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!

 

 

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)

A Beginners Guide to (almost, kind of) Surviving Statistics

Throughout all the trials and tribulations of university, whether it be cramming for 5 midterms in one week, or starting a 3000 word essay the night before, there is only one thing that actually, genuinely terrifies me:

Statistics. 

picture of Api with a face palm

Stats = eternal face palm :(

Unfortunately, the introductory statistics courses are required for my major. Of all my courses, it’s the one lecture that I don’t find interesting and engaging. To me, it’s like statistics has become the lone MySpace page in a sea of artfully crafted Facebook profiles.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always found understanding statistics difficult. Maybe it all the “analysis” or whatever that’s involved, but my brain does not work that way. In the summer, I managed to get through the first introductory statistics course here at U of T (STA220, PSY201 or their equivalents) but I had a very specific system that made getting through the course a little bit easier.

I thought I would be done with statistics, but my best friend the Course Calendar kindly informed me that I still needed another half credit.

Api looking disconcerted

Statistics. Honestly.

There I was, once again terrified of numbers, so I knew it was time to refer back to my statistics game plan. I’ve also met many classmates who share the same anxious feelings towards to statistics, so hopefully this helps not just me, but everyone who’s tackling the course this semester (and in semesters to come)!

API’S POSSIBLY FOOLPROOF STATS GAME PLAN

1. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE

I remember on the first day of my first statistics my professor telling the class that we had to constantly do practice questions to keep up, and I’m not going to lie: I scoffed. DO THEY UNDERESTIMATE MY ABILITY TO SUCCESSFULLY CRAM INFORMATION INTO MY HEAD THE NIGHT BEFORE? No. No they did not. It took me a full three-day library session at Robart’s to actually catch up with the small amount of material I nonchalantly didn’t do.

2. There’s a Statistics Aid Center!!! 

It didn’t know about the Statistics Aid Centre until after I took statistics, dropped the course and then finally buckled down and took it the second time. They have people on hand to help you and it’s an amazing resource to make use of!

3. Finding statistics software 

My stats course included assignments and homework that were done on statistical software, and I found out that Robart’s Library has computers with statistical software installed on them! There’s also a computer lab at Sidney Smith with computers as well! I designated a weekly time to use the computer labs, so not only was I saving money on purchasing the software, I was also making myself have at least a few hours of stats practice each week.

Api giving a thumbs up

GOD SPEED, MY FRIENDS

So there you have it folks. That was my statistics game plan, and I’m hoping it’s going to work again this semester. Good luck everyone!

If you have any other tips, let me know down in the comments or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

Another Year Wiser

December has finally arrived! I always love this time of year. December is a special time when we welcome winter into our lives and focus on getting away from the cold crazy world out there and curl up inside where it’s warm. Winter is also a time of reflection.

Looking out from a dark tunnel in a St. Michaels residence into an open courtyard with a large fountain

Almost through the passage, into bright newness (Photo by Zachary Biech)

This post is my last of 2014! Can you believe it? This semester has flown by so fast! I’ve learned so many new things, met many new people and had many new experiences.  I can honestly say this has been one of the most exciting half-years in my life.

The tangled wilderness and fallen leaves strewn around a secret garden behind the Victoria College library

I’ve done so much exploring, and yet I finally just stumbled into this park at Victoria College (Photo by Zachary Biech)

So much has changed and I have changed as well. I’m still the same old Zach but university life changes everything. I finally embraced that change and even caused some of it on my own.

A notebook page with "thanks" written in Anishnaabemowin, Russian, and English

These are all thank-you’s to my friends and family for their birthday wishes, in the three languages I use these days (I recently turned twenty, just to add more change into the mix!) On my birthday, I wrote a syllabics test for Anishnaabemowin, studied Russian, and submitted an essay which had Russian Politics AND Indigenous studies… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

To cap off the year, I’ll share some key points of my success this semester.

Key #1: Balance.

Balance balance balance! In my first blog, I shared my journey towards balance and how that journey has shaped my university experience. In short, all you need to do is recognize the four areas of your life, (body, emotion, mind, spirit) and give them each equal attention. Trust me, it works.

Key #2: Do what you love.

You are the only person who knows best what you are interested in and how you want to live and work. Celebrate those interests; they are what make you so special! It’s tremendously hard work to be a university student between classes and everything outside of class so it’s important to choose things you are comfortable pouring your heart and soul into (I think you’ll find the hard work feels much easier this way!)

Key #3: Change is as good as rest.

It’s amazing how big an impact you can have on yourself by changing things up. Try getting away from campus for a while, explore new areas and even rearrange some furniture if you have to. Change it up, it really helps!

Key #4: Get involved.

There are so many different groups you can engage with at U of T and in downtown Toronto, there’s bound to be something you’d love. So try going to a couple of meetings and choose groups that you feel you can connect with. The networks and projects you can build are limitless and the skills and energy you develop in those groups is invaluable.

Looking out into a large gymnasium, with many tables of Indigenous artworks and handmade crafts

As promised, here’s a view of the NCCT craft sale I volunteered at! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A table with huge baskets of colourful candies and crafts, which were the prizes for the raffle

Here’s the raffle table from the NCCT craft sale, where I was stationed (Photo by Zachary Biech)

For instance, being a part of the Student Life Blog has been hugely helpful in my life. I get a lot more writing and editing practice which helps me with essays and assignments.  I get to expand and share my experiences, all while connecting with my Blogger peers, who are all amazing friends I am thankful to have!

Looking south over all of the awesome buildings of campus, towards all the huge towers down by Toronto's waterfront (including the CN Tower)

An awesome view of campus from the OISE Nexus Lounge, during the Indigenous Winter Social (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Keep these 4 keys in mind in your life at university and your path will become much clearer.

That’s all from me for now! Wait for my next blog in 2015!

Don’t worry, be app-y

I often find that I have the need to be on the grid to be able to keep up with the fast paced student lifestyle. Getting a smartphone was a complete game-changer because it allowed me to be productive while on the go. Over the last few years, I’ve grown attached to a few applications, which make my life as a student SO. MUCH. EASIER.

Some of these do use Internet, so they might not be as accessible for an authentic “on-the-go” experience. But they’ve still been really useful to have because I can complete some of the tasks I need to do, without actually having to physically be at a computer!

So without further ado, here are some of my favourite student-friendly smartphone apps:

1) TTC Bus Map (And other related TTC Apps)

Screenshot of phone screen showing map with red indicator of 510 Spadina streetcar

For commuters who take buses or streetcars on the TTC, this app is a godsend. It has a real time map of where all the buses or streetcars on any given route are located. This app specifically is for iOS devices, but there are dozen of other TTC apps with similar functions that are available for both Android and iOS.

2) Adobe Reader

Phone screenshot of Adobe Reader App "add note" function. Note reads "I can add notes!"I love this app for those days when I forget to print out my lecture slides and I’m too lazy to bring my computer to school. If you go to your phone browser and open .pdf files with the app, then you can highlight, add text, underline, draw and even add notes to the file!

3) Google Drive

Phone screenshot of Google Drive App "add to my drive" page.

I only recently found out about the Google Drive app but it’s been so helpful, especially for some of the student groups I’ve been involved in! It’s great to be able to pull up files while on the go, and if you download the corresponding Google Docs/Sheets apps, then you can even edit files!

4) Any Calendar App

Phone screenshot of iOS calendar app. Reminder reading "Library time"

My calendar app of choice is the default one that’s on my phone and it is my number one organizational tool. My entire schedule is at my fingertips so I’m constantly aware of deadlines. I once thought it was a Wednesday (it was Thursday) and I didn’t finish my Thursday blog post, so yeah, calendars are my best friend.

5) Urbanspoon

Phone screenshot of Urbanspoon App homepage. It shows options for search, reserve table and hottest in Toronto.

You had to have known this was coming. I love food, and having Urbanspoon lets me look for different varieties of food at different price ranges in whatever area of the city I happen to be in. GOD BLESS.

Maybe one day, humanity is doomed because technology will turn on us and the robot uprising will wipe us out completely. But until that day, I will still trust my smartphone to be a fairly reliable companion in my life.  So remember all: be app-y.

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)

Looking Ahead, and Choosing a Path

Dealing with your program can be stressful. Choosing your degree can be hardest. This question can be easy for some people, but asking yourself what degree you want can force you to ask bigger questions as well.  For me, choosing my degree was a long process and was transformational as well.

Looking our from a small ridge towards the dense foliage of Philosopher's Walk, with a gleaming tower in behind

In the forest of life, there are limitless numbers of pathways you can choose from (Photo by Zachary Biech)

At the beginning of my second year, I declared my Public Policy major after much deliberation with minors in Political Science and Philosophy. I also took a Russian Language credit and loved it. Long story short, philosophy wasn’t right for me and the Political Science minor was redundant. So what do you do when you realize you want to switch POSts?

Looking west towards Trinity College, with the foliage of Philosopher's walk in front and the stone citadels of the college poking through in behind under a bright blue sunny sky

U of T is a big place, with many different opportunities; finding the one best suited to you is a whole other story (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Don’t worry, it’s easy. For me, the Russian Language minor was a no-brainer and I had always known in my heart I should be in Aboriginal Studies once I had the courage. So I changed my minor POSts the summer after second year, took an ABS summer credit to catch up and voila! A personalized degree path suited to my interests.  You have to do what interests you or you’ll never get the most of your program. So think hard and ask those tough questions: Are you really doing what you love?

A single great tree on a large green lawn with red flowers at it's base, and sunlight shining through it's leaves

Sometimes in the forest of opportunity, one small piece can shine itself on you, and make your pathway clear (Photo by Zachary Biech)

So what about grad school? Wow, tough question. The earlier you start asking yourself, the better. And whatever you do, don’t lose hope. There are many reasons not to enter grad school but even more reasons to go for it.

A pathway of green grass winding through a partially lit, partially shadowed greenspace of shrubs and trees

What happens along this pathway? Well, there’s only one way to find out… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Disclaimer: I am still undecided on where, when and what my further education will be. The how is always a tough question with no real answer. But the why? Well, here’s how I think of it: why not?

looking through an open iron gate, down a shaded cobblestone path with grand overhanging trees and bushes, towards the bright sunlight beyond

We may not know what’s at the end of the path, but the door is open, and it’s worth every step (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I have a few findings to share. ULife has a career mentorship program to get you connected with someone who can answer your questions. First Nations House has Aboriginal Law Mentorship services for undergrads interested in law school. The FNH staff can offer excellent guidance.

http://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/Mentorship-Resource-Centre.htm/

Law Mentorship Program: Are you considering law school? Join the Law Mentorship Program and get connected with a current Aboriginal U of T Law student mentor. You will learn about the law school experience and better understand the application process. Undergraduate contact: shannon.simpson@utoronto.ca Law student contact: promise.holmesskinner@utoronto.ca fnh.utoronto.ca

FNH Law Mentorship Program

Unfortunately, U of T has no graduate Aboriginal Studies program so if ABS is your direction, you may wish to look at other schools like Trent or York. However, Indigenous students in grad school at U of T still have the support of SAGE to keep connected.  Also, The Aboriginal Studies Department has a unique Collaborative Program in Aboriginal Health which is definitely worth exploring.

http://aboriginalstudies.utoronto.ca/propective-students/graduate-opportunities/

http://aboriginalstudies.utoronto.ca/centre-for-aboriginal-initiatives/supporting-aboriginal-graduate-enhancement-sage/about-sage/

Now back to law. U of T’s law program is very interesting. There’s a welcoming pathway for Indigenous students, status or non-status, through the Aboriginal Law Program which can include a Certificate in Aboriginal Legal Studies. There’s a huge array of scholarships, bursaries, and grants, and the faculty began offering a free LSAT course for students with financial need in recent years.

A view of the front of Falconer Hall, with a trimmed lawn, large garden, and leafy vines covering the Victorian-style brick building

Falconer Hall, Faculty of Law (Photo by Zachary Biech)

The four large white pillars of the main entrance to Flavelle House

Flavelle House, Faculty of Law (Photo by Zachary Biech)

http://www.uoftaboriginallaw.com/

http://www.law.utoronto.ca/student-life/student-clubs-and-events/aboriginal-law-students-association

http://www.law.utoronto.ca/student-life/student-clubs-and-events/aboriginal-law-club

http://www.law.utoronto.ca/admissions/jd-admissions/aboriginal-applicants

http://www.uoftaboriginallaw.com/FinancialAid.aspx

http://www.law.utoronto.ca/academic-programs/jd-program/financial-aid-and-fees/bursaries-and-scholarships/complete-list

It may seem overwhelming early on but that’s all part of the process. All you need to know is there are many good options out there and many supports to help you achieve your goals.

A doorway into Falconer Hall, with aged stone facade with leafy vines draped on the top

The door is open; all’s you have to do is walk through it (Photo by Zachary Biech)

What different degrees have you considered?

Does the path you are on allow you to do what you love?

 

Take Note!: Exploring The Volunteer Note Taker Program at U of T

Imagine you’re in class. You can’t look at the board or PowerPoint screen, but you’re one of the few there who can’t. Then, while leading the lecture, your instructor says the following:

“If this is less than this, you get that.”

confused cartoon person with question marks above head

What I look like in this situation….

A very cute sleeping/tired cat.

My brain after this happens for the fifth time…

Most instructors are much more verbal than that, but if not, I am fortunate enough to have a volunteer note taker on hand to fill in the gaps. (This gracious peer will upload their notes to a secure server that only I, and others in the class receiving notes, can access).

Because of my registration with Accessibility Services (AS) and discussions with my AS Advisor, who can confirm I need this accommodation, my instructors are notified that a student in their class requires a note taker, and asked to announce it to the class.

Neither the instructor nor the class are to know who the recipient of the notes will be. In some schools, this is not the case: students who take notes for others are to report if the recipient of notes is missing from class and they could lose their ability to receive notes if they miss more than three lectures. However at U of T, students who receive notes from a volunteer are expected to be in class and take notes to the best of their ability, but this is operated on the honour system. After all, there may be several students in a class receiving notes.

“But, there are no blind people in my class,” you may say. “Who needs notes then?” Well, there are many groups of students with disabilities that aren’t obvious. Consider students with chronic pain, those with difficulty hearing the instructor, or those with learning disabilities who learn best outside the lecture hall. They all can benefit from a volunteer’s notes.

Line drawing of a class of people.

Many can use a note taker…

“But why should I?” you might also ask, “I mean, it’s nice to do for someone, but U of T’s competitive, and I don’t want someone else to have all the information I do without doing the work for it.” I’d thank you for your honesty, but then suggest that U of T needn’t be so cut-throat. In fact, I haven’t really seen this behaviour myself: anyone I’ve approached for help or to form a study group seemed willing to work together. We are all better when we work together rather than undercutting each other.

My preaching over, I’d also suggest that students receiving notes are doing their best, and sometimes circumstances beyond their control make their best insufficient in a lecture setting. This doesn’t make them less intelligent or capable to handle a university workload; they just have to go about it differently.

So the next time your instructor asks for volunteers, give it a shot. Many students find the quality of their notes improves. (Wouldn’t you take better notes if you knew someone else might read them?) If your instructor doesn’t make this request (some forget), consider signing up directly with Accessibility Services. Your peers will thank you, and the letter of appreciation at the end of the term for your efforts won’t hurt in a job interview setting either.

On behalf of all those benefitting from this program, thank you in advance.

Let’s get downward, dog: Enlightenment at Hart House Yoga

*Credits to that one random poster at UTSC for the title. I wish I were that creative with my puns.

If the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, this week I had my first yoga class at Hart House and it was AMAZING! I’ve done yoga for a few years now, but it’s usually in beginner classes, and not regularly. I knew I wanted to try to be more physically active this year, but I needed something more than just running on the treadmill.

How did I end up with yoga?

Let me just start with one simple aspect of my personality: I like to take on a lot. It sounds like the cliché answer you might give when you get asked, “what’s your biggest weakness,” at a job interview, but for me, it’s the truth. I like to keep busy, because otherwise I just kind of …don’t do anything.

Api with concerned look on her face.

Not impressed brain. Not impressed.

It’s system that works pretty well for me, with time management and all that jazz. “But Api, I don’t see the problem,” you might ask.

Well my friends, after a very packed first month back, I realize that yes, I am able to handle a lot but that doesn’t eliminate the stress that comes along with it.

Since I seem to work best when I’m busy, I knew the solution to being stressed out wasn’t cutting things out, it was adding something I liked doing. So, I decided to replace one of my weekly workout hours (which I, coincidentally, haven’t actually started yet) with an hour of yoga at Hart House!

Photo of banner saying "Hart House Fitness Centre" with and arrow pointing down the hall.

I was really intimidated when I first stepped into the class, because I had only done introductory yoga and I was pretty out of practice. I wasn’t even sure if I could still touch my toes.

 

Mirror reflection pIcture of Api sitting down and reaching for toes with toes just out of reach.

I could. (Just barely though).

But our first class consisted of covering some of the basic moves and learning how to do them properly, so that we don’t strain ourselves and we got the most benefit from them.

The class went pretty well, and I’m glad I have something separate from school, extracurricular activities and work, that I can use as Api time!

There are lots of yoga options on campus, if you can’t commit to a weekly class, Hart House and the Athletic Centre has drop-in classes. The Multi-Faith Centre also has options for meditation and yoga!  So you have plenty of options to get your tree pose on!

Picture of api doing tree pose with one leg bent and resting against her shin.

#YogaSelfie trending in Toronto ~~

Hopefully by the end of the semester, I’ll be able to do that pose without losing my balance and falling over. Baby steps.

The Not-so Healthy Wellness Blogger: Haley and the Simplicity of the Unhealthy

Hey Life @ U of T blog readers!

My name is Haley and I will be your Health and Wellness Blogger for this upcoming year. Now, before you say “Oh another health guru, let me just look at someone else’s post,” let me be straight up with you now: I am not your typical “health” blogger. To be frank, I am a chip eating, wine drinking, cigarette-smoking (my boss is probably horrified by this admission), anxiety-stricken queer person who has never thought of dental dams and “the bedroom” in the same sentence.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 11.39.54 PM

Now you might be thinking: “But Haley! I drink wine and eat chips, and sure, I may smoke a couple cigarettes at a party, but you can still be healthy if you keep it in moderation.” Thanks friendly reader but here is the problem: moderation is not as easy as it sounds. Not to make excuses for myself but when I am stressed, which is often, I am not thinking to myself, “I really should be doing some meditation while I eat some kale.” No, I am thinking, “Pass me those Pringles so I can get me through (insert stressful essay/activity/event here).”

Eating a lot of terrible things are often “quick fixes” to terrible student problems. We all know that. But it seems impossible to get out of this mindset of reaching for the fast and often unhealthy food. Although I am making it through in public with a smile on my face, I am still struggling just as hard as I did in first year. Resorting to smoking, if anything, has made it worse because all I think about during writing an exam/essay is “when can I go outside for a cigarette?  I just can’t seem to focus without one in my hand.”

I have not actually solved the underlining problem of WHY I get so anxious. Yes medication helps, but the brain is an organ folks- it needs proper nourishment too.

It is hard, I know, but there really is no quick fix. Healthy eating and occasional exercise is something to work for, one little step at a time. I know treadmills are not my friend (fast walking for the sake of getting sweaty and tired, why?), but tap shoes are!  Cheesecake is definitely my friend but so is stem-cooked broccoli and baby carrots. Come April 2015, I want to look at health and wellness as something other than the “miracle pill” or the “lose weight on your couch” garbage that is seen on television. I do not want to see these options as “compromises” but as an additive to a better and happier lifestyle.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 11.40.41 PM

That is why I want to write for y’all and that is why I need your help to take the initiative to put my body and mind first. It is not easy and if people tell you it is, they are probably trying to sell you some green “health” mush from a late-night infomercial.

Help me, fellow students! Let’s get a little bit better together.

All for now,

Haley