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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That Forgetting Feeling

You know that thing that sometimes happens when you’re about to fall asleep but then all of a sudden you feel like you’re falling, you jerk violently, and you’re wide awake again? That’s how I feel when I realize I have forgotten something.

I don’t usually forget things; I’m a reasonably organized person and I have systems that I use to keep on top of things.

Pictured: string tied around my finger

An oldie but a goodie

Every now and then, though, the occasional task slips through the cracks. One such occasion was just a little while ago. I’m taking this really interesting Legal Workshops course; I get to attend a few workshops at the Faculty of Law throughout the year. At the beginning of September, I chose the workshops I was interested in and signed up. I marked the workshops I signed up to attend in my calendar. I put them on my phone. You may have guessed, however, that I recently missed one. Continue reading

Taking a Break with Green Spaces

Living in downtown Toronto can be fun, and as U of T students we’re rarely bored. But it’s easy to forget that living in the concrete jungle, we don’t experience nature as much as we probably should. Here, then, are some spots on the St. George campus where you can enjoy the de-stressing benefits of plants and trees.

 

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

Tackling the Big Bad Reading

Why did my professor do this to me? Why is she making me read this overly dense, buzzword-ridden, thinly veiled torture device of a book? We are repeatedly told never to make our essays too “wordy.” We’re told to keep things simple and clear. Why, then, does the stuff we read seldom seem to follow the same criteria?

I love to complain and insist that my professors assign dense readings just to make me suffer.

Pictured: A still from PBS's Arthur Episode 2, "The Real Mr. Ratburn" where Mr. Ratburn, in silhouette, is lecturing a bunch of terrified third graders.

I picture Mr. Ratburn, before Arthur and the gang discovered he wasn’t actually a monster who ate nails for breakfast and assigned a ridiculous amount of homework just for the fun of it.         (Image courtesy of http://arthur.wikia.com/wiki/Arthur_and_the_Real_Mr._Ratburn).

A few days ago, one of my professors acknowledged that her reading assignment was tricky, she told us that she has struggled with it too, but she insisted that the points made—once you work to pull them out of the dense prose—are worth the effort.

Pictured: a page of one of my readings, with a particularly complex passage circled in red and the word "huh?" written above it.

Working on it…

Our professors love what they teach and they are pros at sharing that love with us. So when I’m starting to resent a prof for having the audacity to make me read a piece that is riddled with words like “paucity” and “limn,” I try to take a step back and trust that there is likely a very good reason why she’s making me do it. Then, I try to dig up that reason in the text itself.


Here are some strategies that I use to get through—and understand—dense readings:

  1. Fight the urge to speed read

Usually, my instinct is to power through dense readings as quickly as possible so as to end my suffering asap. I have found that this is extremely counter-productive because I end up not digesting much of the information. When it comes time to review, I’m back at square one and I have actually increased the amount of time I’ll spend agonizing over the reading in question.

  1. Highlight, write notes, and mark passages

The particular note-taking strategy that I use for a particular reading will vary by class, but I always like to take note somehow because it helps me to read actively and pick out the important points. The notes are also helpful when I return to the reading later, either when I’m writing an essay or reviewing for a test or exam.

I also like to mark passages that I don’t understand so that I can discuss them with my peers or with the professor during office hours.

  1. Have a dictionary handy

Academics sure do love their jargon! I like to use a physical dictionary rather than an online resource whenever possible because keeping away from electronics makes me less likely to get distracted or procrastinate.

  1. Read aloud

I’m not really sure why this works for me, but something about vocalizing what I’m reading can help me to grasp the meaning behind it. Reading aloud also helps me stay focused and better remember the information I’m absorbing.

  1. Set goals and take breaks

Sometimes, I’ll buy a chocolate bar and reward myself with a piece every ten pages. If I didn’t take little breaks every once in a while, I wouldn’t be able to stay sharp and focused and the whole endeavour would be a lot more arduous.

  1. Collect your thoughts afterwards

Sometimes, the best way to digest what you have read is to take a moment to reflect after you close the book. I like to take a walk once I’m finished; the fresh air helps me put my thoughts in order.

  1. If all else fails, wait until after the lecture

This one is for desperate times when I am really struggling and I feel like I’m not digesting any of the information. I try to pick out a few points so that I can still participate in class, but other than that, I put the reading aside.

The professor’s lecture can help me figure out what to focus on so that when I come back to the reading after the lecture, it finally starts to make sense. Of course, I usually try to get a week ahead in another class to make up for the time I’ll lose doing the particularly troublesome reading after the fact.


When you have the proper strategies at your disposal, the whole library is your oyster!

Pictured: DW from PBS's Arthur holding a library card. The caption reads: "Now I know what true power feels like."

D.W. knows what’s up                                                                                                                         (Image courtesy of http://poplibrary.tumblr.com/post/95835561085/indianazoe-true-power)

What strategies do you use to get through tricky readings? Let me know in the comments below!