(Barely) Imparting Senior Student Wisdom

Hello new semester! Don’t you just love the buzz around campus this time of year? You know, its that time in the semester where midterms haven’t taken over life yet, the weather is still amazing and you have a whole new batch of stationary to play with. Okay, that last one only applies to me and a handful of very cool people.

It’s also that time of year where I usually make tons of new goals and try extra hard to get this whole studying thing right.


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Halfway Through..Now What?

Hello U of T!

I’m Liana and I’m writing for the Community Crew this year as the CTSI (Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation) Blogger. I’m a born and raised Torontonian, a first generation student, and in my third year double majoring in English and Book & Media Studies. You’ll come to learn throughout the year that I really love writing and reading..if that weren’t obvious from my choice of majors.

A photograph of Liana posing in front of a ferris wheel

Me on a trip to Seattle last year!

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Like a new year (hello 2016!!), a new semester never fails to get me in the mood to reflect on my goals. Goals forgotten, goals achieved, #goals that I aspire to move from the murky depths of my Pinterest board to real life and goals that are relevant to what I hope the new semester might hold for me.

At the beginning of last semester, I spent one particularly quiet night shift at work outlining the academic hopes and dreams that I would ‘surely’ have no trouble fulfilling   the steps that would have me on the road to university success in no time. However, upon revisiting said list, I can now safely say that my list was pretty unauthentic and maybe even impractical. My goal for this semester? Setting realistic goals.

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The Breaking Point

As I was walking down St. George the other day, I heard snippets from other peoples’ conversations. I promise, I wasn’t eavesdropping; I just forgot my headphones and I was bored. Anyways, these are the kinds of things I heard:

“Blah blah blah blah stressed blah blah blah failure blah blah forget blah tired blah blah I can’t blah blah blah…”

UofT, it seems we are in a sorry state of affairs at present. Of course, it’s to be expected at this time of year. We’re all just trying to put in that final hustle and make it to winter break.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m actively trying to face my final assignments with a more positive outlook; I’m trying to use my stress as a motivator. I want to appreciate every moment that I have as an undergrad student. However, I want to make something very clear:

None of that makes the work easy, and it certainly doesn’t make it go by any faster. Continue reading

It’s the most arduous time of the year

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

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

Pictured: My Christmas tree and some Christmas records

The cheer is even invading my own apartment!

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

First Years – Unplugging on Campus

The start of the ’gap’ between midterms and finals is definitely a good time to find more opportunities to de-stress where possible. As I’ve been emphasizing the importance I’ve placed on striking a balance between work and play, I’ve decided to find out where my fellow first-years have been going to relax on campus. Specifically, I’ve been looking for places to ‘unplug’ and unwind without keeping a constant eye on my phone.

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Getting over a bad grade: A personal memoir

Happy end of October! Hopefully many of you have reached the closing round of midterms and are either eagerly or miserably anticipating your grade. While studying for U of T tests is stressful, getting your mark back afterwards can bring on its own type of stress. 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

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Powering Down The Stress

Feeling stressed out at university is natural. There are deadlines, midterms, relationships to keep up, moms to call, birthdays to remember and somewhere in there you are supposed to get eight hours of sleep?! It’s understandable why university life can be a little overwhelming.

Have no fear, friends. With a little planning and some stress-savvy tricks up your sleeve you can handle all the craziness U of T may throw at you like a well-seasoned pro. If this is your first time at the university rodeo of stress, here are some Madeline tested stress relievers that may help you through midterm season once you add your own personal twist. 

  1. I hang out with my kitty. Yes, it’s true. If you followed last week’s blog about my bad week, you will know I have been wanting a kitten for a while now and I was surprised by my lovely boyfriend and his sister with a little baby cat for my 19th birthday. (She even likes to study with me, which is appreciated this time of year.)

    Little kitten, staring over a book - "helping" with homework.

    This my birthday kitten, Poppy. AKA my fuzzy study buddy.

  2. I make myself tea. I like having a water bottle with me while I’m at school but I also love tea in the morning while I wait for my bus/streetcar. To combat this dilemma, I use a glass water bottle with a sock to keep my hands from getting burnt, which I can later use as a water bottle! #TeaSolutions. Sidenote: Staying hydrated is a really good way to stay alert and ward off stress-related headaches throughout your day!

    Madeline holding a glass bottle full of tea. She uses a sock as a tea cozy.

    Tea in a sock; it’s somewhere in between uber-hipster mason jar and regular old thermos.

  3. I talk to my best friend. Nothing makes me feel better when I’m down than ranting to my BFF about our problems, which generally include lack of sleep, being too poor to go to Sonic Boom (again) or inordinate amounts of weekend readings.

    Madeline taking a selfie with her best friend, Michaela.

    Having a friend that is always there to chat is a blessing during stressful times. I’m lucky to have a friend like Michaela around!

  4. I study in a new place. Sometimes studying in the same place day after day can make me feel like I haven’t been progressing with my work! My new favourite spot to sneak in a great study session is at Hart House Library.

    A photograph of Hart House Library; with a cathedral ceiling and wall to wall bookshelves.

    I truly believe this library is UTSG’s best kept secret….Until now. Spread the word on this beautiful library, just save a window seat for me, ok?

  5. Indulge in a Netflix break; I try to choose funny sitcoms that don’t have a really serious plot; it’s so much easier to stop at just one episode. There is nothing worse than getting to a cliffhanger in Grey’s Anatomy and ending up binge-watching when you have an essay to do!

    Madeline making a grumpy face next to a textbook.

    My face when I have to stop watching The Office to return to my #StudentLife

  6. Plan out my day. When I have enough readings to fill up my whole weekend with non-stop homework, I plan out study times and then breaks where I can enjoy having a life outside of school. Taking a tip from Tiffany’s post about time management, this year I indulged in an extra small planner so I can always have it with me!

One of the best ways to de-stress, is to avoid it in the first place. I’m guilty of procrastination (aren’t we all??), and if I know that I have a crazy week ahead of me than I will often write encouraging “Plz do your homework” notes to myself just to boost my own morale and keep myself on track.

Happy midterms U of T, de-stressing in five.. four.. three.. two.. one..

De-stress Complete.

Sometimes stress becomes too much. If you’re starting feel like your school-life-work-social load balance is becoming seriously tippy, there are resources on campus that can help you sort it out. Your mental wellness comes first. 


Bearing the Weight – In and Outside of the Gym

I went to my second Olympic weightlifting class last week. What is Olympic lifting? Well, it’s pretty straightforward really. Olympic lifts are the ones you see in –you guessed it- the Olympic Games. Someone walks up, makes a lot of noise, and throws a few hundred pounds over their head. No big, right?

Wrong. It’s really hard! I consider myself reasonably experienced in the art of lifting things and putting them back down… Apparently there’s a lot more to it.

So far, we’ve been working on two of the three Olympic lifts: “the clean” and “the snatch.”

I tried!

I tried!

While throwing barbells around is hard, the less-tangible weight of being stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted has been far more of a challenge lately.

You see, I like to pretend I’m Wonder Woman most of the time:

I actually had this picture prior to writing this article, it was my uniform for work one day. I coach gymnastics and we run a superhero-themed meet for the non-competitive athletes.

I actually had this picture prior to writing this article, it was my uniform for work one day. I coach gymnastics and we run a superhero-themed meet for the non-competitive athletes.

I take on A LOT. I train, work two jobs, I’m the president of two clubs, I’m a mentor, a volunteer –oh, and a student! I’m a campus tour guide and on a recent tour a prospective student asked her mother how I could possibly have time for it all. I laughed when her mother replied that I probably don’t have Netflix.

It’s certainly not easy, and can be super taxing on my mental and physical health often times. This semester has already been especially hard. The struggle however, has helped me to develop better study habits than I’ve ever had and motivated me to explore my options and resources on campus.

When –at the gym- the weight on the barbell is too much, you do one of four things:
1. You take some of it off –duh!
2. You put it down –double duh!
3. You call for help.
4. You drop it –and risk hurting yourself.

The same applies to those things that weigh on my mental health. First, I have the option of taking some of the weight off. If I can’t handle keeping up with everything I’ve signed on for… I need to give something up. It’s hard for me to do because I hate quitting and I really hate letting people down. I know however, that I’m better off with some extra time to decompress at the end of a long day or to study when crunch-time comes around. I think the important thing to remember is that we’re all human –as much as I’d love to be Wonder Woman- and we have limitations.

Stick figures are not my specialty.

Stick figures are not my specialty.

My second option is putting everything down. I do this when I’m trying to gain some clarity to evaluate my situation objectively. It can be hard to think when I’m balancing a ton of weight over my very breakable toes. Some people call it a mental health day. For me, it’s sometimes only a few hours. Again, it can be very hard. When you’re completely swamped, not studying, not working on that assignment, can induce a lot of anxiety. I’m getting better at it though and I find those few hours “off” -doing nothing that I need to do- do a lot of good for me.

Calling for help is another strategy. One thing I love about being in a big city and on a big campus is the number of resources we have at our fingertips. Help is always steps away. This week I had a lovely chat with someone at my registrar’s office. Not only did I gain some insight, it really helped to just “talk it out.” I have a tendency to go over things in my head again and again. And it’s exhausting. When I speak my mind to someone else, I can quiet the internal monologue.

Now my go-to for academic advice! I recommend the Registrar’s Office 100%. Plus, Woodsworth College is beautiful, I should spend more time here.

Now my go-to for academic advice! I recommend the Registrar’s Office 100%. Plus, Woodsworth College is beautiful, I should spend more time here.

The last option is to wait until I’m completely burnt out and the weight comes crashing down on its own. Obviously, this is far from ideal. t I want to avoid it and  I’d love for you to avoid it too! Sometimes it’ll happen regardless of the measures you take to avoid it. Life can be unpredictable. Having said that, I find that most of the time if I take advantage of the other options I have, I can complete the lift –so to speak- and stand tall.