Clubs to Get You Moving in 2016

Welcome back! I hope everyone’s well on their way to settling into a new semester. I can’t say I started it particularly enthusiastically; however, I feel I’m very much back in the groove. I start a circus silks class at the Athletic Centre soon (can’t wait to report back!) and Jiu Jitsu officially resumed today. I’ve dedicated this term to myself and my well-being above all else. I’ll let you know how that goes. So far… pretty good.

Tuesday was the annual winter Clubs and Summer Job Fair hosted by the UTSU at the Varsity Centre. I’ve never missed it — and for good reason. The fair isn’t a particularly popular event, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to chat with people (club executives and employers). It’s a very different environment compared to the fall Clubs Day at Hart House Circle. Even if you’ve never been, you must know what I mean…

How it looks... Source: UTSU Facebook Page

How it looks…
Source: UTSU Facebook Page

How it feels... (Also: name that movie!) Source:

How it feels…
(Also: name that movie!)

I seized the opportunity presented by the lack of stampede to interview a couple of sports/athletics-related clubs that were represented at the fair today. Without further ado…

The University of Toronto Ski & Snowboard Club (UTSSC)


UTSSC offers affordable ski and snowboard trips for students. The club welcomes skiers and boarders of all skill levels. Never tried your hand at either of these winter sports? No problem! Absolute beginners are 100 per cent welcome, and the club offers free lessons over the course of their first two weeks.

One club executive I spoke to explained that a large part of their membership consists of international students hitting the slopes for the first time (no doubt to find something to redeem this dreadfully cold, harsh season that is Canada’s winter). The club executive describes the club as a place where anyone who wants to ski and snowboard can come together, meet and make friends — within a totally non-competitive, recreational environment.

UTSSC runs weekly trips to local hill Mount St. Louis Moonstone. They also host a Quebec trip over reading week — this year to Mont Sainte Anne, which I’ve enjoyed more than once! Anyone interested in joining UTSSC should check out their Facebook group (if it motivates you: I found a rather unflattering photo myself conducting this very interview, yikes!) and/or their website for additional information and sign-up options.  I HIGHLY recommend seizing such an opportunity to anyone who hates winter (wait, isn’t that everyone?). I find solace in the fact that while it may be freezing… I CAN FINALLY GO SKIING AT LAST!

University of Toronto Dance Club


The main function of the University of Toronto Dance Club is to offer dance classes to U of T students and alumni. The club offers classes in a variety of styles, though the executive member I spoke to explained he personally got involved because he wanted to dance Salsa. Good choice, amigo. Latin dance makes me weak in the knees, it’s so, so impressive and, in my experience, a lot of fun. The club is a great place for anyone who wants to dance, try something new and meet some new people! My informant tells me lots of people find many friends within the community and greatly expand their social circles. The best part? Students pay only $40 for 10 hours of classes! Does this sound as awesome to you as it does to me?  Check out or join their Facebook group to start (or continue!) your dance education.

University of Toronto Jiu Jitsu Club


Confession: I’m President. Consolation confession: I did NOT interview myself.

The University of Toronto Jiu Jitsu Club is a Japanese Jiu Jitsu club (many, many styles of Jiu Jitsu exist, even within “Japanese”), which trains at Hart House. It is a registered club at U of T, but it’s also part of the Jitsu Canada and the Jitsu Foundation, which are national and international organizations respectively (friends all over the world — can’t beat that!). Someone who wants to get involved would either visit or the Facebook group and get in touch with one of the fantastic instructors. Why someone might want to try it? According to Arlo it’s good fitness, good self-defense and what’s most important for him is “it’s a lot of fun!” I swear, he said it. Direct quote, not a shameless plug.

Naturally, I’ll insert my two cents ever so subtly…

IT’S AWESOME. No, but seriously… for those who might want a little more info on what exactly Japanese Jiu Jitsu entails:

Japanese Jiu Jitsu dates back to the samurai. It’s a system of unarmed combat the samurai developed for use if ever they lost possession of their sword (this is my favourite thing to say). Our style involves striking, locking, throwing, groundwork and weapons defense. It’s very self-defense oriented and it’s rather comprehensive!

While I think they’re fabulous, these are just three of many athletic clubs on campus, so don’t be discouraged if they aren’t quite what you’re looking for. That’s okay! Check here for a full list of our campus clubs, which will allow you to browse by category and find your perfect fit!

The Barbell Prescription: The What, Why and How of Weight Training

So much cool stuff happens on campus all day every day. It breaks my heart that I literally don’t have the time to go do and see and hear everything.

On Tuesday, I went to a free seminar that was held at Hart House called, “The Barbell Prescription”.

You know it’s going to be a good one when you’re already taking notes and salivating over the guest’s credentials.

Dr. J Sullivan joined us from Michigan. A former US marine, 3rd degree black belt in Karate, 3rd level Krav Maga practitioner, doctor, researcher… The guy received a $2 million research grant from the NIH… that’s the National Institutes of Health. It’s a big deal. On top of all that, he owns, manages and trains clients at a gym called Grey Steel, for aging adults.

Dr. Jonathon Sullivan

Dr. Jonathon Sullivan Source:

We started off talking about what we considered an “athlete”, how we’d define the word. I learned a little bit about Greek athletes (the word athlete comes from the Greek “athlos” which means contest or feat). Apparently there was an athletic event in the Greek games, “Hoplitodromos”, which was a race in full battle armour. Competitors in the games had to swear an oath to Zeus that they trained for a minimum of 10 months. Awfully specific for so many years ago! Continue reading

You Never Know What You’ll Discover – A Testament to Fitness and Athletics on Campus

Anyone who knows even a little bit about me probably knows that I do Jiu Jitsu. I started practising Shorinji Kan Japanese Jiu Jitsu in September of 2013, when I began my undergraduate degree. I joined the Jiu Jitsu Club at UofT and I’ve now been the president of for about two years.

That decision was the best I’ve made over the course of my undergraduate career. Let me tell you why.

Continue reading

Sometimes You Need a Break

I was sitting in the lower lounge of  E.J. Pratt library last week when I looked outside and realized that there was waterfall just outside the glass, and that somehow I had been completely oblivious of it despite having sat right beside it for four days in a row.

photo of the pearson garden behind EJ Pratt library, featuring the elusive waterfall

Continue reading

A Strange Nuit on Campus

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Nuit Blanche, an all night contemporary art event that turns the streets of Toronto into an art gallery, took place this weekend. Nuit Blanche is one of my absolute favourites events of the year, and when I heard that this year U of T would be one of the exhibit zones, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

photo of UTS window with strings lit up by lights photo of different photos of a school projected on school windows along with a fibre installation in front of the projections

My first stop was UTS (University of Toronto Schools) where Remembering the Future was hosted. This interactive fibre and video piece was created in part by the students of UTS, and had to deal with teenage fantasy and high school nostalgia.

photo of concrete sculptures of shoes hanging from a ceiling

My next stop was the Bata Shoe Museum, which may not technically be a part of U of T, but sits in the centre of campus. The Bata Shoe Museum featured EMPREINTES (above) and Shoes That Line The Lane (below). EMPREINTES was comprised of carbon casts of shoes, and carried messages by school children regarding their carbon footprint. Shoes That Line The Lane was one of my favourite pieces of the night, explored our strange custom of hanging shoes off power lines, as well as the memories and significance we associate with items of clothing.

photo of dozens of pairs of shoes hanging off of wires outside the shoe museum

From there I headed to OISE, which hosted Time of the Empress, a piece that explored the cycle of growth and decay with images of modern buidings being created and then destroyed.

projections of buildings collapsing on the oise building


From OISE I headed down the car free street to the ROM. One of my favourite things about Nuit Blanche is getting to explore the Toronto at night, since usually when I’m out at night I’m trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

photo of the ROM at night

DSC06536Outside the ROM’s old planetarium was a new pop up planetarium that Zero Hour, a video piece which flipped north to south, showing astronomical images of the sourthern sky as well as catastrophic weather from the southern hemisphere.


After a relaxing stroll through Phillosopher’s Walk, I ended up at Hart House, where Muscle Memory was taking place. Muscle Memory was a fluid dance and drama performance piece, which explored how memories can affect our physical bodies, and how our bodies carry the weight of these memories.


My favourite part of this piece were the sticky notes that covered the walls. Each note had a memory written on it by a member of the audience.


My final destination was the UC quad, where my absolute favourite piece of the night was. I’ve Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day was an illuminated text piece, which filled the quad with sunlight in the middle of the night. I loved how joyful and simple this piece was, and I really wish that they made it a permanent part of the quad.


Did you attend Nuit Blanche this year? What was your favourite part of it? 


Once Upon A U of T II

Well, friends, I would just like to take this moment to congratulate everyone on what was hopefully a successful and memorable first month of school. 

If you’re like me, you’re still checking your schedule to remember what classes you have or somehow already wildly behind on your readings (I will catch up soon, I promise).

But if you’ve been keeping up with lecture notes like a responsible and functioning member of this academic institution, I salute you. You are an inspiration to us all.

Since school started, I’ve been frequenting many of the same spaces. While this gets monotonous, I personally employ the use of an internal Disney soundtrack in my head – a strategy bound to make any mundane task seem fun. So on a related note, here’s a second instalment of Once Upon a U of T, in hopes that when you enter the same places, you will remember these photos and your day will be a little happier-ever-after.

A photo of the path along the Philosophers Walk. I photoshopped Aurora from the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty walking along the foreground, along with a few friends including birds, bunnies, and chipmunks.When walking through a place designated the “Philosopher’s Walk,” it seems only obligatory to get into the mindset of deep intellectual thinking. The scenery certainly helps to facilitate this and the walk is often a peaceful and pleasant start to my morning. I’m really looking forward to when the leaves start to change colour – the Philosophers’ Walk is stunning to walk through at this time of year.

A view of Robarts, as seen from the sidewalk along St. George St. I photoshopped Rafiki and Simba into the angular edge at the top of the building, with sunlight beaming straight down on them.

Ah, Robarts. It really is the central hub of our school. And much like Pride Rock, Robarts also shares the same visual appeal of a giant slab of concrete. Nonetheless, there’s nothing like surrounding yourself with 14 floors of hard-working students to get you motivated to sit down and write that paper you’ve been putting off. Plus it’s open 24/7 during exam time!

A photo of the food made in the Green Beat. I photoshopped Remy the rat from the movie Ratatouille onto the top of the glass display.The Green Beet is a vegan cafe located in Gerstein Library, another personal library of choice. The food always looks delicious… but I wouldn’t really know because I’m one of those people who obnoxiously monopolize the microwaves that are also present to warm up my own food. But I’ve made a mental note to try the curried lentils sometime within the next month! The Green Beet is also a space where you can freely talk without having to leave the library… so you don’t feel guilty about leaving the library.

Occasionally, I head over to the UC Union Building, located beside the Commuter Student Centre, which organizes a (FREE) tea and cookies event every Monday-Thursday at 2:30, making this its own kind of Wonderland. The comfy couches and laidback atmosphere of the building are always a nice treat and escape from studying. 

The thought of a Disney villain in Hart House is not far off because that place is so confusing that it can be frightening trying to navigate it yourself. But fear not; this massive building houses a lot of cool student resources, including photography classes, cozy rooms for hanging out, and Sammy’s Student Exchange. Check out Taryn’s post on her exploration through Hart House! Better sneak in a few extra days out on the patio before the weather gets too cold!

What are some places you commonly hang out in on campus? Let me know in the comments or snap a photo of it and tag us on Instagram at @lifeatuoft!

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



Keep calm and craft on

Hey, U of T, how long has it been since you sat down at a table and played around with markers or crayons or tubes of paint? Or actually attempted one of the many DIY projects you keep adding to your Pinterest board? (maybe that’s just me)

Kindergarten? Fifth grade, perhaps?

But, I mean, it makes sense – who can be bothered to go down to the dollar store, pick up supplies, pull out instructions and carefully read and follow them when there are readings to be completed, TV shows to catch up with and long commutes back home to embark on (in my case)?

Which is why I was quite excited to come across this giant turquoise sign in the Hart House corridor on Thursday:

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

that’s right- free.


all materials provided.

naturally, I was sold.

So Hart House’s Get Crafty program is a series of weekly, drop-in craft workshops held in the Reading Room where you can come by any time between 11-1 p.m. and work on the take-home craft project of the week.

Last week, we had little bulletin-boards that we could paint and decorate – the session before that was button-making and projects from previous sessions have included mini-piñatas, card-making, handmade beads, lip balms, bath bombs and lots of other cool stuff:

colorful keychain resting on newspaper


photo of table strewn with markers and plain white sneakers waiting to be decorated


pink ombre flowerpot


black butterfly-shaped mini-pinata with polka dots


For more info, you can check out on their Facebook/Instagram aaaaaaand their Pinterest page.

P.S the poster doesn’t mention that there’s also free tea, cookies and (if you’re lucky) granola bars to be had!

photo of tray of apples, granola bars and milk cartons

mid-painting snack
my apple got a nice blue paint splodge but who cares?

Here are some photos from Thursday’s Get Crafty session:


photo of reading room while the crafting is in session- purple wall and people sitting and working at the long table


paper with paint blobs and newspaper covered-tablebasket of markers lying on a tabletopa piece of paper covered in blobs of blue and purple paintplain corkboard


cokrboard covered in tape and blue paint (looking like a right mess)

attempted to create perfect lines using tape

the corkboard with tape carefully peeled off to reveal frustratingly wobbly lines but nothing that cant be fixed with a coat of purple paint

attempt to create perfect lines: semi-successful

corkboard fully covered in blue and purple paint and drying on my knees


photo of the corkboard pinned up onto my wall and lovingly adorned with pushpins and tiny post-its

the mini-bulletin board now up and functional on my wall

I had a really great time last week. The whole session really helped me forget about the stress-y thoughts of readings, assignments and commitments dancing around in my head.

And it felt indescribably good to actually create something tangible and colourful after a year of only having produced hundreds of black and white essay pages. (thanks, political science class)

Everybody around me was absorbed in their project and happily chattering away and it was so refreshing to not be surrounded by conversation about lectures or assignments or deadlines and just focus on the task at hand.

I know I’ll be coming back for more! If this sounds like your kind of thing, come on out and get your craft on!


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!