‘So Long, Winter!’ (or, ‘Later, Midterms!’)

“English summer eating up the atmosphere
Day-time bathers sleep in the shade
Clouds crawl over dampening our attitudes
People run for shelter from the pouring rain”

– ‘English Summer’, by The Moons

Well, we did it. Mild or not, our first winter here in Toronto has come to pass, and we’re in one piece! With one final flurry of tests, I’ve wrapped up midterm season, too. It’s a peculiar feeling – one on hand, having so many evaluations has made time pass by awfully slowly. On the flip side, it feels like freshman year has passed me by entirely too quickly.

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It’s Still Reading Week…Right?

With the passing of reading week, somewhat begrudgingly, this past Monday marked the restart of classes. While the break definitely provided a much-needed period of rest, trying to get back into a school mindset the past couple of days has been quite the challenge. When we were in high school, spring break was the closest equivalent, but the difficulty levels of the courses puts the re-adjustment period on a level of its own.

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Tackling My First Reading Week

Reading week is a great time to take a breather after a flurry of midterms in the weeks prior. I’ve heard from friends who joined one of the multiple organized trips to Montréal, and even those who flew back home for the week. For the laz — er, I mean, studious members of the community, staying around may have been the more appealing choice. At the end of the day, for whatever reasons may have come about, we’re still in downtown Toronto, so we might as well make the most of it…right?

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Discover #JoyAtUofT in the Little Things

“It’s such a cold, cold world (hello cold world)
And it’s got me down, but I’ll get right back up, as long as its spins around
Hello cold world” – ‘Hello Cold World’, by Paramore

The winter blahs are still in full swing, and we don’t even have snow this year to brighten things up. On top of that, midterms are here to keep us preoccupied. Thankfully, February also happens to be #JoyAtUofT month, to help us get some inspiration from each other as we attempt to stay positive in a time of year when it’s all too easy to be down.

On one hand, El Niño took care of the heaps of snow I was warned about. On the other, the lack of snow is kinda depressing, too...

On one hand, El Niño took care of the heaps of snow I was warned about. On the other, the lack of snow is kinda depressing, too…

I can definitely relate. Granted, I don’t have any full-year courses this year, so I didn’t have any assignments/essays due at the start of the semester. Midterms have come along equally brutally, though. I know I complained about them last time around, but the added blasé of the season seems to amplify their effect on my mood. Grey skies, wet concrete, and barely a hint of snow on the ground have characterized many of the days I’ve had to make the walk from Chestnut to campus.

It’s times like this that finding some joy in life can really make or break my productivity levels. I’m way more likely to get things done when I don’t feel like Eeyore all the time. Amidst all the chaos, squeezing in time to do the little things that put a smile on my face is definitely worthwhile. Frantic as I should be studying, spending time relaxing in the common room among friends can lighten the load on my shoulders, even if it’s just for that brief period of the day. It could even be as simple as making a food run to Med Sci with the gang. Getting out and pursuing hobbies such as photography have a similar effect, letting my heartbeat and stress levels fall to healthy rates.

Getting out with my camera is a great stress-reliever, and definitely brings me some happiness during this seasonal lull.

Getting out with my camera is a great stress-reliever, and definitely brings me some happiness during this seasonal lull.

Joy for me also comes from extracurriculars. Being a member of this awesome Student Life Community Crew has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for any other; I get to see some of the most creative people I know, every week. From hearing their ideas in the meetings, to reading the final product each day, it’s easy to see why Student Life chose them to represent the student body in this way, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. The Blue Sky Solar team that I signed up for just a couple of weeks ago, has already proven to be a source of escapism from the world of academia, if only for a little bit at a time. Researching alternative designs for software, with the promise of soon getting the chance to actually write the code to match, has been a great ride so far.

The weather might be uninspiring, but there’s still plenty of things that manage to lighten up the atmosphere. Be sure to share what brings you #JoyAtUofT on Twitter and Instagram – I’ll be keeping an eye on the hashtag to get some ideas!

New Year, New Me!

“Woke up this morning I was laid out flat on the dark side
With the moon and the room on the wrong side
I took a needle, sewed myself right back at the seams

I saw my universal gleam” – ‘Flick of the Finger, by Beady Eye

Liam Gallagher might not have the same vocals he did back in Oasis’ heyday, but his last effort to bring back the glory days with his (now disbanded) Beady Eye did bring back some of the open lyrical interpretation the band was known for instigating – but I digress. Nevertheless, it makes for a great quote that can relate to the idea of starting the new year with resolutions. It’s a time of year when – for whatever reason – you can see your errors more clearly, and when you decide to pick up the metaphorical needle and attempt to sew yourself back together again. I’m not typically one to fall into the societal norm of setting resolutions specifically to ring in the new year – but given that this will be my first full year as a university student, I decided to give it a shot.

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Reflections on 2015

Hello!

There’s no doubt, this time of year can be full of emotions.  We are reminded of all the things we witnessed and experienced over the past twelve months. Google is reminding us of what we Googled. Facebook is sharing our top moments. We count down 2015’s top songs, movies, sports moments, inventions, new stories, and of course, funny memes.

This time of year also calls on each of us to consider our personal Year in Review. I love counting down to the New Year, and feeling all the hope that comes with a fresh start. Looking forward with a vision for the next year can be daunting, however, I believe it’s important to reflect on our accomplishments and milestones from the past year.

Two familiar faces I spend New Years with each year. Courtesy of www.adweek.com

On New Year’s Eve, I normally find myself lounging on a couch, babysitting, and reflecting the past year with these familiar faces. Photo courtesy of www.adweek.com

Once exams are over, I often take some time to check in on how things are working in my life. I encourage you to try doing this too – patiently, thoughtfully, and truthfully. I like recording my thoughts down on paper so I can get a visual se. What were my ambitions for 2015? Did I achieve them?

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One Down, One to Go

Crazy as it may seem, this semester’s almost over! Classes ended this week, and finals season has finally arrived. If it weren’t for my impending doom, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that it’d already been four months since I first touched down in Toronto. Amidst all the hapless cramm — I mean, conscientious studying, in a bout of productive procrastination I thought I’d take a look back at my first semester here at U of T.

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The Breaking Point

As I was walking down St. George the other day, I heard snippets from other peoples’ conversations. I promise, I wasn’t eavesdropping; I just forgot my headphones and I was bored. Anyways, these are the kinds of things I heard:

“Blah blah blah blah stressed blah blah blah failure blah blah forget blah tired blah blah I can’t blah blah blah…”

UofT, it seems we are in a sorry state of affairs at present. Of course, it’s to be expected at this time of year. We’re all just trying to put in that final hustle and make it to winter break.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m actively trying to face my final assignments with a more positive outlook; I’m trying to use my stress as a motivator. I want to appreciate every moment that I have as an undergrad student. However, I want to make something very clear:

None of that makes the work easy, and it certainly doesn’t make it go by any faster. Continue reading

Adjusting to Time Management

One thing that’s become particularly evident to me this semester has been the drastic changes needed to my time management methods. I’ve heard from other first years that they too have had to adjust to new work habits, regardless of the discipline. Relating to my own experience, my time budgeting skills in high school were pretty sub-par, which led to me attempting some serious adjustments on the fly in first-year.

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Powering Down The Stress

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. 

  1. 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.)

    Little kitten, staring over a book - "helping" with homework.

    This my birthday kitten, Poppy. AKA my fuzzy study buddy.

  2. 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!

    Madeline holding a glass bottle full of tea. She uses a sock as a tea cozy.

    Tea in a sock; it’s somewhere in between uber-hipster mason jar and regular old thermos.

  3. 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.

    Madeline taking a selfie with her best friend, Michaela.

    Having a friend that is always there to chat is a blessing during stressful times. I’m lucky to have a friend like Michaela around!

  4. 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.

    A photograph of Hart House Library; with a cathedral ceiling and wall to wall bookshelves.

    I truly believe this library is UTSG’s best kept secret….Until now. Spread the word on this beautiful library, just save a window seat for me, ok?

  5. 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!

    Madeline making a grumpy face next to a textbook.

    My face when I have to stop watching The Office to return to my #StudentLife

  6. 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..

De-stress Complete.

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.