Are You Ready for the Test???

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.

Two battered erasers with paperclip guns and bottle cap helmets

These are my study soldiers: veterans of seven semesters of duty (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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!

a pencil sharpener, two pencils, two pens, an eraser, and a non-graphing calculator

Test-taking kit (Photo by Zachary Biech)

a watch on my arm

Not sure of the time? Better watch it! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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 new book: http://uofmpress.ca/books/detail/rekindling-the-sacred-fire

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.

The Road Ahead: Planning for Post-Exam Life

“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!

Api in a blazer in an office setting

I Wear Blazers So Please Hire Me: A Student Saga.

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!

Api sitting on rock formation overlooking a lake at Georgian Bay

Ontario, yours to discover!

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.

Photo of empty chairs at Hart House Library

One of the many summer term perks: EMPTIER LIBRARIES

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 Thaw

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!

A tiny yellow toy race car with a goofy face parked in front of a real car on the road in front of University College

Do you feel rusty, or are you ready to rev your engine??? (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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.

A huge view of the green foothills and a small town in a valley, with the Rocky Mountains in the background

I took this picture while on a morning jog up the big hill in Cochrane, AB, 2012. (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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.

A row of treadmills and stationary bikes

Do these machines make you want to run away? (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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.

A cloth image of a spirit bear

Exercise is like a bear spirit: it heals and has immense mental powers (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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!

A ridiculous sprawling pile of recipe cards with citations on them

Some debris from the last essay…don’t even get me started on how many sticky notes went along with these! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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.

The control panel of a treadmill

Get running’! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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.

An odd-looking weight machine

What strange contraptions are these?? (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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!

A triangular weight rack

Tower of power (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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!

http://www.athletics.utoronto.ca/recreation.htm

http://harthouse.ca/fitness/

http://physical.utoronto.ca/facilitiesandmemberships/Athletic_Centre.aspx

 

Ice and Events: Reading Week 2015

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!

A wet snowy day, looking down one of the colourful crazy streets of Kensington Market

I think this is from right before reading week 2014, in Kensington Market (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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!

Looking forward form the passenger seat in a truck, with almost no visibility from all the snow

An Albertan winter highway (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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!

http://physical.utoronto.ca/docs/drop-in-programs-schedules-fees-forms/february-2015-drop-in-skating.pdf?sfvrsn=0

http://nathanphillipssquareskaterentals.com

Me, on skates, out in the middle of the Varsity skating rink

This is me at the Varsity Arena sometime during the 2013-2014 school year (Photo by Heejung Jung)

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!

http://www.aht.ca/component/jevents/icalrepeat.detail/2015/02/25/458/83|93|94|96|97/youth-sweat?Itemid=1

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?

Long Winter Living

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!

Looking out over the thick layer of snow in Queen's Park, complete with footprint trails

Big winter snowfall means a difficult walk ahead (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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.

One of the benches in front of Sidney Smith hall, completely buried in fresh snow

Buried…exactly how I feel! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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.

A huge stack of papers next to a huge stack of assignments next to a huge stack of book. Did I mention it's a huge stack?

This is what my first two years of university look like… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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.

A shelf with, you guessed it, a huge stack of books and paper

This is what my year in-progress looks like! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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!

http://www3.sympatico.ca/renemeshake/

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!

http://www.tiff.net/festivals/thefestival/programmes/masters/trick-or-treaty

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!

Looking up at Robarts, with it's windows lit up against the night sky

This was taken just after the screening of Trick or Treaty? in Robarts, which was awesome (Photo by Zachary Biech)

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!

http://www.thestar.com/news/2015/02/03/u-of-t-snowball-fight.html

 

Storytellers

Storytelling is very powerful. Stories can hold all the experiences of a person’s life and the lives of their ancestors, even if the stories are short and specific. Stories also evolve the more times they are told and listened to.

A beige cloth coaster with turquoise, rusty red, and black imagery of a turtle

There are many teachings and stories even in this small picture, though it can take a lifetime to learn them all! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I try to tell stories all the time. The key word there is try. I rarely get all the messages across the way I want to but I think everybody feels this way at some point. We all have so much to share!

Lee Maracle, who is a traditional teacher at First Nations House, is also a Grandmother of storytelling. Her experiences and activities cover a huge range and span from all across the country! She is a great authority on Indigenous literature and has written in many different forms: fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. She also speaks with this authority and she has recently released another book called Celia’s Song.

http://anishinabeknews.ca/2014/12/22/celias-song-brings-colonialism-to-life/

Lee is around to meet with you on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

Teaching is a key function of stories. Indigenous Education Week in Toronto this year exemplifies this relationship and the city is buzzing with many excellent activities based on Indigenous learning and teaching systems. First Nations House has events every day from Feb. 2-6.

I couldn’t get the poster the load properly, so check out the First Nations House Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/First-Nations-House-University-of-Toronto/8295583041?fref=nf

A very snowy day, with grey skies and heavy snowfall, looking across a white and fluffy Queen's Park to the west, at some of the old red brick houses of St. Michaels College, and the grey towers beyond

There is so much to learn, and so many stories to hear in every corner of U of T (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I’m really excited because this will be a new experience for me and I hope to learn a lot from all those willing to share. Mainstream education systems can be quite dry so these new teachings will help bring some life back into learning!

http://www.blogto.com/city/2015/01/a_guide_to_indigenous_toronto/

On Tuesday February the 3rd, I’ll be going to an Anishnaabemowin poetry reading at the Multi-Faith Centre. Poetry is a mystery to me mostly but the words in songs and poems are still powerful stories. I’m even learning the power of such words in my Russian language class where we’ve been reciting and learning the beauty held within Russian poeticism and novels.

A poem in Russian cyrillic letters, hardly sensible even when translated to English

This is a poem by Sergei Esenin (he wrote it in his own blood, freaky right?) (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I just read that last sentence to myself, and I think I must sound a little too poetic for my own good! The only poetry I’ve ever written was, well, never. To be honest, I’m finding that I barely even know the English language, and I’m getting worse at it as I learn more Anishnaabemowin and Russian!

Looking up at the southwest corner of University College, with it's old grey stones and shingles covered in fresh snow on this cloudy snowy day

So many stories have been born in the old UC building, including some of mine! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

It’s always worth the extra effort spent on getting ahead with schoolwork so we can experience more later on. I’m trying my best to get everything caught up this week so I can spend some time relaxing and learning during Indigenous Education Week. Relaxation is especially important this time of year, as the cold can be hard on us and I’m finding school to be very busy. January was intense enough, but February will be even more ridiculous! Stay strong and be resilient now through the hard work and tough times, and you will have a bigger life in the long run, with more experiences and better stories to share.

A snowy Soldier's Tower on a Snowy Day

Soldier’s Tower also has many stories within it’s coloured glass window (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A Beginners Guide to (almost, kind of) Surviving Statistics

Throughout all the trials and tribulations of university, whether it be cramming for 5 midterms in one week, or starting a 3000 word essay the night before, there is only one thing that actually, genuinely terrifies me:

Statistics. 

picture of Api with a face palm

Stats = eternal face palm :(

Unfortunately, the introductory statistics courses are required for my major. Of all my courses, it’s the one lecture that I don’t find interesting and engaging. To me, it’s like statistics has become the lone MySpace page in a sea of artfully crafted Facebook profiles.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always found understanding statistics difficult. Maybe it all the “analysis” or whatever that’s involved, but my brain does not work that way. In the summer, I managed to get through the first introductory statistics course here at U of T (STA220, PSY201 or their equivalents) but I had a very specific system that made getting through the course a little bit easier.

I thought I would be done with statistics, but my best friend the Course Calendar kindly informed me that I still needed another half credit.

Api looking disconcerted

Statistics. Honestly.

There I was, once again terrified of numbers, so I knew it was time to refer back to my statistics game plan. I’ve also met many classmates who share the same anxious feelings towards to statistics, so hopefully this helps not just me, but everyone who’s tackling the course this semester (and in semesters to come)!

API’S POSSIBLY FOOLPROOF STATS GAME PLAN

1. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE

I remember on the first day of my first statistics my professor telling the class that we had to constantly do practice questions to keep up, and I’m not going to lie: I scoffed. DO THEY UNDERESTIMATE MY ABILITY TO SUCCESSFULLY CRAM INFORMATION INTO MY HEAD THE NIGHT BEFORE? No. No they did not. It took me a full three-day library session at Robart’s to actually catch up with the small amount of material I nonchalantly didn’t do.

2. There’s a Statistics Aid Center!!! 

It didn’t know about the Statistics Aid Centre until after I took statistics, dropped the course and then finally buckled down and took it the second time. They have people on hand to help you and it’s an amazing resource to make use of!

3. Finding statistics software 

My stats course included assignments and homework that were done on statistical software, and I found out that Robart’s Library has computers with statistical software installed on them! There’s also a computer lab at Sidney Smith with computers as well! I designated a weekly time to use the computer labs, so not only was I saving money on purchasing the software, I was also making myself have at least a few hours of stats practice each week.

Api giving a thumbs up

GOD SPEED, MY FRIENDS

So there you have it folks. That was my statistics game plan, and I’m hoping it’s going to work again this semester. Good luck everyone!

If you have any other tips, let me know down in the comments or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

Congratulations and Celebrations

In one of my favourite classes here at U of T, we learned about something called reflective practice. It’s essentially the process of looking back and learning from our experiences. Now that we’re smack in the middle of finals, I’ve been having those “when will we ever actually use this in real life” rants. To keep my morale up I’ve decided to actually apply what I learned in school (!!!!) and be reflective about 2014! How fitting considering this is my last blog post of 2014!

I’ve had the busiest but most rewarding summer of my life, working three jobs while doing summer school. I was a more active part of the extracurricular scene at U of T, joining the executive team of several clubs I was interested in during first and second year. I’ve also even managed to fulfill some of my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions by bringing my grades up, staying more organized and eating healthier.

Picture of tupperware with veggies sitting next to chocolate on the desk

(That last one’s still in the works. But hey, there’s still 3 weeks left of 2014. And miracles can happen.)

But the point of reflective practice is to highlight what I learned and what I could do differently. So what have I learned this year?

  • I’ve learned how to write a killer blog post (All credits go to Tricia!!)
  • I’ve learned enough yoga to strike a perfect yoga pose for pictures
Api and Aviva doing yoga poses

Me and fellow Healthy U Crew member Aviva striking some poses at Unplug Fest. Photo Credits to Carly Michelle!

  • I’ve learned how to get A’s on papers
Photo of api holding a Paper with "A-" written on it

See! I wasn’t lying!!

  • I’ve learned how to plan events to help people get more involved!
photo of tables set up in Hart House East Common Room for Global Health Expo

Throwback to Global Health Expo!

I realize that all these lessons equate to one thing:  I learned how to step out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone has always been with a small group of friends and a small range of activities, but 2014 was the year I made an effort to explore new places, try new activities and meet new people! If this whole process has been me breaking out of my shell, then 2014 was just the first crack! Here’s to 2015 being another year of great experiences! But there is one thing that was the most important thing I’ve learned this year:

Screen capture of tweet by @Api_UofT reading: "Winter in Toronto went 0 to 100 real quick"

I’ve perfected the art of bad drake puns

Congratulate yourselves on the accomplishments and celebrate the victories! Let me know about your year, your holidays or even just how your day is going down in the comments! Happy holidays, and happy finals everyone! Remember, you might actually be able to use some of that knowledge in real life (lol).

Another Year Wiser

December has finally arrived! I always love this time of year. December is a special time when we welcome winter into our lives and focus on getting away from the cold crazy world out there and curl up inside where it’s warm. Winter is also a time of reflection.

Looking out from a dark tunnel in a St. Michaels residence into an open courtyard with a large fountain

Almost through the passage, into bright newness (Photo by Zachary Biech)

This post is my last of 2014! Can you believe it? This semester has flown by so fast! I’ve learned so many new things, met many new people and had many new experiences.  I can honestly say this has been one of the most exciting half-years in my life.

The tangled wilderness and fallen leaves strewn around a secret garden behind the Victoria College library

I’ve done so much exploring, and yet I finally just stumbled into this park at Victoria College (Photo by Zachary Biech)

So much has changed and I have changed as well. I’m still the same old Zach but university life changes everything. I finally embraced that change and even caused some of it on my own.

A notebook page with "thanks" written in Anishnaabemowin, Russian, and English

These are all thank-you’s to my friends and family for their birthday wishes, in the three languages I use these days (I recently turned twenty, just to add more change into the mix!) On my birthday, I wrote a syllabics test for Anishnaabemowin, studied Russian, and submitted an essay which had Russian Politics AND Indigenous studies… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

To cap off the year, I’ll share some key points of my success this semester.

Key #1: Balance.

Balance balance balance! In my first blog, I shared my journey towards balance and how that journey has shaped my university experience. In short, all you need to do is recognize the four areas of your life, (body, emotion, mind, spirit) and give them each equal attention. Trust me, it works.

Key #2: Do what you love.

You are the only person who knows best what you are interested in and how you want to live and work. Celebrate those interests; they are what make you so special! It’s tremendously hard work to be a university student between classes and everything outside of class so it’s important to choose things you are comfortable pouring your heart and soul into (I think you’ll find the hard work feels much easier this way!)

Key #3: Change is as good as rest.

It’s amazing how big an impact you can have on yourself by changing things up. Try getting away from campus for a while, explore new areas and even rearrange some furniture if you have to. Change it up, it really helps!

Key #4: Get involved.

There are so many different groups you can engage with at U of T and in downtown Toronto, there’s bound to be something you’d love. So try going to a couple of meetings and choose groups that you feel you can connect with. The networks and projects you can build are limitless and the skills and energy you develop in those groups is invaluable.

Looking out into a large gymnasium, with many tables of Indigenous artworks and handmade crafts

As promised, here’s a view of the NCCT craft sale I volunteered at! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A table with huge baskets of colourful candies and crafts, which were the prizes for the raffle

Here’s the raffle table from the NCCT craft sale, where I was stationed (Photo by Zachary Biech)

For instance, being a part of the Student Life Blog has been hugely helpful in my life. I get a lot more writing and editing practice which helps me with essays and assignments.  I get to expand and share my experiences, all while connecting with my Blogger peers, who are all amazing friends I am thankful to have!

Looking south over all of the awesome buildings of campus, towards all the huge towers down by Toronto's waterfront (including the CN Tower)

An awesome view of campus from the OISE Nexus Lounge, during the Indigenous Winter Social (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Keep these 4 keys in mind in your life at university and your path will become much clearer.

That’s all from me for now! Wait for my next blog in 2015!

T’was the week before finals

T’was the week before finals, when all across U of T 

Students were cramming, for the sake of their degrees

They read all night, unable to sleep in their beds

With visions of 4.0’s dancing in their heads

Picture of handmade card reading "happy finals"

Yes I made myself a motivational card. Deal with it.

IT’S HERE FOLKS. It’s what you’ve been dreading/waiting/prepping for all semester: Winter finals 2014!

It’s been a long ride. There have been tears, cramming and horrible midterms. There have been successful essays and aced tutorials. And it’s all been leading up to these next few weeks.

Ok, I’ll stop with the melodramatic hyping-up of finals.

I’ve worked hard all semester, and I know I may be very close to losing all my motivation and drive, but I’m hanging in there. I know the reward of finishing finals will be much greater than the stress of actually writing them.

What lies in the promise land after finals, you might ask?

  • All my old friends will be back in the city for the holidays.
  • Peppermint candy cane flavored Hershey’s Kisses.
  • Actual free time to spend time with my family
  • N  E  T  F  L  I  X
  • Other various peppermint flavoured sugary things
Picture of Hershey's candy cane kisses chocolate package

Peppermint everything <3

I’m convinced that the grass is greener on the other side. I know everyone studies their best in different ways, so I’m not really in a place to start giving out study tips. But I can request that we stay positive, and keep that morale up!

This my go-to final exams survival tip that I’ve been following for a while now. It’s been 2 years and counting since my last exam-related, stress-induced, panic ridden, night-before-the-exam break down and I owe it all to being positive. Common self-pep talks phrases include:

  • My grades do not define me
  • I am going to ace it. I got this.
  • Yeah yeah, we in dis BRUH. (my inner gangsta likes to make an appearance during pep talks)

So there you have it folks! Hopefully someone makes use of my personal exam survival to make positivity their ally in the war against finals.

Just remember: We are fabulous. We are fierce. We are in the number 1 university in Canada for a reason. We got this. So happy finals to all!

Picture of inside of card from first image. Reading "You go girl" with a hand drawn heart.

The inside of my motivational card. Treat yo’self. Love yo’self.

*Disclaimer: Not studying at all and then being positive usually doesn’t work. Please study <3

So what are you looking forward to after finals, U of T?