Finding Headspace in the Midst of Exams 

If you had told me in September that 8 months from now I would be an avid supporter of meditation – I would have told you that you were crazy! 

I grew up my whole life with a mother who was very into yoga, so I’m no stranger to meditative practices and how beneficial they can be for the mind and body. But I could just never manage to actually get the hang of it. I would always get distracted, or end up spending the entire time thinking and worrying – which is the opposite goal of meditation to begin with! 

That was until I heard an online blogger talk about the app Headspace.

The interface of the headspace app! I'm obsessed with how clean and simple the graphics are!

The interface of the headspace app! I’m obsessed with how clean and simple the graphics are!

Headspace is a mobile guided meditation app. Their beginners trial is a 10-day, 10-minute guided meditation series that is aimed to introduce you to the process of meditation – and help you get more headspace. 

I was really doubtful that this would actually work for my anxiety-ridden, million-miles-an-hour mind, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to give it a try! 

Well 2 weeks after my 10 day trial and I’m still obsessed! 

Image via.

Image via.

I started the trial around the end of classes, and although it was hard to make time at the beginning, I started to look forward to my 10 minutes of meditation a day. Instead of giving me 10 minutes a day where I don’t have to think about anything, the meditation encouraged me to let thoughts flow in and out of my mind naturally. It didn’t feel like I was trying to suppress anything, but I wasn’t trying to focus on anything specific either. 

I started out by doing it every morning. Before I ate breakfast and got ready for the day, I would sit on my bed with a cup of coffee and go through my 10 minute routine.

Now, I’m meditating for 10 minutes every morning – and during the day when I feel like I need some mental space or quiet time. 

Now that it's nice out I might even try some outdoor meditation at secret nooks like this one at Vic!

Now that it’s nice out I might even try some outdoor meditation at secret nooks like this one at Vic!

For me, meditation is about the combination of routine – and doing what feels natural. I want it to be integrated into my every day life, not something that feels unnatural and forced. 

You can get the app for free here, but if you’re looking for something a bit more hands-on, the U of T offers free meditation classes every day – all across campus

Try the bamboo garden in the Donnelly Centre

Try some meditation in the bamboo garden in the Donnelly Centre

There are also a variety of different meditation spaces on campus. I’m a big fan of the multi-faith and meditation room at Robarts for some mid-studying headspace, but I’ve also tried some of these quiet campus getaways recommended by Amie

Meditation has really helped me during exams; it gives me specific time to relax, which means I’m more focused when it’s time to study. 

image via.

image via.

Do you have any routines or tricks that help you get through exams? Or do you know of any awesome meditative spots on campus I need to check out? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @Rachael_UofT 

The Finals Week Guide to Productive TV-Watching 

Ondiek’s amazing post last week about how our lives start to resemble sit-coms really resonated with me, because as I’ve mentioned in past posts, I am a TV enthusiast.

My problem though, is that the binge watching tends to take over my life during finals because it is my brain’s number one method of procrastination. So, I’ve taken the liberty of putting together some my go-to tricks for TV-watching in a safe, productive and not-at-all harmful to your education kind of way.

If you’re one of the stronger few who are able to resist TV all together while studying, then kudos to you my friends! But if you’re like me and you’re weak, then enjoy some structured TV time. YOU DESERVE IT, U OF T.

1. Don’t start any new shows. – The age of online TV streaming from Netflix, Hulu, Shomi etc, means that I will have all ten seasons of Grey’s Anatomy at my disposal, waiting to be watched. My worst set of finals was the semester that I decided to start watching it while studying. Yes, I know all the reviews of Orange is the New Black are amazing, and I know that my friend has been recommending House of Cards for like a year now, but IT’S A TRAP.

No matter how great the teaser, be strong my friends: 

2. Use it as a pick-me-up or reward – For my last essay I used an episode of the Mindy Project (one of my favorite shows) as a reward for finishing each page of writing. The episodes are only 20 minutes long, so it doesn’t cut into my productivity, and Mindy is so funny that I go back to my essay writing in a better mood.

Don’t let your breaks be great. Let them be GRRRREAT.

3. Re-watch episodes you’ve seen before. – This is a where I feel the most guilty about my TV watching. Sometimes I’m so bored that I just feel like watching while studying. Or I like to have background noise. To slowly curb this terrible habit, I got into re-watching episodes or scenes that I’ve seen before. This way, I don’t feel the need to give all my attention to the episode, and I can actually get work done. But I don’t recommend this for anything other than note-taking/ transcribing, because otherwise you might start thinking about Troy’s fan-boy meltdown on Community, instead of the five principles of Medicare, and that is mildly problematic (I’ve been there).

So there you have it. Happy watching, and happy finals everyone! If you have any tips on how to curb this TV procrastination even more, then let me know down in the comments!

How to Chill

Ah, April at U of T: The pitter-patter of rain on the windows, those beautiful spring days in between that dreaded April snow, and of course, the low murmur of thousands of students who are currently reviewing a semester’s worth of notes for finals. This year, the exam gods have blessed me with one final exam (don’t hate me, please) albeit on almost the last day of finals.

After what I like to refer to as “The Week That Tested My Commitment To My Entire Undergraduate Degree,” I came out on the other side feeling pretty good! I completed a high quality of work, while letting out my stress in healthy ways. Since some of my other commitments have been winding down as well, I have something that I haven’t experienced in a while: Free time.

Picture of a google search screen with "how to chill"  typed into search bar

Google searches I never thought I’d need to make.

I wanted to relax, but I realized that I DON’T KNOW HOW. Unfortunately the Wiki-How article Google directed me to did not help either. Now don’t get me wrong, all the work I’ve committed to this year hasn’t been a chore at all. I have fun and I’m always learning, but it’s not relaxing. So I took this rare opportunity as a challenge and decided to find some activities to relax with:

Friend time –  Trying to have friend time when you’re the only one who isn’t frantically studying for exams is a tricky task. I coped by offering moral support when needed, and slyly using “study dates” as a guise to socialize with my friends *evil laughter*

Picture of api with her friend taking a selfie with a lap top

Taking a selfie with a lap top in it counts as studying right?


Spring cleaning – Before you scoff, HEAR ME OUT. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the transformation from messy to clean in my room or on my desk.  Maybe I’m also a little strange because I like to clean things to relieve stress, but that’s just me.

Food. Always food – I finally got a chance to get back on the foodie trail and return to some of my favourite restaurants. Happy tears all around.

Picture of eggs benny breakfast platter.

Relaxation featuring brunch at Starving Artist!

SLEEP <3 – Honestly, I get more than anybody that it’s hard to get everything done on time without sacrificing some sleep. So the number one thing I did to relax was catch up on some well-deserved sleep.

What are your suggestions on how to chill U of T? Let me know down in the comments or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

Planning to Procrastinate

I have never felt so emotionally attached to an e-card as the one you see below. 


Not only do I feel like this victorian lady is my spirit animal, but I also feel as if I may have actually written this e-card subconsciously, and am now just re-discovering it for the first time. 

My name is Rachael, and I am a professional procrastinator. 

I’ve always been fully aware of my procrastination habits – even in high school I was a night-before essay writer. At university I’ve definitely met some procrastination pros who surpass even me, but I’ve also met hundreds of people who plan and perfect things weeks in advanced. 

I always use to compare myself to these people. They must be getting such better marks than me. Their lives are probably so stress-free. THEY MUST BE LITERALLY PERFECT AND I WANT TO BE THEM IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE. 


My preferred form of procrastination is Netflix, coffee, and painting my nails

But over the last semester, I’ve learned that I’m not just a typical procrastinator. No, I actually plan to procrastinate. I know that may seem like an oxymoron, but it really is true. I am the most organized last-minute procrastinator you will probably ever meet. 

If I have an essay due on Monday, I will make sure I’ve done all my research by Friday, and I will spend all day Saturday and Sunday locked in ROBARTS creating in depth outlines and rough copies. By 8pm on Sunday night – I will have a perfect (at least to me at the time) essay ready to be handed in the next morning. 


More important than this realization however, was the realization that maybe this is okay. 

Procrastination has such an awful stigma attached to it. The entire internet is filled with procrastination memes and 2am Facebook posts by stressed out students. They contribute to this idea that procrastination is an inadequate and unacceptable form of studying.

I know that there are hundreds of research projects out there that tell you all the reasons why procrastination is bad for your mental health and your grades, there are actually quite a few out there who say that procrastination isn’t as bad as we make it out to be

Sure, if you’re skipping deadlines and missing assignments, your procrastination is getting a bit out of control. But if you find that you’re actually able to produce your best work when you procrastinate, and it’t not affecting your physical or mental health, then who am I (or the Internet) to tell you that you’re doing it wrong? 

When I eliminated the stigma around my procrastination – I found I was actually able to produce better results, and be less stressed in the process. I didn’t feel like I was doing something wrong, or like I had “planned to fail, by failing to plan.” 

Instead, I would sit down and set out a timeline of my procrastination. I would re-schedule my time, knowing that I was going to spend the entire weekend in the library. Overall, I think this has actually made be a better – and certainly happier – student. 

What’s your option on procrastination? Do you embrace it, or does it embarrass you? Or do you not do it at all!? Let me know in the comments below! 

UC Charity Drag Show

Coming into university I knew that there was going to be a mile long list of ‘firsts’:

My first time doing my own laundry, first 500 person lecture, first time spending over 12 hours in a library. 

However I don’t think I could have prepared myself for what came along with last year’s University College Charity Drag Show: my first time watching a friend get dressed up in drag and perform on stage to Beyoncé

My best friend Chim dancing to Beyonce at last year's drag show

My best friend Chim dancing to Beyonce at last year’s drag show

So when I got invited to this year’s 2nd Annual University College Drag show – I knew I couldn’t turn it down! With a killer line up of performers and all the proceeds going to Toronto’s LBGT Youthline it was sure to be a great night. 

Since my first day at University College, the attitude towards diversity and acceptance has overwhelmed me.  Encouraging everyone to love themselves no matter what they looked like, where they came from, or who they loved, has always been one of the things I’ve admired most about my college.

My crazy group of friends supporting Chim after his amazing performance!

My crazy group of friends supporting Chim after his amazing performance!

Events like the drag show are what really inspired me to get involved with my college, and was even one of the events that pushed me to apply for my Life@UofT job.  I wanted to experience more of these amazing events, and help other people experience them too. 

As for the event itself, let me start by saying that these Queens outdid any makeup or hair I could ever do. (I’m also now a firm believer that men wearing skirts and heels should be a daily occurrence, as I have never seen legs look so good in my life)  The Kings were equally impressive, rocking everything from the Beiber flow to baggy pants.

However, the real jaw-dropping happened when they took the stage.  Dancing to everything from 80s fem-rock classics, to today’s top 40, these men and women gave Rue Paul’s Drag Race a run for their money. 

To compliment these amazing performances, the UClit throws quite the party.  The JCR was dimly lit with oversized couches and an enormous amount of food. The performances were broken up with raffles and hilarious commentary by the MCs. 

One of the art instillations created by the AVSSU, that acted as the stage backdrop

One of the art instillations created by the AVSSU, that acted as the stage backdrop

This year the JCR was also covered in art instillations. The Architecture and Visual Studies Student Union created five different stunning art instillations that added another layer of interest and entertainment to the event. 

However the best part of the night wasn’t the beautiful art, the delicious food or amazing performances.  It was the palpable energy that ran through the air.  There was an undeniable sense of carefreeness.  These men and women were up there, dancing and having a good time, without an ounce of worry that someone was going to judge them or laugh at them.  They were supporting an amazing cause while getting one of the most memorable experiences of their life.  But most of all, they were just having fun. 

Living in a big city and going to such a diverse school, it can be easy to forget the rest of the world.  That hundreds of boys and girls live every day hiding who they are out of fear of being punished or ridiculed.  Thats why unique events such as this are so important.  They help make this school and, in a small way the rest of the world, a better place.

Overcoming my Fear of Professors

Up until last Thursday, I don’t think I had ever actually seen a professor up close. 

I mean, sure, I’ve sat front row in lecture or passed them while walking to class, but I am really bad at actually talking to my professors. I never bring my questions to them after class, or go to their office hours. I do all of these things with my TAs, but something about actually talking to a professor intimidates me. 

I think that I’m always worried I’ll sound stupid, or that I won’t have anything worth occupying their time with. When in reality, my philosophy professor would probably actually enjoy discussing Plato with me. I mean, isn’t that kind of why you become a teacher? To teach

Photo of a professor looking over a whiteboard as a student writes on it

Image via.

So when I was invited to the UCLit Coffee with the Profs: A Panel Discussion on Poverty and Homelessness, I immediately thought no way! 

Poster promoting equity with the profs. It reads:  A discussion on poverty presented by Coffee with the Profs.

Image via.

What could I possibly bring to this discussion that one of the expert panelists couldn’t say better? Do I even know anything about poverty and homelessness in Toronto? Do I even know ANYTHING AT ALL?!!?!!

But doing things that are out of my comfort zone was one of my new school year resolutions, and has created most of my other content here on the blog. I survived all those other awkward situations, so why not this one?

The layout of the panel!

The layout of the panel!

Coffee with the Profs is a regular event held by the UCLit. Anyone can come, and each event has a different theme or topic. Some, like this one, are panel-style, while others are more of a social and networking event. The atmosphere is always casual – they order pizza and make a cozy corner of couches in the JCR – and there are UCLit reps scattered throughout the group to ask a question when things get awkward and silent. 

The panel I attended was more of an informal round-table discussion than a panel, and included Professor Hulchanski from the Centre for Urban and Community studies, Poet Laureate George Elliot Clarke, and Jesse Surdigo from the Yonge Street Mission. Each guest brought a different perspective to the topic as they discussed questions such as; what is poverty, why is it so difficult to escape, and what can we be doing to help? 

Students gathered around a large table and projector in the UC JCR

A different Coffee with the Profs session held by the UClit photo via.

I found that although I didn’t have a wealth of knowledge on the subject, I was able to ask more specific questions about what was being discussed – rather than overarching philosophical ones. I actually ended up leaving the panel having formulated the beginning of my own opinion on the subject.

I overcame my fear of feeling inadequate in the presence of professors, and learned some new things in the process. I even engaged in a bit of twitter-talk with Professor Hulchanski after the panel! 

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If you’re nervous about talking to professors, I would definitely suggest hitting up one of these events! The informal setting makes it a lot easier to interact, or to just sit back and watch if that’s what you’re more comfortable with. I would also suggest going if you’re particularly interested in one of the topics, as it’s a great place to share your passion with other academics and students. 

Congrats to the UClit on hosting such a great series of events! I can’t wait to see what topics you bring up next! 

The meaning of life (and other concerns)

Warning: this post may contain material that makes you question a lot of things. Proceed with caution.

I’m in the library, writing a paper on health and social policy (you know, a typical Tuesday night activity). While performing an expert analysis on the state of health care, I start to ask questions. Why is the social structure set up this way? How did millions of years of evolution lead us to this point?

Picture of University College on a sunny day

Filed under: questions that arise when you’re stuck inside studying on a sunny day :(

A steep downward spiral later, I hit the emotional wall that is the demise of human productivity: apathy.

And what may have caused this apathy, you wonder?

Questioning the very foundations of life – value, meaning and purpose, also known as existentialism.

In various Internet subcultures, the idea of the ‘quarter life crisis,’ or the ‘existential crisis’ has become fairly common. A twenty-something wasting their life away on Netflix, caused by an utter lack of purpose, is an instantly recognizable and relatable illusion.

Meme reading: "Gives you 15 seconds between episodes to decide if you're doing anything with your life today"

All too familiar. Source:

Personally, I think just being a student makes me vulnerable to the creeping embrace of existentialism. I have to make important decisions that will seemingly impact me for years to come, and that’s a lot of pressure. This is the general “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life” kind of problem. A minor lack of motivation, purpose and meaning spirals into more intense thoughts. We are conscious beings who have the freedom to do what we want, and to make meaning of this life that we’re living. The part that baffles me is the utter absurdity of it all.

It becomes difficult to focus on school, when you’re questioning the very meaning of your existence. We’ve been searching for the meaning of life for millennia. Ancient philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have questioned the universe and it’s existence.

Spoiler alert: we haven’t found it, which is what I remind myself when I start getting existential. They weren’t the first, nor will they be the last to ask these questions. I’ll avoid preaching about finding your love and inspiration (I do that enough).

But where does this leave me? What is the meaning of life at U of T? (Get it? Like the name of the blog? No?) Have I resumed fetal position and accepted that life is meaningless?

Picture of Api

Not quite.

I realize that in university, and in my program especially, we’re taught to question and analyze why things are they way they are. It’s inevitable that some of that thinking leaks into everyday life (those sneaky profs!) So, after a long discussion with my friends about motivation and purpose, I return to my essay with a strangely renewed interest in what I’m passionate about.

Disclaimer: Although existential thoughts might be manageable for some people, I don’t want to invalidate what anyone else has experienced. So, if you have persistent feelings like this, don’t hesitate to talk to someone or to connect yourself with resources on campus like Peers are Here, Mindful Moments, Health and Wellness and more.

Let me know about how you deal with this down in the comments, or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

History Course Drop-Out

*while reading this post, please feel free to play the song “Beauty School Dropout” from the Grease soundtrack 

If you had asked me 12 months ago, I could never have predicted that I would have dropped two courses and credit-no-credited one, all in my second year at U of T. 

In first year I was resilient. I studied course material that I hated, wrote tests I was vastly unprepared for, and was ultimately of the mindset that this is what University is

A selfie of me in the lecture hall, smiling at the lecture screen, acting goofy

Look at how much fun I thought I was having!

Being in my second year, I’ve had a massive perspective change.

While I know that University is still a lot of hard work, and there will always be courses you take because you have to – not because you want to, you shouldn’t be suffering through something just because you don’t want to be seen as a quitter.

Photo of me sitting cross-legged on my bed, with a pretty notebook that reads "adventure is worthwhile"

In first semester, I wrote for the blog about how I decided to credit-no-credit an elective course. CNCR-ing a course was still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, as it allowed me to take a step back from the pressure of getting a good mark, and actually focus on the course material 

But what happens when you’re not enjoying the course material? When you’re taking a course because you thought you wanted to, but turns out – you don’t. 

Photo of me with my head down on the desk , surrounded by homework, looking in despair

If you’re looking like this every day of the semester, it might be time to change something up!

Thats what happened to me this semester, not once, but twice. 

For some reason that I cannot recall, I thought it would be brilliant to take 6 courses this semester. Three weeks into the semester I was already overwhelmed.

I found that I was taking time allocated to my actual degree-requirement courses, to study for classes that were just electives. My grades and my stress levels were suffering. 

My roommate becca standing on St. George Street throwing a pile of snow into the air

My roommate and I both dropped courses on the same day, so obviously we had to take a celebratory photo in the snow

So I dropped my first course by mid-January. I felt an immediate relief, and used that two hour class block I now had free, to head to the library. Everything was going great with my now 5-course semester load, until midterms hit. 

In an anxiety-induced “I hate school” coma, I dropped another course at midnight the night before my midterm. 

The fact that I spent the rest of the night ordering dominos cheesy bread and taking selfies, probably should have been my first hint that I had dropped the course for the wrong reason....

The fact that I spent the rest of the night ordering dominos cheesy bread and taking selfies, probably should have been my first hint that I had dropped the course for the wrong reason….

I’m now 0.5 credits behind where I should be, and have a serious wealth of free time on my hands. While I feel less stressed and have more time to do readings for the classes I require, I wish that I hadn’t used the drop course option so liberally. I should have taken the time to go and talk to an academic advisor, or someone at the registrar’s office, before I made such a rash decision. 

So overall, my transcript looks a lot different now than I expected it to when I chose my courses this summer.  While some of that is for a good reason, others I wish I had thought about a little more. 

But how about you U of T? I’d love to hear your stories, or advice, on dropping courses. Do you have any suggestions on how to get through a course that you hate? Leave them in the comments down below, or share them with me on twitter at @Rachael_UofT!

Finding #JoyAtUofT andThe Magic of 21 Sussex

This past Monday, I was in our Juxtaposition Global Health Magazine office at the Clubhouse (also known as 21 Sussex) for our weekly office hours. I was swamped with work, but the prospect of free pizza was enough to convince me to attend a Clubhouse meeting for all the student leaders of groups who have offices in 21 Sussex. Although I’m an active member of Juxtaposition, I had never attended one of these meetings and I didn’t know what to expect, but I got a renewed perspective on 21 Sussex, which I wanted to share with you all!

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.50.43 PM

Some of the many services at 21 Sussex!

Community Engagement using the Clubhouse

When I first became acquainted with the Juxtaposition office, it just seemed like a nice area to chill out, and a place to store our group’s assets (as a print publication, we have A LOT of magazines in our office). As I started spending more time there, it became a second home.

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Some of the many awesome things we have in our office!

After the meeting I realized it’s more than just OUR sanctuary. The clubhouse is available to the U of T community for a reason! The October open house was just one of the many ways that 21 Sussex promote community involvement and engagement.

Photo of the 21 Sussex clubhouse

Conveniently located right by Robarts!

You know how professors sometimes joke about being lonely during their office hours, since very little students actually come out? It’s a similar situation with our club’s office. The office hours are a great way to learn more about the club, what they do and how their membership works! I didn’t even know that the clubs held office hours, until I actually had to host them.

The roughly 700 clubs here at U of T can be difficult to navigate and learn about. Thankfully, ULife and UTSU have club directories, and there are countless ways to connect via social media. But, the 50 or so clubs at 21 Sussex got the privilege of office space. So maybe you want to see what Juxtaposition has in the works for the rest of the year. Or you want to find out how to go about writing for the Varsity. Or maybe you want to grab free condoms from the Sexual, Gender and Diversity office. Whatever it may be, stop by and say hi!  At the absolute least, you’ll make a new friend J.

(Did I mention our office has coffee and snacks?)

So #TryItUofT, and let me know how it goes down in the comments or on Twitter at Api_UofT!

Finding a Passion… For Fashion

Last week I attended the annual UFashion Spring Fashion show, held in co-ordination with the UClit and U of T Students for Wishes. 

The event is put on every year by the student-run organization UFashion It showcases different Toronto-based designers and stores, aiming to appeal to a variety of different styles and student budgets. 

This year’s event was held at Fiction nightclub, and proceeds benefitted the Make a Wish Foundation. Tickets to the fashion show were $10 a piece, and included entrance to Fiction after the show was over. 

two university aged girls sitting on a large leather couch in a club-like setting

Ainsley and Ashley getting ready for the show to start

Before attending the show I had never actually heard of UFashion before, so I didn’t know entirely what to expect. Creating fashionable looks that are not only locally accessible, but student-budget friendly, is difficult to say the least. Although I was excited for the experience of the show as a whole, I wasn’t holding out high hopes of seeing anything that I would “just have to have.” 

I couldn’t have been more wrong. 


The looks were edgy, fashionable, and well put together. There wasn’t a linear catwalk, but instead models walked a path that wound throughout the entire club. The audience was sat on the large velvet couches, and the layout gave everyone a front row view. 

The stores showcased included Toronto locals such as Over The Rainbow, Feroce, Parloque, Sauvage, and Original Penguin It also however, featured an online store created by two University of Toronto students. Haakem Bajwa and Parham Chinikar created their clothing line Cabaret Vesture in the attempts to create pieces that they would wear on a daily basis.  Instead of striving to achieve a certain aesthetic or style, they let their creativity guide them into making whatever pieces are inspiring them at the time. 


I left the fashion show having had a wonderful night, but also fuelled by a new interest in this aspect of UofT life I didn’t know existed before.  Almost at the end of my second year here, I still feel like I haven’t found something that I’m truly passionate about.  With hundreds of clubs I never expected it would be this difficult. 

However attending the UFashion event opened my eyes up to the world of UofT fashion, beauty, and style. It introduced me to an entire network of other students who share my passion for style, but who share many of the same student-related constraints. 

image via.

image via.

If UFashion sounds like something you want to get involved with too, check out their blog, or like them on Facebook here.  I’d love to get any suggestions of other beauty/fashion related clubs in the comments below, or hear your story of how you found your passion at U of T! Until next time, keep up to date with me on the other events I’m attending by following me on twitter at @Rachael_UofT.