5 Reasons Why August is the Best

And . . . it’s August! How do we feel about the last month of summer? (#startUofT Is August good or bad?)

I like August. A lot! So I compiled a short list of reasons to prove, quite undeniably, why it’s the best. Here we go!

#1 – I was born in August! Therefore the last month of the summer is home to my birthday. To be honest, I am seated right on the top of the fence when it comes to birthdays (and birthday parties for that matter). There is a pressure these days to go CRAZY, particularly at the age of 19, 20, and 21, and especially at university. As if it’s somehow your last birthday ever.

Fact: This year I will turn 23. By the time I am 46 I will have lived my entire life over again!

I think the best birthdays are the ones you can remember. Maybe not all of it, but at least more than half. There’s no need to rush or hurry. I’m graduating this year and grown-ups still call me a kid!

#2 – It’s got an awesome name. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the name August comes from the Latin augustus, meaning “venerable, majestic, magnificent, noble.” How can you beat that, I mean really?

Did you know? The first Emperor of Rome was given the title Augustus. Just a little tidbit courtesy of a Classical Civilizations Major. No biggie.

I think U of T should adopt that title: The Augustus University of Toronto. I think it works. It’s subtle.

#3 – August is the best!

#4 – It’s a little like a second chance at summer. June zooms by before I ever even notice. I always miss out on June. Then July happens and I go on a trip (Vancouver), and for a while it feels like the summer has started, but then suddenly I’m writing a blog post on July 31st (right now), and it hits me, Where did my summer go!

That’s when August steps up to bat and says, “Come on, I want another swing.” August is the opportunity of one more month to have fun, enjoy your free time, be creative, be productive, visit old friends or continue the adventure with new ones. August is a reminder that there is always time to do the things you want to do.

#5 – And finally, August is back-to-school month! There is a particular thrill I have experienced throughout the weeks leading up to September ever since I was in grade school. It’s called anticipation. An endless stream of images, thoughts, ideas, and expectations, wondering what will next year be like?

And then I go out and buy pens, and the whole experience explodes into reality. Pens! It’s strange because they are so small, but suddenly I need them. I didn’t need them at all before, but now I really need them.

And I need paper, binders, notebooks, erasers, and a calculator (maybe). But it’s all these tiny items of preparation that begin to transform the dream of a new school year into a living reality.

I am going back to school. It’s time to get excited!

‘Til next time, stay diamond U of T!



Dried out Pens is from toothpastefordinner.com.

Summertime Wonders at U of T

July is my favourite month of the year. By far. It’s the warmest, brightest, loveliest month in Canada, 30 days of summer bliss (and maybe a few torrential downpours to make life more interesting…). All said and done, it’s my most carefree month before Fall comes around and I, well, have to ‘get serious’.

The irony of having this post published right around August 1st does not escape me. However, August is still summer, and we’ve still got time to revel in this sunshine and the slush/snow-free pavement for a few more weeks.

So here it is! A ‘yay, you should try this too!’ mini-list of things that I have loved exploring on campus at U of T. Maybe you’ll like to explore them too.

We have a few weeks left U of T- let’s work it!

Harvest Noon

Yes, Harvest Noon has popped up a few times in our U of T blog, probably because it really is pretty awesome. Last week, they were offering a Salsa canning workshop. This Fall, they will be harvesting honey from U of T’s very own apiaries, in collaboration with U of T B.E.E.S. Keep your eye out! If you attend the harvest, glass jar in hand, you’ll go home with a batch of local honey of your very own.

Harvest Noon's Events - more to come in August!









Innis Cafe
I am a big fan of Innis Cafe. Last week, I decided that I desperately needed a cookie. You know, those days when you just *need* a chocolate fix? I love chocolate almost as much as Minions love Bananas.

Once at Innis, I realized that there weren’t any chocolate chip cookies left. At which point my heart broke with disappointment. Innis Cafe to the rescue: the gentleman behind the counter said: “If you wait 10 or 15 minutes, I can make you some!”.

Isn’t that amazing? That’s pretty amazing.

Innis :))))))))))))

I am also a big fan of their salads and their food in general: it’s inexpensive, healthy, and vegan/vegetarian friendly.


Victoria College, UC Quad, Knox College, the Oasis at Med Sci building… summer months are slower at U of T, which means that green spaces are even quieter and perfect for enjoying a moment or two of peace. Have you ever lounged in the UC Quad, delighted at how distant it feels from the rest of campus? I feel as though i’m not even in the city. I’m in the middle of some forest glade somewhere in the world, with giant trees and chirping birds. A perfect escape.

UC quad.










Faculty of Architecture at U of T

Okay, so this kind of applies to months after July, but the Faculty of Architecture offers some fantastic talks by visiting scholars. Check out this upcoming lecture in November: “Walking Your Talk – Integrating Walkability in Urban Design” by Jennifer Keesmaat. Very cool, especially in light of the fact that we do a lot of moving around at U of T.

Hart House

Again, a U of T staple that gets tons of shout outs – if you haven’t been yet, you’ll see why! Art, music, theatre, food, not to mention Hart House’s dashing Hogwarts look – you can’t go wrong with an hour or two spent here.






So there you have it, a few places on campus that have changed the way I see U of T. Perhaps you’ll find them equally as delightful ;).

Necessary Evils

There’s only a little over a month left before the 2013-2014 academic year begins, and it only just feels like summer is getting started – I have yet to make a dent in my annual summer bucket list (you know, that list you mentally compile over the school year about all the wonderful things you’re going to accomplish and partake in once school is out and the long Canadian winters are finally over? Surely I can’t be the only one…). Unfortunately, reality rears its ugly head and reminds us of the upcoming responsibilities we’ve neglected to consider over the past 3 months. So, for your reference, I have compiled a list of a few necessary evils I personally try to manage during the last month of summer in order to put your mind at ease so you can focus on fully enjoying the beginning of the semester and save yourself from the trouble of last-minute panic.


  • Get your timetable sorted! Make sure to keep the following in mind – backups, just in class the courses you want are full (unfortunately a very common problem here), having the necessary courses you’ll need to take in order to get into/apply to your desired program, sorting out any time conflicts, etc. Students who are graduating this year, bear in mind you have until August 17th to contact your registrar to redeem the ~*Dean’s Promise*~ if necessary.
  • Pay off your minimum payments as soon as possible. The last thing you want is for all of the struggle it took to compose your ideal timetable to be wiped out because you missed a deadline (it really does happen – I’ve heard horror stories). Due dates for each respective faculties can be found here. For details on OSAP or other provincial-related student loans, contact your faculty or college registrar.
  • If you’re living away from home, make a list (in case you couldn’t already tell, I’m very big on the list-making movement) of all the things you need to buy/take care of before you move into your new crib. I recommend also setting up a budget of how much you’re going to spend on food and other living expenses you’ll need for the next eight months. Word of advice to incoming freshmen – don’t go all out and buy out Bed Bath & Beyond, as tempting as may be. A majority (if not all) of the dorms/residences here at U of T already supply most of the things you’ll need for comfortable living.

Avoid last-minute scares and unwarranted surprises by paying off your dues ASAP!

Personal (not so much necessary evils as friendly advice!)

  • Mentally prepare yourself for the upcoming year. Thoroughly enjoy the last month you’ll have of relative freedom before becoming a full-time student again – get it out of your system so you’re not tempted to slack! Think about what study habits have worked for you (and what hasn’t) before. Remember that a healthy balance between work and play is important, but avoid repeating the mistakes you know you’ve made before when prioritizing unnecessary matters over school.
  • Lastly, but certainly far from least, spend quality time with the people you care about – especially family (yes, even if you’ll be commuting to school from home). Show a little love for the people who will spend the next year not judging you for your lapse in personal hygiene (who even has time for proper showers during midterm season?) and who will be silently cheering you on for your success in school. They may not always understand what you’re going through, but they’ll be the ones who want you to pull through the most.

When push comes to shove, our family are the people who provide constant support for you to pursue higher ed., so show a little gratefulness by spending time with them and making sure they know they’re appreciated for it.

If I’m missing anything you feel should be an integral part of the last-month-of-summer hustle, sound off in the comments, or tweet me at @Katrina_UofT and hashtag your thoughts with #StartUofT and #UofTNecessaryEvils.

Let me Tell you a Tale or Two

I think of my life as a collection of stories: colourful tales that I gather, one by one, as I move through my days. These stories weave themselves together, a patchwork quilt of
smells, tastes, feelings, memories and colours.

Five years ago, I decided that I needed to leave Canada in order to experience what it was like to live life in another country. I wanted my stories to be filled with new sights and sounds and places.

I chose to live and work in Madrid, Spain for two years. I threw myself into a country where I knew no one at all, to see how I would fare. Much to my surprise, I actually learned to speak a language I had known only through reading and writing.

It was an eye-opening adventure. My journey was full of joy, loneliness, exhilaration, uncertainty and a lot of growth.

Sure, I was not making too much money and living a rather simple existence, but I saw so many wonderful things. A starry sky like I have never seen in a small Spanish town in the south of Spain. A beach music festival in Zambujeira Do Mar (Portugal), where I
saw Shaggy perform live (yes, the one and only Shaggy. Who knew we’d find him
in some small far-flung music fest?).


Marrakesh’s amazing market. Italy’s lake Garda. Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial.

And then there were the mundane, embarrassing moments. The moments where you wish you could simply disappear. Have you ever tried to buy, say, cheese in another language and country? Depending on where you are, there may be tons of different kinds, and you have no idea what they all are, but you just want them all. You can’t ask for them though, because you really can’t speak yet, while the people in front of you, behind you, and to your sides order copious amounts of meat. In the meantime, you desperately try to get a word in edgewise.

cheese por favor!

Or when you didn’t realize that, by translating one word into Spanish from English (they sound the same in both languages, so they must mean the same thing, no?), you told everyone you were pregnant rather than embarrassed.

Or perhaps trying to find an apartment in another language? Oh, the humanity.

You mean the room you advertised is for three people, not just one?

Or – Where did you say the room was? Oh, you mean that the bedroom has no window? I didn’t realize I’d be sharing a windowless basement room with another foreign English teacher – for a pretty hefty monthly rent. I see.

All of these moments – the embarrassing ones, the joyful ones, the completely unexpected ones – turn into stories that stay with you long after you’ve finally bought that cheese or gotten a room of your own, with a window.

I learned so much abroad that I could never have learned in Canada. I met wonderful people and went to places I never thought I would see. I always wished that I had gone on an exchange during my undergraduate years, but I did not take the opportunity to do so.

Interested in creating different stories of your own far away from home?

Look no further: U of T has some amazing exchange programs available. You have scores of countries to choose from, and what’s more, you can earn your school credits while living abroad.

Stay tuned for next week. I will explore these programs and others at U of T’s Centre for International Experience (CIE).

In the meantime – where would you go on an exchange?

















On Zen Frogs and Creating Happiness

It’s 10 minutes to five o’clock on a sunny, beautiful afternoon in May. Just a couple of moments ago, I was sitting in the chapel at Hart House, immersed in a mindful meditation workshop hosted by Cheryl Champagne from Health and Wellness at U of T. I feel calm, happy and, well, a bit surprised.  Who knew that 20 minutes of breathing could transform me from frazzled to zen? I guess I forgot how amazing meditation really is.

In the spirit of wellness and renewal (part two!), today’s post will be all about workshops, events, and resources on campus that can help you keep positive in this journey called Life.



Dare to Self-Care?

It took me years to figure out that in order to be at my best, I had to care for myself as much as I cared for other people. So I was pretty delighted to discover that U of T’s very own Health and Wellness Centre offers a workshop called Dare to Self-Care. Hosted by Jill Cressy, the workshop explores a variety of self-care practices, including stress management strategies, mind-body techniques, and 10 keys to happier living. Jill usually asks the following questions in her session:

What do you care about?

What are your values related to health and wellness?

How can you best support Happiness in your daily life?

Try your hand at them! I sat down and attempted to, but as usual, when I try to answer questions, I come up with a bunch of them instead: What does it mean to be mindful?  How can we go about creating Happiness?

My quest led me to Sutha Sathananthan, a Masters candidate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at U of T. Sutha took a Cognitive and Psychological Foundations of Effective Leadership class last fall, and became hooked on the concept of ‘happiness’. The outcome? Sutha founded Engineering Happiness, U of T’s first on-campus Happiness Initiative.

Sutha, founder of Engineering Happiness at U of T

“I started researching a lot about happiness, and I learned that there is a lot of negativity out there” says Sutha. According to her, people don’t start by thinking ‘well, what really makes me happy?’ Instead, they try to find ‘happiness’ when they are faced with depression, anxiety, and other mental health or emotional challenges. Engineering Happiness is all about providing the space and the tools for others to create awareness about the things that bring them balance, contentment, and joy.

Engineering Happiness draws its ethos from the field of Positive Psychology, which seeks to make normal life more fulfilling. Think fostering joy, creativity, and authentic happiness as ultimate goals.

U of T’s Health and Wellness also offers some amazing workshops that explore similar themes. In fact, there is just so much to be explored in the realm of wellness right on campus. Did you know that U of T actually has a Happiness Webinar Series? It’s true!

Not only that, the Multi-Faith Centre is currently offering a class on Mindful Meditation every Wednesday afternoon. Later this summer, you can even participate in a Happiness Challenge, brought to you by Engineering Happiness. You’ll be able to go out in the world an document whatever makes you happy using any medium, then submit your creation for a prize.

My foray into meditation, happiness and self-care kicked off Mental Health Awareness week. Did I get the answers to my questions? Nah…but I did learn a few meditation techniques, and learn a bit more about Happiness. Am I happy? Yes, I can safely say so.

Check out Jill Cressy’s Dare to Self-Care workshop on May 10 from 10-11 am at Charles St. Residence. Engineering Happiness is also hosting a free Laughter Yoga session on Wednesday, May 8th from 7-8 pm at Hart House, 2nd floor Debate Room.

Come out and flourish!


From The Think to The Do

The first of May is here – finally! And so begins my summer. I can store my school work away and leave my books in my room, instead of letting them carve perma-holes in my backpack. It’s been a whirlwind of a year for me here at U of T – new people, new ideas, new stressors, and an interesting dynamic between sameness and constant change. At times I’ve felt like Kramer, a few (very few) times like Sheldon but mostly like Samwise  – a bit of a wanderer in this strange new space called U of T. Sam always craves potatoes. I always crave tea. We are not so different!

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog about spring and renewal, which got me thinking about my own life. One of my goals for this year and beyond is to focus on Doing and Being, instead of just Thinking. Hmmm. A tricky thing for someone like me, who gets lost in thought. Correction, lost in Many Thoughts. I’m pretty sure that my mind is a leafy labyrinth filled with comfy chairs, cozy throws and west-facing sunny rooms designed for Great Thinks.

I took an Aboriginal Worldviews class with Professor Jean-Paul Restoule at OISE this semester, which was rather life-changing. It moved me from the Think to the Do. Each class began with a Smudging ceremony, which is all about using the Sage plant to cleanse a space of negative energy. I usually entered class a bit frazzled, my mind jumping between to-dos and must-haves and what-nots. And yet, by the time each of us had drawn the smoke from the Sage over our hands, hearts and faces, I always felt grounded and calm. Professor Restoule would end the ceremony by giving thanks for the grass, for the trees, for winter, for the opportunity we had to gather together again, and so on. We were all brought to the present moment. That’s a beautiful way to start, well, anything, isn’t it?

I decided to start be a bit more grateful for regular things every day. It’s a curious thing: the more I gave thanks, the more content I was with who I was and how my life was taking shape. The less I looked at how others around me were doing and the more I focused on what I could do to create change. You know that paralyzed feeling you get when you realize just how much more you need to get done?   Well, those moments came fewer and further between. And, the more I did. I started taking a bit of time to draw and paint again. I started to take a few minutes to close my eyes and breathe in silence in the morning. Bit by bit, I started on a journey of renewal and change.

I have always been focused on next steps. When is the next paper due? What am I making for dinner that will last me a few days? How can I best plan my day/week/month/year? The act of writing these words makes me feel rushed. It is no secret that the life of an undergraduate or graduate student can often be stressful, scattered and difficult. So it was a beautiful gift to learn to be grateful for what just is.

Being grateful for even the smallest things (It’s sunny! I can feel my fingers! My taste buds can still taste this ghastly coffee!) helped me get through was must be the longest winter I can remember. Expressing gratitude is a form of doing. It is giving positivity back to a world which throws a lot of positivity my way too.

You have all written exams, handed in papers, and completed final labs over the last few weeks. Some of you have four months of Summer. Others of you are closing your chapter at U of T, and heading onto other wondrous things. Good Luck. Take a moment to create renewal for yourself (it feels great!).

In the spirit of Spring Cleaning, Happiness and Mental Health Awareness, check out MindFest at Hart House next Monday, May 6th. Activities include exhibit booths, an art crawl, film screenings, workshops, guest speakers (Steve Paiken!), free food, stand-up comedy, and prizes.

- Aziza

An Artsy Afternoon

Contemporary art and I have an interesting relationship. Sometimes we get along, like two dancers weaving to a rhythmic beat, and other times we tip-toe in each others’ spaces, like hesitant friends at an awkward dinner party.

So it was with a bit of a sense of the unknown that I made my way to the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery to check out the current exhibition, I Thought There Were Limits. As I stepped into the gallery, I reacted as I usually do when it comes to contemporary art exhibits. I wondered: where is the art, and why is there so much space? I like creating art, but my paintings and drawings are a mish-mash of colours and shapes, words and half-finished poems, swirls, strikes, dots, random pairings of patterns and symbols…absolutely nothing like the art that stood staring back at me, daring me to take a leap.

And so, I leapt.

According to the colourful program that I picked up, the exhibit brings together five artists who “engage with both the material and conceptual dimensions of space”. Ah, Space, that most elusive of things. The exhibit spans two rooms, with one room hosting most of the art pieces, and the other engulfed by Kika Thorne’s piece titled Singularity (pictured below). I won’t go into detail about each work of art. I want you, my friend, to go and take a look!

Singularity by Kika Thorne

However, one piece caught my eye. It took the shape of a giant shiny silver blanket of sorts, slightly crumpled and lying on the floor. Not surprisingly, the piece was called Space Blanket, by Josh Thorpe. Yet it was the sound recording that formed the backdrop for the blanket which got me thinking. At first I thought I was hearing noise from the subway cars (if you’re ever in a lecture at OISE, you know what I’m talking about). Then, as I listened more closely, I realized that what I was hearing was a succession of footsteps that got increasingly louder, and then simply fell away. Intertwined with the sound of footsteps was the sound of classical music.

It could have been my imagination (that afternoon sunlight can play tricks sometimes). but every time the footsteps grew louder, the silver blanket moved ever so slightly – just enough to make me believe that perhaps it was moving on its own.

All of which got me thinking about Space. I was the gallery’s only visitor. I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds around me. It seemed as though time had stopped, and I was carried by whatever note the music played next. I opened my eyes and found myself in rather empty space filled with sound and a few works of art. I realized that the title for the exhibit – I Thought There Were Limits – fit really well. There are no limits, until you create them. The art that did have physical limits in that open space did not have limits in my mind. Now that, my friend, is profound.

Since I had thought all the deep thoughts I had inside me, it was time to go. I really enjoyed Josh Thorpe’s work, but I could only reflect for so long on potential interpretations. So, off I went, only to be bowled over in Hart House’s next corridor by the Hart House Camera Club’s annual exhibit.

According to their website, the exhibit ended on April 21. I managed to catch it, and you may have a chance as well in the next couple of days. I must have spent a good 20 minutes immersing myself in all of the photographs, and creating stories as I went along. The photographs are fantastic!

Aaron Tan’s Tension is a compelling piece:

Tension, by Aaron Tan

Art Chow’s work is also wonderful:

Observer, by Art Chow

I was pleasantly surprised by both Justina M. Barnicke’s current exhibit, and my spontaneous discovery of the Camera Club’s eye-opening exhibit (its 91st edition, I might add). Have a spare hour or so? Treat yourself to an afternoon of art at Hart House. You may just be inspired to create spaces and stories of your own!


For more information about Hart House’s Camera Club, check out their website.

Volunteering Abroad

After taking on the mighty mission of googling “volunteer abroad”, I was a little taken aback, and realized this was still a world I was unsure of navigating. The question of what you want to do this summer is the best place to start. Do you want a job, internship or volunteer position? Does paid or unpaid matter? Are you willing to look outside of your hometown or Toronto? Where do you want to go, and more importantly why do you want to volunteer? As Abdullah mentioned last week, there’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to volunteerism, especially if it’s going to be an international placement.

Once you get past these questions, narrowing down the search is a lot easier, but the process can still be really tedious.

The Centre for International Experience and the Career Centre both offer a variety of information of where to get started (or apply). The Canadian Heritage site had many work, volunteer and intern links as well.

I found that asking around really helped, especially from people who’ve personally gone on the kind of trips or jobs you’re looking for, even the community crew had tons of links for me from friends of friends. And so, I’ve provided a few of my findings below to anyone who may be looking into their own international summer volunteer options!

Students for Development
Although it isn’t quite a volunteer opportunity, I had to mention Students for Development. Through our very own university, you can get an internship opportunity with an NGO and a U of T credit through Students for Development. Partners include the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in South Africa, PRAESA (South Africa) and DECF in Kenya. There are also special places reserved for students from  St. Michael’s CollegeTrinity College or Victoria College, and the deadline is March 1. Although it is an internship, being able to intern abroad through the university seems like nothing short of a wonderful opportunity.

Another U of T project that offers volunteering abroad is D.R.E.A.M.S (Dominican Republic Education and Medical Support) which aims to offer support to a local region in the Dominican. I know a couple of friends who are currently running this year’s project and from what they’ve told me, it’s definitely a change-your-life kind of trip. It’s also a great chance to work alongside other U of T students for an alternative reading week and if you don’t particularly want to travel, but do want to help out, you can be a part of their executive council which offers an array of positions!

Operation Groundswell
Operation Groundswell was suggested by Community Crew member Crystal, who explained that the organization had more of a backpacking-, and less of staying-at -the-Hilton-for-a-week vibe. Not only do they offer summer opportunities, but they also offer alternative reading weeks, a great backup if you find yourself needing to take summer classes or a job for your four months.

Operation Groundswell’s costs were also very low (in comparison to a lot of the other organizations I had come across) and they base a lot of this on the premise that students should be able to experience the opportunity, and not have to worry about a huge payment in doing so. What sets Operation Groundswell apart is the amount of backpacking and local experience that’s offered, which they like to call their “backpacktivist manifesto”, something a lot of organizations that offer the volunteer/tour opportunities don’t always provide.

Students Without Borders
My co-host Leah Getchell from Beyond the Classroom suggested both Students Without Borders and Uniterra to me, from her involvement with WUSC. It offers experiences to volunteer abroad to Canadian students, and offer a number of placements ranging from Africa, Asia and Latin America. WUSC is the World University Service of Canada and CECI, the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation offer a number of opportunities as well. Also, as a partner of WUSC, it definitely is student-friendly. What I really liked about this organization amongst my google frenzy/32 tabs open kind of research was its emphasis on a needs driven approach, and how you’d get involved with a local organization in the region you’re in.

Also a program with WUSC-CECI, similar to Students Without Borders, Uniterra offers volunteering opportunities in a variety of places around the world, including Canada. I find the option to work with an international group in your country of residence is a refreshing opportunity that is often a forgotten choice. Volunteering abroad can get costly, and if after some research you realize volunteer-travelling isn’t for you, this is definitely a great alternative. As a joint WUSC-CECI, Uniterra focuses on focuses on five core issues of equality, economic development, health and aid, education and governance, giving you plenty to choose from.

Overall, figuring out what you want to do for your summer is never easy. Whether it’s coming to grips with the options you have (or may not have, as I realize my own breadth requirement has yet to be completed….woops) definitely get started now. Many places have already filled up with applications or will be very soon!

What are some organizations you’ve heard of?



A student’s experience studying abroad in Central Europe

The University of Toronto provides students with a plethora of unique and interesting learning opportunities, many of which can quite literally be considered “once in a lifetime”. One learning opportunity I unfortunately never pursued during my time as an undergraduate student was some international study with one of the U of T’s many study abroad opportunities. (Arts & Science students should also check the International Programs and Partnerships website for more opportunities.)

I am, however, aware of how studying abroad can enhance a student’s overall undergraduate experience and in order to demonstrate this I have endeavoured to conduct two brief interviews with students who have done some study abroad — the second of which I have transcribed for you below.

This interview is with fourth-year student Igor Samardzic who studied abroad in Central and Southeastern Europe. My questions are in bold and his answers follow subsequently. I would like to thank Igor for sharing his international experience with me — and with all of you.

Igor is a 4th year Trinity College student studying Political Science and History. He traveled to Central and Southeastern Europe with the university’s Summer Abroad program.

Why did you endeavour to Study Abroad and why did you pick the location/program that you did?

Studying Abroad was something that always appealed to me as a commuter student. Since I did not live on campus and was finding it difficult to integrate myself into the UofT community, the Summer Abroad program would hopefully be able to help in these respects — and did it ever. The program gave me the opportunity to experience something different than the regular lectures at UofT. It gave me a new perspective on my subject matter, and lifelong friends.

The location I decided to go to was not one I had initially thought I would end up in. When I started researching places to go abroad, Central Europe was not an immediate draw to me at first. Probably because I am originally from the region, and I wanted to explore other countries. However, after talking with my friends and family, I decided that Central Europe would be my choice and boy did I pick right! It turns out that any preconceptions or hesitations that I might have had about picking the wrong country were unfounded. No matter what program you choose to participate in, the results will be the same…an experience that will redefine your academic and personal journey through life. If you doubt me, I dare you to try and see!

Central Europe had a lot to offer besides a great teacher, wonderful host staff and an interesting course. My favourite part of the trip, and the main reason I chose to attend this specific program, was the many excursions! Every year the Central Europe program takes students to three different countries besides your host country. Every weekend students get to experience another city/country for three days and two nights. Therefore, although you have a base city where your main accommodation and classes take place, you also get the added bonus of travelling and learning about your subject material in real time.

What has your international experience meant to you?

The Summer Abroad experience has in all honesty been the most incredible experience of my life to date. It has impacted me in ways that I would not have thought possible. When I first applied, I knew that it would be pretty amazing just from everything you find out before hand. However, the satisfaction and awesomeness that came out of this experience was not even on my radar until I had time to reflect after.

This experience has opened me up to the world, challenged me, created friendships, laughs, jokes, memories, and contributed to my academic education in extraordinary ways. So much so that I went on another Summer Abroad the following year!

Would you recommend other students pursue the opportunity to study abroad?

In three letters — YES! I would definitely recommend it to everyone, and if you know me personally, I have. As I said before, this is an amazing opportunity, and there really is no excuse not to try to apply. Another aspect of the Summer Abroad program, which I always stress when talking to potential students, is that our courses give you the opportunity to get a FULL year UofT credit in as little as 3 weeks and up to 6 weeks and are taught by a UofT professor in the English language (except language courses). The Summer Abroad program also gives students the opportunity to travel by themselves or with others before or after the program starts, which proves very beneficial for students that have family abroad.

What advice would you give students who are considering the study abroad program?

There are several points I would suggest.

  1. Apply early: The Summer Abroad program registration process opens in January of every year, and the applications go online in a staggered fashion throughout January, depending on the program (be sure to check the Summer Abroad website.) Although the registration process does not close until March, you should apply ASAP to be sure that you get your placement. The Summer Abroad program works on a first come first serve basis for most programs and therefore, they fill up quite fast. So Apply Right Away….. like NOW!
  2. Do your Research: Do not worry, this does not mean essay research! However, looking through possible courses and matching them up with your academic requirements is a great place to start — although many students, including myself, take courses as a breadth requirement.
  3. Not getting your first Choice: If you happen to not get your first choice of program do not be discouraged. The overall experience is similar no matter where you go! Every program has its own unique qualities, so be sure to give every program a chance when choosing.
  4. Financial Aid: The Summer Abroad Program offers countless bursaries and awards. I would strongly suggest students to check that part of their website out and to inquire with the office if they have any questions or issues. The award and bursary amounts are quite generous and make the trips themselves much more affordable.
  5. For Everyone: No matter what your program of study is, the Summer Abroad Program has something for everyone. Science Abroad — introduced just recently — focuses on the sciences with particular emphasis on research. These courses offer students an experience from 6 to 16 weeks in length!
  6. Have Fun!!: Be sure to enjoy yourself, although the academic portion of the program is central to the course, be sure to let yourself experience your surroundings. Travel as much as you can, talk to locals, meet new people, and push your boundaries!
  7. If you are interested and would like to get a perspective of other past participants of our program, check out our Facebook page and post your questions on our wall. Or you can check out our website or office for further information.

It is time… Registration Time

It’s July. You know what that means? It’s Registration Time.

Registration Time is arguably the most stressful time of the year for U of T students, after Exam Week(s). We spend weeks or days (or hours, for the adrenaline junkies) figuring out our course timetable, praying to the benevolent ROSI spirits to not crash the system once we log on.

I just got my start time. As of 11:05am, July 10, I will be making my fourth – and (hopefully) final – U of T schedule. Getting my starting time reminds me of all the previous years I’ve registered for my classes. I’ve had early start times (6am), late start times (6pm). I’ve built my schedule in Edmonton and Hong Kong, but never in Toronto. There have been Eureka! moments, where I find a course that fits just so, and moments where I break into tears because trying to meet program requirements sucked.

My desk buddy Jen and I came up with a list of tips and things to look out for. Hopefully, these tips will help make registration period smoother and less stressful.

  • Plan ahead – Make different versions of your timetable, and always have back up courses in case the course you want to be in is full.
  • Pick up your Faculty’s Calendar and Timetable – They will become your bible. The calendar gives you course descriptions as well as program information. The timetable tells you when the courses are offered. If you can’t pick up a physical copy, it can be found online. I don’t know where to find the links to other faculties (sorry!), but here’s a link to Arts & Sci’s Calendar and Timetable.
  • Artscis, pick up the ASSU Anti-Calendar. Remember the course evaluations that you filled out at the end of each term? They are compiled into this handy anti-calendar. Take a look at what other students have to say about the course before you take it.
  • For upper year students (2+), check with your program department ahead of time and make sure you’re on the right track. All you have to do is talk to your department’s undergraduate coordinator. This is especially important for students preparing to graduate!
  • Visit your registrar’s office to check whether you have all other requirements. Another important office for graduating students to visit! They can tell you how many credits you have left to complete, whether you have met your breadth or distribution requirements, etc.
  • Waitlisting is okay. Say you got a late start time, like I did in my first year. By the time you log on at 4pm EST all the courses you were hoping to get are full. What do you do? Take a deep breath, and put yourself on the waitlist. Remember what I said about having a back up timetable? Make that in the meantime. Even if you don’t get into that course, at least you have a timetable to fall back on.
  • Don’t. Panic. A lot of things can happen during registration, which means you have to mentally prepare yourself.  The one most common is your computer, your internet connection or ROSI not working. Something that happened to me was that I had to register for classes in a middle of a busy restaurant in Hong Kong. Again, take a deep breath. Close all other windows and programs on your computer, and make sure you’re in a place with good internet access (I have an uncle with a nifty portable internet router while in Hong Kong) to minimize scream-at-the-screen time. Jen said she would log off of all other programs and find a quiet place, maybe even do finger exercises, to get ready.
  • FOR GRADUATING STUDENTS – The worst possible feeling I can imagine is not being able to get into a course that you need to graduate with. Do not fret, for there is the Dean’s Promise! Contact your registrar’s office by August 20 if there is a course you need but can’t take.
  • If my memory serves me, you can change your classes up until the day waitlists are dropped. That means you could – and should – keep checking course availablities up until then.

That’s all I have for now. Any other students care to share some tips? Getting the schedule together is stressful, that’s true, but once you have it done… Oh man. Best. Feeling. Ever.

- Crystal

P.S. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about registration for other faculties. Here’s a list of websites to undergrad programs in other academic and professional faculties that might help those of you who aren’t in Arts & Science!

Here are some faculties that also have undergraduate programs  (with the exception of the School of Graduate Studies). They are second entry programs, meaning you don’t get into those faculties until doing some sort of undergrad studies. Their registration may be different, so take note!

If I’m missing any faculty or department, let me know!