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.
Feeling stressed out at university is natural. There are deadlines, midterms, relationships to keep up, moms to call, birthdays to remember and somewhere in there you are supposed to get eight hours of sleep?! It’s understandable why university life can be a little overwhelming.
Have no fear, friends. With a little planning and some stress-savvy tricks up your sleeve — you can handle all the craziness U of T may throw at you like a well-seasoned pro. If this is your first time at the university rodeo of stress, here are some Madeline tested stress relievers that may help you through midterm season once you add your own personal twist.
- I hang out with my kitty. Yes, it’s true. If you followed last week’s blog about my bad week, you will know I have been wanting a kitten for a while now — and I was surprised by my lovely boyfriend and his sister with a little baby cat for my 19th birthday. (She even likes to study with me, which is appreciated this time of year.)
- I make myself tea. I like having a water bottle with me while I’m at school but I also love tea in the morning while I wait for my bus/streetcar. To combat this dilemma, I use a glass water bottle with a sock to keep my hands from getting burnt, which I can later use as a water bottle! #TeaSolutions. Sidenote: Staying hydrated is a really good way to stay alert and ward off stress-related headaches throughout your day!
- I talk to my best friend. Nothing makes me feel better when I’m down than ranting to my BFF about our problems, which generally include lack of sleep, being too poor to go to Sonic Boom (again) or inordinate amounts of weekend readings.
- I study in a new place. Sometimes studying in the same place day after day can make me feel like I haven’t been progressing with my work! My new favourite spot to sneak in a great study session is at Hart House Library.
- Indulge in a Netflix break; I try to choose funny sitcoms that don’t have a really serious plot; it’s so much easier to stop at just one episode. There is nothing worse than getting to a cliffhanger in Grey’s Anatomy and ending up binge-watching when you have an essay to do!
- Plan out my day. When I have enough readings to fill up my whole weekend with non-stop homework, I plan out study times and then breaks where I can enjoy having a life outside of school. Taking a tip from Tiffany’s post about time management, this year I indulged in an extra small planner so I can always have it with me!
One of the best ways to de-stress, is to avoid it in the first place. I’m guilty of procrastination (aren’t we all??), and if I know that I have a crazy week ahead of me than I will often write encouraging “Plz do your homework” notes to myself just to boost my own morale and keep myself on track.
Happy midterms U of T, de-stressing in five.. four.. three.. two.. one..
Sometimes stress becomes too much. If you’re starting feel like your school-life-work-social load balance is becoming seriously tippy, there are resources on campus that can help you sort it out. Your mental wellness comes first.
Fall is in the air, but for us university students, that just means that midterms have arrived. Personally, this past long weekend consisted of studying for a term test and a midterm, getting work done for other courses, and giving thanks for the extra day to pull it all off. Naturally, I’ve been curious to see how other first-years have dealt with the stress of exams here at U of T, so I went ahead and asked some of my fellow engineers how they are finding ways to remain calm heading into them.
“Engage in recreational activities that require minimal effort or concentration! I personally stop playing online video games around exam time, and it’s been great as I don’t get nearly as worked up.” – Anurag
This is actually a pretty sound piece of advice, one that I’ve been subconsciously doing anyway. I’ve found that sticking with simple things, be it putting on an easy listening playlist, or reading a good book, have been effective methods of unwinding after a hard study session on the eve of an exam.
“I don’t spend the day of the exam still cramming and reviewing – at that point, my retentive abilities are next to zero. Instead, I try to relax.” – Dhanyaa
Relaxing with classmates right before a midterm, crazy as it may sound, actually put me in a calm frame of mind heading into the test. As Anurag cautioned against, I didn’t do something potentially strenuous. I planned my week so that I had ample studying done for the exam, and thanks to Dhanyaa’s advice, ended up spending the hour before sitting around and talking with friends as if we were just waiting around for the next class. I didn’t get too confident about it, but ensured that I wasn’t pulling my hair out immediately prior to an examination. Seeing a friendly face can do wonders when it comes to keeping stress levels low.
“Go on a walk after the exam, clear your head, and just get lost in the city of Toronto” – Ibrahim
I wouldn’t quite recommend getting lost, but going on a brief walk is a fine way to unwind after two hours in an exam room. Last week, I took a quick walk around King’s College Circle, and just relaxed there for a bit to ensure that I wouldn’t fixate on the term test I had just written. Since the weather is still nice enough to remain outdoors, taking a walk is truly a convenient way of de-stressing. When finals roll around, the weather probably won’t be as forgiving; I’m considering cafés as a good alternative for the greenery. Mental well-being is not something to be taken lightly; by arranging my time to allow for periods of rest and ample downtime in the hours leading up to a midterm, I’ve found myself feeling significantly more tranquil.
Hey there, fellow first-years! I’m Alex, a freshman Computer Engineering student. Over the course of the next few months, I’ll be sharing my experiences as a first-year student at the St. George campus. I’m one month into my time here, and one thing that’s really stood out to me is how the ‘stereotypes’ I heard in high school compare with my actual experience thus far.
I won’t bore you with a full list, but there is the whole spiel that “You’d better develop some good study habits, because university is on a whole other level!” This is the one we all love to wave off in high school. Teachers try to drill the mantra into you, but you shrug it off and cram for exams in the hour – I mean, days – leading up to them. Barely one month into the first of four years in the Computer Engineering department, and I can safely say how much I regret doing just that. I wrote my first university quiz last week, and was blatantly under-prepared. I’ve found that I really need to work on doing the readings, taking better notes and listening during lectures, and working on the ever-growing mountain of suggested problems.
One other maxim you hear a lot is that we should find time to just have fun. While education does play a major part (at least, I would hope so) in coming to university, it’s critical to find time to enjoy your life. I’m not just referring to having a laugh with your friends in between classes. If you’re like me and aren’t local to the area, set aside time to explore the city! Coming from Vancouver, I thought Toronto would be similar except with a lot less green space and more people. Well I was right about the latter, but the former was a false pretence. I visited the Scarborough Bluffs a couple of weekends ago as part of the Engineering Photography Club, and I have to admit that the GTA has its fair share of nature and spectacular views.
There’s fun to be had throughout Toronto, too. It seems like there’s an event going on every weekend, be it Nuit Blanche, a marathon, or even a lightsaber battle in the heart of downtown (I’m not lying, check it out). Life in the 6 is never a dull moment, and that’s something to be thankful for, as well as something I plan to take full advantage of this year.
When all is said and done, finding the time to make the most of what Toronto has to offer should be high on everyone’s list of priorities. As your First-Year Blogger, I’ll definitely be doing my best to get out as often as my daunting engineering schedule allows. It may be harder than ever to balance school with recreation, but I’m quickly finding out how much more enriched my days have been when I’ve made the effort to get out and do new things. Midterms might be in full swing, but I know I’ll be worse off if I don’t allow myself time to unwind, and truly make Toronto my home away from home.
As a child, I often tried to solve 1000-piece puzzles, and sometimes I lost patience and tried to jam a piece into the wrong area because it just didn’t fit. Obviously it didn’t work, and all I ended up with was a dented puzzle and heart.
For us university students, especially first-years, this is our everyday reality. We try to cram extracurricular activities, relationships, jobs, and academic work into our schedule, and this results in many, many empty coffee cups.
Here are several strategies I’ve implemented that have worked for me so far and might just get you off that heavy dose of caffeine:
- Use a planner
As someone who is constantly teased as ‘the person who would light up a Remembrall 24/7,’ it’s clear that I forget things easily, and thus, have to write deadlines and meetings down. I, personally, use a physical agenda (get one for free at the UTSU building!) to keep track of dates, but the calendar app on a laptop is equally helpful. As the old Chinese saying goes, “The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory.” (Maybe not if you’re writing in Tom Riddle’s diary—but you get what I mean.)
- Plan out your next day
Every night, I allot time to plan out my schedule for tomorrow, including both classes and activities to be done in between classes, and write it down on my whiteboard—that way I’ll have goals to complete and a direction to pursue instead of accidentally spending two hours at lunch slaving over how amazing [insert insanely amazing show]’s latest episode was.
- Consider ‘lost’ minutes
A lot of times, you’ll actually need a few spare minutes to complete trivial tasks before you get going to your next activity. For me, my minutes tend to be lost due to packing up slowly, asking a prof or TA a couple of questions, or even just chatting with a friend. Incorporate these into your schedule so you don’t end up sprinting across the field to snag that delicious Second Cup coffee in an attempt to beat the rush of fellow sleep-deprived students.
The cruel truth is that we can’t pursue every single opportunity before us. Sometimes, we just have to miss that show’s season premiere to go to that extra English help session instead. Pick and pursue your events wisely, based on what’s most urgent and important.
And so, it is time to stop jabbing jigsaw pieces into the puzzle in futility—or rather, to stop trying to fit commitments into the wrong time slots in your life—; instead, now is the time to start using these time management skills to place the pieces where they rightfully fit and create a beautiful masterpiece!
What do you do to manage your time? Let me know in the comments below or through @lifeatuoft on Twitter!
Being prepared for tests is a complicated art. Exams are the most individual task you will do in university. It’s just you and the test, so don’t let your mind go rushing onto all your other responsibilities. Your soul must be centered. Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual balance are key to preparing and working on all those areas in advance when you still have time and strength is the best failsafe.
Before and during tests, you have the opportunity to fight for every mark. One helpful trick I’ve found is to do practice tests, quizzes and review at the time of day when your exam will be. Exams can be held at strange times, so it’s good to get into the habit of working on the specific material on your test at those weird times.
Eat a healthy, large meal before your test so you don’t go hungry or have an upset stomach. Bring everything you need for the test and bring spares if you can. Pens, pencils, sharpener, eraser and your T-card are must-haves, and depending on your course, you may need a non-programmable calculator so bring one with batteries! Also, bring a watch! Most test rooms at U of T don’t have clocks. The worst feeling in the world is when your exam invigilator says you only have 20 minutes left and you’ve only done the first tenth of the test because you couldn’t keep track of time!
Be 100% sure of your test location because you don’t want to show up to the wrong room. If you’re not familiar with the location, check it out a few days in advance so you know where to go and what the room will be like. Exam rooms here can be very large, strange and intimidating at first so do yourself a favor and get used to it beforehand.
Leave early when you are going to the test because you never know what can happen along the way. Traffic, construction, and many emergencies can stop you from getting there on time and can cost many marks.
There’s also an art to the moments before tests begin. First, make sure you use the bathroom before you go into the test room!!! I’ve written too many tests where I couldn’t think straight because I had to go so badly!
Second, you have to keep centered when you’re waiting to get into test room with all your classmates. I’ve found that students can hugely destabilize each other outside test rooms. Some people are so stressed that they’re shaking, unclean and sleep-deprived and their behavior can rattle others.
The other thing you have to watch out for students who try to rattle you and your classmates. I’ve played plenty of games with such people. They may try to shake your confidence by asking you if you reviewed obscure topics just to make you worry, and suggesting that weird questions you’ve never heard of will be on the test. They also act overly confident and may try getting you to lend them pencils or erasers just to bother you and to eliminate your spares.
Avoid those people as best you can and remember that you only need to trust yourself and your instinct. I remind myself to expect that behavior so I can shrug off their nonsense. They are laughable so you might even be able to get a good chuckle from them if you need it!
When you finally begin the test, you’re near the finish line! Listen to your exam invigilators and follow their instructions carefully so you don’t break any rules. Monitor your use of time and leave yourself with enough time at the end to check your work. Stay for the whole duration of the test. You may wonder, “why am I the first one done?” or, “why am I the last one done? Why is everybody leaving already?” Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, only focus on your test. Use every minute, fight for every mark. If a question is about something you didn’t prepare for, you may feel a jolt of panic. Breathe, and keep centered if this happens. Skip to a different question if necessary and come back at the end.
Don’t give up on any questions! Finish all the questions you know the best and use the time you’ve left yourself at the end to squeeze as many marks from the difficult ones as possible! You will surprise yourself with how many marks you can earn yourself with this extra effort and you definitely deserve those marks! Leave all the energy you have in that test room, and your result will be the best reward you can give yourself.
Fighting for every mark is hard and takes lots of motivation. I attended a talk by Chantal Fiola–a Métis scholar of identity, politics, and spirituality–on March 16th. I was even given the honor of conducting the smudge for all attendees at the beginning of the presentation! Chantal shared many invaluable lessons and insights from her life’s journey and also shared key Anishinaabe teachings, including the Seven Fires prophecy.
Her explanation was an immensely helpful reminder for me of those teachings and of what our role is at U of T. We are the seventh generation. We are a new type of people with many precious gifts as well as an immensely difficult task. The path we must navigate is very hard but the hope and potential we can nourish by fighting for every single mark is worth every moment. What we do here every day at U of T, in every classroom and with every test, will cause change more positive and productive than anything that has yet been seen in the world.
I wish I could’ve thanked Chantal for reminding me to fight for every mark. The tests and assignments and endless workloads may drive us nuts, but we can always remember that we’re lucky to have the opportunity to be driven nuts by such important material and invaluable experience for the journey ahead.
“I can’t believe this year’s already over!” we all say to ourselves in disbelief. In just over a month (even sooner for some people) we’ll be done with exams and will be free for four months. Now I know many of you have likely started figuring out your summers already, since jobs, travel plans etc. are often best planned in advance. But, if you’re like me and have procrastinated on post-exam Life: Have no fear – Api is here!
I have compiled a list of my summer options, which are my alternatives to the summer endeavours that I should have (probably) started a few months ago…(I’m only human.)
Hopefully this will help me decide on what to do this summer, and will offer some inspiration to a world of procrastinators and beyond:
1. Employment: Okay to be clear, with jobs, EARLIER IS ALWAYS BETTER. But don’t fret my friends, because it is not too late! Many places around the city are still hiring and continue to hire into the summer. Places with high traffic in the summer (such as tourist destinations) tend to hire progressively throughout the summer as well, based on need. Realistically, it might not be exactly what you wanted, but if money is the motivation, then you have plenty of hope!
Special Tip: Check out the U of T Career Centre (aka my life and soul), either in person on online for job postings, resume building and more! A few other personal favourites for job postings include TalentEgg or Indeed.Ca!
2. Travel: Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of experience planning large trips abroad, so I know that’s likely out of the question for me this year. BUT did you know Ontario is kind of an amazing province? A weekend up north at Georgian Bay or a Toronto Staycation is exactly what I need this summer (and it won’t disrupt school, work or anything else I want to do!
3. Study: The schedule for the summer term came out fairly recently, and as always, there’s a wide array of courses being offered. Ah, summer school. It may help you finish your course requirements faster, or let you take a more intensive course without the distraction of other classes. And it probably has many other perks for some! But alas, it is school. In the summer.
Special Tip: If you’re taking 1.0 credits continuously from May-August, then you’re eligible for the summer work-study program! Yay for more employment options!
Bonus Suggestion: Binge-watch things. I’ve barely kept up with my TV shows this year. I think that justifies watching ALL of 2014/2015’s TV gold AT ONCE, right?
So that’s a little peek into my summer, folks! What is your summer looking like, U of T? If you have any tips for what I can explore for the next third of my year, let me know down in the comments!
Spring is coming very quickly this year!
Spring is like a sunrise in the East and it feels like a new beginning. Spring is also a time for revitalizing, rejuvenating and getting back to basics. It is a time for first steps. First Nations House Elder-in-Residence Andrew Wesley is giving a teaching about Omushkego Cree Naming Ceremonies for babies on March 26th, one of the first great steps in a child’s life!
For me, springtime is the signal to take off the heavy winter jacket and defrost myself. I start with physical defrosting. Winter requires rest and more eating, so gobbling up more goodies over the holiday is totally natural but it can leave you feeling a little rusty once the weather starts to warm up. This beautiful weather means it’s time to get the running shoes out and get active!
I love exercise. Ever since I started getting fit in 2011 (I dropped 100 lbs. by the time I reached my peak condition) exercise has been a key part of my life.
It can be incredibly hard to get in shape. Trust me, I know. However, motivating yourself to exercise is related to so much more than physical fitness.
Exercise releases tension in your body, and also creates positive emotions in your brain. I’m always happier when I’m exercising regularly. In addition to boosting your energy levels so you can function better in everyday life, exercise also boosts your mind. Your senses are heightened and your thoughts are clearer and deeper.
Spirituality is also connected to fitness. The simplest example is music. I always need good tunes when I’m at the gym and my relationship with music is very spiritual. Exercise also makes me think much deeper about my own musicianship. See the reciprocity? Your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual areas all help each other out. It’s amazing how big the impact of fitness really is!
I’ve started hitting the gym again this week and the boost couldn’t come at a better time; I’m about to get hit with the end-of-semester test/assignment avalanche so I’ll need the energy to push on through!
I start with a warm-up run. They can be exhausting if you’re still building your cardio capacity and they can be mind-numbingly boring if you’re on a treadmill. I always compensate by listening to my favorite Van Halen albums at full volume. You can watch movies or TV too if you have a tablet.
Follow that with weight training. I focus on one area like upper-body or legs, per workout. It’s important to give each area a rest for the best results! Don’t forget though, you can work your abs every day.
I choose weights that are heavy enough to make me sore, but light enough that I can comfortably manage them. I always do full extensions when lifting any weight and I go slowly. By doing those things, I get the best exercise from each repetition. The only way I know how to make progress with weights is to go until I can’t possibly do another lift. That way, my body knows its limit and responds by building bigger muscle to prepare better for next time. The body adapts and is very smart!
Follow your gym trips up with lots of high-protein foods, like cottage cheese or chicken, and you’re good to go! Don’t work out too hard and take rests when you need them. Don’t give up either; your fitness is worth every moment!
This is the first Reading Week I’ve spent in Toronto. In both my first two years I flew home to see my parents and my Alberta friends. Last year, Reading Week actually turned out to be more stressful than helpful. I’m making sure this year goes much better!
Many of my friends headed home for at least part of this break though. They are lucky ducks! If you live close to Toronto, the travelling might be easier and more restful especially at the height of the winter. I’ve heard some testimony from just outside the city about big snow and even bigger highway jams. I wouldn’t like to be on the road for too long in weather like this!
There’s so many ways to spend a week off. Plenty of events take place right after reading week too so we can keep ourselves entertained. On Valentine’s Day, for instance, I volunteered at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto’s craft sale. What a blast! It was great fun with lots of good crafts, good food, and good conversation.
I was also lucky enough to get invited to a birthday party at Nathan Phillips Square. We skated for a couple of hours out in the cold and had hot chocolate (with nutmeg and cinnamon I think) to keep us warm. Skating on good outdoor ice is always a great idea and I highly recommend it. I’ve only skated once per year at U of T so I suggest going more often!
I have a very interesting assignment due in March for one of my Aboriginal Studies courses. I have to write an essay about an Indigenous event in Toronto and I need to focus on the spiritual aspects of the experience. What a cool class eh? What other department would be nice enough to give us marks for connecting with Toronto’s Indigenous community?
I’m really excited for this project. There are plenty of events coming up that would be perfect for the essay. Next week, First Nations House is hosting a teaching by Elder Andrew Wesley on February 26th about traditional Omushkego Cree Walking Out Ceremonies. It’s a special topic focused on children’s first steps! I can’t wait to check it out. Listening to Andrew is always incredibly enlightening.
Anishnawbe Health is also having a youth Sweat Lodge on February 25th and you can request an invitation to their Sweat Lodge at any time. If you’ve never gone to a Sweat Lodge before, don’t be afraid to check one out!
Early March also has plenty of events coming up. The Aboriginal Students’ Association at York University is hosting their 13th Annual All Nations Pow Wow, which also will include movie screenings and a big gala! It’ll be awesome. I haven’t been to a pow wow in a long time so this event is really enticing despite it’s distance from downtown.
What event should I go to? Should I just go to them all so I don’t have to decide?
Wow, what a month! Now that January is over, we can get right into February (though I’m pretty sure February might be even crazier). I had three tests and an essay in the first four weeks of this semester with another two tests coming up right away. Reading week can’t come fast enough!
These busy streaks go differently each time. Since I’ve been back from the holiday, it’s been hard to get back into a balanced routine. I have been a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of different tasks that came my way. Exams usually throw everybody’s routine into chaos, almost like the whole student population goes into extreme survival mode. So far this year, it feels like that chaos never really ended.
But, if you can be tough enough to get through the work and keep your life somewhat intact, you may find the time for things other than schoolwork. But things cannot always be that balanced, despite even your best efforts. Sometimes, the best we can do is to keep going in the times when life can’t be balanced.
Not to worry! There’s so much at this university to help us and all we have to do is seek it out. Indigenous Education Week has been a great example. There were many events to choose from, each with a unique perspective. First Nations House offered enough events to appeal to everyone.
The first event I went to was part of the Aboriginal Studies Department. Rene Andre Meshake–an accomplished poet, flute musician, and promoter of Anishnaabemowin teachings–came to give a workshop for ABS students including my ABS210 class. Rene is a superb storyteller and teacher! His unique experiences and personal story, combined with his vibrant artistic style, were really inspiring. His workshop really turned my day around!
I’m also going to a screening in Robarts on Friday of “Trick or Treaty?” directed by Alanis Obomsawin put on by the Native Students’ Association and the Indigenous Education Network. Friday is always a good movie night! Everybody I know who has watched this film tells me it will make me laugh and cry all at the same time. I can’t wait!
Education, as I have learned this week, is not just about schoolwork. Education is about life. You learn a lot of different things in university but make sure you learn how to live well! First Nations House provides the programming for this learning and helps me learn more about life every day!
How will you live well this week? Did you see any of the news about the campus-wide snowball fight on Front-Campus? Those students did a great job adding to their lives! For me, living well can be as simple as watching a good movie. So I’ll find myself a good thriller or sci-fi, and settle in for a great weekend. I even bought the popcorn, so I’m good to go!