Exploring Hart House

Last week, I ventured into Hart House to snap a few pics of Madelin. While there she mentioned that Hart House is one of her favourite places on campus, and how not enough students take advantage of everything it has to offer. I’m definitely one of those students. When I think of Hart House, two things come to mind: weddings and working out. Though Madelin and I weren’t there for long, it was definite that there was much there than I thought, and on one rainy afternoon this week I decided to explore the Hogwarts-esque halls of Hart House.

photo of the outside of hart house

Before I even got the chance to go inside I made my first discovery: an adorable little vegetable garden. Upon further investigation I found that the veggies were planted and cared for by U of T Dig In, a group dedicated to small scale sustainable food production. Want to learn more? See Danielle’s post about U of T Dig In.

photo of garden with sign that says "Dig In U of T Campus Agriculture" photo of some little baby tomatoes with a hand painted sign that says tomatoes

I decided to grab a coffee to help me warm up after being out in the rain, so I went into Sammy’s Student Cafe. The cafe has lots of vegetarian options, and serve healthy $5 lunches on Wednesdays. That’s a definite upgrade from my usual Tim Horton’s bagel.

entrance to sammy's student exchange

photo of a salad bar with fruits and vegetables in the foreground



After getting lost wandering the lower halls for a while, I went upstairs and happened upon the Reading Room. They really need to rename this place to the “talking room” or “fun room”. It’s bright walls and cozy couches make it the perfect place to hang out and socialize.

photo taken through a doorway of people sitting in the reading room

And to add to the Reading Room’s fun eclectic nature, Get Crafty, a weekly free arts & crafts program is hosted here! (Read all about Get Crafty in Emaan’s blog post)

turquoise sign outside hart house reading room that says 'GET CRAFTY'

photo cred: Emaan

Just down the hall I found the Map Room. Named for the beautiful illustrated map of U of T that it’s home to, the ivy covered Map Room seemed like the perfect place to snuggle up with a good book. It also shares space with CIUT, the campus radio station, and hosts an array of intimate concerts.

photo of a giant ivy covered window with people studying in front of it photo of a colourful illustrated map of u of t photo of an illustration of commencement on the map


Something I absolutely adored about Hart House was the abundance of art hung in the hallways. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to visit the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, but finding the little pieces sprinkled throughout the halls almost made up for it.

photo of a giant eclectic collage framed on a wallphoto of a photograph that reads " I got a gold card & nothing happened"


When I walked into the library I went from being 50% sure my dreams had finally come true and that I had been teleported to Hogwarts to 90% sure. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the walls covered in books, the giant window benches, and the ivy creeping in everywhere. The library has definitely become my go to study spot.

Madelin reading a book in the Hart House library.

Shout out to Madelin for introducing me to this beautiful place.

photo of a laptop on a bench in front of an ivy covered window photo of ivy creeping into an open window



I finished off my afternoon exploring Hart House by venturing out into the rain and into the Quad. This gorgeous manicured courtyard has a tented area perfect for enjoying a coffee outside on a rainy day.

photo of the Hart House Quad photo of a copper greek inspired statue in the rain photo of a copper greek inspired statue in the rain


What’s your favourite part of Hart House? Let me know in the comments below. 

photo of a person studying in a little nook



One Blogger, Two Introductions

Hello Internet! My name is Emma and I am a new member of the Community Crew this year, writing for CTSI (Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation). I am going into my fourth year (eek!) double majoring in Ethics, Society, and Law and Literature and Critical Theory, minoring in Philosophy, and flirting with various French courses on the side. I like dogs, Oxford commas, and wearing hats.

A picture of new blogger, Emma Smith, standing by a lake with her dog

Here I am, wearing a hat, holding my dog, and thinking about Oxford commas.

It’s nice to meet you all! At least, cyber-meet you. I guess I haven’t really met you at all yet, have I? At this point, I’m pushing buttons on a little silver box and hoping that someone might receive and decode the message on the other end. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. I mean, who are “you” anyway?

Wait, what?

We seem to have a Schrödinger’s reader dilemma on our hands, assuming there is a “we” at all…


That got really uncomfortable really quickly, didn’t it? Bear with me; the point is that introductions are AWKWARD. Having established this, it’s time to take it up a level. This time, we’re tackling the ultimate awkward introduction. Never fear! Now that we’re so well acquainted, you can count on me to hold your hand throughout.

Brace yourself, for you are now on your way to… OFFICE HOURS! (Duh duh duhhhhh!)

(The following pep talk is most effective accompanied by Survivor’s 1982 pump-up anthem, “Eye of the Tiger”)

This is it. Today is the day that you forge a relationship with your academic superior. You want to learn from her, make a new connection on LinkedIn, and give yourself a better shot at that coveted A. You only have a two-hour window so you had better get going!

You dress for success and grab your things; don’t forget to pack any course readings, syllabi, or other course materials you might like to discuss. You’re feeling confident as you head outside. With each step, though, the doubts start creeping in.

A picture of a rock on campus, perfect for hiding under when you're afraid to go to office hours

Look! A hiding place!

You consider taking cover under that rock you just passed. I know what you’re thinking: What if I freeze up? What if I can’t think of anything intelligent to say? What if I waste the professor’s time?

Don’t worry! You trained for this. You did your readings, you went to lecture, maybe you even researched your professor’s areas of study or read some of her work. You have questions to ask and you have insights to share.

Even if you say something that isn’t quite on the mark, don’t sweat it; mistakes only facilitate intellectual dialogue. Your professor isn’t some fairy-tale troll who pushes people off the bridge when they get the wrong answer.

Professors are people, just like us; I know this because I saw one at the grocery store one time. We have to remember that they were undergrads once, too. They don’t encourage you to come to office hours because it’s some kind of trap. They want you to come because they want to help you. It’s all part of this grand academic tradition that we all belong to as members of the UofT community.

Besides, it would be super boring and disheartening to sit alone in an office for two hours, waiting on people who might not show up. Just look at this heartbreaking PSA video about empty office hours from CTSI.

A picture of a squirrel on the grass in Queen's Park, on its hind legs, with the sidewalk and street in the background.

That is one sketchy-looking squirrel. You consider turning tail and heading home.

I know that squirrel just gave you a menacing look (shudder) but shake it off and keep moving. Your professor, an expert in things that you signed up to study, is waiting. You have the opportunity to engage with her and pick her brains! Who knows? If you go introduce yourself, you might even get a chin wave on your way into the lecture hall next week. It all seems too good to pass up!

You’re so close now. Take a deep breath, climb those steps, march up to that door, and start with “Hi my name is…” Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. Afterwards, reward yourself with a cupcake or some other treat because by golly you earned it!

I hope you find this pep talk helpful. If I see someone walking purposefully across campus with “Eye of the Tiger” rattling out of their headphones, I’ll know that someone read it and put it to use. To that someone I say, nice to meet you! Maybe introductions aren’t that awkward after all, huh?


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,


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!



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!


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?


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.


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!


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:


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)!



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


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!