Getting ready to think about Grad School

As third year moves by at an alarming pace (it’s already the end of October?? what??) I’ve started thinking about my future — which, as many of you probably know, is the perfect way to send yourself into a spiral of despair in the middle of midterms. To try and combat this fear of my future I popped by Hart House to check out the Grad School Fair on October 2nd. It felt really strange being there because I felt like I had just been there during UofT’s fall open house during grade 12 — even though that was a full three years ago (!!! is this what getting old feels like?). As a third year its still a bit early to be thinking about grad school (or maybe its really late, maybe all the other third years already know where they’ll be going) but I’m generally a very keen person and to have a set 5-year plan at all times.

picture of several tables at the grad school fair in the Great Hall in Hart House university of toronto graduate school  banner There was a decent selection of schools at the Grad School Fair, although not really any of the big American or British universities that I’ve been looking at. U of T was out in full force of course and the Museum Studies program caught my eye as a potential program.banner with information about the U of T iSchool's Mater of Museum and Matser of Information studies programsBeing there made me realize that I’m not exactly sure what I want to study? Do I just want to do a MA and then a PhD. in history? Do I want to do Material Culture or Museum Studies? Can I even get a job with any of these? person holding several grad school view books in front of her face

These questions sparked google searches like sogoogle search "best history grad schools"  results are pages with lists of best schools with pretty expected resultsscreenshot of a list of top grad schools, Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Yale top the list

I still don’t really know what I want to do or where I want to do it but the Grad School Fair helped me get thinking about it (plus the Career Centre has a whole host of resources that are going to be very helpful) and it doesn’t seem quite as scary as before (although the price tags are still terrifying). table with brochures on it

Any forth years (or third) out there with Grad School advice for me? Anyone feeling super nervous about the whole applying-to-schools process again? Let me know in the comments below! 

 

 

Holistic Living for a Busy Schedule

My head can really get spinning. With so much going on, including schoolwork, tests, classes, extracurriculars and events, things can get crazy. Stress is a part of university life especially during flip-out times like midterms. But stress is natural and if you aren’t a little stressed about your university activities, you aren’t doing it right.

Let me explain; stress in controlled, healthy amounts is actually a good thing. Going into a mental tailspin, however, is not. If you have a balanced schedule full of activities you enjoy, the stress won’t feel like stress. It will feel like energy. This energy is good and there are many strategies to access it.

Two erasers standing vertically, with pop bottle caps for helmets and paper clips for rifles

Meed Bob and Ted, some veteran study soldiers from my first year. When you are overloaded with work, you can always count on your ability to distract yourself. (photo by Zachary Biech)

I’ll give you an example. Early October has been crazy for me. I’ve never spent so much time doing so many things all at once. In my opinion, it’s a little early in the year to have two midterms and a heavily weighted essay all in October’s first week. But here’s the strange thing. I’ve been working fifteen hours a day for a month straight and yet, my brain never went into code-red meltdown mode.

First reason: My schedule is full of things I love. There. Boom. Easy.

If you fill your day with your passions, it won’t feel like such a battle.

Second: My schedule is balanced.

Your schedule can’t be too heavy on the work and too light on fun and health-oriented activities and vice versa. All work and no play blahblahblah. But how much of each part of your life is necessary and what should actually be included in your day?

First Nations House has an Elder-in-Residence whom I’ve visited a number of times. His name is Andrew Wesley and he is Omushkego Cree from Fort Albany. Elders have invaluable, immense knowledge to share. The teachings I’ve received include protocol for ceremonies which have greatly helped me. At FNH as well as the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto there is plenty of help finding whatever medicines you may need. Also, you can talk with FNH’s Learning Strategist, Bonnie Jane Maracle.

http://www.ncct.on.ca/giftshop.php

Four small medicine bags, made of yellow, red, blue, and white cloth all pointing outwards in the four directions.

These are medicines of the four directions placed in my apartment to ensure it is a safe place to be. The entire atmosphere changed instantly when I put these up. (photo by Zachary Biech)

A small dream-catcher with dark red, white, and teal beads and a multicolour cloth from a Métis sash

My special dream-catcher. The cloth is a small piece of a Métis sash, given to me by Bruce Dumont, President of the Métis Nation of British Columbia. (photo by Zachary Biech)

Elders in Toronto have also really helped me grasp the value of the medicine wheel in balancing life to maintain healthy relationships with the four parts of our beings. You can definitely explore teachings like these at university. There’s more to learn than I could ever teach.

http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/main.html

A small living room with tall white bookshelf cubes and TV stand, with a red coffee table and red doors in the white furniture, and with a white with blue ripples in the fabric

The original colour scheme of my apartment: balanced but needed one more colour of the four directions. Can you tell which one? (photo by Zachary Biech)

Here’s a beginner’s guide: life is a continual four-part cycle of our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves. Only you know what fills these areas in your life, but rest assured, they all should be respected.  Every Saturday, I spend four hours or so scheduling my week. Though massive, these schedules are balanced in the four areas and allow me to maintain physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. They’re even colour-coded. Thus, I get more done, I’m healthier in the four areas, and the stress isn’t all that stressful.

A large agenda book with one page of colour-coded daily schedules and the other filled with notes for action items

A relatively light week (photo by Zachary Biech)

A close-up view of daily schedules with colour-coded action items and symbols that only I can understand

When in doubt, colour-code EVERYTHING. My system has become so elaborate, I have a whole new symbol language in there too. (photo by Zachary Biech)

A small memo booklet open to a page with meal plans for each day of the week

An example of my personal management system: The meal plan for this week from the meals section of my memo ledger. (photo by Zachary Biech)

My strategy for balance may not be a perfect match for you, but I think the idea of balance definitely is. If you approach university life holistically, and you fill your days with projects that you love, it’ll go way smoother.

A list of personal action items (music, exercise, ceremonies, reading) and a medicine wheel drawn in my large agenda book

Balance is a big part of my schedule. (Photo by Zachary Biech)

What do you do to maintain your wellness?

pictures of home, cloths for medicines, and a mezmorizing blue lava lamp

Some tools for balance: pictures of home, cloths for medicines, and a mesmerizing lava lamp. (photo by Zachary Biech)

Confessions of a Stress Queen

I’ve previously mentioned that I like to keep busy. I know it seems counterintuitive, but it keeps me at the top of my game!

Throughout this year’s Mental Wellness month at U of T, the campaign has revolved around coping and seeking help if you are experiencing mental health problems, as well as building coping strategies for staying mentally well. Feeling somewhat stressed or anxious about upcoming evaluations is completely normal.

This info card from Health and Wellness sums it up pretty well:

FullSizeRender (1)So yes, I like to keep busy, but here’s my crazy confession #1:

I am not Wonder Woman. I don’t always fly through my tasks with ease, grace and a killer positive attitude. I have been stressed out.

I don’t need to tell you that university can be overwhelming at times. I am on sleep-deprived night #3. The time is currently 4:17 AM. This blog post is due in 8 hours. And I still have to do the works cited page of my paper that was due yesterday.

This may seem like the textbook definition of stressed out, but to be honest, I don’t feel insanely overwhelmed. I mean, I’m stressed about meeting my deadlines, and I’m stressed about not getting any sleep, but even in this last minute, night-before-it’s-due frenzy, I still know I can accomplish the task at hand. I have come a very long way since the days when being stressed out resulted in crying a lot and extreme levels of procrastination. This Tumblr post signifies everything I was about in first year.

FullSizeRender

Source: http://ernbarassing.tk/post/58314048103/if-im-on-tumblr-more-than-usual-that-means-i-have

Crazy confession #2: I still experience stress all the time. Even without midterms (SHOCKER! I know.) So, when I do feel like I’m returning to that state of tears and extreme procrastination, I use some of the coping strategies I’ve learned along the way. Here are some of my ways of staying calm and cool in the heat of midterms:

  1. Use your support system! – Friends, family, loved ones, school services, professors. You name it. Sometimes all I need is to text a friend and blow off some steam by complaining about things.

    FullSizeRender (2)

    My friends are very supportive and encouraging of me <3

  2. Take a break! – Even with a time crunch, I like to take breaks because it calms me down. I let my mind wander. I watch an episode of my favorite TV show. I go out to eat with friends. Anything goes!

    IMG_5473

    Food is my favourite break <3

  3. Constantly self-assess – I went to a Mindful Monday session, and the instructor talked about being mindful of yourself. Similarly, I always try to think about where I am in the stress spectrum. Can I handle everything? Do I need to step back and take on less? Do I need to seek further help because it’s getting out of hand?

I know this doesn’t quite make me Queen of Stress, because I’m still coping and learning new ways to manage all the time, but it’s definitely a start! Maybe for now I’ll be the Princess of Stress?

Looking Ahead, and Choosing a Path

Dealing with your program can be stressful. Choosing your degree can be hardest. This question can be easy for some people, but asking yourself what degree you want can force you to ask bigger questions as well.  For me, choosing my degree was a long process and was transformational as well.

Looking our from a small ridge towards the dense foliage of Philosopher's Walk, with a gleaming tower in behind

In the forest of life, there are limitless numbers of pathways you can choose from (Photo by Zachary Biech)

At the beginning of my second year, I declared my Public Policy major after much deliberation with minors in Political Science and Philosophy. I also took a Russian Language credit and loved it. Long story short, philosophy wasn’t right for me and the Political Science minor was redundant. So what do you do when you realize you want to switch POSts?

Looking west towards Trinity College, with the foliage of Philosopher's walk in front and the stone citadels of the college poking through in behind under a bright blue sunny sky

U of T is a big place, with many different opportunities; finding the one best suited to you is a whole other story (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Don’t worry, it’s easy. For me, the Russian Language minor was a no-brainer and I had always known in my heart I should be in Aboriginal Studies once I had the courage. So I changed my minor POSts the summer after second year, took an ABS summer credit to catch up and voila! A personalized degree path suited to my interests.  You have to do what interests you or you’ll never get the most of your program. So think hard and ask those tough questions: Are you really doing what you love?

A single great tree on a large green lawn with red flowers at it's base, and sunlight shining through it's leaves

Sometimes in the forest of opportunity, one small piece can shine itself on you, and make your pathway clear (Photo by Zachary Biech)

So what about grad school? Wow, tough question. The earlier you start asking yourself, the better. And whatever you do, don’t lose hope. There are many reasons not to enter grad school but even more reasons to go for it.

A pathway of green grass winding through a partially lit, partially shadowed greenspace of shrubs and trees

What happens along this pathway? Well, there’s only one way to find out… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Disclaimer: I am still undecided on where, when and what my further education will be. The how is always a tough question with no real answer. But the why? Well, here’s how I think of it: why not?

looking through an open iron gate, down a shaded cobblestone path with grand overhanging trees and bushes, towards the bright sunlight beyond

We may not know what’s at the end of the path, but the door is open, and it’s worth every step (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I have a few findings to share. ULife has a career mentorship program to get you connected with someone who can answer your questions. First Nations House has Aboriginal Law Mentorship services for undergrads interested in law school. The FNH staff can offer excellent guidance.

http://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/Mentorship-Resource-Centre.htm/

Law Mentorship Program: Are you considering law school? Join the Law Mentorship Program and get connected with a current Aboriginal U of T Law student mentor. You will learn about the law school experience and better understand the application process. Undergraduate contact: shannon.simpson@utoronto.ca Law student contact: promise.holmesskinner@utoronto.ca fnh.utoronto.ca

FNH Law Mentorship Program

Unfortunately, U of T has no graduate Aboriginal Studies program so if ABS is your direction, you may wish to look at other schools like Trent or York. However, Indigenous students in grad school at U of T still have the support of SAGE to keep connected.  Also, The Aboriginal Studies Department has a unique Collaborative Program in Aboriginal Health which is definitely worth exploring.

http://aboriginalstudies.utoronto.ca/propective-students/graduate-opportunities/

http://aboriginalstudies.utoronto.ca/centre-for-aboriginal-initiatives/supporting-aboriginal-graduate-enhancement-sage/about-sage/

Now back to law. U of T’s law program is very interesting. There’s a welcoming pathway for Indigenous students, status or non-status, through the Aboriginal Law Program which can include a Certificate in Aboriginal Legal Studies. There’s a huge array of scholarships, bursaries, and grants, and the faculty began offering a free LSAT course for students with financial need in recent years.

A view of the front of Falconer Hall, with a trimmed lawn, large garden, and leafy vines covering the Victorian-style brick building

Falconer Hall, Faculty of Law (Photo by Zachary Biech)

The four large white pillars of the main entrance to Flavelle House

Flavelle House, Faculty of Law (Photo by Zachary Biech)

http://www.uoftaboriginallaw.com/

http://www.law.utoronto.ca/student-life/student-clubs-and-events/aboriginal-law-students-association

http://www.law.utoronto.ca/student-life/student-clubs-and-events/aboriginal-law-club

http://www.law.utoronto.ca/admissions/jd-admissions/aboriginal-applicants

http://www.uoftaboriginallaw.com/FinancialAid.aspx

http://www.law.utoronto.ca/academic-programs/jd-program/financial-aid-and-fees/bursaries-and-scholarships/complete-list

It may seem overwhelming early on but that’s all part of the process. All you need to know is there are many good options out there and many supports to help you achieve your goals.

A doorway into Falconer Hall, with aged stone facade with leafy vines draped on the top

The door is open; all’s you have to do is walk through it (Photo by Zachary Biech)

What different degrees have you considered?

Does the path you are on allow you to do what you love?

 

Food for Thought

Food can be the best part of the day. I’m easily distracted by good eats. If you’re like me an ugly pile of tasty stuff can brighten up life instantly. But fancy meals are also fun, especially with friends.

A cookie sheet with nine golden pastry pockets with the letter Z cut into each one

These are a ton of work but definitely worth it: home-made turnover pastries with beef and sautéed vegetable filling. They also have my signature right on them (Photo by Zachary Biech)

First Nations House holds all kinds of fun feasts in addition to hosting lunches every Friday in the kitchen. The first major one is the Fall Feast on October 10th. Friends, food and fun all in one? I think that kitchen and I are going to get along very well indeed…

Looking outwards from the back of the First Nations House, with a large coffee machine on the right and a countertop and sink to the left

The coffee alone is enough to draw me in to the FNH kitchen (Photo by Zachary Biech)

http://i.imgur.com/0xBDi0R.jpg

I’ve lost a lot of weight since the summer of 2012, and I now know eating well is vital. It starts with treating food like fuel. What goes into your body can give you power, but can also gunk things up. You wouldn’t use diesel in a gasoline engine right? If it ain’t good for my system, I ain’t interested.

A Pink Lady apple, with two halfs of a turkey and cheese sandwich on Italian bread with all the veggie fixings, plus some chunks of a blueberry granola bar

Very typical lunch at my apartment (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Also, how much is on your plate is just as important as what is on your plate. I follow a simple rule: half the plate should always be vegetables or fruit. Always. Add in some daily exercise and poof, just like that, I lost over eighty pounds. No fancy program, just good habits.

A plate with one quarter filled with beef roast, one quater with golden scalloped potatoes, one quater with roasted carrots, and one quater with baked green beans

Mmmm looks tasy; but notice the proportioning as well (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I’ve noticed university students have a hard time eating well. I think it’s the huge workload combined with cafeterias filled with sugar and fat. It’s very easy to say to yourself, “I’ve got no time. I’ll just grab some convenient comfort food and chow down real quick.” To avoid the freshman fifteen, I always found the tastiest, healthiest things in the cafeteria and proved to myself that it’s actually very easy to eat properly in university. What works for me: recognizing that greasy or sugary stuff will not fuel you properly and actually make things harder. Brains need the good stuff!

I’ve also found home cooking to be a source of salvation. In my apartment, I exercise complete control over the foods that surround me. Thus, I have a kitchen stocked full of my favourite grub, and there are no bad fuels in my cupboards or refrigerator. It’s a win-win.

A pile of potato pancakes, sliced banana coins, and two rings of red pepper with fried eggs in the middle

This is an easy, fun breakfast: Russian-style potato pancakes with egg-in-a-hole red peppers (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A picture looking over a bar counter into my little kitchen, with me standing in front of some baking ingredients

Me, doing some culinary hocus-pocus (Photo by Claudia Dessanti)

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring new recipes. Cooking is one of my favourite hobbies. I’ve got a repertoire of healthy, funky recipes, and no longer need the fatty, sugary junk. These recipes are super easy and provide a lot of leftovers. My favourites are the simplest ones, like rye biscuits or stroganoff.

Two golden-brown biscuits next to two two crepe-like creations topped with fresh blueberries

Those are rye biscuits on the right, and Russian blinchiki on the left (Photo by Zachary Biech)

My hand with an over mitt on, the thumb of which is burnt to a crisp

This is what happens when you touch the element in an oven…your thumb lights on fire like a torch (Photo by Zachary Biech)

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/rye-biscuits

http://natashaskitchen.com/2011/04/03/marias-russian-beef-stroganoff/

I love sharing what I cook with others, and I enjoy having meals with friends. It’s a great time for connecting. If you’re like me, then you’d enjoy Friday lunches (or even just stopping by for coffee) at First Nations House. It’s great for socializing, trying good foods and sharing your favourites. The kitchen is the heart of the home, and the dinner table can be the heart of friendships. Now enough talk, let’s eat!

What’s your staple go-to meal for busy times?

What’s your favourite food to share?

A bowl full of creamy beef and eggnoodles all mushed together (also you can see a sleepingbag in the background from the move-in process)

The first meal I ever cooked in my apartment: It’s an old family recipe and my staple go-to meal, which we lovingly call “eggnoodle concoction”
(Photo By Zachary Biech)

http://utsu.ca/food-and-clothing-bank/

http://utsu.ca/goodfoodbox/

Science Literacy and WW1 at the Rare Books Library

If you’ve read any of my blog posts before, you may know that I really like books. I’ve blogged about Fisher Library in the past and just last week I blogged about used book sales on campus.  Although I rarely have time to read for pleasure during the school year I still like to surround myself with books as much as possible, SO I took another trip to the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library last week to check out a special mini exhibit of some of the most important scientific books from history that they were showing as part of Science Literacy Week. Even though I’m not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, I still appreciate these works for the scientific advancements that they’ve resulted in, and the historian/bibliophile in me just can’t resist an old book of any subject.

If you missed the mini exhibit and still want to check out some of Einstien or Darwin’s work you can submit a request to look at individual books through the library website. 

a shot showing a book by Euclid that has been translated from Greek to Arabic. The book is from 1594 and was printed in Rome.  a close up of the title page of a book that reads "construction of the great Victoria Bridge in Canada". On the small portion of the page opposite that is visible is a painting of the Bridge. a picture showing a copy of De Magnete by William Gilbert open on a desk. The page shows a Compass showing declination. a copy of Isaac Netwon's Opticks from 1704 laying open. the book is very aged looking and has very uneven edges. six books lying open to random pages on a table with discription cards below each one.    a title page (or perhaps a short pamphlet) By Albert Einstein lying on a table. The title is in German: Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitäystheorie which is in english: Foundations of the General Theory of Relativity  two pages from "the expression of the emotions in man and animals" by Charles Darwin from 1872. The placard beneath this says they are corrected proof sheets.

While I was there I also took a look at the current exhibit: “Fierce imaginings: text and image in First World War literature” which was really cool (and runs until December 19 so there’s plenty of time to go back and check it out)

Three propeganda posters from world war one on a wall. The first says "A reminder" and has some smaller text that can't be read from this distance. the second shows a youth in what looks like a scout uniform resting one foot on a drum and leaning over so his elbow is on that knee and his head is propped on his hands. Behind him in the poster are other posters encouraging people to enlist. The text of this poster states "everyone should do his bit. Enlist now." The third poster shows a women standing on a rock in the sea with a blue bliiowing toga-like dress and a red hooded cape. She is holding a sheathed sword in one hand and both arms are flung wide, she looks very passionate. In the background is a redish orange sky (like a sunset) and a ship in the sea. The text says "take up the sword of justice"

several open books and front covers of books are shown in a display case. the books are all from the first world war. The ones in focus say "Frightful war pictures" another says "the Huns Handbook"

several books of the poems of Wilfrid Owen are displayed. One is open to show a picture of him while another shoes a strange line drawing that kind of looks like a lion and a person at the same time.

 

Gardens for Your Mind

Did you have a big backyard where you grew up? Or any backyard? A front yard? A nearby park? A garden? A house plant? Maybe you lived away from the cities where lands are still open and wild. Even if you grew up in a concrete jungle, I’m sure you enjoy some green space every now and then. University students can benefit from some time in a garden (though it’s hard to find the time or the gardens). Believe it or not, gardens are very important to me.

This fact may seem strange as my mind is often filled with thoughts of hot-rods and electric guitars. But it’s true. Maintaining a garden, (the envy of the neighbours, I might add) has been tremendously fun for my family. My role in the garden is voluntary. I’ll correct myself; I was voluntold.  However, I now know there is a lot to learn about any place by the plants growing there and vice versa.

The green grass, bright flowers, and sharply defined flowerbeds of my backyard garden

Envy of the neighbourhood (Photo by Zachary Biech)

My backyard garden with a view out across a river valley, with a blanket of snow, and all lit in a pink glow of a winter sunrise

Wintertime in my snow-covered backyard garden in the morning light (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Picture taken from a dock, looking out over a lake amidst the forested mountains of Alberta's Rockies

Getting closer to nature, at Peppers Lake in Alberta (Photo by Zachary Biech)

In first year, I had a plant in my residence room. The atmosphere definitely needed some shrubbery. For this role, I chose a tiny cactus. I named it ‘Jose’. He was a good shrubbery, hardly even had to water him. When Jose fell off his table, he was tough enough to shake it off and get right back to cactusing. I scored some UC sunglasses during orientation week and gave them to Jose. What a champ.

A small cactus plant in a pot on a windowsill in my residence room, with a pair of ridiculous sunglasses

My old buddy Jose, wearing his trademark sunglasses indoors like the champ he is (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Alas, Jose and I parted ways after first year. I searched high and low during my second year for another shrubbery but campus green space is hard to find. During the winter months, there’s just no way. The grey concrete and clouds were a downer. You may have felt the same way while downtown. The lack of grass, hills and landscape even effects how we walk. My feet get sore all the time here.

Looking down the winding path through the trees of Philosopher's Walk

A rare zone of solitude: Philosopher’s Walk (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Not to worry though, I have good news. Through First Nations House, I was connected to the Native Student’s Association and the Kahontake Kitigan medicine garden. The garden was named by Anishnaabe Elder Lillian McGregor and Oneida Elder Grafton Anton, and combines the Oneida and Anishnaabemowin words for garden. I even had the honour of helping maintain this garden for part of the summer. The garden is sacred land and a safe place for growing medicines, holding ceremonies and for any healing you may need. It’s on the east side of Hart House along Queen’s Park Crescent West and you can check it out if you’re ever passing by (be sure to respect it well). This garden is a place of peace and joy, especially during busy or stressful times.

A bed of sage plants in fronts, and a bed of tobacco plants with flowers in the back at  Kahontake Kitigan

Sage in the front and Tobacco in the back, from harvest day at Kahontake Kitigan (Photo courtesy of U of T Native Students’ Association)

A round flowerbed with a large green patch of broad-leaf sweetgrass

Sweetgrass growing strong on harvest day at Kahontake Kitigan (Photo courtesy of U of T Native Students’ Association)

A bed of soil with three tiny cedar trees and a large cedar bush, with larger fauna in the background

Very young cedar trees, on harvest day at Kahontake Kitigan (Photo courtesy of U of T Native Students’ Association)

NSA Marten Clan Leader Paige standing amongst sage and tobacco leaves hanging to dry in the NSA office

NSA Marten Clan Leader Paige feeling triumphant after a successful harvest at Kahontake Kitigan (Photo courtesy of U of T Native Students’ Association)

Finding nature on campus can be hard but worth the effort. Even if you just have a cactus who wears sunglasses indoors all the time. Look around, and I’m sure you’ll find lots of good gardens and green space for your mind.

Now for your homework:

1: Do you have a favourite secret green space on campus? Near your home?

2: To replace Jose, you must bring me…another shrubbery! (Or at least recommend your favourite houseplant)

Also, check out these links:

http://www.fnh.utoronto.ca/Current-Students/Student-Groups/Native-Student-Association.htm

http://campusagriculture.ca/

http://thevarsity.ca/2014/03/17/exploring-the-ecology-of-u-of-ts-three-campuses/

http://thevarsity.ca/2012/09/02/u-of-ts-secret-spots/

 

Let’s get downward, dog: Enlightenment at Hart House Yoga

*Credits to that one random poster at UTSC for the title. I wish I were that creative with my puns.

If the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, this week I had my first yoga class at Hart House and it was AMAZING! I’ve done yoga for a few years now, but it’s usually in beginner classes, and not regularly. I knew I wanted to try to be more physically active this year, but I needed something more than just running on the treadmill.

How did I end up with yoga?

Let me just start with one simple aspect of my personality: I like to take on a lot. It sounds like the cliché answer you might give when you get asked, “what’s your biggest weakness,” at a job interview, but for me, it’s the truth. I like to keep busy, because otherwise I just kind of …don’t do anything.

Api with concerned look on her face.

Not impressed brain. Not impressed.

It’s system that works pretty well for me, with time management and all that jazz. “But Api, I don’t see the problem,” you might ask.

Well my friends, after a very packed first month back, I realize that yes, I am able to handle a lot but that doesn’t eliminate the stress that comes along with it.

Since I seem to work best when I’m busy, I knew the solution to being stressed out wasn’t cutting things out, it was adding something I liked doing. So, I decided to replace one of my weekly workout hours (which I, coincidentally, haven’t actually started yet) with an hour of yoga at Hart House!

Photo of banner saying "Hart House Fitness Centre" with and arrow pointing down the hall.

I was really intimidated when I first stepped into the class, because I had only done introductory yoga and I was pretty out of practice. I wasn’t even sure if I could still touch my toes.

 

Mirror reflection pIcture of Api sitting down and reaching for toes with toes just out of reach.

I could. (Just barely though).

But our first class consisted of covering some of the basic moves and learning how to do them properly, so that we don’t strain ourselves and we got the most benefit from them.

The class went pretty well, and I’m glad I have something separate from school, extracurricular activities and work, that I can use as Api time!

There are lots of yoga options on campus, if you can’t commit to a weekly class, Hart House and the Athletic Centre has drop-in classes. The Multi-Faith Centre also has options for meditation and yoga!  So you have plenty of options to get your tree pose on!

Picture of api doing tree pose with one leg bent and resting against her shin.

#YogaSelfie trending in Toronto ~~

Hopefully by the end of the semester, I’ll be able to do that pose without losing my balance and falling over. Baby steps.

Where Can I Meet Queer Chicks? A Guide to Making Your FB Relationship Status, “Happy and Healthy”

So, let’s be real for a second: half of the appeal of Queer Orientation is to find other queer folks. Not just because they make fantastic friends, but they also can make fantastic partners (and no, this is not my OkCupid summary). As everyone may know, straight or queer, finding a partner can be difficult. So when opportunity strikes, it is only natural to go for it. Unless, of course, you are like me and totally psych yourself out about even the prospects of meeting that special someone (OK fine, this is my OkCupid summary. Lame, I know, but you have to be yourself on these things!).

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However, from my experience, I want to say this now: just because there are less queer people does not mean that you have to settle for someone less. In the past (and present), I would often say that, “well yes she does voluntourism, but maybe that was just in high school?” or “yeah she is a little insensitive when I say I have to do school, but who isn’t?,” or “She doesn’t watch ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians,’ but that is okay, right?” But at the end of the day, if your interests don’t mesh, they don’t mesh (jokes about that last one- it was really the ‘Rachel Maddow Show’). Frankly, it is better for everyone to say no to that second date than to have a prolonged break-up six months later.

So go to Queer Orientation. I know it can be nerve-wracking but if you want to go, go!

Don’t psych yourself out, because I did when I was in first-year (and second-year), and now I completely regret not going to more events.  More to the point, if you find someone that is great, and if you don’t that is fine too (join me and all the other singles ready to mingle). Honestly, queer orientation is just the beginning, and there are many other ways to meet new people across campus throughout the year. Plus, the queer friends you will meet will likely be there long after that first break-up.

 

Me and my friend at Queer Women on Campus!

Me and my friend at Queer Women on Campus!

Now, if you do see someone that seems awesome and cool and smart and funny and wears a button-up like no one else, here is a little tip from a fellow young yet older person: start it out right by communicating effectively.

“Right, thanks Haley, I have already heard that before.”

I know, I know, so instead of me saying it, there is this really great blog called “Love like This”  that gets down to this exact point of “asking out.” Now obviously this can be quite daunting, so remain “hopeful and respectful.” For me, I get a little aggressive when I am nervous, and I have found that it can come off as disrespectful if not completely arrogant. To be open and vulnerable allows for an honest response, and not a response that comes out of intimidation (bad way to start a relationship, am I right?).

Don't Put on a Show

Don’t put on a show…

Or be full of woe...

Or be full of woe…

Just give it a go!

Just give it a go!

So starting out open and honest can be a stepping-stone to a happy and healthy relationship status. If you don’t believe me, look at this interactive documentary and see for yourself. Yes, I cried with Cat and Keith.

Peace and love,

Haley

Finding A Little Balance

If you could only tell one story about yourself, what would you tell? Is your story long, or short? Deep, or lighthearted? How would you break the ice?

I’d start with an introduction: My name is Zach and I’m in my third year at U of T, in the undergraduate Public Policy and Governance program. I also minor in Aboriginal Studies and Russian Language, just to keep things interesting. I’m from Calgary and more used to mountains and meadows than I am to towers and transit. Some of my ancestors were Cree and Russian. These roots guide my story.

Pathways through the trees.

Sometimes you find yourself in need of a guide, and that’s actually a good thing (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

But I’d go beyond the basics. I’d include other parts of my life, to paint a better picture. In short, my story needs balance. Actually, my story is about balance.

I’ll start back in grade school. I think I’ve always had some mental balance. I always found time to work hard for my marks. Don’t get the wrong idea, I had time to goof around too. In class. In front of teachers. Oops.

Before grade twelve, I lacked physical balance. I’d get home from school and eat a whole pizza sub or two for a snack. I wasn’t a shining example of athleticism. But after recognizing this imbalance, it was easy to change my ways. Ok, not that easy. My calves burn just thinking about the exercise regimes. Finding the willpower to eat healthy was even harder. Thankfully, I dropped over eighty pounds. It’s great although I miss binging on chips and milkshakes.

Next, I landed in Toronto. Imagine you’re an alien visiting another alien world even crazier than where you’re from. Now you know how I, a small-town Albertan, felt in big, bustling Toronto.  After wobbling around in this immense place like a goofball for a year, I read the writing on the wall. I needed emotional balance. Over the second year, I dealt with every emotion known to man (and maybe some unknown ones as well) and came out on top. My goofball score dropped dramatically too. I think.

A view out over the Bow River Valley in the foothills of southern Alberta

My old view from my home in Alberta (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

Toronto's impressive skyline on a bright clear day, from 18 floors up in a tower

My new view from my Toronto apartment (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

Afterwards, I still lacked something. Maybe you’ve felt the same way like you need to complete your soul’s inner circle. Profound, right? I simply realized I needed spiritual balance. So I worked up some courage, embraced my heritage, and dove headfirst into Toronto’s Indigenous communities including U of T’s First Nations House. Engaging was easy and I received the warmest of welcomes.

The vines and trees just outside the First Nations House building

Just outside First Nations House (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

Mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual balance were vital for embracing my Indigeneity and finding my personal, academic, social, and spiritual center at U of T. I even enjoy my other interests more fully, like music and cooking. If I could only tell one story, I’d talk about balance to show my perspective. But luckily, I have much more to tell! I also like listening and I think we can have a great time storytelling together.

How balanced are you?

If you could only tell one story about yourself, what would you tell?

Looking straight upwards at the big blue sky, through foliage and campus buildings

Finding centre at U of T is not as hard as you’d think; you just need to know where to look (photo taken by Zachary Biech)