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!

One Long To-Do: The Importance of Finding the Right Balance

Hello dear blog readers! Welcome back to school for our winter semester. For me, I am incredibly excited to get things going.

Yet this week was probably not what I had in mind. Alongside my course readings, I have twelve hours of work, three deferred essays (yes, I am still living with the consequences of having mono last semester), preliminary plans for a leadership series, too many meetings, getting a undergraduate journal printed in the next couple days, and of course, planning a history conference on Saturday. If you are wondering, “Haley, how do you do it?” trust me, I ask myself the exact same thing every day.

In all honesty, I find that when I am busy, I am more productive. Maybe it is my experience of balancing work, school, and extra-curricular activities since I was twelve (yes, that was legal in Alberta), or maybe it is just my personality. Either way, I hate being bored.

Of course, this productivity can only last for so long. I found that in my first and second years, I would just add more responsibilities until my mental health was in shambles. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have insomnia, but I wanted to share a couple things with you that keep me going.

First is my new apartment. I recently moved out of residence, mainly because I needed a space that was separate from all my university involvement. It was kind of taxing all the time to be just be “two minutes away” from everything, which induced a perpetual “go, go, go” mentality. So, to actually have my own place that is away from “it all” has been invaluable to my sense of wellbeing.

My lovely coffee machine.

This is my dinner. #coffeeaddict.

 

A table with all my books, computer, and notebook...right next to the microwave.

My kitchen table turned desk!

Now, I am not necessarily advising that you drop everything and move to a new place! I find that simply designating spaces for certain tasks (room is for sleeping, library is for studying, the JCR is for socializing) can really help you feel more aware about how you interact with and use your physical surroundings. Also, designating your bed solely for sleeping can help with insomnia. (http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/insomnia-tips)

Selfie at the Library.

Graham Library Lifestyle .

Second is my calendar. I need to schedule not because I forget my plans otherwise, but so I avoid stressing over “what’s next.”

Also, like every fun person, I love colours. By establishing certain colours for certain tasks (teal for student government, purple for work, red for class, light blue for events) my calendar helps me to balance out everything.

My calendar with all my events neatly coloured.

So many colours, so many things to do!

So in short, finding a method that allowed me to focus solely on what I need to do has been a great source of relief. Although it took me basically until my third year to figure out my optimal workload, it is quite reassuring now to know I can do it, even at the busiest of times. Why? Well, because I know that this week is not exemplar of what is to come. By Sunday, I will be done most of work and will be able to recharge for the week ahead.

What do you do keep track of everything?

Exam Survival Guide!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles vs. The Turkey

Or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the S-Bomb

Chapter One

Turkey, Peacock, great-concrete-brutalist-monolith-of-doom… whatever you prefer to call it, I spent the first four years of my undergrad without studying in Robarts library. I had never felt the need. There were so many other spaces on campus that seemed less, well depressing. And even then, I rarely used the other libraries either. I was content, where-ever I was living (I’ve moved every year) to study in bed, on the couch, in the park, anywhere but the library.

There was something daunting about the size of the library, that you need ID to access the books, the mysterious 5th to 8th floors, the consummate concrete, the artificial lighting, and the air of agony of studying students, which made it seem all-too-like a prison to be a comfortable space to study.

And the triangles. All those triangles. The lights: glowing fangs. The library baring its teeth.

So I avoided Robarts. Then, in fifth year, a series of unfortunate events found me willingly entering Robarts, inviting myself into incarceration, into the belly of the beast (if a turkey can be considered a beast): 1. An article I needed was not available online, and 2. I don’t have internet access at home (I’ll talk about 2 a little more next week). As a result, I had no choice but to tackle the turkey, to pursue the peacock, to reconsider Robarts.

Photo out of a Robarts window. But not quite "out of" because it's dark and the inside light is reflecting. But, you get the idea.

The view’s not so bad, to start.

To be brief, it wasn’t so bad: an anticlimactic realization five years in the making. I even got used to the triangles. There’s little to say about UofT libraries at this point: you all know that they’re top ranked, full of great books, have plenty of study space, etc. That’s not new[s] to you, nor me. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the “s”-bomb…

Chapter Two

…that is, to “shh”. Starting to use the libraries means I had also to transcend my private notion of a study space: there were other people there. And people can be loud. If there is one thing that is misunderstood about the UofT libraries, it’s that they are not sound proof: study rooms are not sound proof. They are not meant for dance parties. They are not meant for rocketing laughter or full-volume conversation. They are not meant for catching up on Spongebob episodes. But sometimes people forget this fact. And that’s okay—people forget things. Still, it can still be infuriating. So, what is one to do?

“Shh”

In a future post, we might go into more detail about how to go about shushing; it’s not always easy to do. But, I’ve made a new habit of shushing, and have a few quick tips to tide you over until that later post.

  1. Make eye contact, or don’t. There are pros and cons to each. If you don’t want them to know you are the shusher, shush into your lapel or your book. But, if you want to guarantee maximum shushage, look them in the eye. Single them out. Let them know that shush is for them.
  2. Speak if you can’t shush. If you have to confront a study room, it can be a little weird to open the door just to utter “shh” and walk away. Use your words: it also means other people can hear you, and the shushees will know that everyone knows they got called out.
  3. Be polite, offer alternatives. It’s hard to quarrel with politeness. Say “sorry to intrude” or “thought you should know”, and suggest that they might like to prefer to move to the cafeteria or a common space to talk (a polite ultimatum). They might not know that they’re being loud, and may appreciate the note.
  4. Borrow Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows. This option might not be available to you, but if you want to make sure you’re holding on to your assertiveness while being polite, Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows can’t do you wrong. Be polite, but on the attack.
  5. Bask in the approving nods of other library patrons. You’ve conquered the noisesome enemy; you are a library hero. Rejoice!
Just Peter Capadi's Eyebrows.

I’m technically supposed to cite where I get the photos I don’t take or create, but I’ll admit that I’ve had Capaldi’s eyebrows on my harddrive for too long to remember.

hold up, wait a minute

When I nervously sit down for an interview, and the interviewer asks me the inevitable question of how I manage my time, I smile, sit up really straight, and confidently state: “I’m great at prioritizing my work!”

Selfie of Api.

My very rehearsed “I’m great at interviews” face.

It all started back in high school, when I faced the challenge of being in an internationally recognized advanced high school diploma program. I wasn’t doing amazingly well, so I had the option of dragging through the program and learning advanced material at a faster pace while risking the marks that universities would see, or, I could switch out into the regular academic program and get good grades for university (which is all that mattered to me in high school apparently).

It was one of the first big decisions I had to make about my education, and my parents left it completely up to me! I decided to prioritize my university career and I dropped the program, eventually letting my marks bring me to U of T. This experience made me realize that there’s a fine line between quitting when the going gets tough, or making the right decision for myself at the right time. (I choose the latter.)

Fast forward to about a month ago when all my responsibilities got the best of me. I got overwhelmed with school, student groups and two jobs. So, I knew it was time for a little bit of prioritization. So here’s my handy guide on how to make lemonade, when life starts whipping fastball lemons right at your face:

I wrote down all of my responsibilities and listed:

  • Why I’m involved with each?
  • How much time they take up?
  • What kind of commitment have I given them? (Did I sign a contract? Is a team relying on me?)
  • What were the consequences of taking said responsibility out of my life?

This series of questions, give or take a few, really helped me put things into perspective. I ended up quitting my second job, which, yes, is literally quitting, but it really helped me get back up on that horse! I had more time to devote to studying and extracurricular activities. I finally had some breathing space, and it made a huge difference!

Screen shot of Api on giant screen at Convocation Hall with text cap on the photo reading "who dat"

Rule 1: Always prioritize Community Crew. Or things like might stop happening.

So tell me U of T, how do you prioritize your work? Let me know down in the comments, or on Twitter at @Api_UofT

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?

 

An Ode to the Work-Study Program

As the summer unwinds, we get closer and closer to that time of year! No, I’m not talking about course selection, or frosh week or even Ribfest (although I should be, I mean have you tried those ribs?!). As the end of the summer draws closer, it means it’s time for…WORK-STUDY POSTINGS! Do you want to have a cool, fun job, where you can pretend to ‘adult’ (whatever that means), while still getting the most out of university? Then fear not my friends, for you have come to the right place!

photo-1

Nothing quite says ‘adult’ like taking selfies at your desk during work

A quick background on the work-study program: The work-study program is offered to help students develop their professional skills through various jobs on campus. The jobs run for the majority of the term (either summer or fall/winter). To be eligible, you need to be taking a minimum of a 40% course load. The best part is that you only have to work a maximum of 12 hours per week, so you have plenty of time to study, participate in student groups, or pursue other things you love!

In my first two years here, I didn’t think I would really benefit from a work-study position, since I already had a part time job. I finally decided to apply during my summer school term. and trust me, it was no easy task, but definitely worth it. The first day the positions opened on the Career Learning Network (CLN), there were over 500 postings. Thankfully, the CLN has some pretty nifty filters that you can use to find jobs that suit you. Cover letters and tailored resumes tend to feel like the bane of my existence, so I ended up using some of the online resources from the CLN and U of T’s career centre website. Tucked away in Koffler Student Services Centre is the Career Centre, where you can even get one-on-one help with a career educator!

photo

Actual early version of my cover letter.

After polishing up my resume and cover letter, and applying to about 12 different positions, I landed a few interviews. Finally, I got an amazing research assistant position at the the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evalution (AKA my dream job as an undergraduate in health studies).

This is why I love the work-study program so much, and I regret not applying to it earlier. You get the same experience without the time commitment of a full-time job. Although some people take to balancing school, work and life really well, for me, it’s not the easiest thing to accomplish. The work-study allows you to have more time. I used my time this summer for another job, summer courses and some relaxing!

Screen shot 2014-06-12 at 2.47.55 PM

#TBT to that time I relaxed a little too much

So mark your calendars, U of T! Postings go up on Monday, July 28th. Don’t miss out! If you have and questions or concerns about how to apply or how it works, let me know in the comments, or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

Face The Music (and Mid-Terms)

On the school calendar, the first semester might as well highlight the months of October and November as not the months that belong to fall, but to midterms instead. Like I have mentioned before, midterms are notorious energy-drainers. It’s easy to lose momentum and plateau when the majority of your day-to-day schedule revolves around doing school work. So I like to keep an ever-growing playlist of songs to help keep me determined to not only survive, but ace mid-term season, and to remind me that yes, it is possible to slip in a little exercise in between working.  I like to match the music that I listen to according to how I feel, I also like to listen to songs that will help me to find the energy to exercise.

Here are three songs that keep me on track in between my sleep, eat, work, eat, exercise, work, sleep (well, not all in that order) schedule:

TV on The Radio – Wolf Like Me
The colder the weather, the sleepier I get, and the more I envision myself becoming best friends with the heater in my room. Lately, my body is trying to retreat into a three-month hibernation, so just waking up has been struggle —my brain is like an overheated computer that needs to take time to load. So while it’s in the “buffering” mode, I like to play an upbeat song such as Wolf Like Me as an alarm clock to help me wake up. Listening to a song about being an unstoppable force of energy inspires me to get out of bed and prepare myself to start the day in a not-so-sluggish manner.

Sky Ferreira – You’re Not The One
For those who know me personally, my favourite type of cardio is the “dancing like crazy in my bedroom”-type of cardio. Dancing (in my room) is cathartic, because I can jump up and down, do a twirl here and there, all while no one is watching me. Whenever I put on this song, I forget the fact that I’m exercising because I’m so immersed in moving along with the tempo.

One day I’ll make my dancing debut. VIA MICSGIFS.TUMBLR.COM

I’ve also been using this song as a motivating tool to complete my assignments, or readings, by creating “dance” breaks whenever I feel like I am running out of energy or losing focus. Most recently, I came across this song (via the recommendations of many music review blogs), and have used it as my go-to track when starting my ten-minute breaks to do cardio. I like to say that I don’t like pop, but I secretly do—and I must admit, this song does glam pop very well. It’s lively, and is also about moving on and not dwelling on the past, and I take heed by dancing away my worries. I’ve come to realize that I need to open up my options when creating a song list in order to get me on my feet and moving. And since I used this song during my break in between writing this post, I can tell you that opening up my options has been working so far.

King Krule – Out Getting Ribs
During mid-terms, I’ve still managed to go to my Pilates classes at the Athletic Centre, but I’ve fallen behind on going to the gym more than once a week this month. However, I’m still determined to not spiral back into my past sedentary lifestyle, so I’ve kept active when dancing in my room, or practicing my Pilates moves. One of the main motivators for me right now is that I can do a killer plank without slouching, and that I’ve moved on to practicing other positions and exercises, such as butterfly crunches, (I lie down on my back and lift my legs in a slanted positions, all while doing quick breaths and waving my arms just above and below my abdominal muscles).

Sometimes, when writing papers, I hit a roadblock and worry about whether the words that I have written on the page make sense. This kind of anxiety makes it easy to lose focus. So I use what I’ve learned in my Pilates class, take a break to do a few moves and refresh my mind—but not without the help of music playing in the background.

I like to stick to dreamy and calming music that sometimes have a rising tempo—and the beginning guitar riffs in Out Getting Ribs do just the thing. Also, the song isn’t’t too slow so that when I do pick up my pace in doing moves like butterfly crunches, I can at least keep my body in sync with the beats. As well, I like to end my night feeling relaxed, and this song helps to soothe me into resting mode.

Sleep, eat, work, eat, exercise, work, sleep schedule still intact.

What songs do you listen to when you feel like you need to calm down, or get up and going?

in which we talk about how to focus

Wandering around clubs fair during Orientation Week often produces an overwhelming adrenaline rush; we grab brochures, freebies and put our names down on a lot of mailing lists.

New year. New start.
September is the month to try new things.
Then October comes and hits you where it hurts with its large selection of assignments, midterms and other anxiety-inducing products.

We’ve survived one midterm season and are steadily making our way toward the next maelstrom of due dates.

The university experience offers so much besides an academic education: events, resources, clubs, fitness drop-ins, and interest classes…the list goes on and on.There are too many good things out there, we just don’t have enough time.

What are we to do? How do we ensure we get the best experience possible? How do we maximize our time here on campus to enjoy and try what is offered?

I spend a lot of my time writing poetry. A particular interest of mine is blackout poetry, where you take a piece of text from somewhere, usually a newspaper, and create poems by eliminating words – literally blacking them out.

photosimple.

In many ways, I think the university process is similar to blackout poetry.

There are plenty of well established aspects of university life laid out before us, clamouring for our attention at clubs fair, on posters, in emails, or by peers and professors.

All of these are like the words on a page I’m about to start blacking out.
It isn’t possible to say, “I will do all of this” just as Blackout poetry can’t just present the page as it is, and say, “There. Good.”

In my poem writing process, I usually begin by taking a pencil and boxing the words I am going to use. This allows me to get a tentative idea of where the poem is going and what my final message will be.

So take a pencil and box what you want to do, identify:

  • Activities where you can find community and belonging.
  • Involvement that allows you to comfortably and confidently be who you want to be.
  • Participation in causes you find worthwhile, or for skill sets you desire to attain.

IMG_8591

something a tad more profound

Then I go over the boxed outlines in marker, and begin the process of eliminating the rest of the text in between, careful to avoid accidentally erasing words that I need in my poem.
It is the same for our schedules.
Once we have all the words we want boxed in, it may be wise to black out the rest as it gives us a chance to focus on what we have decided is important for this particular time, whether it be a semester or a year.

By narrowing our vision and settling on key focuses, we streamline our efforts so we can more thoroughly invest in the activities we have chosen.

IMG_8592

 every person’s real essay writing process.

Part of the university experience is also simply the process of learning how to black out, to figure out how you learn, what you are interested in learning, and what you can contribute because of who you are.

Every year can be a new poem. You can change the message of the poem, and the words that are used. You can use a new source text. You can try new clubs, visit different libraries, or even pick two completely different minors. Experiment to your heart’s content.

Just don’t forget to

  • be willing to try new types of engagement.
  • stay dedicated to what gives you purpose.
  • remember that it is good to learn through experience.

IMG_8593

university summarized.

On that note, all blackout poetry in this post was done on campus newspapers.
Try it some time!

The Jolly Season of Midterms

Oh midterm season, that dreadful time of year when everyone hides in their rooms or at the library, with their heads buried in their textbooks, forgetting that they ever had a social life. As a second-year student, I know the drill now. But nonetheless, I’m still worried because each year, the work becomes harder. This time around I don’t have any exams, which I am glad about, but I have two papers and two presentations to complete. At U of T, no one escapes midterm season scot-free; there is always something to study for.

The thing is, I know that I won’t get anything done when I’m stressed out; I put things off until the eleventh hour. And even though I’m probably going to leave one of those assignments for the classic do-it-all-in-one-night style (hey, it’s a student tradition), I still want to be, and to feel, at the top of my game. So, at the start of the week, I made a list of goals to keep my head in check:

1. Go to the gym at least once alone and once with a friend (maybe this is how I can be social again).
2. Keep attending Pilates classes.
3. Between reading a chapter, or writing a paragraph, stop and stretch for relaxation.
4. Take time to do the much appreciated “treat yo’self.” Seriously.

Parks and Recreation had this right all along. –VIA SPIFFYPOP.TUMBLR.COM

When it came to actually completing my to-do list, I was running short on energy, but still managed to reach these goals.

1. Gym?
I was aiming to be one of those “I-wake-up-at-6:00AM-to-go-to-the-gym”-types of people, but this week was devoted to night time exercising. Also, it was easier to go with a friend at night since we both had an evening class together. Even though I wasn’t active during my planned time, I was still being active nonetheless. After all, the most important part was that after returning back to my room, I was calm enough to be able to sit down and focus on my readings.

2. + 3. Doing Pilates + Practicing my stretches
I attended my Pilates class, but it was a struggle. I fell behind on practicing my planking, which I’d made a pact to perfect since last week. The night before Pilates class, I stayed up until 4:00AM doing readings and editing a paper. I woke up early  all groggy and exhausted. In retrospect, staying up so late (or early, if you’re a grim thinker) wasn’t the best decision, but I didn’t want that mistake let me skip my Pilates class, and cause a chain reaction for the rest of the week. So I went!

And you know what? When I left the AC after class, I felt revived. I was still drained from the lack of sleep, but I was calmer, and had more patience to carry on with the rest of the day. Also, I did manage to slip in some time to practice the plank afterwards.

Don’t pull an all-nighter. Your eyes will punish you for it. —VIA GIFGARAGE.COM

4. Time off + Motivation
Also I did manage to take time to achieve number four on my list, that “treat yo’self” task that I promised I would do. After completing my first presentation, I decided to take a hike to a cute café in Kensington Market. There I lounged around while sipping some blueberry honey tea. It didn’t hurt that the café made a great place for me to study at the same time.

And another thing that’s helping me to get through midterms that didn’t make my list? Making plans to join in on fun events. I realized that I needed some extra motivation to push through my never-ending pile of assignments. Most of all, I need the balance that being social brings. There’s an upcoming MoveU event coming up, Scary Skate, on October 31st. Also, it’s free, as in free to attend, with free refreshments, and free skate rentals—as a university student, I am shameless to say that free is my favourite word. Although I guess in this case, free comes with a cost, since I have a fear of skating. But I’m curious to try it out. And if I can survive midterms, then I’m confident that I’ll survive giving ice-skating another chance.

Even this goat can skate better than me. –VIA 4GIFS.COM

So now, it’s your turn to tell me dear readers. What have you been doing to keep active (and survive) this midterm season?