paper. That’s how we learn, and that’s how we improve.
What if I’m a poor public speaker? That’s okay too! Most of these conferences are great learning experiences for speaking practice, but you should also note that many conference speakers (even professionals) will read off their pages or prompts, as much as they’d like to do otherwise. Nobody has high expectations of speakers in reality. Don’t put yourself down and out of the count: you can take this as an opportunity to improve!
Can I afford it? UofT likes to brag about it’s accomplished researchers and to facilitate thinking, even in its undergraduates: there are many resources available. Most colleges and departments have some travel funds to help with the cost of travel and lodging, and some of the conferences themselves might have some assistance available on request. If you’re a full time arts & sciences student, you can also apply for travel support from the Arts and Sciences Student’s Union. Finally, you can often skip the hotel fees for another student’s couch.
How do I find a conference for me? UofT holds a number of undergraduate conferences run by student clubs and course unions: try asking around! Beyond that, some disciplines have websites specifically for collecting CFPs (Calls For Papers) and CFAs (Calls For Abstracts) where you can find out. I’ve even found Facebook groups dedicated to sharing conference calls within subdisciplines. But, if you’re in doubt, you might want to try asking your department’s undergraduate coordinator or your professors: they’re also often in the know.
That’s it for me trying to convince you. Maybe in upcoming weeks I’ll talk about the actual process: it can be nerve-wracking I know. But hopefully you’re at least thinking about the option.
“Teamwork makes the dream work”, or so I’ve been told. Some people might be inclined to respond that “Group work makes the nightmare work”. It’s a scary form of assessment which universities seem to be falling increasingly in love with. From an outsider glance, it’s easy to see why: future researchers need to be able to collaborate with people who have different knowledge than do they in order to continue advancing our understandings of the world, and anyone working or living in the world today needs to develop interpersonal and teamwork skills to survive.
Both in the real world and in the university, group work poses a few risks: someone might coast along with the team just to take credit, people might take control of the group, and duties might not be distributed fairly, among other things. In the classroom, there’s the added weight that your grade usually depends on working with other people. It’s a scary trial that many people will have to confront before they graduate.
Yet, despite so many students harping on group work at UofT and around the globe, a google search for how to make university group work actually work shows almost no results: mostly just resources for teachers trying to make group work worthwhile. But what about us students? Where are the guides for making group work work? Good question. It will depend on the kind of group work assigned and the discipline it’s for. But I think there are some answers on a broader interpretation. Continue reading:
1. Introduce yourself. Even in small classrooms, it’s very easy not to know the people around you. It will be a lot easier to work with people if you know their names, and it helps to break the ice. Even if your group work is only going to last ten minutes, it only takes a few seconds to introduce yourself.
2. Exchange the best contact information. A lot of students feel obliged to give out their utoronto email accounts, even though a lot of them don’t use their accounts too frequently. This makes it hard to keep touch. Go ahead and share your sk8r_h8r1998 hotmail account if it’s what you use most. Or, try Facebook groups or third party applications. Whatever is going to keep your team in touch.
3. Don’t be too modest. Everybody has their own skills. A team works best when it’s using everybody’s skills together. If you’re good at presenting, let them know. If you have great research skills, great! If you have strong penmanship, well you’re likely a total keeper. It will make assigning any jobs easier, and will make it easier for you to do your part when you’re already good at it!
4. Break out but don’t break up. It’s easier to work on projects in smaller groups and way easier to schedule! (Not to mention, may be helpful with productivity). But be careful that you don’t wander too far: your break out groups should stay accountable to your whole group. I can only tell you what happens when the people supposed to do section X disappear on presentation day, and nobody knows what their part was.
5. Get [a] stranger. If you have the option to pick your own groups, consider bringing in a stranger. It can be comfortable to study and work with the people you know, but (a) it also means conflicts can be even worse, and (b) some studies show that bringing new people into a group setting improves the creativity and productivity of the group. Who knows what your peers have in store for you!
Have any other tips for surviving group work? Let me know in the comments!
Over the last year and a half at U of T I think it’s safe to assume that I have received 1000+ emails to my school email address. While a lot of these did contain valuable information about courses, midterms, and social events, a lot of them didn’t. They were invitations to extra curricular events, newsletters, and classmates asking for lecture notes.
So it’s no surprise that I’ve developed a bit of a bad habit of filing these emails away, out of my inbox, into a U of T folder.
However, January was #TryItUofT month here on the Life@UofT blog – and in the spirit of trying something new I decided to open one of these emails and go along with whatever was inside. This ended up being the b2B History Mentorship Dinner.
b2B, or backpack to Briefcase, is a program here at U of T that aims to help U of T students bridge the connection between their education and their future profession. The program hosts a variety of events such as panels, workshops, and alumni events such as the one I attended.
The b2B History Mentorship Dinner was designed to connect students at U of T currently studying history, with alumni in a variety of different professions. The aim was to show how versatile a degree such as history can actually be. The alumni that attended ranged in profession from an Investment Banker at RBC, to a professor here at U of T.
The dinner was held at the beautiful Faculty Club here on campus, and the alumni were dispersed evenly throughout the students. As the night and meal went on, the alumni were encouraged to change seats and interact with as many of the students as possible. By the end of the night, I had spoken with almost everyone in the room.
Going into the event I didn’t know what I wanted out of the experience. I knew it was a great opportunity to network – but I was unsure about how willing the alumni would be to connect with a mere second year. However, this was far from the case.
The alumni engaged each and every student genuinely, giving pieces of advice and sharing their own stories. I received business cards and was encouraged to send Linked-In invitations to maintain contact after the dinner was over.
The atmosphere of the dinner made me feel immediately comfortable, and the ratio of alumni to students was almost 1 on 1, meaning there was no competing for attention. Most of the alumni in attendance were aware of who they had already talked to, and took it upon themselves to ensure they had spoken with every student in the room.
Overall the experience was more than I could have even hoped for it to be. The food was delicious, the conversations were genuine – and more than anything I left the dinner with a sense of hope and reassurance. It was so refreshing to feel as if these people, who had only met you hours earlier, had a sense of confidence in you. They acknowledged your struggles, and yet didn’t allow them to validate your fear of failure. They had all been there before, and they had made it through.
I would strongly encourage anyone who is debating going to a b2B event to do it. While you may swear that it won’t be valuable to you, you might be surprised by what you get out of it. For more information on the b2B program check out this webpage, or just loosen up on your email filing!
Welcome back, and welcome forward: into a new year! 2015 brings many things; not the least of which is that Marty McFly should be showing up (along with some sweet kicks), and not the most of which is that I get to be a Teaching Assistant (TA) for a biomedical ethics course in Scarborough. But, as everyone who’s ever seen a superhero movie likes to note: with great power (laces) comes great responsibility. Or, something like that.
So this year, for the first time in many years, I’ve put myself to the task of making a few New Year’s resolutions. Some of them, with particular regard in mind for my roles and responsibilities as a TA. I thought I’d share some of them here, so that you can all hold me accountable.
1. Stop trying to understand people through my own experiences, and just listen more. By trying to understand others through my own experiences, I risk misunderstanding them or diminishing their own experiences. It’s hard to fully understand something completely new when you’re actively trying to relate it to old knowledge. My goal is to be less preoccupied with trying to understand others, and turn to focus more on hearing what they have to say. I think this is especially important in a diverse classroom where students may be coming from all sorts of backgrounds. The goal is not to talk over students, nor to constantly try to reframe their statements (“So, are you trying to say something like…?”), but rather to create a listening space where everyone is safe to speak and welcome to be heard.
2. Try best to assume that people doing or saying harmful things don’t know any better. The course I’m the TA for covers a lot of sensitive topics, and it’s easy to accidentally say a good idea in the wrong way, and to unknowingly end up hurting others. While I will be doing my best to keep my classrooms a safe space, I want to also keep in mind that people don’t always know when they’re being harmful: I certainly don’t! And it can be difficult to be confronted with the fact that you’ve done something wrong; especially when you have no idea you’d done so. My goal is to keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes, and to avoid making people feel bad or victimized for actions when they might not know any better.
3. Stop caring about other people’s grammar. This is a pretty tough one for me. I’ve done my fair share of correcting people’s grammar. In part, probably because I have difficulty understanding people some times, and in part because I just find that it’s sort of a fun puzzle-solving activity. But to be able to worry about grammar is rather privileged of me, and to call people out on their grammar can be really insensitive. Toronto is a big city with people from all over the world and a vast spectrum of individual backgrounds. It’s really unfair to expect people to have perfect grammar. Aside from when I’m grading papers (when it’s my job to care!), my goal is to care less about other people’s grammar or spelling. Just like with my other resolutions, I want to focus more on caring what other people have to say more than how they say it.
What about you? Have any New Year’s resolutions
you’re trying out? Let me know in the comments below!