Write Away

I’ve been writing non-stop all week so I’m typing this blog with sore fingers. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much work to do in such a short amount of time! What’s the biggest assignment you’ve ever had to write?

This week, I wrote three essays for Urban Politics and Globalization, Indigenous Spirituality, and Economics, for a total of 21 pages plus another 11 pages of references. Yes you read that correctly, I had to write an essay for Economics. You may be wondering what the point is for having essays in a math-based class but if you read an article in an economics magazine, you’ll realize why we need better economics writers…

From my perspective, looking down at the pyjamas and moccasins I'm wearing

Most of the week I was cooped up at home writing in my PJs, so this was the week of the “Pyjama Papers” (Photo by Zachary Biech)

In all honesty, I don’t recommend writing three big assignments in only a week. It’s taken years for me to learn how to research, write, edit and cite my essays correctly and even longer to learn how to do it all quickly. In extreme times like this I can make it through but it’s a rough ride. I don’t want you to have to go through it!

My first recommendation is to do your research first. Give yourself a few weeks to begin researching because it takes a long time and you’ll need the time for the rest of the essay. I have found that researching before I decide on a thesis is really helpful for informing me and giving me direction.

Check your assignment guidelines for what type of sources you need (including course readings and outside sources). When your assignment has a suggested number of sources, my rule of thumb is to use twice as many as suggested. Good essays have a ridiculous amount of cited research so get as many as you can! Also, using peer-reviewed academic sources is always the best route. I use the U of T libraries website and I go into the ‘subjects’ database. From there, you can get specialized databases tailored for your course subject!

Looking almost straight upwards from the front door of Robarts, up to the top of the building

U of T has MILLIONS of sources for you to choose from in their freaky-looking libraries. Imagine how much good research is in there… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

http://resource.library.utoronto.ca/a-z/subjects.html

First Nations house has an awesome library too, I highly recommend it!

For taking notes on your research, I use the queue card system. Write the name of the author or document, the page number of the detail you’re taking a note on and only include a few details per card. With this system, you can mix and match cards like building blocks however you need and you’ll have the referencing info you need for your citations later on.

A ridiculously huge stack of Q cards with all sorts of colourful rubber bands, clips, and sticky notes to try and sort them

Here’s what a few essay’s worth of queue cards look like, at least when I’m the researcher… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Work hard on your thesis and make sure to follow it the whole way through the essay. There are plenty of resources and people at First Nations House and elsewhere in U of T to help you if you get stuck. For example, I use the University College Writing Centre one-on-one appointments all the time! At First Nations House, you can meet with Learning Strategist Bonnie Maracle and she can help you with essays as well!

Next, you’ll encounter the editing stage. Here’s where A+ papers are made or lost. Edit, edit, then edit some more. When you write stuff out for the first time, it will usually be pretty bulky and confusing so go over it a few times. I’ve had essays in which I was able to edit away two whole pages without removing any of my content, so trust me when I say there’s always a shorter way to say what you want to say! Also read your essay out loud! I find that reading my work aloud helps me quickly identify awkward statements.

Lastly, you’ll need to do your citations. It’s super important to get these right, so check and double check that you’ve got them all done correctly! I always use the OWL Purdue website–it has APA, MLA, and Chicago styles spelled out excellently.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/

Now, time to get writing!

 

 

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.

The Road Ahead: Planning for Post-Exam Life

“I can’t believe this year’s already over!” we all say to ourselves in disbelief. In just over a month (even sooner for some people) we’ll be done with exams and will be free for four months. Now I know many of you have likely started figuring out your summers already, since jobs, travel plans etc. are often best planned in advance. But, if you’re like me and have procrastinated on post-exam Life: Have no fear – Api is here!

I have compiled a list of my summer options, which are my alternatives to the summer endeavours that I should have (probably) started a few months ago…(I’m only human.)

Hopefully this will help me decide on what to do this summer, and will offer some inspiration to a world of procrastinators and beyond:

1. Employment: Okay to be clear, with jobs, EARLIER IS ALWAYS BETTER. But don’t fret my friends, because it is not too late! Many places around the city are still hiring and continue to hire into the summer. Places with high traffic in the summer (such as tourist destinations) tend to hire progressively throughout the summer as well, based on need. Realistically, it might not be exactly what you wanted, but if money is the motivation, then you have plenty of hope!

Special Tip: Check out the U of T Career Centre (aka my life and soul), either in person on online for job postings, resume building and more! A few other personal favourites for job postings include TalentEgg or Indeed.Ca!

Api in a blazer in an office setting

I Wear Blazers So Please Hire Me: A Student Saga.

2. Travel: Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of experience planning large trips abroad, so I know that’s likely out of the question for me this year. BUT did you know Ontario is kind of an amazing province? A weekend up north at Georgian Bay or a Toronto Staycation is exactly what I need this summer (and it won’t disrupt school, work or anything else I want to do!

Api sitting on rock formation overlooking a lake at Georgian Bay

Ontario, yours to discover!

3. Study: The schedule for the summer term came out fairly recently, and as always, there’s a wide array of courses being offered.  Ah, summer school. It may help you finish your course requirements faster, or let you take a more intensive course without the distraction of other classes. And it probably has many other perks for some! But alas, it is school. In the summer.

Photo of empty chairs at Hart House Library

One of the many summer term perks: EMPTIER LIBRARIES

Special Tip: If you’re taking 1.0 credits continuously from May-August, then you’re eligible for the summer work-study program! Yay for more employment options!

Bonus Suggestion: Binge-watch things. I’ve barely kept up with my TV shows this year. I think that justifies watching ALL of 2014/2015’s TV gold AT ONCE, right?

So that’s a little peek into my summer, folks! What is your summer looking like, U of T? If you have any tips for what I can explore for the next third of my year, let me know down in the comments!

Spring Thaw

Spring is coming very quickly this year!

Spring is like a sunrise in the East and it feels like a new beginning. Spring is also a time for revitalizing, rejuvenating and getting back to basics. It is a time for first steps. First Nations House Elder-in-Residence Andrew Wesley is giving a teaching about Omushkego Cree Naming Ceremonies for babies on March 26th, one of the first great steps in a child’s life!

For me, springtime is the signal to take off the heavy winter jacket and defrost myself. I start with physical defrosting. Winter requires rest and more eating, so gobbling up more goodies over the holiday is totally natural but it can leave you feeling a little rusty once the weather starts to warm up. This beautiful weather means it’s time to get the running shoes out and get active!

A tiny yellow toy race car with a goofy face parked in front of a real car on the road in front of University College

Do you feel rusty, or are you ready to rev your engine??? (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I love exercise. Ever since I started getting fit in 2011 (I dropped 100 lbs. by the time I reached my peak condition) exercise has been a key part of my life.

A huge view of the green foothills and a small town in a valley, with the Rocky Mountains in the background

I took this picture while on a morning jog up the big hill in Cochrane, AB, 2012. (Photo by Zachary Biech)

It can be incredibly hard to get in shape. Trust me, I know. However, motivating yourself to exercise is related to so much more than physical fitness.

A row of treadmills and stationary bikes

Do these machines make you want to run away? (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Exercise releases tension in your body, and also creates positive emotions in your brain. I’m always happier when I’m exercising regularly. In addition to boosting your energy levels so you can function better in everyday life, exercise also boosts your mind. Your senses are heightened and your thoughts are clearer and deeper.

A cloth image of a spirit bear

Exercise is like a bear spirit: it heals and has immense mental powers (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Spirituality is also connected to fitness. The simplest example is music. I always need good tunes when I’m at the gym and my relationship with music is very spiritual. Exercise also makes me think much deeper about my own musicianship. See the reciprocity? Your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual areas all help each other out. It’s amazing how big the impact of fitness really is!

I’ve started hitting the gym again this week and the boost couldn’t come at a better time; I’m about to get hit with the end-of-semester test/assignment avalanche so I’ll need the energy to push on through!

A ridiculous sprawling pile of recipe cards with citations on them

Some debris from the last essay…don’t even get me started on how many sticky notes went along with these! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I start with a warm-up run. They can be exhausting if you’re still building your cardio capacity and they can be mind-numbingly boring if you’re on a treadmill. I always compensate by listening to my favorite Van Halen albums at full volume. You can watch movies or TV too if you have a tablet.

The control panel of a treadmill

Get running’! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Follow that with weight training. I focus on one area like upper-body or legs, per workout. It’s important to give each area a rest for the best results! Don’t forget though, you can work your abs every day.

An odd-looking weight machine

What strange contraptions are these?? (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I choose weights that are heavy enough to make me sore, but light enough that I can comfortably manage them. I always do full extensions when lifting any weight and I go slowly. By doing those things, I get the best exercise from each repetition. The only way I know how to make progress with weights is to go until I can’t possibly do another lift. That way, my body knows its limit and responds by building bigger muscle to prepare better for next time. The body adapts and is very smart!

A triangular weight rack

Tower of power (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Follow your gym trips up with lots of high-protein foods, like cottage cheese or chicken, and you’re good to go! Don’t work out too hard and take rests when you need them. Don’t give up either; your fitness is worth every moment!

http://www.athletics.utoronto.ca/recreation.htm

http://harthouse.ca/fitness/

http://physical.utoronto.ca/facilitiesandmemberships/Athletic_Centre.aspx

 

The meaning of life (and other concerns)

Warning: this post may contain material that makes you question a lot of things. Proceed with caution.

I’m in the library, writing a paper on health and social policy (you know, a typical Tuesday night activity). While performing an expert analysis on the state of health care, I start to ask questions. Why is the social structure set up this way? How did millions of years of evolution lead us to this point?

Picture of University College on a sunny day

Filed under: questions that arise when you’re stuck inside studying on a sunny day :(

A steep downward spiral later, I hit the emotional wall that is the demise of human productivity: apathy.

And what may have caused this apathy, you wonder?

Questioning the very foundations of life – value, meaning and purpose, also known as existentialism.

In various Internet subcultures, the idea of the ‘quarter life crisis,’ or the ‘existential crisis’ has become fairly common. A twenty-something wasting their life away on Netflix, caused by an utter lack of purpose, is an instantly recognizable and relatable illusion.

Meme reading: "Gives you 15 seconds between episodes to decide if you're doing anything with your life today"

All too familiar. Source: http://wanna-joke.com/evening-jokes-20-pics-22/

Personally, I think just being a student makes me vulnerable to the creeping embrace of existentialism. I have to make important decisions that will seemingly impact me for years to come, and that’s a lot of pressure. This is the general “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life” kind of problem. A minor lack of motivation, purpose and meaning spirals into more intense thoughts. We are conscious beings who have the freedom to do what we want, and to make meaning of this life that we’re living. The part that baffles me is the utter absurdity of it all.

It becomes difficult to focus on school, when you’re questioning the very meaning of your existence. We’ve been searching for the meaning of life for millennia. Ancient philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have questioned the universe and it’s existence.

Spoiler alert: we haven’t found it, which is what I remind myself when I start getting existential. They weren’t the first, nor will they be the last to ask these questions. I’ll avoid preaching about finding your love and inspiration (I do that enough).

But where does this leave me? What is the meaning of life at U of T? (Get it? Like the name of the blog? No?) Have I resumed fetal position and accepted that life is meaningless?

Picture of Api

Not quite.

I realize that in university, and in my program especially, we’re taught to question and analyze why things are they way they are. It’s inevitable that some of that thinking leaks into everyday life (those sneaky profs!) So, after a long discussion with my friends about motivation and purpose, I return to my essay with a strangely renewed interest in what I’m passionate about.

Disclaimer: Although existential thoughts might be manageable for some people, I don’t want to invalidate what anyone else has experienced. So, if you have persistent feelings like this, don’t hesitate to talk to someone or to connect yourself with resources on campus like Peers are Here, Mindful Moments, Health and Wellness and more.

Let me know about how you deal with this down in the comments, or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

Having fun with learning

It sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but I think it’s really important to have fun with your studies. There are a few reasons for this. On the one hand, you’ll have an easier time studying and learning if you like studying and learning. You may also be able to remember things better through fun and humour, than you would with other brute memorization and learning techniques. It might also make that content you learn more accessible for the non-academic community (we’re all about the social transmission of knowledge these days). For me, it helps to understand content if I can learn it in a fun way.

So, that said, here are the top five ways I have fun with my learning.

1. Weird associations. Sometimes you remember things through associations. We used to be taught the order of the planets by thinking “my very excellent mother just served us nine pizzas” (though these days, she probably just serves us noodles). When I try to remember which ancient Greek philosopher came first, Plato, Aristotle, or Socrates, I just picture them all hanging out in a spa together, talking about the [im]plausibility of each other’s theories: S-P-A, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. These are simple ones, but they get continually more bizarre as time proceeds.

2. Bad puns. This Valentine’s Day, I wrote and tweeted 288 philosophy-related pickup lines; and, in general, I’m always making bad puns. Like weird associations, bad puns help me to make more connections with the things I’ve learned, while having a lot of terrible fun doing so. Now, whenever I learn a new concept, I try to keep in mind how I might be able to turn it into a pun. Trying to recall some geneaology of Ancient Greece? Try the line: “Is your father Charmantides? Because you’re Gorgias.” And then, when trying to remember the father’s name, just run by (1) and make an association: I think of Charmander the pokemon, because the pick up line is supposed to imply that the other is also hot.

3. Songs. I’ll leave this one to Sarah’s latest post. But while I never sing outside of the shower, I constantly have songs stuck in my head. Why not make them educational?

4. Conversation Challenges. Every now and then, I like to make sure I’m able to apply what I learn. Especially since what I tend to learn are things in philosophy, and those things are rarely presented in a way that seems important or valuable to a wider community. So, every now and then, I challenge myself to bring up a particular concept or theory in at least one conversation per day. It’s not always easy, but I’ve been surprised in what connections can be drawn. You try bringing the principle of unrestricted mereological composition into a conversation about where to eat tonight: not that easy!

5. Jokes. Just like the other challenges, the trick is to try and turn what I learn into the punchline of a bad joke. What’s a better way to break the ice at a party than a subject-specific knock-knock joke? Plus, if you’re brave enough to share your joke, you’ll also have to be able to explain the punchline, which helps motivate you to know your theories. If you tell someone that Socrates walks into the club like “Hey y’all what’s Good?”, you’ll have to have a good grasp on the Platonic Forms and the socratic method, as well as a good appreciation for the fact that this joke will never be as funny as I want it to be. But that’s the point.

Have any other tips on how to make learning
fun or enjoyable? Leave them in the comments!

Remembering

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to participate in an Aboriginal Peer Mentorship Program put on by OISE this semester and my first mentoring session happened this week.

OISE Elder-in-Residence Jacqui Lavalley and I went to visit a grade 11 Native Studies class in a Catholic School somewhere near the edge of the GTA. Jacqui is delightful, and we had a lot of fun travelling to and from the school. Jacqui gave a traditional opening ceremony to the presentation and also gave a wonderful teaching to the students. Next, I spoke about my educational journey as an Indigenous person, though there was not enough time to say as much as I wanted.

A close-up of a TTC token

All you need to get from downtown to Scarberia! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

The students were great listeners and asked great questions and even gave us Tim Horton’s gift cards! I’d never been to a Catholic school before and I’d never encountered school uniforms before either so the trip was a great learning opportunity!

A blue thank-you card with a Tim-Hortons gift card just begging to be spent

The beautiful thank-you card and gift from the mentee class! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

However, visiting a high school forced me to revisit some old feelings I haven’t encountered in a long time. Jacqui had mentioned that the tobacco tie I’d been given in the ceremony knew everything about me and that I could not hide anything from it. That’s an important fact and I finally realized I’d been hiding some emotions from myself ever since I left Cochrane High School.

My hand, holding a small red tobacco bag, with a turtle image peeking in from the background

This tobacco tie knows everything about me in this moment, and it looks like the turtle is watching me too… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A Hart House stairway with it's Hogwarts style, surrounded by shadows

Even though I’m at U of T, the shadows of the past are always nearby (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Even before I left to go to the mentor session, I noticed myself falling into old trains of thought. I stood in front of a mirror and questioned my own appearance and physique because that’s what I was used to every day in high school. That can’t be healthy, right?

Many different feelings came back to me in a big rush. I remembered how hard it was being viciously judged by other kids for every little thing you did or said or wore. I remember how alone they all made me feel.

I also don’t drink or party and that left me excluded from 99% of social activities.

One of the students at the mentoring session asked me an amazing question: “How did you keep from caving in to the peer pressures?”

This question really helped me remember the good parts of high school. I remembered that I was proud that I wasn’t like those goofy peers of mine! I was proud of my accomplishments, my grades, my individuality, my interests, my heritage, my ability to say no to alcohol.

I learned to be proud because my parents always told me how proud they were of me. I can’t thank my parents enough for that support. When you are proud of yourself and you stay true to your heart, it doesn’t matter what a bunch of confused teenagers (or adults, for that matter) think of you!

Looking out a window from Hart House, with the sun shining bright behind a nearby tree

Even though the shadows are a part of life, light can always peek through too (Photo by Zachary Biech)

It breaks my heart to think other students out there don’t have parents who will say they are proud. Everybody has plenty to be proud of, no matter what. Everyone is important.

Looking out a window from Hart House, towards the towers of the main UC building

I’m proud of where I am; there’s certainly no view like this at my old high school! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

After returning from the mentor session, I had an evening lecture in First Nations House for my Anishinaabemowin class. I remembered how proud I am to be in U of T, learning an Indigenous language and reconnecting with my community. I remembered how good it feels to walk into a place like First Nations House and have great conversations and laughs with real friends in a supportive environment.

I remembered how far I’ve come and how far you can come too.

Me with shorter hair

Me in Grade 12, 2012 (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Me, but with longer hair and a pony-tail

Me in Third Year at U of T, 2015 (Photo by Zachary Biech)

 

 

 

 

 

Finding #JoyAtUofT andThe Magic of 21 Sussex

This past Monday, I was in our Juxtaposition Global Health Magazine office at the Clubhouse (also known as 21 Sussex) for our weekly office hours. I was swamped with work, but the prospect of free pizza was enough to convince me to attend a Clubhouse meeting for all the student leaders of groups who have offices in 21 Sussex. Although I’m an active member of Juxtaposition, I had never attended one of these meetings and I didn’t know what to expect, but I got a renewed perspective on 21 Sussex, which I wanted to share with you all!

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.50.43 PM

Some of the many services at 21 Sussex!

Community Engagement using the Clubhouse

When I first became acquainted with the Juxtaposition office, it just seemed like a nice area to chill out, and a place to store our group’s assets (as a print publication, we have A LOT of magazines in our office). As I started spending more time there, it became a second home.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 1.00.37 PM

Some of the many awesome things we have in our office!

After the meeting I realized it’s more than just OUR sanctuary. The clubhouse is available to the U of T community for a reason! The October open house was just one of the many ways that 21 Sussex promote community involvement and engagement.

Photo of the 21 Sussex clubhouse

Conveniently located right by Robarts!

You know how professors sometimes joke about being lonely during their office hours, since very little students actually come out? It’s a similar situation with our club’s office. The office hours are a great way to learn more about the club, what they do and how their membership works! I didn’t even know that the clubs held office hours, until I actually had to host them.

The roughly 700 clubs here at U of T can be difficult to navigate and learn about. Thankfully, ULife and UTSU have club directories, and there are countless ways to connect via social media. But, the 50 or so clubs at 21 Sussex got the privilege of office space. So maybe you want to see what Juxtaposition has in the works for the rest of the year. Or you want to find out how to go about writing for the Varsity. Or maybe you want to grab free condoms from the Sexual, Gender and Diversity office. Whatever it may be, stop by and say hi!  At the absolute least, you’ll make a new friend J.

(Did I mention our office has coffee and snacks?)

So #TryItUofT, and let me know how it goes down in the comments or on Twitter at Api_UofT!

Getting in and Getting Connected

Wow, this semester has flown by! I turned around twice and *poof*, February is almost over. University years are the fastest and wildest, after all.

What university students do is not easy. We have all taken some blows to make it through. That being said, I know from my experience that there is a tremendous amount of hope on this campus.

eight or nine bags of groceries on my kitchen counter

Hope starts with a big load of groceries! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I always say it starts with your own balance. Work hard on your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self and you’ll find your university work will flourish, as well as your personal and extra-curricular life.

A cutting board, chopped onions and green peppers, mushrooms, and cheese slices, next to a bowl of eggs ready for mixing

Here’s an example: an omelette with balanced ingredients for lunch! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A fried omelette, with marble rye peanut butter toast, a banana, and dried apricots next to a glass of coke zero

Balanced omelette with a balanced lunch! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I’m in my third year, so I’m already starting to look at my next steps. This search reminds me of the big journey towards university which began in my late high school years. Those were crazy times! The decisions high-schoolers have to make are so big, and yet they are so young.

Choose the programs which best fulfill your passions! I could not work as hard as I do to fight for every single mark if I did not have an infallible connection to my interest areas. What I do is a part of me, and what you do should be a part of you too!

A double dream-catcher with many beautiful feathers

Your heart can be found in your dreams (Photo by Zachary Biech)

U of T also has a Transitional Year Program for university applicants who don’t have the full high school requirements and an Academic Bridging Program for applicants over 20 years of age. Miizwe Biik also offers a high school-level diploma program to help applicants get their GED!

The next key piece of the puzzle is the community you connect with. Always remember, you are not alone. First Nations House is a great place to start and from there I guarantee you will make many new friends, get academic support and connect with other Indigenous organizations on campus (ABS, IEN, SAGE, NSA, ALSA, UTSCISA to name a few) and beyond! There’s also a ton of excellent events put on by these groups year-round, so keep your eyes open!

A large abalone shell with sage, cedar, and sweetgrass

Smudging with the Native Students’ Association, in the fourth floor office of First Nations House (Photo by Zachary Biech

FNH is even sending 2 Indigenous students for an exchange program atthe International Institute for Sustainable Studies in Belize this year!

I must also share a little secret which has helped me greatly. Here’s my special healthy, quick, and cheap recipe for rye biscuits whenever a tasty boost is needed!

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rye flour
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp half-and-half cream
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Grease a regular casserole or baking sheet
  3. In large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together
  4. Cut butter into dry mix and use whisk to mash and mix butter until it resembles coarse crumbs
  5. In separate bowl, mix egg and cream
  6. Pour egg mixture into dry mixture and mix with fork just until all dry ingredients are moistened
  7. Split the batter into 4 equal blobs, place in casserole or on baking sheet
  8. Cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown
  9. Eat!
Golden biscuits, creamy fruit mix, and two small cups with eggs in them

Mmmmmm these are the rye biscuits with a creamy fruit ambrosia and eggettes (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Find Your Love

Hello friends! Reading Week has come to an end, but I hope everyone had a productive and/or fun week to catch up and/or relax!

As much as I would like to talk about my own Reading Week for this post, there are only so many words I can use to describe “Slept for 8+ hours a day, not including naps.”  For some fun Reading Week shenanigans definitely check out what Amie, Rachael and Ondiek have been up to.

The first day of Reading Week was a holiday that many people have very strong opinions about: VALENTINE’S DAY!

Picture of Api with animated hearts floating around her head

Love is in the air!

Unfortunately my Valentine’s Day plans weren’t as great as I’d hoped, so for this week’s post, I am going to switch it up and share my feelings through an open letter to my (former) Valentine:

Dear Netflix,

To be honest, I’ve never been into extravagant plans on Valentine ’s Day, but I’ve never been one to think of this holiday as a corporate, over-commercialized, capitalist holiday either. What I do like is the idea behind it. Celebrating love.

We both know that Valentine’s Day is not just about loving significant others but also about loving everyone in our lives. But, I feel like I don’t have the time to love. Because of you Netflix, I feel smothered. I feel like you’re taking over my life. I want to love other things. I want to love my studies, my student groups, and my job. I want my life back. I want to explore my own interests, not just what YOU recommend.

Picture of Netflix default user face. Green Square with 2 dots for eyes and a line for smile.

Just when I think I’m out, that face pulls me back in.

I think it’s time for us to see other people. It’s not you, it’s me.

Xoxox. Sincerely,

Api

I’m not going to go too much into my terrible relationship with Netflix. It had its flaws, but in hindsight, the relationship had a lot of great parts too. We had a good run, but it’s time to find new things to fall in love with. In my first year it was a program. Sometimes it was a job. This year, it was a conference. There’s still so much more to explore. The journey ends here for Netflix, because it was holding me back from doing what I truly wanted (like being productive), but it’s just the beginning of a whole new journey!

It’s all about finding the things that you love. Isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about? So I know I’m going to listen to Drake’s advice. Try to get out there and FIND YOUR LOVE.

Let me know what you’re finding down in the comments or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!