Legacy

We made it! April has finally arrived! I just survived three essays and four exams all in the last two weeks and I don’t even want to know what percentage of my final grade all those tests and assignments were worth.

“Good thing I just had three final exams in the last three days, now my final exams can actually begin.” Unfortunately, this is not an April Fools joke.

Looking out my apartment window south down Bay Street. It's morning, but very dark and cloudy, with all the buildings lit up like night time. Weird.

At the first dawn of this week of exams, this is what my world looked like (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Seeing as how April has arrived, this will be the last First Nations House blog for the 2014-2015 school year! Can you believe it? This has been the fastest, craziest, most exciting and ridiculous year of my life and I’m honored to have been able to share my experiences with you.

Last week, I attended a Ulead workshop which focused on legacy and transition in leadership. I had a great time and I really enjoyed all the people who attended and who facilitated the workshop. The topic of legacy was very intriguing and makes me think of what legacy I hope to leave with the First Nations House blog this year.

First, I’ll take some time to reflect on where I was when I started last September, and where I am now. Or rather, who I am now.

In September 2014, I had never written a blog before. I was also still new to the WordPress program. In September, I had never been to 98% of the events I went to this year either. I had only barely started learning Cree, and had never spoken or written a word in Anishnaabemowin. I had never been a co-chair in an Indigenous student association before either.

In September 2014, I had never given an on-air interview at a radio station before, and I had never had an Indian Taco from the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. I never made a snow-Zach on campus before, and I had never shared my secret rye biscuit recipe.

A quaint little office with a big Hart House wooden door, a window looking into the Map Room, an old-school telephone, my coffee, and my laptop with what looks like Russian homework in progress.

A view of what it’s like to work in the CIUT 89.5 FM reception desk in Hart House (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A side view of the on-air booth for CIUT 89.5 FM in the Map Room, with all the microphones, gadgets, and even the big fancy fireplace

Another glimpse into the world of CIUT 89.5 FM (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I had never mentored a Toronto Catholic high school class from an Indigenous perspective, and I had never really publicly talked or written about much of my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual journey. I had never made so many friends and spent so much time in one place like First Nations House. I had never felt so comfortable with who I am and I had never felt like I had a home away from home on this campus.

I also had never told the story of my cactus, Jose!

An awesome pointy weird green cactus in a square purple pot, with epic party sunglasses of course

Cactus Update: I have a new cactus, and this one is like my Dad’s cactus back home whom he calls Spike. So say hello to Spike Jr.! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Now, because of First Nations House, the people I met there and the balance I have found within, all of this has changed. I can honestly say I am a better student and a better man because of First Nations House and this blog. For that I am grateful.

The primary message I wished to send this year is the importance of balance in university life. Take care of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual self and I guarantee you will find a pathway through U of T into your life beyond.

I have also learned from my time in First Nations House this year what community and leadership truly means. Community means inclusivity. People from all backgrounds and walks of life have important experiences and talents to share, and should always be welcomed into the circle.

The round building on the west end of University College, with it's fancy stonework lit up in marvellous deep blue

Circles are the best, even in architecture. Always keep your circle open, just like UC, which was lit up in blue on April 2nd for World Autism Awareness Day! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Leadership means respecting that circle and everyone in it. Leadership means taking all perspectives into account, and recognizing the effects of the group’s actions on others. Leadership means responsibility, accountability, transparency, and building balanced relationships which are mutually beneficial to all those who are involved.

Leaders cannot be followers and have the right and responsibility to protect their circle even from imbalances within the circle. When the circle is broken, true leaders stand up to defend the circle and the pursuit of balance. Sometimes, standing up for the sake of a balanced circle means leaving a broken circle behind and moving forward towards a better future.

Leadership means always striving to find and protect the circle though finding that circle can be a long journey. But once you find your circle and community, I can honestly say the long journey is worth every moment and every single step.

Looking up from the base of the big centre tower of University College, lit up in blue, looking spectacular

I remember way back in June 2012, when the first picture of me at U of T was taken right here in front of UC, in the middle of the night. I took this picture three years later, after my last lecture of the 2014-2015 school year. It took many steps to get here, and what a journey it’s been so far! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Finally, I can talk about legacy. It is my greatest hope that my blogging this year leaves a legacy which empowers you to engage with U of T and First Nations House and to balance your university life and a legacy which shines a light when there is only darkness on the path ahead. Be brave and be yourself. There is always hope and there is always a path worth exploring.

Looking at University College, with an incredibly bright blue street lamp in the foreground, in the middle of a dark night.

I know the future can look dark and clouded sometimes, so I hope I have been able to shine a light for you (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I’m not very good at goodbyes, I’ll admit. Writing this last sentence may or may not have made me a bit teary-eyed!

So for now I’ll just say niawen:gowa, mii-kwec, спасибо, and thanks!

Finding #JoyAtUofT andThe Magic of 21 Sussex

This past Monday, I was in our Juxtaposition Global Health Magazine office at the Clubhouse (also known as 21 Sussex) for our weekly office hours. I was swamped with work, but the prospect of free pizza was enough to convince me to attend a Clubhouse meeting for all the student leaders of groups who have offices in 21 Sussex. Although I’m an active member of Juxtaposition, I had never attended one of these meetings and I didn’t know what to expect, but I got a renewed perspective on 21 Sussex, which I wanted to share with you all!

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.50.43 PM

Some of the many services at 21 Sussex!

Community Engagement using the Clubhouse

When I first became acquainted with the Juxtaposition office, it just seemed like a nice area to chill out, and a place to store our group’s assets (as a print publication, we have A LOT of magazines in our office). As I started spending more time there, it became a second home.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 1.00.37 PM

Some of the many awesome things we have in our office!

After the meeting I realized it’s more than just OUR sanctuary. The clubhouse is available to the U of T community for a reason! The October open house was just one of the many ways that 21 Sussex promote community involvement and engagement.

Photo of the 21 Sussex clubhouse

Conveniently located right by Robarts!

You know how professors sometimes joke about being lonely during their office hours, since very little students actually come out? It’s a similar situation with our club’s office. The office hours are a great way to learn more about the club, what they do and how their membership works! I didn’t even know that the clubs held office hours, until I actually had to host them.

The roughly 700 clubs here at U of T can be difficult to navigate and learn about. Thankfully, ULife and UTSU have club directories, and there are countless ways to connect via social media. But, the 50 or so clubs at 21 Sussex got the privilege of office space. So maybe you want to see what Juxtaposition has in the works for the rest of the year. Or you want to find out how to go about writing for the Varsity. Or maybe you want to grab free condoms from the Sexual, Gender and Diversity office. Whatever it may be, stop by and say hi!  At the absolute least, you’ll make a new friend J.

(Did I mention our office has coffee and snacks?)

So #TryItUofT, and let me know how it goes down in the comments or on Twitter at Api_UofT!

Find Your Love

Hello friends! Reading Week has come to an end, but I hope everyone had a productive and/or fun week to catch up and/or relax!

As much as I would like to talk about my own Reading Week for this post, there are only so many words I can use to describe “Slept for 8+ hours a day, not including naps.”  For some fun Reading Week shenanigans definitely check out what Amie, Rachael and Ondiek have been up to.

The first day of Reading Week was a holiday that many people have very strong opinions about: VALENTINE’S DAY!

Picture of Api with animated hearts floating around her head

Love is in the air!

Unfortunately my Valentine’s Day plans weren’t as great as I’d hoped, so for this week’s post, I am going to switch it up and share my feelings through an open letter to my (former) Valentine:

Dear Netflix,

To be honest, I’ve never been into extravagant plans on Valentine ’s Day, but I’ve never been one to think of this holiday as a corporate, over-commercialized, capitalist holiday either. What I do like is the idea behind it. Celebrating love.

We both know that Valentine’s Day is not just about loving significant others but also about loving everyone in our lives. But, I feel like I don’t have the time to love. Because of you Netflix, I feel smothered. I feel like you’re taking over my life. I want to love other things. I want to love my studies, my student groups, and my job. I want my life back. I want to explore my own interests, not just what YOU recommend.

Picture of Netflix default user face. Green Square with 2 dots for eyes and a line for smile.

Just when I think I’m out, that face pulls me back in.

I think it’s time for us to see other people. It’s not you, it’s me.

Xoxox. Sincerely,

Api

I’m not going to go too much into my terrible relationship with Netflix. It had its flaws, but in hindsight, the relationship had a lot of great parts too. We had a good run, but it’s time to find new things to fall in love with. In my first year it was a program. Sometimes it was a job. This year, it was a conference. There’s still so much more to explore. The journey ends here for Netflix, because it was holding me back from doing what I truly wanted (like being productive), but it’s just the beginning of a whole new journey!

It’s all about finding the things that you love. Isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about? So I know I’m going to listen to Drake’s advice. Try to get out there and FIND YOUR LOVE.

Let me know what you’re finding down in the comments or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

Ice and Events: Reading Week 2015

This is the first Reading Week I’ve spent in Toronto. In both my first two years I flew home to see my parents and my Alberta friends. Last year, Reading Week actually turned out to be more stressful than helpful. I’m making sure this year goes much better!

A wet snowy day, looking down one of the colourful crazy streets of Kensington Market

I think this is from right before reading week 2014, in Kensington Market (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Many of my friends headed home for at least part of this break though. They are lucky ducks! If you live close to Toronto, the travelling might be easier and more restful especially at the height of the winter. I’ve heard some testimony from just outside the city about big snow and even bigger highway jams. I wouldn’t like to be on the road for too long in weather like this!

Looking forward form the passenger seat in a truck, with almost no visibility from all the snow

An Albertan winter highway (Photo by Zachary Biech)

There’s so many ways to spend a week off. Plenty of events take place right after reading week too so we can keep ourselves entertained. On Valentine’s Day, for instance, I volunteered at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto’s craft sale. What a blast! It was great fun with lots of good crafts, good food, and good conversation.

I was also lucky enough to get invited to a birthday party at Nathan Phillips Square. We skated for a couple of hours out in the cold and had hot chocolate (with nutmeg and cinnamon I think) to keep us warm. Skating on good outdoor ice is always a great idea and I highly recommend it. I’ve only skated once per year at U of T so I suggest going more often!

http://physical.utoronto.ca/docs/drop-in-programs-schedules-fees-forms/february-2015-drop-in-skating.pdf?sfvrsn=0

http://nathanphillipssquareskaterentals.com

Me, on skates, out in the middle of the Varsity skating rink

This is me at the Varsity Arena sometime during the 2013-2014 school year (Photo by Heejung Jung)

I have a very interesting assignment due in March for one of my Aboriginal Studies courses. I have to write an essay about an Indigenous event in Toronto and I need to focus on the spiritual aspects of the experience. What a cool class eh? What other department would be nice enough to give us marks for connecting with Toronto’s Indigenous community?

I’m really excited for this project. There are plenty of events coming up that would be perfect for the essay. Next week, First Nations House is hosting a teaching by Elder Andrew Wesley on February 26th about traditional Omushkego Cree Walking Out Ceremonies. It’s a special topic focused on children’s first steps! I can’t wait to check it out. Listening to Andrew is always incredibly enlightening.

Anishnawbe Health is also having a youth Sweat Lodge on February 25th and you can request an invitation to their Sweat Lodge at any time. If you’ve never gone to a Sweat Lodge before, don’t be afraid to check one out!

http://www.aht.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2015/02/25/458/83|93|94|96|97/youth-sweat?Itemid=1

Early March also has plenty of events coming up. The Aboriginal Students’ Association at York University is hosting their 13th Annual All Nations Pow Wow, which also will include movie screenings and a big gala! It’ll be awesome. I haven’t been to a pow wow in a long time so this event is really enticing despite it’s distance from downtown.

What event should I go to? Should I just go to them all so I don’t have to decide?

Fun in the Snow

Sometimes, you don’t need a reason to have a little fun.

You are in for a treat this week! I was really happy with my completion of four midterms and an essay in my first month back from the holiday so I decided to make Snow Zachs once a day this week in random places across campus!

From my point of view while lying in the snow, looking at the main University College building

Monday: My first attempt, on Front Campus (Photo by Zachary Biech)

There’s so much snow! I love the frosty atmosphere. Where I’m from, big winter snows are a regular part of life (it’s also snowed in every single month of the year in southern Alberta, I’m not kidding) so it’s no wonder I am delighted by this weather.

My perspective, lying in the snow in Queen's Park, looking towards the university buildings through the trees with a low afternoon sun in the background

Tuesday: Snow Zach relaxing in Queen’s Park! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A perfect snow angel in deep snow in the middle of Queen's Park

Leaving my Mark on Queen’s Park (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Many students disagree with my affection for the winter as many are accustomed to warmer climates. Many students had never seen snow before coming here and seemed a little confused when the big storms blanketed the city.

My feet, lying in the snow, looking at an odd statue in a park behind the residences of Saint Michael's College

Wednesday: Snow Zach sighted at St. Michael’s College! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Though I can understand the lack of appreciation for the snow, what worries me more is people’s lack of appreciation for fun during this time of year. January and February are always painted as the hardest, nastiest and busiest months during which people are the most miserable.

from my perspective while lying in the snow, looking at the obelisk frames in the grass plot in front of Hart House

Thursday: Good spot for a Snow Zach right in front of Hart House (Photo by Zachary Biech)

This un-fun mindset probably explains the strange experiences I had making the Snow Zachs. The first thing that confused me was the fact that nobody had many any yet. There was so much snow all over campus with so many good places for snow angels and yet nobody made any. What was the reason for this?

My perspective lying in the snow in the shade, next to Sidney Smith Hall looking towards the New College Buildings to the west lit by morning sunlight

Friday: There’s always room for one last Snow Zach, even right next to Sidney Smith Hall! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

While I was making each Snow Zach, I think I discovered the reason. People are scared to have fun in public here. It’s no wonder; you should have seen some of the strange looks people gave me as they saw me lying in the snow! “Look at this hooligan!” they said with their eyes, “he should be in class, miserable like the rest of us!” It felt like I was offending people with my happiness.

It’s never really been my style to follow those kinds of rules. People have been giving me strange looks for years because of every little thing I do or wear or say. Even when I smile, people are surprised because they are not used to being around positivity. It’s tragic. But I will not stop having fun and being myself just because uptight people don’t think I’m uptight enough!

I was telling somebody about making the Snow Zachs and they looked a bit confused. “Why are you making those, what’s the reason or purpose?” My immediate response was, “sometimes, you don’t need a reason to have a little fun.”

My shaded snow angel next to Sidney Smith, looking towards Saint George Street

Friday was definitely the coldest day for making Snow Zachs, and my hands were almost too frozen to take pictures (Photo by Zachary Biech

Zach’s got your back! I know it can take a lot of courage to have fun when the hustle and bustle surrounds you, but I and people like me are all over this campus, waiting to share our courage and joy with you! First Nations House is a great place to surround yourself with this positive atmosphere and it provides the all the balancing effects of community and friendship. So be happy! Be yourself!

The only permission you need is your own.

Looking down at the head of my Snow Zach, at a little smiley face I drew with my frozen finger

A little joy at U of T (Photo by Zachary Biech)

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway: Winter Commutes to U of T

Back in the summer, I wrote about surviving the summer heat while being a commuter. Rachael’s covered the campus winter life hacks, but in light of the recent snowmageddon that was unleashed upon the city (possibly a mild exaggeration), I knew it was time for: The commuter’s edition of surviving the winter!

Picture of Robart's library

If this majestic bird can tolerate winter, so can you.

1. Stay warm!

If I’m being honest, I’ve been that person who didn’t wear a hat because I didn’t want to mess up my cute hairdo. No one likes dealing with the bulkiness of winter clothing, especially if you’re alternating from bus to train to sidewalk during a commute. I try to look for items that keep me warm without all the bulk. Fleece-lined gloves, earmuffs, headbands, and even better insulated shoes and jackets have helped me stay warm without looking like the Michelin man (and they even keep me warm without messing up my hair!!)

2. Transit will be a mess. Accept it. Embrace it. Prepare for it.

I’ll admit, I get irrationally angry when the train gets delayed during storms, or when streetcars aren’t in service because of snow, but I know it’s impossible for transit systems to anticipate and prepare for everything that comes along with crazy winter weather. Staying updated, leaving early, dressing warmly and having a game or book as a distraction are all things that keep my spirits a little higher during delays. This handy TTC updates Twitter and the GO Mobile app have (relatively) up-to-the-minute information. I also have a tactic of leaving around times that the subway won’t have as much people. Pro-tip: Half past the hour is usually the least crowded time at the stations near campus because classes tend to finish on the hour!

3. Stay Safe!

If you’re able to, stay home! Poor visibility, slippery roads and just an overall mess of wetness make for pretty treacherous commutes already. Combine that with the generally bad traffic downtown and it creates pretty dangerous conditions. I’ve been caught driving in some pretty terrible storms and I can confirm that it’s difficult enough to see the car in front of me, let alone the people walking around them. I’ve emailed professors or TA’s and they’ve generally understood the situation, and thus the self-declared snow day was born.

Bonus: ENJOY!

It’s easy to get frustrated during cold, harsh winters, but it does have its upside. Imagine walking through the fresh snow on St George St. Possibly stepping out onto King’s College Circle and seeing the skyline blurred by the snow.

Picture of King's college circle with blurred CN tower in the background  Perhaps the upside could even be a U OF T SNOW BATTLE?

picture of students throwing snow with University College in the Background

If this isn’t a good enough reason to love winter, I don’t know what is! Picture via Life at U of T Facebook page.

So tell me U of T, how do you cope with commuting in the winter?

Storytellers

Storytelling is very powerful. Stories can hold all the experiences of a person’s life and the lives of their ancestors, even if the stories are short and specific. Stories also evolve the more times they are told and listened to.

A beige cloth coaster with turquoise, rusty red, and black imagery of a turtle

There are many teachings and stories even in this small picture, though it can take a lifetime to learn them all! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I try to tell stories all the time. The key word there is try. I rarely get all the messages across the way I want to but I think everybody feels this way at some point. We all have so much to share!

Lee Maracle, who is a traditional teacher at First Nations House, is also a Grandmother of storytelling. Her experiences and activities cover a huge range and span from all across the country! She is a great authority on Indigenous literature and has written in many different forms: fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. She also speaks with this authority and she has recently released another book called Celia’s Song.

http://anishinabeknews.ca/2014/12/22/celias-song-brings-colonialism-to-life/

Lee is around to meet with you on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

Teaching is a key function of stories. Indigenous Education Week in Toronto this year exemplifies this relationship and the city is buzzing with many excellent activities based on Indigenous learning and teaching systems. First Nations House has events every day from Feb. 2-6.

I couldn’t get the poster the load properly, so check out the First Nations House Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/First-Nations-House-University-of-Toronto/8295583041?fref=nf

A very snowy day, with grey skies and heavy snowfall, looking across a white and fluffy Queen's Park to the west, at some of the old red brick houses of St. Michaels College, and the grey towers beyond

There is so much to learn, and so many stories to hear in every corner of U of T (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I’m really excited because this will be a new experience for me and I hope to learn a lot from all those willing to share. Mainstream education systems can be quite dry so these new teachings will help bring some life back into learning!

http://www.blogto.com/city/2015/01/a_guide_to_indigenous_toronto/

On Tuesday February the 3rd, I’ll be going to an Anishnaabemowin poetry reading at the Multi-Faith Centre. Poetry is a mystery to me mostly but the words in songs and poems are still powerful stories. I’m even learning the power of such words in my Russian language class where we’ve been reciting and learning the beauty held within Russian poeticism and novels.

A poem in Russian cyrillic letters, hardly sensible even when translated to English

This is a poem by Sergei Esenin (he wrote it in his own blood, freaky right?) (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I just read that last sentence to myself, and I think I must sound a little too poetic for my own good! The only poetry I’ve ever written was, well, never. To be honest, I’m finding that I barely even know the English language, and I’m getting worse at it as I learn more Anishnaabemowin and Russian!

Looking up at the southwest corner of University College, with it's old grey stones and shingles covered in fresh snow on this cloudy snowy day

So many stories have been born in the old UC building, including some of mine! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

It’s always worth the extra effort spent on getting ahead with schoolwork so we can experience more later on. I’m trying my best to get everything caught up this week so I can spend some time relaxing and learning during Indigenous Education Week. Relaxation is especially important this time of year, as the cold can be hard on us and I’m finding school to be very busy. January was intense enough, but February will be even more ridiculous! Stay strong and be resilient now through the hard work and tough times, and you will have a bigger life in the long run, with more experiences and better stories to share.

A snowy Soldier's Tower on a Snowy Day

Soldier’s Tower also has many stories within it’s coloured glass window (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A Beginners Guide to (almost, kind of) Surviving Statistics

Throughout all the trials and tribulations of university, whether it be cramming for 5 midterms in one week, or starting a 3000 word essay the night before, there is only one thing that actually, genuinely terrifies me:

Statistics. 

picture of Api with a face palm

Stats = eternal face palm :(

Unfortunately, the introductory statistics courses are required for my major. Of all my courses, it’s the one lecture that I don’t find interesting and engaging. To me, it’s like statistics has become the lone MySpace page in a sea of artfully crafted Facebook profiles.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always found understanding statistics difficult. Maybe it all the “analysis” or whatever that’s involved, but my brain does not work that way. In the summer, I managed to get through the first introductory statistics course here at U of T (STA220, PSY201 or their equivalents) but I had a very specific system that made getting through the course a little bit easier.

I thought I would be done with statistics, but my best friend the Course Calendar kindly informed me that I still needed another half credit.

Api looking disconcerted

Statistics. Honestly.

There I was, once again terrified of numbers, so I knew it was time to refer back to my statistics game plan. I’ve also met many classmates who share the same anxious feelings towards to statistics, so hopefully this helps not just me, but everyone who’s tackling the course this semester (and in semesters to come)!

API’S POSSIBLY FOOLPROOF STATS GAME PLAN

1. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE

I remember on the first day of my first statistics my professor telling the class that we had to constantly do practice questions to keep up, and I’m not going to lie: I scoffed. DO THEY UNDERESTIMATE MY ABILITY TO SUCCESSFULLY CRAM INFORMATION INTO MY HEAD THE NIGHT BEFORE? No. No they did not. It took me a full three-day library session at Robart’s to actually catch up with the small amount of material I nonchalantly didn’t do.

2. There’s a Statistics Aid Center!!! 

It didn’t know about the Statistics Aid Centre until after I took statistics, dropped the course and then finally buckled down and took it the second time. They have people on hand to help you and it’s an amazing resource to make use of!

3. Finding statistics software 

My stats course included assignments and homework that were done on statistical software, and I found out that Robart’s Library has computers with statistical software installed on them! There’s also a computer lab at Sidney Smith with computers as well! I designated a weekly time to use the computer labs, so not only was I saving money on purchasing the software, I was also making myself have at least a few hours of stats practice each week.

Api giving a thumbs up

GOD SPEED, MY FRIENDS

So there you have it folks. That was my statistics game plan, and I’m hoping it’s going to work again this semester. Good luck everyone!

If you have any other tips, let me know down in the comments or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

Congratulations and Celebrations

In one of my favourite classes here at U of T, we learned about something called reflective practice. It’s essentially the process of looking back and learning from our experiences. Now that we’re smack in the middle of finals, I’ve been having those “when will we ever actually use this in real life” rants. To keep my morale up I’ve decided to actually apply what I learned in school (!!!!) and be reflective about 2014! How fitting considering this is my last blog post of 2014!

I’ve had the busiest but most rewarding summer of my life, working three jobs while doing summer school. I was a more active part of the extracurricular scene at U of T, joining the executive team of several clubs I was interested in during first and second year. I’ve also even managed to fulfill some of my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions by bringing my grades up, staying more organized and eating healthier.

Picture of tupperware with veggies sitting next to chocolate on the desk

(That last one’s still in the works. But hey, there’s still 3 weeks left of 2014. And miracles can happen.)

But the point of reflective practice is to highlight what I learned and what I could do differently. So what have I learned this year?

  • I’ve learned how to write a killer blog post (All credits go to Tricia!!)
  • I’ve learned enough yoga to strike a perfect yoga pose for pictures
Api and Aviva doing yoga poses

Me and fellow Healthy U Crew member Aviva striking some poses at Unplug Fest. Photo Credits to Carly Michelle!

  • I’ve learned how to get A’s on papers
Photo of api holding a Paper with "A-" written on it

See! I wasn’t lying!!

  • I’ve learned how to plan events to help people get more involved!
photo of tables set up in Hart House East Common Room for Global Health Expo

Throwback to Global Health Expo!

I realize that all these lessons equate to one thing:  I learned how to step out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone has always been with a small group of friends and a small range of activities, but 2014 was the year I made an effort to explore new places, try new activities and meet new people! If this whole process has been me breaking out of my shell, then 2014 was just the first crack! Here’s to 2015 being another year of great experiences! But there is one thing that was the most important thing I’ve learned this year:

Screen capture of tweet by @Api_UofT reading: "Winter in Toronto went 0 to 100 real quick"

I’ve perfected the art of bad drake puns

Congratulate yourselves on the accomplishments and celebrate the victories! Let me know about your year, your holidays or even just how your day is going down in the comments! Happy holidays, and happy finals everyone! Remember, you might actually be able to use some of that knowledge in real life (lol).

Another Year Wiser

December has finally arrived! I always love this time of year. December is a special time when we welcome winter into our lives and focus on getting away from the cold crazy world out there and curl up inside where it’s warm. Winter is also a time of reflection.

Looking out from a dark tunnel in a St. Michaels residence into an open courtyard with a large fountain

Almost through the passage, into bright newness (Photo by Zachary Biech)

This post is my last of 2014! Can you believe it? This semester has flown by so fast! I’ve learned so many new things, met many new people and had many new experiences.  I can honestly say this has been one of the most exciting half-years in my life.

The tangled wilderness and fallen leaves strewn around a secret garden behind the Victoria College library

I’ve done so much exploring, and yet I finally just stumbled into this park at Victoria College (Photo by Zachary Biech)

So much has changed and I have changed as well. I’m still the same old Zach but university life changes everything. I finally embraced that change and even caused some of it on my own.

A notebook page with "thanks" written in Anishnaabemowin, Russian, and English

These are all thank-you’s to my friends and family for their birthday wishes, in the three languages I use these days (I recently turned twenty, just to add more change into the mix!) On my birthday, I wrote a syllabics test for Anishnaabemowin, studied Russian, and submitted an essay which had Russian Politics AND Indigenous studies… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

To cap off the year, I’ll share some key points of my success this semester.

Key #1: Balance.

Balance balance balance! In my first blog, I shared my journey towards balance and how that journey has shaped my university experience. In short, all you need to do is recognize the four areas of your life, (body, emotion, mind, spirit) and give them each equal attention. Trust me, it works.

Key #2: Do what you love.

You are the only person who knows best what you are interested in and how you want to live and work. Celebrate those interests; they are what make you so special! It’s tremendously hard work to be a university student between classes and everything outside of class so it’s important to choose things you are comfortable pouring your heart and soul into (I think you’ll find the hard work feels much easier this way!)

Key #3: Change is as good as rest.

It’s amazing how big an impact you can have on yourself by changing things up. Try getting away from campus for a while, explore new areas and even rearrange some furniture if you have to. Change it up, it really helps!

Key #4: Get involved.

There are so many different groups you can engage with at U of T and in downtown Toronto, there’s bound to be something you’d love. So try going to a couple of meetings and choose groups that you feel you can connect with. The networks and projects you can build are limitless and the skills and energy you develop in those groups is invaluable.

Looking out into a large gymnasium, with many tables of Indigenous artworks and handmade crafts

As promised, here’s a view of the NCCT craft sale I volunteered at! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A table with huge baskets of colourful candies and crafts, which were the prizes for the raffle

Here’s the raffle table from the NCCT craft sale, where I was stationed (Photo by Zachary Biech)

For instance, being a part of the Student Life Blog has been hugely helpful in my life. I get a lot more writing and editing practice which helps me with essays and assignments.  I get to expand and share my experiences, all while connecting with my Blogger peers, who are all amazing friends I am thankful to have!

Looking south over all of the awesome buildings of campus, towards all the huge towers down by Toronto's waterfront (including the CN Tower)

An awesome view of campus from the OISE Nexus Lounge, during the Indigenous Winter Social (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Keep these 4 keys in mind in your life at university and your path will become much clearer.

That’s all from me for now! Wait for my next blog in 2015!