To Share or Not to Share

Exams are upon us again, which means that a flood of emails is almost certainly bound to be upon us as well.

Our classmates, many of whom we have never met, will use the email system on Blackboard to request notes and lecture audio. Sometimes they’ll be a desperate plea for someone who’s missed most of the term; other times they’ll be someone who’s noticed their notes aren’t as complete as they thought they were.

Photo of: a person's hand with a pencil tapping on a notepad

Rennett Stowe (CC BY 2.0)

These notes will range from a two-sentence request to a lengthy explanation. And every time we receive these notes we are faced with an ethical dilemma.

Do we share notes, altruistically or because we hope the person requesting our notes has notes from another lecture we need, or do we keep our notes to ourselves, because we did the work for them and should therefore not be obliged to assist those who didn’t?

As someone who’s been on both sides of the request, I understand the desperation sometimes required in requesting notes. A volunteer note taker may not have posted their notes for the same lecture in which my note taking device died. Or it’s the end of term and I not only don’t know where the 13 weeks have gone, but how I’ve fallen so behind. Or illness has kept me out of class.

Or any number of things. I don’t know my classmates’ life stories and I certainly have it easier than many with long commutes, more courses, and generally more responsibilities.

On the other hand, I’ve seen tens of these requests, and some of those with whom I’ve shared notes haven’t reciprocated in the way they claimed they could. The notes they promised seldom arrived or sometimes I never received even a “thank you”. I know it’s shallow to want even a little acknowledgement for my efforts, but a “thanks! Want to review the course over email so we can both prepare?” would go a long way.

This has meant my heart has hardened somewhat to these requests. I know what it feels like to be in their position, but I don’t want to feel taken advantage of either. I also know I’ve done the

Which doesn’t do much for my self-image as a giving person.

On the contrary again, I’ve had fantastic study groups and study buddies in classes who have been more than willing to discuss material and share notes if need be. And with these folks I’ve been more than willing to go the extra mile. And, for the record, my default position is to share notes with my “unknown” classmates too, just perhaps not as readily as I once did.

In short, I’d suggest sharing one’s notes is a decent thing to do, but if you’re asking for notes, be willing to give a little as well. Even if it’s not in the moment (stress can make a mockery of one’s non-exam brain function), a quick thanks weeks afterwards will never go unappreciated. Academia can be a team sport, and we’re all better if we help each other out.

Exam Jam!

I cannot believe we are at the end of the semester already. Last week I had my last classes as a third year (!!!) and now I’m finishing up my last essay and prepping for exams. This past weekend has been very stressful and busy for me (and probably a lot of you too) so I decided to take some time out on Monday to visit U of T’s Exam Jam in Sid Smith. I’ve always known of this event but somehow in the last three years I’ve never actually gone, but I’m glad I did this year. There were adorable dogs, and food, and stations where you could make friendship bracelets, plant seeds, draw, and take pictures at a photobooth. Definitely worth taking a break from my marathon essay writing to visit. Check out some pictures below!

people at tables and walking around doing activities Some friendship bracelets being made! a red table with string on it for making friendship bracelets

Api’s bracelet, just look at that mastery, true craftswoman here. a pair of hands showing off the bracelet they made

Just one of the three dogs that were there! (I was too busy petting it to take good pictures) a bernese mountain dog

Planting stationa pile of dirt on a table surrounded by little pots.

Yummy healthy snacks! (look at those apples, those are like stock-photo worthy. They also tasted great).a table full of healthy snacks like bananas and apples and granola bars

Tips on writing essays and studying! piles of papers that tell how to best study or write essays

Good luck on your exams U of T! Keep a lookout on twitter or facebook for other de-stressing events over the exam period!

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!

Are You Ready for the Test???

Being prepared for tests is a complicated art. Exams are the most individual task you will do in university. It’s just you and the test, so don’t let your mind go rushing onto all your other responsibilities. Your soul must be centered. Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual balance are key to preparing and working on all those areas in advance when you still have time and strength is the best failsafe.

Before and during tests, you have the opportunity to fight for every mark. One helpful trick I’ve found is to do practice tests, quizzes and review at the time of day when your exam will be. Exams can be held at strange times, so it’s good to get into the habit of working on the specific material on your test at those weird times.

Two battered erasers with paperclip guns and bottle cap helmets

These are my study soldiers: veterans of seven semesters of duty (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Eat a healthy, large meal before your test so you don’t go hungry or have an upset stomach. Bring everything you need for the test and bring spares if you can. Pens, pencils, sharpener, eraser and your T-card are must-haves, and depending on your course, you may need a non-programmable calculator so bring one with batteries! Also, bring a watch! Most test rooms at U of T don’t have clocks. The worst feeling in the world is when your exam invigilator says you only have 20 minutes left and you’ve only done the first tenth of the test because you couldn’t keep track of time!

a pencil sharpener, two pencils, two pens, an eraser, and a non-graphing calculator

Test-taking kit (Photo by Zachary Biech)

a watch on my arm

Not sure of the time? Better watch it! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Be 100% sure of your test location because you don’t want to show up to the wrong room. If you’re not familiar with the location, check it out a few days in advance so you know where to go and what the room will be like. Exam rooms here can be very large, strange and intimidating at first so do yourself a favor and get used to it beforehand.

Leave early when you are going to the test because you never know what can happen along the way. Traffic, construction, and many emergencies can stop you from getting there on time and can cost many marks.

There’s also an art to the moments before tests begin. First, make sure you use the bathroom before you go into the test room!!! I’ve written too many tests where I couldn’t think straight because I had to go so badly!

Second, you have to keep centered when you’re waiting to get into test room with all your classmates. I’ve found that students can hugely destabilize each other outside test rooms. Some people are so stressed that they’re shaking, unclean and sleep-deprived and their behavior can rattle others.

The other thing you have to watch out for students who try to rattle you and your classmates. I’ve played plenty of games with such people. They may try to shake your confidence by asking you if you reviewed obscure topics just to make you worry, and suggesting that weird questions you’ve never heard of will be on the test. They also act overly confident and may try getting you to lend them pencils or erasers just to bother you and to eliminate your spares.

Avoid those people as best you can and remember that you only need to trust yourself and your instinct. I remind myself to expect that behavior so I can shrug off their nonsense. They are laughable so you might even be able to get a good chuckle from them if you need it!

When you finally begin the test, you’re near the finish line! Listen to your exam invigilators and follow their instructions carefully so you don’t break any rules. Monitor your use of time and leave yourself with enough time at the end to check your work. Stay for the whole duration of the test. You may wonder, “why am I the first one done?” or, “why am I the last one done? Why is everybody leaving already?” Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, only focus on your test. Use every minute, fight for every mark. If a question is about something you didn’t prepare for, you may feel a jolt of panic. Breathe, and keep centered if this happens. Skip to a different question if necessary and come back at the end.

Don’t give up on any questions! Finish all the questions you know the best and use the time you’ve left yourself at the end to squeeze as many marks from the difficult ones as possible! You will surprise yourself with how many marks you can earn yourself with this extra effort and you definitely deserve those marks! Leave all the energy you have in that test room, and your result will be the best reward you can give yourself.

Fighting for every mark is hard and takes lots of motivation. I attended a talk by Chantal Fiola–a Métis scholar of identity, politics, and spirituality–on March 16th. I was even given the honor of conducting the smudge for all attendees at the beginning of the presentation! Chantal shared many invaluable lessons and insights from her life’s journey and also shared key Anishinaabe teachings, including the Seven Fires prophecy.

Her new book: http://uofmpress.ca/books/detail/rekindling-the-sacred-fire

Her explanation was an immensely helpful reminder for me of those teachings and of what our role is at U of T. We are the seventh generation. We are a new type of people with many precious gifts as well as an immensely difficult task. The path we must navigate is very hard but the hope and potential we can nourish by fighting for every single mark is worth every moment. What we do here every day at U of T, in every classroom and with every test, will cause change more positive and productive than anything that has yet been seen in the world.

I wish I could’ve thanked Chantal for reminding me to fight for every mark. The tests and assignments and endless workloads may drive us nuts, but we can always remember that we’re lucky to have the opportunity to be driven nuts by such important material and invaluable experience for the journey ahead.

To Credit or Not to Credit?

As I write this post I have officially finished 4 out of my 5 exams! (Promptly after I have submitted it I plan on passing out for a nap and then spending the rest of my day watching Christmas movies) However today I also wrote my first exam for a credit-no-credit course. 

At the University of Toronto, Arts & Science students have a unique opportunity to use the credit-no-credit option on up to 2 full credits in their undergrad. This option allows you to take a course in your undergrad without having the final mark appear on, or effect, your transcript. It can’t be used for any courses that are a program requirement, however you can use it to fulfill your breadth requirements! There are a lot of other conditions to take into consideration before you CR/NCR a course, so make sure to visit this page, or talk to your registrar first. 

a computer, notebook, and cup of coffee all placed on a fluffy white duvet in a studying setting

See, maybe if I could make studying as cute as Amie, I wouldn’t have these problems!

Now unfortunately, it’s too late to CR/NCR a course at this point in the semester (at least for 1/2 year courses) – but I wanted to share my experience CR/NCR-ing a course, in case it could help you make a decision next semester! 

This year I decided to take an “elective” of sorts – basically a course that wasn’t in my department but that seemed really interesting to me. Come the first test I was loving the course! I felt that I really understood the content and it was actually interesting to me. So I was not very impressed with myself when I got back my first test with a very discouraging mark. 

I was loving the course, but I knew that a mark like this one would bring my GPA way down. (Especially since the test was worth 30% of my final mark!)  

IMG_1008

All this studying, and nothing seemed to be paying off

I had heard of people credit-no-credit-ing a course, but I didn’t know exactly what it entailed, or if it was really a viable option for me. So I did some research, and on the day before the deadline, I chose to CR/NCR on ROSI. 

The next week in class, I immediately noticed a difference. I wasn’t spending every minute trying to write down everything the professor was saying and I didn’t feel the need to scour through my readings for all exam-worthy information. I was actually enjoying the course content.

Who would have known, but as soon as the pressure of getting a good grade in the course was gone, I actually started to do better. My mark on my next assignment improved and walking out of my exam today I couldn’t help but smile thinking I had done pretty well. 

Life was so much easier when it was just me, my bib, and a cat

Life was so much easier when it was just me, my bib, and a cat

I know that a lot of people utilize the credit-no-credit program for courses they’re worried they might not pass, but for me it was just a great opportunity to take a subject I was interested in without all the pressure of marks. 

It encouraged me to branch out into more subjects that aren’t in my program and re-ignited my love of learning. It’s even made me look into options such as auditing a course, which Life@UofT blogger Elena wrote about in the summer.

So this was my first experience credit-no-crediting a course, and I really couldn’t be happier with the results. But how about you U of T? Have you ever CR/NCR a course? Do you prefer to save these for emergency cases, or utilize them for new learning experiences? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter at @Rachael_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).

T’was the week before finals

T’was the week before finals, when all across U of T 

Students were cramming, for the sake of their degrees

They read all night, unable to sleep in their beds

With visions of 4.0’s dancing in their heads

Picture of handmade card reading "happy finals"

Yes I made myself a motivational card. Deal with it.

IT’S HERE FOLKS. It’s what you’ve been dreading/waiting/prepping for all semester: Winter finals 2014!

It’s been a long ride. There have been tears, cramming and horrible midterms. There have been successful essays and aced tutorials. And it’s all been leading up to these next few weeks.

Ok, I’ll stop with the melodramatic hyping-up of finals.

I’ve worked hard all semester, and I know I may be very close to losing all my motivation and drive, but I’m hanging in there. I know the reward of finishing finals will be much greater than the stress of actually writing them.

What lies in the promise land after finals, you might ask?

  • All my old friends will be back in the city for the holidays.
  • Peppermint candy cane flavored Hershey’s Kisses.
  • Actual free time to spend time with my family
  • N  E  T  F  L  I  X
  • Other various peppermint flavoured sugary things
Picture of Hershey's candy cane kisses chocolate package

Peppermint everything <3

I’m convinced that the grass is greener on the other side. I know everyone studies their best in different ways, so I’m not really in a place to start giving out study tips. But I can request that we stay positive, and keep that morale up!

This my go-to final exams survival tip that I’ve been following for a while now. It’s been 2 years and counting since my last exam-related, stress-induced, panic ridden, night-before-the-exam break down and I owe it all to being positive. Common self-pep talks phrases include:

  • My grades do not define me
  • I am going to ace it. I got this.
  • Yeah yeah, we in dis BRUH. (my inner gangsta likes to make an appearance during pep talks)

So there you have it folks! Hopefully someone makes use of my personal exam survival to make positivity their ally in the war against finals.

Just remember: We are fabulous. We are fierce. We are in the number 1 university in Canada for a reason. We got this. So happy finals to all!

Picture of inside of card from first image. Reading "You go girl" with a hand drawn heart.

The inside of my motivational card. Treat yo’self. Love yo’self.

*Disclaimer: Not studying at all and then being positive usually doesn’t work. Please study <3

So what are you looking forward to after finals, U of T?

Exam Survival Guide!

It’s that time of the year again! Your favourite library starts to get a lot busier, your notice everyone you pass has bags under their eyes, and the line at your favourite coffee shop on campus is suddenly three times longer than normal. Welcome to Exam Season!

Whether you’re an Art-Sci in full-year courses writing mid-terms, or an Engineer trying to comprehend how you’ll be able to finish all these final assignments, exams are stressful for everyone.  While I don’t have any secret tips to help you guarantee a hundred in all your courses, I do have some vital tools to making surviving exams a little bit easier!

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 1.17.05 PM

1. Trail Mix – nothing is worse than mid-studying munchies. Don’t let your blood sugar drop, and keep this protein-packed snack in your bag! Eating something like trail mix can also help your concentration and focus by occupying your tactile senses.

2. Noisli App. – sometimes you just need to listen to something while studying – but Beyonce can be a bit too distracting. Try noisli.com, it lets you create the perfect custom ambient noise, or offers pre-made mixes for relaxation and productivity.

3. Backup Pens & Highlighters – this is a basic. Don’t let the convenient excuse of having a highlighter run-out justify your 3 hour study break. Pack some backups.

4. T-Card – you’ll need this to get into the stacks at Robarts, or to stay in a library after hours. It also has the double bonus of being able to be loaded up with flex dollars for those emergency Starbucks runs.

5. Earphones – this goes along with the ambient noise player. Earphones are the perfect way to shut out the world around you, or let you enjoy a study break by watching some youtube videos.

6. Water Bottle – hydration is key! All that extra caffeine and the dry library air can really dehydrate you and your skin. Drinking water keeps you stay hydrated, and more alert and awake.

7. Flashcard App. – this app is a gift to University students everywhere! You can create your flashcards online, then transfer them onto your smartphone and take them with you everywhere you go! It’s convenient and environmentally friendly!

8. Extra Chargers – finally, don’t forget your device chargers – after all, thats what all the outlets built into the tables are for!

Well U of T, did I miss anything? What are YOUR go-to exam essentials? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @Rachael_UofT – and happy studying! 

Surviving the end of term crunch

This week is the last full week of classes for Arts and Science students, meaning winter break is fast approaching. Standing between us and winter break however, is the hulking menace that is the exam period (dramatic, I know). Somehow I lucked out and only have one exam during the exam period but I also have a large final project in 3 of my classes, and small final projects in the other 2 – so I’m still pretty stressed out. When I have a lot due it can be really tempting to just lock myself in my room and watch Netflix and cry not emerge until everything is done so this year I’m making a special effort to get out and recharge during this end of term crunch.

To remind myself of the joy that will come after all these assignments are done I’ve turned to my second favourite genre of music: Christmas music. Listening to Christmas music always makes me happy so I have a (very large) playlist of it on my phone to listen to while studying or walking across campus.

an Iphone 5 held up in front of grass with an image of a christmas album on it. The song playing is elvis "santa bring my baby back to me"

nothing like Elvis to get you in the Christmas mood

knox college quad is shown with a curtain blowing out of a window. When the weather is nice out walking through campus can be really pleasant, as you all know by now I’m in love with Knox College so I always walk through their cloisters if I’m going that way.picture of the knox college cloisters. the shot is from the doors looking west and shows the empty arched cloister with a bench and some hanging planters.

The bamboo garden in the Donnelly Centre is a place that I’ve always heard about but never visited before now. It’s absolutely beautiful and super peaceful in there so its the perfect place to go if you just need a break from studying, rushing to class, or general holiday chaos. Being surrounded by so much green also makes it easy to forget that it’s winter outside, I envision myself spending a lot of time here come February when we’ve all forgotten what grass looks like. bamboo and other tropical ferns contrast a cement barrier between them and a walkway at the Donnelly Center donnelly center bamboo garden. a girl is sittting on a bench in the background. In front of her are trees and shurbs and a lamp post. she is sitting against a light yellow brick wall. the bamboo garden at the donnely centre. the left side of the image is the garden while the right side is the white hallway. bamboo garden at the donnelly center. there is a wooden platform with a bench surrounded by trees and shrubs. DSCF4580

 

How are you surviving the end of term crunch U of T? What are your favourite places to go to/things to do to keep you on track during this busy time? 

 

Holistic Living for a Busy Schedule

My head can really get spinning. With so much going on, including schoolwork, tests, classes, extracurriculars and events, things can get crazy. Stress is a part of university life especially during flip-out times like midterms. But stress is natural and if you aren’t a little stressed about your university activities, you aren’t doing it right.

Let me explain; stress in controlled, healthy amounts is actually a good thing. Going into a mental tailspin, however, is not. If you have a balanced schedule full of activities you enjoy, the stress won’t feel like stress. It will feel like energy. This energy is good and there are many strategies to access it.

Two erasers standing vertically, with pop bottle caps for helmets and paper clips for rifles

Meed Bob and Ted, some veteran study soldiers from my first year. When you are overloaded with work, you can always count on your ability to distract yourself. (photo by Zachary Biech)

I’ll give you an example. Early October has been crazy for me. I’ve never spent so much time doing so many things all at once. In my opinion, it’s a little early in the year to have two midterms and a heavily weighted essay all in October’s first week. But here’s the strange thing. I’ve been working fifteen hours a day for a month straight and yet, my brain never went into code-red meltdown mode.

First reason: My schedule is full of things I love. There. Boom. Easy.

If you fill your day with your passions, it won’t feel like such a battle.

Second: My schedule is balanced.

Your schedule can’t be too heavy on the work and too light on fun and health-oriented activities and vice versa. All work and no play blahblahblah. But how much of each part of your life is necessary and what should actually be included in your day?

First Nations House has an Elder-in-Residence whom I’ve visited a number of times. His name is Andrew Wesley and he is Omushkego Cree from Fort Albany. Elders have invaluable, immense knowledge to share. The teachings I’ve received include protocol for ceremonies which have greatly helped me. At FNH as well as the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto there is plenty of help finding whatever medicines you may need. Also, you can talk with FNH’s Learning Strategist, Bonnie Jane Maracle.

http://www.ncct.on.ca/giftshop.php

Four small medicine bags, made of yellow, red, blue, and white cloth all pointing outwards in the four directions.

These are medicines of the four directions placed in my apartment to ensure it is a safe place to be. The entire atmosphere changed instantly when I put these up. (photo by Zachary Biech)

A small dream-catcher with dark red, white, and teal beads and a multicolour cloth from a Métis sash

My special dream-catcher. The cloth is a small piece of a Métis sash, given to me by Bruce Dumont, President of the Métis Nation of British Columbia. (photo by Zachary Biech)

Elders in Toronto have also really helped me grasp the value of the medicine wheel in balancing life to maintain healthy relationships with the four parts of our beings. You can definitely explore teachings like these at university. There’s more to learn than I could ever teach.

http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/main.html

A small living room with tall white bookshelf cubes and TV stand, with a red coffee table and red doors in the white furniture, and with a white with blue ripples in the fabric

The original colour scheme of my apartment: balanced but needed one more colour of the four directions. Can you tell which one? (photo by Zachary Biech)

Here’s a beginner’s guide: life is a continual four-part cycle of our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves. Only you know what fills these areas in your life, but rest assured, they all should be respected.  Every Saturday, I spend four hours or so scheduling my week. Though massive, these schedules are balanced in the four areas and allow me to maintain physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. They’re even colour-coded. Thus, I get more done, I’m healthier in the four areas, and the stress isn’t all that stressful.

A large agenda book with one page of colour-coded daily schedules and the other filled with notes for action items

A relatively light week (photo by Zachary Biech)

A close-up view of daily schedules with colour-coded action items and symbols that only I can understand

When in doubt, colour-code EVERYTHING. My system has become so elaborate, I have a whole new symbol language in there too. (photo by Zachary Biech)

A small memo booklet open to a page with meal plans for each day of the week

An example of my personal management system: The meal plan for this week from the meals section of my memo ledger. (photo by Zachary Biech)

My strategy for balance may not be a perfect match for you, but I think the idea of balance definitely is. If you approach university life holistically, and you fill your days with projects that you love, it’ll go way smoother.

A list of personal action items (music, exercise, ceremonies, reading) and a medicine wheel drawn in my large agenda book

Balance is a big part of my schedule. (Photo by Zachary Biech)

What do you do to maintain your wellness?

pictures of home, cloths for medicines, and a mezmorizing blue lava lamp

Some tools for balance: pictures of home, cloths for medicines, and a mesmerizing lava lamp. (photo by Zachary Biech)