When Life gives you Readings, Find a Library

I live alone.

I chose to live alone, and for all intents and purposes I truly enjoy living without a roommate. I have the freedom to walk around in my boxers as I please while singing nineties pop songs at the top of my lungs. On a more practical level, I thought that living alone would allow me to live in a haven of focus and concentration. A space where I could hide away and focus on my studies without distraction. It turns out that my apartment will probably never become a distraction-free study space.

A photo of a lap top screen in front of a television screen with a lady on the television

super meta, I know!

But to compensate for the bounty of distraction that I face in my apartment, I have learned the value of essentially living in various libraries, and by various, I mean three different ones. So I thought I would write about them.

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De-stressing Through TV Shows and Movies

October is HealthyU month at U of T, an entire month dedicated to celebrating physical and mental health! October 17-21 (starting today!) is Self-Care week, which promotes ways to take care of yourself physically and mentally as well as how to de-stress. Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that when I initially thought about self-care, I wondered, “Why do I have to be concerned with how I’m doing?” Well, after some careful consideration, I realized that if I don’t care for myself, I get burnt out…easily. I can’t always be on the go, go, go (although I do enjoy that) because otherwise all aspects of my life: social, academic, and personal would suffer.

My not-so-secret way (according my friends and family) to de-stress from the enormous amount of midterms I have coming up all in the same week (scary) is to watch some good TV shows and movies. But first, let me explain the source of my stress. I prefer to study in 2 to 3 hour blocks, even though concentrating for that long can sometimes be difficult. Finding time to study for that long can also be difficult, especially with my other commitments. Sometimes I feel stressed out because I feel like I haven’t studied enough. However, at the end of my long studying sessions, I mostly feel like I’ve just come out of a deep slumber, blinking rapidly and looking around wondering “Where am I?” 

Picture of Robarts Library

Robarts in the Winter: a building that pulls me in for many hours of studying

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It’s “Back-to-School” Season, NOT “Back-to-Stress” Season

A picture of UC in the fall.

Hey everyone – welcome back to school!

Whether this is your first year at university or you are a returning UofT student, this year is bound to bring many wonderful changes. You’ll inevitably learn new information, meet new people, and experience new adventures you haven’t even thought about yet!

Before I continue, allow me to formally introduce myself – I am Slesha, your new Academic Success and Equity blogger. I’m currently in my third year of computer engineering studies. I love photography, naps, and drinking tea. Also puppies … I love puppies! But you know what I really don’t love? Stressing about school.

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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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Good Ol’ Joe

I have always thought of myself as a bit of an explorer, a daring wanderer, a seeker of new adventures…

…When it comes to cafés. I LOVE cafés. I love the smell of coffee grounds, the smooth jazz, the barista’s funky hats, the comedic tip jars. I’m the kind of person who browses Yelp for fun—though I never write reviews—and I have an ever-growing list of new coffee shops to try on my phone as a result. The café is so versatile; you can chat with a friend, you can study, you can grab a bite to eat, you can Instagram the flawless latte art, you can work on that avant-garde-werewolves-in-space movie script of yours. The possibilities are endless! We are especially spoiled at UofT because we are surrounded by some very fine java purveyors. After all, the café is the university student’s natural habitat. Here are some of my personal favourites:

Sorry Coffee Co.

Sorry Coffee Co Exterior

The Location: 102 Bloor Street West, in the back of Kit and Ace in Yorkville.

The Vibe: This place is gorgeous! It has a sleek and modern look and the chic clientèle to match. Their menu is simple, no frills or fancy syrups here, but I really enjoyed my black iced coffee. Since it’s attached to a store, it’s a pretty small space. However, there is enough space to set up shop if you feel like studying. Be warned: they don’t accept cash, only Debit or Credit.

Why I love it: Really cool selection of magazines, rose gold everywhere, promotion of local artists through their Signature Cups initiative—they partner with a different artist every few months to design their to-go cups!

Kit and Ace Interior

Fika Café

Fika Cafe interior

The Location: 28 Kensington Avenue, in Kensington Market

The Vibe: The word fika is essentially the Swedish version of the coffee break; it is just as much of a social institution there as it is here in Toronto. The owner was inspired by her trip to Sweden when she designed this pretty little Kensington coffee shop in a converted, bright blue house. In the summer, there are front and back patios. They also do brunch on weekends!

Why I Love It: The book wall, the light-and-airiness, the cardamom spiced latte (yum!)

Fika Cafe menu

Casa Coffee

Casa Coffee interior

The Location: 235 Augusta Avenue, in Kensington Market

The Vibe: This place is so hip with its graffiti-covered exterior! It’s not ideal for long study sessions because it’s pretty small, but the prices are great and they offer coffees, teas, snacks, and ice cream. There is an adjoining candy shop with all sorts of exotic selections and there is a huge selection of coffee beans that you can purchase to take home.

Why I Love It: This place smells like HEAVEN; if someone made it into a candle or a fragrance, I would buy a lifetime supply of both without hesitation!

Bicerin Espresso Bar

Bicerin Espresso Bar interior

The Location: 37 Baldwin Street, a few blocks south of the Exam Centre.

The Vibe: This place has a decidedly studious feel, probably because it sits between our St. George campus and OCAD. The WiFi is fast and reliable and there are lots of outlets and places to sit and study. It doesn’t hurt that it also happens to be on one of the cutest streets in Toronto, in my humble opinion.

Why I Love It: Warm and cozy atmosphere, great music, the fairest matcha green tea latté in all the land.  My laptop and green tea latte

The Coffee Lab

Pictured: Front of the Coffee Lab

The Location: 333 Bloor Street West, inside Willow Books near the Bata Shoe Museum.

The Vibe: This place is TINY, but adorable. It’s decorated to look like a science lab; all of the coffee beans and teas are stored in beakers and test tubes. There is no seating area, but you can always browse the bookstore while you enjoy your drink. They offer loyalty cards—every twelfth coffee is free—and a 10% off discount for UofT students.

Why I Love It: Great variety of coffee beans, funny signs outside, convenient proximity to a bookstore, delicious magic bars, the undeniable appeal of imagining your barista moonlighting as a mad scientist.

Interior of the Coffee Lab

Go forth, my fellow caffeine fiends! Do you have a go-to spot? Let me know in the comments below and we can fika soon! Check out Amie’s picks from last year; I taught her everything she knows (re: Toronto coffee shops).

Reading EEK!

Oh, Reading Week, that glorious, majestic, magical gift. It started off with such promise; you had such high hopes. Tasks would be accomplished, fun would be had, naps would be napped.

All of a sudden, it’s Thursday. If you’re anything like me, you’re starting to feel a bit anxious that you haven’t made enough progress. Many tasks on your To-Do list remain woefully unchecked. It turns out that Netflix was your one true Valentine. That wily temptress has sucked away your time and energy; you have nothing left for 18th Century Philosophy, or French pronouns, or even Lord Denning!

Pictured: Clipart Laptop with eyes playing Netflix and holding flowers

My funny Valentine [Image courtesy of: skidmore.spoonuniversity.com]

Time to panic? Not so fast. When I reassessed my Reading Week situation, I realized that I have accomplished quite a bit, even if I haven’t yet touched that reading and I’m only half finished that essay. Here are some of the ways that I’m now measuring my progress:

I cleaned!

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently got quite sick. Last week, I had to play catch-up in a major way. Unfortunately, that meant that plenty of other stuff fell by the wayside. My poor apartment definitely took a hit. I’m a pretty tidy person generally; mess makes me very upset. At the start of Reading Week, I took my time getting everything ship-shape once again. It was a huge weight off my shoulders. There’s nothing like blasting your music and tango-ing around the apartment with the vacuum, is there? No? Just me? Gotcha.

I socialized!

I love a good Robarts party—don’t get me wrong—but it’s nice to actually get out there from time to time. This week, I showed some friends around Toronto, I saw a few movies, and I attended a pizza party! It was nice to catch up with everyone before we all crawl back into our respective work cocoons in a few week’s time. Reading Week is kind of the calm before the storm, isn’t it?

I planned!

My mission, as always, is to find a CV-boosting summer job. I have been doing lots of research and preparing applications. It’s really comforting to know that I already have some irons in the fire. Reading Week is a great time to get on top of that sort of thing.

I rested!

So. Much. Napping.

Pictured: my adorable dog

I mean, how could you say no to this cuddle buddy?

I explored!

I have been exploring Netflix, yes, but I have also finished a couple of books that I have wanted to read for ages! It was a bit too cold for much outdoor exploring this weekend, but I did discover a cute new coffee shop and I went on a walk by the lake today. Often, I tend to write these sorts of things off as non-essential, but I’m realizing more and more that taking some “me time” gives me a much more positive outlook. I end up being more productive as a result.

If you did anything that made you smile, feel more relaxed, or just feel better generally, then you haven’t wasted your Reading Week! Also, guess what? It’s only Thursday! There is still plenty of time to do some more schoolwork, catch up with a few more friends, watch a movie or two, or explore somewhere new. If you go back to class next Monday feeling at all recharged and ready to get back to work, then Reading Week will have worked its magic after all!

Be sure to check out how Emaan has been rocking her Reading Week and let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments below!

Confession: There’s a New Library in My Life

There are 44 UofT libraries, spanning UofT’s three campuses. There are libraries of all shapes and sizes, all styles and atmospheres. You would think this would be enough for me. You would be wrong.

Recently, I have been cheating on UofT. Maybe I took #TryItUofT too far; you be the judge. Consider this my confession:

Dear Robarts,

We have had a long and beautiful love affair. Just over three and a half years ago, I first decided to overlook your imposing and intimidating exterior and give you a chance. I grew to love you.

We have had some wonderful times together, haven’t we? Do you remember meeting my friends? We used to hang out and study together all the time. They grew to love you, too. We presented a united front during many a finals season. I came to see your beauty more and more as I got to know you better and better—your blossoming cherry trees in the summer, your amazing Toronto views, your Rare Book Library. I will never forget all that you have given me; you were always there to provide me with research materials and unlimited free WiFi. You have been my rock. I regret nothing. Please remember that.

We had our good times, yes, but after three and a half years of dogged commitment on my part, I have become more sensitive to your stone-hearted habits. Three and a half years of endless Starbucks lines, freezing my hands off in study rooms, and red-walled cages—I mean, elevators. I’m tired, Robarts. I can’t do it anymore. Things have changed.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but I’m seeing someone else. Continue reading

New Year, New Me!

“Woke up this morning I was laid out flat on the dark side
With the moon and the room on the wrong side
I took a needle, sewed myself right back at the seams

I saw my universal gleam” – ‘Flick of the Finger, by Beady Eye

Liam Gallagher might not have the same vocals he did back in Oasis’ heyday, but his last effort to bring back the glory days with his (now disbanded) Beady Eye did bring back some of the open lyrical interpretation the band was known for instigating – but I digress. Nevertheless, it makes for a great quote that can relate to the idea of starting the new year with resolutions. It’s a time of year when – for whatever reason – you can see your errors more clearly, and when you decide to pick up the metaphorical needle and attempt to sew yourself back together again. I’m not typically one to fall into the societal norm of setting resolutions specifically to ring in the new year – but given that this will be my first full year as a university student, I decided to give it a shot.

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One Down, One to Go

Crazy as it may seem, this semester’s almost over! Classes ended this week, and finals season has finally arrived. If it weren’t for my impending doom, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that it’d already been four months since I first touched down in Toronto. Amidst all the hapless cramm — I mean, conscientious studying, in a bout of productive procrastination I thought I’d take a look back at my first semester here at U of T.

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Adjusting to Time Management

One thing that’s become particularly evident to me this semester has been the drastic changes needed to my time management methods. I’ve heard from other first years that they too have had to adjust to new work habits, regardless of the discipline. Relating to my own experience, my time budgeting skills in high school were pretty sub-par, which led to me attempting some serious adjustments on the fly in first-year.

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