Exam Season Special: Secluded Study Spots

This is me, a week before my first exam on Monday. 

photo of me pulling a horrendous face because I am oh-so-freaked out about exam season

Slightly frantic, considering there are hundreds of pages of extremely dense readings to  review and only seven days in which to accomplish this.

Did some light reading, copied down some old lecture notes, went over two problem sets. (with periodic Facebook breaks in between, of course. A girl’s gotta stay updated, right?) 

Now, this is me, three days before my first final on Monday:

from allgifs.com

from allgifs.com

No, that’s not actually me, but in case it helps, let me paint a picture for you…with words.

It is 6PM.

I have my hair scraped up high into a no-nonsense bun complete with hideous scrunchie (#90sthrowback)

My backpack is crammed with notebooks, heaps of papers and a pack of felt-tips in obnoxiously bright colours.

I’ve got a massive textbook in one hand and Gatorade in the other.

It’s showtime. 

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Drop-In Skating and Exam Prep (Already?!)

I’ve been feeling a little-more-than-a-little subpar recently. I’m not sure if it’s the weather or a change in routine due to injury or just everyday stressors, but I don’t like to hang out in ruts like that. Last Friday served as a nice little pick me up, thankfully. I finally made it out to drop-in skating at the Varsity Centre!

I regret that I didn’t take pictures, I was consumed by how good it felt to be using my legs after making my arms so terribly sore at aerial silks. I’ve been less active recently and I think that might be contributing to my lousy mood. Skating with a good friend helped! I went on Friday from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon and it served as a nice study break. Skate rentals are available for only $3.39 (debit/credit only) and entry is free with your T-Card of course! It wasn’t very populated, which I really appreciated. I definitely recommend checking it out, especially if you’re looking for some space to make some mistakes (I sure am!).

Source: www.macedoecunha.com.br

Source: www.macedoecunha.com.br

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Discover #JoyAtUofT in the Little Things

“It’s such a cold, cold world (hello cold world)
And it’s got me down, but I’ll get right back up, as long as its spins around
Hello cold world” – ‘Hello Cold World’, by Paramore

The winter blahs are still in full swing, and we don’t even have snow this year to brighten things up. On top of that, midterms are here to keep us preoccupied. Thankfully, February also happens to be #JoyAtUofT month, to help us get some inspiration from each other as we attempt to stay positive in a time of year when it’s all too easy to be down.

On one hand, El Niño took care of the heaps of snow I was warned about. On the other, the lack of snow is kinda depressing, too...

On one hand, El Niño took care of the heaps of snow I was warned about. On the other, the lack of snow is kinda depressing, too…

I can definitely relate. Granted, I don’t have any full-year courses this year, so I didn’t have any assignments/essays due at the start of the semester. Midterms have come along equally brutally, though. I know I complained about them last time around, but the added blasé of the season seems to amplify their effect on my mood. Grey skies, wet concrete, and barely a hint of snow on the ground have characterized many of the days I’ve had to make the walk from Chestnut to campus.

It’s times like this that finding some joy in life can really make or break my productivity levels. I’m way more likely to get things done when I don’t feel like Eeyore all the time. Amidst all the chaos, squeezing in time to do the little things that put a smile on my face is definitely worthwhile. Frantic as I should be studying, spending time relaxing in the common room among friends can lighten the load on my shoulders, even if it’s just for that brief period of the day. It could even be as simple as making a food run to Med Sci with the gang. Getting out and pursuing hobbies such as photography have a similar effect, letting my heartbeat and stress levels fall to healthy rates.

Getting out with my camera is a great stress-reliever, and definitely brings me some happiness during this seasonal lull.

Getting out with my camera is a great stress-reliever, and definitely brings me some happiness during this seasonal lull.

Joy for me also comes from extracurriculars. Being a member of this awesome Student Life Community Crew has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for any other; I get to see some of the most creative people I know, every week. From hearing their ideas in the meetings, to reading the final product each day, it’s easy to see why Student Life chose them to represent the student body in this way, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. The Blue Sky Solar team that I signed up for just a couple of weeks ago, has already proven to be a source of escapism from the world of academia, if only for a little bit at a time. Researching alternative designs for software, with the promise of soon getting the chance to actually write the code to match, has been a great ride so far.

The weather might be uninspiring, but there’s still plenty of things that manage to lighten up the atmosphere. Be sure to share what brings you #JoyAtUofT on Twitter and Instagram – I’ll be keeping an eye on the hashtag to get some ideas!

Hopping Into the Holiday Spirit: A Trip to the Toronto Christmas Market

December is my favourite time of the year. Well, it usually is. Since starting university, the stress of December exams has sapped up any and all of the holiday spirit in me. After realizing the fact that the most spirited thing I did last December was house a slowly dying 15 inch evergreen tree in my dorm room, and reading Emma’s reflection on her relationship with exams and holiday traditions, I decided I was going to stop myself from spending my favourite time of year locked up in the library eating all of the chocolate out of a discount advent calendar.

illuminated letters reading "naughty or nice"   Continue reading

One Down, One to Go

Crazy as it may seem, this semester’s almost over! Classes ended this week, and finals season has finally arrived. If it weren’t for my impending doom, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that it’d already been four months since I first touched down in Toronto. Amidst all the hapless cramm — I mean, conscientious studying, in a bout of productive procrastination I thought I’d take a look back at my first semester here at U of T.

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A Drake-themed guide to Robarts during exam season

Exams are upon us, U of T. Time to buckle down, catch up with readings, and hit up the nearest campus library for some serious studying. Robarts is the natural go-to choice for many students. Exams may make you miserable, but at least being around other people who are stressing out as much as you are is somewhat comforting. Also comforting is knowing that you’re making Drake proud by acing that calc exam. And always remember that if Aubrey Graham could go from a teeny-bopper D-list actor on Degrassi to a bonafide rap legend, then you can certainly power through these final weeks of the first semester.

Drake leaning against a large storage container and a stereo, using the stereo as a desk to write lyrics on a piece of paper.

Even Drake’s gotta constantly put in werk (Source: Instagram @champagnepapi)

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It’s the most arduous time of the year

At about this time every year, I despair. I start to wonder how I am going to finish what seems to be a never-ending list of assignments and tasks. I start to wonder why I even came to this school; I must have a masochistic streak. The stress gets to me and I find myself resisting the urge to RSVP to a number of preposterous Facebook events (Dropping out of school to become a potato is a viable life decision, right? RIGHT??)

To make matters worse, the rest of the world does not seem to have gotten my memo. Don’t they know that I, along with all of UofT, am a big puddle of exam nerves? All I do is wake up, go to Robarts, go to class, return to Robarts, go home, and sleep! I am not feeling the Holiday cheer. Yet, everywhere I go, I hear sickeningly joyous holiday tunes, everything is pretty and sparkly and lit up, and there are tons of amazing events going on. Why is all of Toronto rubbing its holiday cheer in my face? I feel personally victimized by all this hollying and jollying and carrying on.

Pictured: My Christmas tree and some Christmas records

The cheer is even invading my own apartment!

I know what you’re thinking; this girl is a classic Scrooge. You may be right. I’ll have you know, however, that I have been trying to embrace the spirit of the season. Last night, I went to Christmas High Table at Trinity College. Despite my best protestations—”I have too much work to do,” “I hate carolling,” “I don’t like cranberry sauce”—my roommates would not take no for an answer and they dragged me along. Continue reading

Winter is Coming: Gearing up for Exam Season

In the wise words of Ned Stark: “Winter is coming.”

A glass bowl of candy canes.

Nothing screams winter like a bowl of mini candy canes.

However, with winter comes . . . exams. Did you feel a sudden shudder ripple through your body, too? Recently, I conversed with an Academic Success Centre learning strategist, Dr. Graham, and learned some tips to keep in mind as we transition into this season. Here are a few of her tips, as well as mine:

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Adjusting to Time Management

One thing that’s become particularly evident to me this semester has been the drastic changes needed to my time management methods. I’ve heard from other first years that they too have had to adjust to new work habits, regardless of the discipline. Relating to my own experience, my time budgeting skills in high school were pretty sub-par, which led to me attempting some serious adjustments on the fly in first-year.

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October Horrors: Long Answer Responses

October is a month of horrors in more ways than one. Yes, we have the typical ghost stories circulating around, where we masochistically devour them and subsequently jump at every single porcelain doll in sight, but we also have . . . EXAMS (cue screams of horrified university students). More specifically, some of us have exams that include long answer responses. Having done many of these, yielding to both disasters and successes, I’ve found that a few tips to consider while flipping through my exam booklet have never let me down; hopefully you might find guidance in some of them, too.

1. Plan out your time.

It helps to write out the amount of time you plan on taking for each section, regardless of whether or not you prefer to write the long answer portion of a test before or after doing the rest of the questions, in case you end up working too long on one part and end up with only a sliver of time to hastily finish the other one.

2. Read the long answer prompt carefully and follow instructions.

The last thing you want to happen after writing a response is to realize you never actually answered the prompt. To avoid getting stuck in situations like this, where you end up sweating buckets and praying for the magical appearance of a nearby TARDIS, make sure you understand what your prompt is asking for, and follow any other instructions it includes, such as word count minimum/maximum, to avoid losing points unnecessarily.

3. Outline. 

Though it takes time to outline, it will be worth it. Having your thesis statement and your points in front of you before you start writing ensures you have a direction for your response. Without an outline, you might end up digressing from the prompt or even run out of ideas due to a weak thesis.

4. Skip the pretty intro and get to the point.

I get it. I really do. If you’re asked to write a dry 1000-word analysis about the significance of a character’s name, you might just be tempted to write an introduction involving your profound love for pearl milk bubble tea. Unfortunately, that might not be the brightest idea to do during a timed response. Though your profs might find creative openings amusing, they’re ultimately searching for whether or not you provided a good response to the prompt and penned your ideas clearly. So refrain from writing poetic openings with similes linking your favourite drinks to 19th century novels and instead spend the time developing your response points, inputting relevant evidence, and writing well.

Chatime bubble tea and two of the books I am currently reading.

“Resist the urge to relate everything to your love of bubble tea” is what I tell myself every time I write something.

5. Proofread and revise.

As humans, we make careless mistakes when we write. I, myself, have caught myself almost handing in a short story with the sentence, “The geek’s honks take me back to lonely evening walks under bruised skies,” when I meant to write ‘geese.’ Needless to say, in a setting where you’re writing under pressure, you’re much more likely to make silly (and sometimes horribly embarrassing) mistakes. Leave about 15 minutes for every 500 words to proofread and revise your work to ensure your response doesn’t have glaring spelling or grammatical errors.


My French test with the glaring Franglais mistake: "Par example."

Indeed, I have also committed one of the most reviled of all Franglais mistakes on my recent timed French essay . . . by writing the dreaded “Par example.”

All in all, when you deal with long answer reponses, keep a cool head. Don’t dive into writing without planning because you risk creating a disorganized composition. You’ve studied for this, and you know your stuff; all you have to do is make sure you transfer the right knowledge onto paper and make it readable.

And so, to all of you who still have to brave some October Horrors, may the odds be ever in your favour the odds will be in your favour if you believe in yourself and study because studying kind of helps.


What do you consider when writing long answer responses? Let me know in the comments below or through @lifeatuoft on Twitter!