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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First Years – Unplugging on Campus

The start of the ’gap’ between midterms and finals is definitely a good time to find more opportunities to de-stress where possible. As I’ve been emphasizing the importance I’ve placed on striking a balance between work and play, I’ve decided to find out where my fellow first-years have been going to relax on campus. Specifically, I’ve been looking for places to ‘unplug’ and unwind without keeping a constant eye on my phone.

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Watching Paint Dry Has Never Been so Fun – VUSAQ’s Art Battle

Brushes fly across the canvas, water spills, paint splatters. There’s one more minute left in this round of the art battle, and each artist is trying their hardest to win. 

I had the pleasure to attend an Art Battle organized by the VUSAQ equity commission this week. The battle supported Sprott House, Toronto’s first transitional home for homeless LGBTQ2SA+ youth. Between the great art, awesome music, and super cool people, it was truly one of the best events I’ve been to this year.


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First-Year: A Mid-Semester Review

This past month has undoubtedly been one of the more strenuous months of my life thus far, and that probably goes for a lot of my fellow freshmen. Midterms hit me hard and have left me feeling absolutely exhausted. Even though mental wellness month just ended, I still think it’s important to make sure sure that I head into the second half of this fall semester with a healthy mindset.

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Getting over a bad grade: A personal memoir

Happy end of October! Hopefully many of you have reached the closing round of midterms and are either eagerly or miserably anticipating your grade. While studying for U of T tests is stressful, getting your mark back afterwards can bring on its own type of stress. Continue reading

You Never Know What You’ll Discover – A Testament to Fitness and Athletics on Campus

Anyone who knows even a little bit about me probably knows that I do Jiu Jitsu. I started practising Shorinji Kan Japanese Jiu Jitsu in September of 2013, when I began my undergraduate degree. I joined the Jiu Jitsu Club at UofT and I’ve now been the president of for about two years.

That decision was the best I’ve made over the course of my undergraduate career. Let me tell you why.

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A Newbie’s Guide to Being New: The Athletic Centre

If you’re like me, a big barrier to trying something new is being that person that’s standing in the middle of the hallway with no idea where they’re going or what they’re supposed to be doing. If you’re like me, you’ll pull out your cellphone and pretend to be super-engaged in text messaging. I’m operating under the assumption that I’m not the only one who feels like this and responds to new situations and environments this way. Please don’t let me be wrong!

Forever alone meme.

Forever alone?

I’ve often been held back by an aversion to those awkward situations. I’m hoping to prevent such “fish-out-of-water” feelings from stopping you from exploring our campus athletic centres (that you’re paying part of your tuition towards) by presenting to you: The Newbie’s Guide to Being New Part 1: The Athletic Centre

Also known as the AC, this is the rather aesthetically unappealing building on the corner of Huron and Harbord. It’s a lot more interesting inside. You may have had an exam here in the past and probably didn’t enjoy that experience, so why not replace it with a more positive one?

The Athletic Centre viewed from the corner of Harbord and Huron.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, right?


When you enter the Athletic Centre from Harbord St. you’re going to walk past the pool gallery (did you know we have the only Olympic-size pool in the city?!) and the swag-shop and make your way to the turnstiles. This is a great opportunity to be anti-social since all you need to do is swipe your TCard and walk on through. No human interaction necessary.

Ok, you’ve made it. You are INSIDE the Athletic Centre and even PAST the turnstiles. What now? From here, your basic options are the Strength and Conditioning Centre (SCC) which you’ll find straight ahead, or the field house which is up the stairs.

Drawing depicting view of Athletic Centre past the turnstiles. SCC straight ahead, stairs on the right with field house upstairs and change rooms downstairs.

This is probably a poor representation… but it’s enough to get you where you need to go!

The SCC is the room full of medieval-looking contraptions and is usually also full of people. Look out for a follow-up post on surviving the SCC in the near future. Anyhow, that’s where you’re going to go if you want to lift heavy things and “make gains” (read as: build muscle).

Weightlifting training plan printout.

Speaking of making gains… my Olympic weightlifting class is ramping up! LOVE IT. This is the program my coach created for us. Well, it’s one of a few pages.

The field house, on the other hand, is a big open space with a track, multi-function courts and fitness equipment that is scattered throughout the room (it’s a really big room). The openness of the space makes this a great place to start if the congestion in the gym makes you anxious. You’ll find cardio machines, mats, a pull-up bar and other fun surprises.

NOTE: Rules in both these spaces are NO photography (which is why you’re forced to endure my memes and stick figures) and NO bags or personal belongings.

Need a change room? Take the stairs to the bottom. You’ll find these and lockers. Don’t forget a lock!

Devastated girl meme with text overlay: "Brought valuables. Forgot lock."

Don’t be this girl.

Still not eager to give it a try? Bring a friend! I love to get in some extra training with friends in the field house. Or, another great way to get acquainted with any athletic centre is taking a class –like me! You’d be surprised how many different classes are offered, they have everything from circus silks to synchronized swimming. You can find the full list here:

Girls, if you want to take advantage of the SCC while it’s less populated, why not visit during women-only hours? You can find those here:

Why do you want to go to the Athletic Centre?

  1. To take advantage of a membership non-U of T folks pay a lot of money for! To explore one of the many facilities and services U of T has to offer
  2. To do something active
  3. To meet new people!
  4. Because it’s a great, dynamic space
  5. …There’s a Starbucks if worst comes to worst?

I hope that makes the whole experience of exploring the AC a little less daunting and encourages some of you to go check out the facility. J

In the meantime…

On October 30th, I encourage you to pay the Varsity Centre a visit! MoveU is hosting a “Scary Skate” from 7:30-9PM and it’s FREE. Having said that, if you bring a non-perishable food item, you get a surprise gift! Costumes are encouraged and some skates are available for rent. Hope to see you there!


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. 


First-Years and Midterm Stress

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.


Listening to some music and catching up on the news in the common room right before an exam helps keep me centered.

“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

Go for a walk, take a basic tourist-y shot of the CN Tower, check and check.

Go for a walk, take a basic tourist-y shot of the CN Tower, check and check.

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.

How the Dojo Shaped My Attitude Towards Fitness

Martial arts have demonstrated to me the incredible capabilities of the human body –of my body. They have changed my perception of where my limits lie and what I can and can’t achieve. They have shown me that progress is a real thing –an attainable thing.

Four successive snapshots of me performing a jiu jitsu throw on a training partner.

Snaps from a highlight video one of the Jiu Jitsu clubs in the city put together. That’s me with my head cut off! Credit: Ken Remark Photography

When I started martial arts I was a blank slate –or, as my instructor would say: “I came in green.” I am not that martial artist anymore. I’ve acquired talents and I’ve identified strengths and weaknesses. Overall, I have improved.

I remember my first belt test in Shorinji Kan Jiu Jitsu (the exam of-sorts one has to pass to earn a shiny new belt and rank in the style), I remember how anxious I was and how hard I considered it to be. Looking back now, and having witnessed some of my newer training partners’ tests since completing my own, I can’t believe how significant it was to me at the time. It just goes to show the progress I’ve made. Having said that, the fact that it seems so ridiculous now, doesn’t mean that it was any less notable or that I shouldn’t have felt proud or accomplished back then. The same applies to fitness.

We all have our starting points, surpassing those starting points –those initial limits and abilities- is not insignificant because you can still only run a mile without stopping, or because playing a team sport still makes you anxious. All progress is significant. This isn’t a statistics class –thankfully! We don’t have to justify our feelings of accomplishment and shouldn’t compare those accomplishments to those attained by others. Take pride in the little step you took today towards a happier, healthier, fitter you! It DOES count, no matter the “p-value”. In case you didn’t know –and I wouldn’t blame you- the “p-value” is a measure of statistical significance! Exclamation marks make everything more exciting, right?

Martial arts have also given me an appreciation for my body. I’ve learned that it can always do more and go further than I think it can. My body powers me through challenging pressure-testing scenarios, it enables me to effectively dispatch attackers. It gets sore, it recovers, and it primes itself for the next challenge. In order for it to be able to do the most for me, I need to do what I can for it in return.

I am active because I’ve learned to love my body and appreciate it and what it allows me to do. I’ve found that that appreciation is far more effective at motivating me to stay active than a desire to “fix” it or punish myself with negative reinforcement. I encourage everyone to take a step back, to not base their decision to be active –or not-on an evaluation of self that happens in front of a mirror. Go outside, do something physical and try to remember how that feels. Be grateful for what you can do and don’t’ dwell on what you can’t do. We were built to move; isn’t it wonderful?

I think it is and I love discovering all the different ways in which my body can move and work. This term, I’m doing that through an Olympic weightlifting class, so check back for those sweaty details!

Buddy the elf meme with text overlay: "I just like to lift. Lifting's my favourite."

This is my go-to meme. Buddy is my favourite!