Finding A Little Balance

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

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

Pathways through the trees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The vines and trees just outside the First Nations House building

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

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

How balanced are you?

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

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

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

 

Navigating the Maze of Extracurriculars

I spent much of my first year in a daze of lectures, coffee and homework, so I wasn’t as involved as I would have liked. But eventually, I was able to participate in some clubs and now I’m even a member of Juxtaposition Global Health Magazine’s executive team! Looking back, I realize that it’s not always easy for everyone to find those one or two clubs that they are passionate about. So, I decided to map out my path so far to help navigate the maze of student organizations on our beautiful campus!

Try out everything. Seriously. – I bounced around a few clubs and I went to a few events before I came across Juxta. I searched through Ulife and the UTSU clubs directory to find things that suited my interests! I also got on a few mailing lists by signing up for every club in sight at the UTSU Annual Clubs fair. They also have free stuff, and if that isn’t reason enough to come, then I don’t know what is.

clubs

Clubs fair AKA where Api likes to get free stuff (and crazily sign up for everything) – www.orientation.utsu.ca

 

Think about what YOU like – There are so many clubs at U of T you’re bound to find something you like. And once you find it, think about what you want to do with them. I have a lot of experience in planning events and it’s something I have a lot of fun doing, so I applied for the events co-director position with Juxta. That way I could do something I was good at and had experience in, while still being immersed in the global health community at U of T.

Screen shot 2014-07-24 at 12.12.24 PM

Seriously though, do you understand why I love ulife? LOOK AT ALL THOSE CATEGORIES – www.ulife.utoronto.ca

Social media is your friend! – I found out about Juxta through a Facebook page of another group, and I found out about their executive team positions through their Twitter account. Social media is a great way to get a better idea of the club in question if they don’t have any upcoming events.

Get ready for some work! – This one is pretty obvious, but let me explain. If you take on any sort of leadership role, in entails a fair amount of work. The catch is that when you love what you’re doing it doesn’t feel like work. The last few months with Juxta, combined with my summer job and summer courses have felt overwhelming at times, but nothing is more rewarding than seeing the results of your hard work.

Screen shot 2014-07-24 at 11.58.48 AM

Ulife asks the hard hitting questions.

You don’t need me to preach about joining clubs and getting involved because it’s an idea we encounter a lot as university students. It’s not the easiest thing to do when there are so many different opportunities, but I can assure you, navigating the clubs at U of T is worth it when you start to meet like-minded individuals, get invaluable experience and build a sense of community!

If you want to know more about Juxtaposition, then fear not, I will likely be tweeting about it nonstop!

Let me know down in the comments about how you found your favorite clubs or what clubs you want to join!

I wish I had known

For the past couple of weeks, we have been collecting advice from U of T students about what they wish they had known as first-year students with the hashtag #wishIhadknownUT. It’s been great to see the wide mix of tips, from practical advice such as to make Blackboard your homepage (never forget a biology reading quiz again!) to more general wisdom. I thought I would use this blog post to share what I personally wish I had known as a first-year student.

Moving into residence in September 2010.

Moving into residence in September 2010.

It’s hard to remember now, but four years ago I was a nervous wreck preparing to move into residence. I had been to Toronto a couple of times with my family, but did not know a single person who would be here in the fall. As someone who had the same group of friends from grade 1 all the way to grade 12, making friends from scratch was a terrifying prospect.

If my today-self — someone who has made amazing friends through residence, clubs and the Toronto community, switched what she wanted to study twice, ended up being in charge of a magazine and made a 180 degree career goal switch — could go back and tell my first-year self some things, here’s what I would say:

-It’s okay to change your mind. Really. You think you want to study physics because of how much you loved your high school class, and that’s great. But if you find yourself not very good at or fond of theoretical math, you don’t need to feel guilty about wanting to try something different. Don’t think you have to pick a closely related discipline just because you started in physical sciences, either. The whole point of this university thing, especially at the beginning, is to try on different subjects and roles to see what feels best to you.

Fourth-year self, spreading the word about Demo magazine to first years at Clubs Day.

Fourth-year self, spreading the word about Demo magazine to first years at Clubs Day.

-Put yourself out there for clubs you’re interested in! I know that there are a couple of clubs you are interested in but are feeling shy about approaching. Just try it! Getting involved is the best thing you can do. While it is never too late (it will take you until halfway through your third year to start writing for The Varsity), the most important experiences you will have will be outside of the classroom. Seriously, they will change your mind about how you want to spend your life.

-You will change. You’ll grow immensely while living away from home, meeting new people, surmounting challenges and chasing opportunities. This is a good thing.

And a bonus piece of advice after having trouble finding a current photo of myself for this blog post: take pictures! Document your experiences! Your memories will last, but it’s nice to have a visual reminder too.

Join the conversation! Share what you wish you had known in first year by tweeting with the hashtag #wishIhadknownUT.

Thinking About the Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

-Stephen

Get Your Laugh On (Finding Place and Purpose at U of T)

In my first year, I went with a guy from residence and joined a sketch comedy troupe. I was really nervous and I suspect he was as well, though he never showed it. He was from Waterloo and performed on Improv teams and was starting to do standup comedy at Einstein’s open-mic.

Anyway, we auditioned and we were cast, and then something changed. We were no longer just students. We became members of The Bob.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/events/353331631479221/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Source: https://www.facebook.com/events/353331631479221/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

The Bob is Canada’s longest running sketch comedy revue, hosted by Victoria College. There have been some pretty famous people in The Bob, over the years, even including Margaret Atwood. Any student, from any college, can audition, and if comedy or theatre or writing is your passion, I’d highly recommend it.

It was during a casual, September 2009 stroll with my dad, actually, that I happened to find a poster calling for auditions. I ripped the poster right off the wall, fearing I’d forget all the details otherwise. When I got back to residence I walked past my room and knocked on a door four rooms down from mine. The student who answered had shaggy brown-blonde hair and a cheeky, curious quality in his eye that gave me the idea to speak with a phony British accent.

“Good afternoon,” I said.

“Yes, hullo, and how may I help you?”

“I was wondering if perchance you possessed a fondness for performing comedy.”

“Yes, I may have such a fondness. What of it?”

I showed him the poster. His eyes scanned it from top to bottom. Then he looked up at me.

“Tonight’s the last call for auditions,” he said.

“It is,” and I could feel a flutter in the chest.

He looked me straight dead in the face and said, “Let’s do it!

We barely knew each other that first night. But at the audition something clicked and it seemed we’d been joking around together for a long time. Maybe it was a shared comedic sense, or maybe it was that we had both eaten the same meal-plan lasagna for dinner, but I like to think it was the realization that we had both just made our first real friend at university.

Source: http://gif-central.blogspot.ca/2013/05/sorry-i-annoyed-you-with-my-friendship.html

Source: http://gif-central.blogspot.ca/2013/05/sorry-i-annoyed-you-with-my-friendship.html

After that we were a regular duo. We wrote sketches together, went to shows and open-mics together, met different people, we were even the MC’s for the New College Mosaic. It was a much needed, and much appreciated, support-system for first year, though it never exactly seemed that way.

It was merely being a part of something. We were Bob’ers. We were friends. The name or size of the association was irrelevant, as long as it gave us a sense of place and purpose. U of T is really big, it offers a lot of options, finding something that speaks to you is, well, priceless.

Source: http://myerasmus.tumblr.com/page/3

Source: http://myerasmus.tumblr.com/page/3

I know it was my friend’s encouragement and enthusiasm that allowed me to audition for The Bob in the first place. And I’m much indebted because it led to a crazy-fun comedy ride throughout my second and third years. Not to mention a really great friendship.

Now, the time has come for The Bob to grace the stage again. The show is 7:30pm November 14, 15, and 16 at the Isabel Bader Theatre at Victoria College. I’ll be watching from the front row this year. But it gives me great pleasure that my friend, who inspired me to act, to be bold (and silly), is one of this year’s co-directors. Congrats, man!

 

‘Til next time, U of T, stay diamond!

 

-Stephen

A Whole Brave New World

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while now, (and props if you were one of the few who helped pioneer the #StartUofT trend into what it is today!) you might remember my introduction post when I first started blogging for Life at U of T. I shared a fair bit about my experiences at U of T and how I came about to calling this place my home.

A big problem that many students encounter when they first come to U of T, myself included, is the intimidation they feel when they realize how big the university is and most everyone begins unsure about where to look on campus to find their niche. Driven by a little dose of bravery, and the crippling fear I would make no friends during my four years of sentencing study, I grit my teeth and started to discover the unique and distinctive culture of student life on campus (take a quick browse at my previous posts to learn a little more about my experiences).

While it may not be shining, shimmering, or particularly splendid, U of T truly is a whole new world waiting to be explored. Original GIF from: http://animated-disney-gifs.tumblr.com

While it may not be shining, shimmering, or particularly splendid, U of T truly is a whole new world waiting to be explored.
Original GIF from: http://animated-disney-gifs.tumblr.com

And so, in order to dispel the much discussed (and unfortunately much believed) myth of the lack of student spirit and opportunity on campus, I’ve decided to start a series of blog posts dedicated to trying out new experiences at U of T at regular intervals throughout this semester. This encompasses exploring the different student groups on campus, trying out the various activities and drop-in sessions offered by organizations such as Hart House and MoveU, and even sitting in on various lectures and asking professors about their particular program – anything that is horizon-broadening and mind-opening, I’m making it my mission to explore the campus and (hopefully) in turn, encourage you to get yourself out there and perhaps find your next passion in life – or at the very least, have a great time while trying to do so.

New experiences help shape you and allow character development to foster. Just ask Walter White and the writers of Breaking Bad.  Screencap taken from Breaking Bad

New experiences help shape you and allow character development to foster. Just ask Walter White and the writers of Breaking Bad.
Screencap taken from Breaking Bad

I’ll leave off with a relatively short post today (I just wanted to get the idea ball rolling!), but if you have questions, propositions, curiosities, about anything concerning Campus Life that you’d like me to explore in a blog post, or if you too have experiences with trying out something completely new since you’ve come to U of T, please leave a comment below and tweet us! Don’t forget to add #TryItUofT to your tweets so we can keep track of and share all our ideas and experiences with one another.

Until next time, UofT, when a new adventure comes along…

Kat

Introducing this year’s Community Crew!

A hearty welcome to new U of Ters, and Big Ups to those of you continuing your very own Life @ U of T.

I’d like to you all to meet this year’s Community Crew!!

 

Abdullah

When I first met Abdullah I was amazed by the sheer knowledge he has of U of T. I learned more about U of T’s campus in five minutes than I have over the last year of being an OISE student here. A passionate advocate for post-secondary student issues on campus, Abdullah guarantees that U of T can be a really lovely place if you explore your passions and get involved. I believe it! Abdullah is this year’s Community Crew Captain. You can find him on twitter @lifeatuoft, and on Facebook at Life At U of T: St. George.

 

 

Melina

Melina’s upbeat energy is pretty contagious. Serious. You can’t be around her for five minutes before you’re grinning. Like from ear to ear. A fourth year Cinema Studies and Lit major, she’s got giant passions for photography, ballet, and a vegan lifestyle. When she first came to meet me, she gingerly climbed the stairs at Koffler to where I was sitting. I’m pretty sure she just wanted to tiptoe, but I could spot her distinctive style a mile away. Keep your eye on her photography skills: she’s Life @ U of T’s official Community Crew photographer, and she has quite the eye! Check out her pics on Twitter and Instagram!

Katrina

When you meet Katrina, you feel as though you’ve known her for a long time. She’s so comfortable with herself that you feel all comfy too, and you just relax. Truth. Go up and say hello to her, you’ll see what I mean!

See?
Told ya.

Katrina joins us all the way from Hong Kong with her elegant sense of style and love for science. Intramural sports, meeting amazing people, and challenging herself to do better is what makes Katrina’s world turn. She’s a Life @ U of T blogger – watch for her posts starting next week!

Michael
Michael is an Engineering student with a love for food truck fries and all things Theatre.

Sidenote: Who doesn’t love food truck fries? You can stay away from them all you want, but you know you secretly love them :D.

Um, anyway, back to Michael. U of T is huge, right? Huge – which got Michael feeling nervous about meeting people and making friends on campus at first. The complete opposite happened instead: Michael got overwhelmed by the sheer number of ways to participate in Life at U of T. These days, you can find Michael stretching his acting chops with an Improv club on campus. Just wait, maybe you’ll catch him on stage at Hart House one of these days- just maybe. But first, you’ll definitely find him on Twitter, @Michael_UofT.

Stephen
If Stephen’s wry, deadpan wit doesn’t have you cracking up, well…[insert witty comment here]. Stephen’s strategy for getting to know U of T: Just Say Hi (see video below). You can find Stephen making his way around campus on his trusty bicycle, or chilling out at Knox College. A combination of Sketch Comedy talent and Diabolo’s fantastic coffee make this guy who you want to keep your eye on for future Life @ U of T blogposts.

 

 

Last but not least, a big Hello from your Community Crew:

Welcome aboard everyone! I look forward to working with you!

- Aziza

An Afternoon with B.E.E.S

This week, I did one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my entire life: I paid a visit to two of U of T’s Honeybee Hives.

Yes, you read right! U of T is home to three apiaries at St. George (they can be found on the rooftops of Trinity College, the Earth Sciences Building, and the Faculty Club). U of T’s Beekeeping Education Enthusiast Society (B.E.E.S) manages the apiaries, and is all about promoting the importance of urban beekeeping.

I met up with B.E.E.S president Alissa Saieva and a few others on Thursday at 4pm, right outside the Faculty Club on Willcocks Avenue. The Faculty Club has three hives on its rooftop. We walked in, wound our way up a series of staircases (sidenote: the Faculty Club is a nice place!) and proceeded to put on bee suits. Well, bee jackets, rather, complete with the Masks that you’ve probably seen in movies or magazines.

The Faculty Club Bees

Suits on and masks in place, we clambered out on the rooftop and made our way to the first of three hives. B.E.E.S actually constructed the hives themselves. Each hive was supposed to have four different coloured sides, but ended up being put together in the wrong order, so now each hive is a patchwork pastel delight.

Beehives!

Hives are really a series of boxes stacked one on top of the other. Each box has a number of wooden frames. Bees make their honeycomb in between the frames.

 

 

 

 

Here is what it looks like:

Honeycomb.

Bees build honeycomb from the bottom up, so the very first ‘box’ generally has a lot more activity than the box on top. People have the impression that if bees are around, they will swarm and/or sting you. The truth? They just do their own merry thing. Sure, there were a lot of bees flying around us, but they tend to keep to themselves, unless you flail your arms and agitate them. The key: no arm-flailing. In fact, they really paid us no mind at all.

It was the second apiary visit over at Earth Sciences that had us all up in arms. Dr. Sandy Smith, a professor in the Faculty of Forestry, joined us. We were adventurous enough to get down to the first layer/hive. This is what we found!!

Bees Whattttt

When the guys lifted up the second layer from the first, a chunk of honey comb was dragged up as well, along with so many bees. Crazy, no? We were all blown away. It seems the bees were swarming, meaning that they are raising a new queen and preparing to start a new colony. When the queen is ready, she will fly away, taking many of the worker bees with her (up to 60% of the colony). B.E.E.S. wants to avoid that, so they will find a way to keep the colony at U of T.

This particular colony had already produced so much honey that Sandy was able to scrape some of the honeycomb away. Bonus! We all got a taste, which tasted similar to Linden honey. The taste and type of honey depends on which flowers a bee colony will pollinate. Apparently, the colony over at Trinity produces a much darker honey.

Honey. Yum.

To Bee or Not to Bee

Why are bees so important? If, like me, you don’t really have a clue, this handy infographic put together by BeesFree is very useful. Take a peek! Long story made very short, without the pollinating action that bees undertake, we would be left with far fewer choice of fruits and vegetables. Most of the staples that you eat everyday would disappear. News of tremendous amounts of deaths of bees has been at the forefront of newscasts as of late, as per the following article by the CBC.

In the face of that terrible reality, U of T B.E.E.S has taken the reins on all things bee-related. The club hosts a variety of educational events and workshops, which include: hive building, hive installation, honey harvesting, swarming prevention, and the history of beekeeping among various others.

They also host various social events throughout the year such as film screenings, potluck BBQs, and pub nights. However, the club’s main attraction is a series of summer hive visits which run during the beekeeping season (May until early November). All visits and events are open to U of T students/faculty and community members. They provide you with the opportunity to get hands-on beekeeping experience, with a ready supply of suits and gloves. Hive visits are scheduled for every second Thursday.

My bee adventure was amazing, and nothing like what I expected. If you have a few moments to spare, take a stroll and connect with nature in a different way. I guarantee that you will bee pleasantly surprised.

- Aziza

Check out our Facebook Album of an Afternoon with B.E.E.S!

An Artsy Afternoon

Contemporary art and I have an interesting relationship. Sometimes we get along, like two dancers weaving to a rhythmic beat, and other times we tip-toe in each others’ spaces, like hesitant friends at an awkward dinner party.

So it was with a bit of a sense of the unknown that I made my way to the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery to check out the current exhibition, I Thought There Were Limits. As I stepped into the gallery, I reacted as I usually do when it comes to contemporary art exhibits. I wondered: where is the art, and why is there so much space? I like creating art, but my paintings and drawings are a mish-mash of colours and shapes, words and half-finished poems, swirls, strikes, dots, random pairings of patterns and symbols…absolutely nothing like the art that stood staring back at me, daring me to take a leap.

And so, I leapt.

According to the colourful program that I picked up, the exhibit brings together five artists who “engage with both the material and conceptual dimensions of space”. Ah, Space, that most elusive of things. The exhibit spans two rooms, with one room hosting most of the art pieces, and the other engulfed by Kika Thorne’s piece titled Singularity (pictured below). I won’t go into detail about each work of art. I want you, my friend, to go and take a look!

Singularity by Kika Thorne

However, one piece caught my eye. It took the shape of a giant shiny silver blanket of sorts, slightly crumpled and lying on the floor. Not surprisingly, the piece was called Space Blanket, by Josh Thorpe. Yet it was the sound recording that formed the backdrop for the blanket which got me thinking. At first I thought I was hearing noise from the subway cars (if you’re ever in a lecture at OISE, you know what I’m talking about). Then, as I listened more closely, I realized that what I was hearing was a succession of footsteps that got increasingly louder, and then simply fell away. Intertwined with the sound of footsteps was the sound of classical music.

It could have been my imagination (that afternoon sunlight can play tricks sometimes). but every time the footsteps grew louder, the silver blanket moved ever so slightly – just enough to make me believe that perhaps it was moving on its own.

All of which got me thinking about Space. I was the gallery’s only visitor. I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds around me. It seemed as though time had stopped, and I was carried by whatever note the music played next. I opened my eyes and found myself in rather empty space filled with sound and a few works of art. I realized that the title for the exhibit – I Thought There Were Limits – fit really well. There are no limits, until you create them. The art that did have physical limits in that open space did not have limits in my mind. Now that, my friend, is profound.

Since I had thought all the deep thoughts I had inside me, it was time to go. I really enjoyed Josh Thorpe’s work, but I could only reflect for so long on potential interpretations. So, off I went, only to be bowled over in Hart House’s next corridor by the Hart House Camera Club’s annual exhibit.

According to their website, the exhibit ended on April 21. I managed to catch it, and you may have a chance as well in the next couple of days. I must have spent a good 20 minutes immersing myself in all of the photographs, and creating stories as I went along. The photographs are fantastic!

Aaron Tan’s Tension is a compelling piece:

Tension, by Aaron Tan

Art Chow’s work is also wonderful:

Observer, by Art Chow

I was pleasantly surprised by both Justina M. Barnicke’s current exhibit, and my spontaneous discovery of the Camera Club’s eye-opening exhibit (its 91st edition, I might add). Have a spare hour or so? Treat yourself to an afternoon of art at Hart House. You may just be inspired to create spaces and stories of your own!

-Aziza

For more information about Hart House’s Camera Club, check out their website.

From Spectating to Participating: the time to get involved is now

With the first week of March now upon us, we students are entering that proverbial ‘crunch time’ of late nights, libraries, and fancy lattes to help us cope with it all.

And this year, more than most, seems to have a lot of stuff crammed into the final six to eight weeks of the semester.

In addition to the assignments, tests, and exams, this time of the year also features plenty of activity in the world of student life as many groups, clubs, and student organizations begin turnover processes, paving the way for next semester – starting September 2013. While you may feel that you don’t have much time to devote your awareness to anything other than your textbooks over the next few weeks, I implore you to keep an eye on the goings on in the student communities you are a part of, as the way in which these communities are shaping up at the end of this semester will have a very real impact on the way they look when classes resume six months from now — unless you’re a graduating student, of course. (If you’re in this boat you have plenty of bigger concerns to deal with………anyone looking to hire a Student Blogger, available for work immediately in early May?…Please?)

The elephant in the room being all this University of Toronto Students’ Union secession business that has been dominating student politics at the university as of late (for the seven of you interested in undergraduate student politics, that is). And while this issue is definitely an important one – especially as the consequences of all of this hullabaloo have yet to be borne out - this is not the only thing happening in student life right now that you should be concerned with.

Student communities take all shapes and sizes, from small college-based clubs to inter-campus wide student associations. What I hope to emphasize is that many of these organizations are holding elections/seeking membership for positions for the upcoming year and if you have ever thought about trying out for one of these positions, the time to do so is now. Don’t simply get caught up in being a spectator to everything going on around you. As cliche as it may sound, the four or five years you spend at the University of Toronto is short (trust me) and if you have ever considered the possibility of enhancing your undergraduate experience through some extra-curricular activity, now is the time to seek those position out.

I know first hand that this can be a daunting task for the uninitiated, but trust me: go for it. The first ‘major’ thing I did in the realm of student life involved running for an executive membership position on the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council at the end of my second year. I had dabbled a bit in Vic’s student life before then, but I was a relatively unknown candidate and was up against someone who had already been on the council previously and was a somewhat of a known entity around the Vic community. Needless to say I lost the election and while it definitely sucked I gained invaluable insights into how student life functioned at the college as well as had the opportunity to meet a number of people I would not have otherwise met. The experience of running, despite losing, no doubt played a factor in my attaining an elected position on the council in the following Fall election at the beginning of the new term. Leaving my comfort zone was, you’ll be surprised to hear, uncomfortable but the experience was essential in my personal growth (overcoming social anxieties) as well as integrating myself in a community I now have grown to love and adore. There is not a doubt in my mind that if I hadn’t run in that Spring 2010 VUSAC election you would not be reading this post right now.

The moral of the story is, I’m sure, quite obvious. You’ve heard it before but it is worth stating again: your experience as an undergraduate student is what you make it and oftentimes the best experiences in life involve a little risk. Students at the U of T have been known to complain that they experience a lack in communal-feeling with their peers and while this may be true the opportunities to remedy this feeling are out there; you just have to be willing to look.