Summerlicious: The Student Edition

As University students, I think most of us could agree on three things;

  1. We like to save money
  2. We like to eat
  3. We don’t like to cook

Forms kind of an oxymoron doesn’t it? 

Last week I decided to explore a Toronto event that might be the cure to this seemingly improbable situation; Toronto’s 2014 Summerlicious.

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Summerlicious is a city-wide program that offers delicious food at exceptional prices. Over 200 restaurants throughout the city of Toronto participate in the program by offering a unique menu for a fixed price. It’s an opportunity for people to explore restaurants outside their comfort, and price, range.

For me however, it was an excuse to try a new restaurant, and some yummy new food, all in the hopes of sharing it with you!

You can filter the map based on things such as  neighbourhood and price range. Click this map to check it out.

You can filter the map based on things such as neighbourhood and price range. Click this map to check it out.

There are well over 30 restaurants within walking distance of U of T, ranging in price and location. I decided to try out Insomnia Restaurant and Lounge at 563 Bloor St. W. 

Insomnia’s Summerlicious menu offered a 3 course dinner, including a starter, main, and dessert for $25, including taxes and gratuity.

I started off with a smoked chicken taco on a soft tortilla with avocado, chipotle aioli, and a mass of other delicious ingredients.

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I thought I was already sufficiently full after just the starter, until I saw this delicious plate come through the restaurant. The insomnia burger is an Ontario grown beef patty with all the fixings, served with hands-down some of the best french fries I’ve had. (dipped in the garlic aioli I think I would have paid $25 just for a bucket of these!)

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Luckily I had some friends around to help me with the final course, a pink velvet cake which is essentially a glorified excuse to eat about a pound of cream cheese icing. Regardless, it was delicious.

The ratio of cake to icing was about 2:1 (not that I'm complaining)

The ratio of cake to icing was about 2:1 (not that I’m complaining)

So while I walked out of the restaurant about 5 pounds heavier, my wallet wasn’t quite as light as if I had gone to Insomnia on a normal day. To get the exact same meal, including tax and gratuity, you would pay $36.39 – which means I saved around $11.

I think Summerlicious is a great way to get out in the city and explore some restaurants that are normally out of your comfort zone, or better yet out of your price range. Some restaurants even offer a 3 course $15 lunch! The event runs until the end of this week, so make sure to check it out – and share it with me on twitter if you do! I know that I already have a couple places I want to check out before it’s over, but how about you? Are there any restaurants participating in Summerlicious that you’re dying to try? Let me know in the comments below!

Campus Getaways

I would pretty confidently call myself a city person. Ever since deciding to come to the University of Toronto I’ve wholeheartedly embraced city living and I cannot see myself living outside of a city anytime in my immediate future. That being said, I do come from a town that has a population of less than 10,000 people and is literally surrounded by farms and sometimes I really miss the quiet countryside.

What I love about U of T is that although it is right downtown there are still so many spots on campus that you can go where you can’t see (or hear in some places) any cars, or see any condos. These are some of my favourite little urban getaways on campus that I like to hang out in when I just can’t bear to see another taxi or bus.

Is your favourite getaway on here? Let me know in the comments!

I have named this the Vic Oasis, I don't know if it has a real name but I feel like Oasis is fitting. This gem is nestled between Pratt Library and Lower Burwash under a giant tree. The only downside to this spot is the people sudying in Pratt will be staring at you the entire time you're there.

I have named this the Vic Oasis, I don’t know if it has a real name but I feel like Oasis is fitting. This gem is nestled between Pratt Library and Lower Burwash under a giant tree. The only downside to this spot is the people studying in Pratt will be staring at you the entire time you’re there.

even if you turn around at the vic oasis you still can't really see any cars

Even if you turn around at the Vic oasis you still can’t really see any cars or many people at all.

If you get lucky and don't find Hart House quad otherwise occupied by a wedding party (I don't blame the wedding parties, I mean look at it) the tables are a great place to sit and read or just chill.

If you get lucky and don’t find Hart House quad otherwise occupied by a wedding party (I don’t blame the wedding parties, I mean look at it) the tables are a great place to sit and read or just chill.

hart house statue

I have so may memories associated with the Trinity Quad that it almost feels like my own backyard... almost. Sitting under the trees with a book is my favourite summer activity to do here. Trying not to fall as I cross the frozen tundra is my favourite winter activity here.

I have so may memories associated with the Trinity Quad that it almost feels like my own backyard… almost. Sitting under the trees with a book is my favourite summer activity to do here. Trying not to fall as I cross the frozen tundra is my favourite winter activity here.

I like the University College Quad in that it's very different from those of Trin and Hart House, it's wilder and has a lot more shade.

I like the University College Quad in that it’s very different from those of Trin and Hart House. It feels wilder and has a lot more shade and I just want to picnic here always.

Knox College is in between Kings College Circle and St. George Street. With two quads seperated by a cloister there is an abundance of options for study spots/general relax-in-the-sun spots.

Knox College is in between Kings College Circle and St. George Street. With two quads separated by a cloister there is an abundance of options for study spots/general relax-in-the-sun spots. I think I’ve speant more time here this summer than anywhere else on campus.

I really love this place.

I really love this place.

can you tell we're in the middle of the biggest city in Canada?

Can you tell we’re in the middle of the biggest city in Canada?

I take a lot of instagram pictures here (follow me @lifeatuoft)

I take a lot of instagram pictures here (follow me @lifeatuoft)

My Toronto Staycation!

I really wanted to go on vacation this year. Like really, really wanted to go. Earlier this year I had my sights set on trying delicacies in Europe, touring ancient architecture in India, or having a breathtaking stay in Nepal.

But, alas, as summer rolled around, I knew it wouldn’t be possible this year, because of the summer grind. Vacations are hard enough to plan without jobs, school, student budgetary restraints (that’s a nice way of saying I’m a broke college student) and other summer commitments getting in the way. I’ve accepted that my cool vacation in a country I’ve never been to still awaits me (in the near future hopefully), but I didn’t want to spend my summer without ANY vacation time at all.

To solve my vacation blues, I decided to go on some mini-adventures to fulfill my vacation needs right here in the city- a staycation!

Things Api would like during a staycation:

  • Somewhere to relax!
  • Exotic food I’ve never tried before
  • Pretty, historical architecture
  • Nice Views

My first stop of the week was to relax out at the Waterfront. It’s a quick subway ride to union station and a short walk to the ferries and the boardwalk. I decided to bring a book and have a seat at one of the benches, and it was probably the most relaxed I’ve been in a while. I returned to reality feeling a little better about my upcoming finals.

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Perfect day to relax!

Vacation spot number two was yummier than I expected. Toronto has endless possibilities when it comes to food from other cultures, but I wanted to try something something I’ve never had before. I ended up trying Kimchi fries for the first time and it was SO good! Kimchi fries are hand-cut fries with pulled pork, Kimchi (pickled cabbages), fresh leeks and a little bit of mayonnaise:

Some kimchi+pulled Pork yumminess <3

As U of T students, it’s fairly common to encounter pretty architecture, but I felt compelled to add it to my vacation list just because I need to see what else is out there (It’s not you Knox College, its me.) Therefore, spot number three was the Distillery District! This was probably the furthest spot from U of T, but its not so far out of the downtown core that it’s a difficult to get to. Truth be told, I’ve been to the Distillery before, but I just can’t get enough of it. I will use any excuse to take selfies with the twinkling lights at night time.

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I have about 20 versions of this picture because I take one every time I go #Guilty

My final vacation spot was…*Drumroll please*… The CN Tower! For one awesome view of Toronto, the ticket is totally worth it. If you look really closely you might be able to point out places on campus like UC, Convocation Hall and Varsity Stadium!

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Beautiful city, beautiful sunset!

Overall, my week has been awesome. It was nice to take a break from the regularly scheduled school programming. As the summer goes on, I plan to keep up my mini-staycations and visit somewhere different each week. So check out my shenanigans on Twitter @Api_UofT!

Until next time, U of T!

Hey there, U of T!

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Hey there, U of T! My name is Elena, and I’ll be one of the Life @ U of T bloggers this summer.

I have been viewing this school from an entirely new angle for the past few days. I’ve written my last exam, handed in my final essay, and will never attend a lecture in Sid Smith again. Over the past month, it was easy to forget the fact that I am graduating in the flurry of schoolwork, final club meetings, and planning for the future.

But as the door clicked behind me after my final undergraduate exam, I had a moment of elation mixed with a bit of trepidation. I’m extremely proud to have finished my degree and excited for where it will take me, but it will feel strange to no longer have a home base among these beautiful buildings on campus.

I’ve always been one for setting summer goals (shout out to 2012 when I saw 100 different bands play across the city!), so here is this year’s: to learn about and explore facets of U of T that I haven’t had a chance to experience in the past four years. I want to create some incredible memories about this place to carry forward with me, and I’ll be sharing them with all of you here each week.

This is local musician Man Made Hill, one of the 100 artists I saw, playing on Toronto Island. That's a sander on a drum.

This is local musician Man Made Hill, one of the 100 artists I saw, playing on Toronto Island. That’s a sander on a drum.

Let’s get to know each other, U of T! Here are some things about me:

- I double majored in Chemistry and Psychology, somehow without taking a single course on neurotransmitters or something that could combine the two. In my summers doing research with the Department of Chemistry I pipetted human urine, analyzed mass spectra of illegal drugs, and synthesized a sulphur-based compound (if you don’t know what sulphur smells like, you are a lucky person).

- I want to be a journalist. I’ve struggled with this decision for a while, being in a “practical” scientific program, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to try and take a shot at making a living doing what I love, rather than always wondering if it could have worked out. Besides, there’s a great need for people who know how to talk to and write about scientists! I’ll be attending Ryerson for a Master’s degree in journalism in September.

If you couldn’t guess from my 100-band summer, I’m quite in love with Toronto’s music scene. I write for a couple of blogs, have DJed on occasion (I can call myself a professional DJ if I’ve been paid for it before, right?), and was editor of U of T’s own music magazine, Demo. Exploring the city is one of the best things you can do as a U of T student – most of my exploring has taken the form of listening to synthesizers in off-beat venues.

demo

Tell me some things about yourself, U of T! What are your goals for the summer?

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!

-stephen

 

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.

R & RRRRRR

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 ;).
-Aziza

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.

Academic

  • 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?).

Shaggy.

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?

-Aziza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

-Aziza

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