An Ode to the Work-Study Program

As the summer unwinds, we get closer and closer to that time of year! No, I’m not talking about course selection, or frosh week or even Ribfest (although I should be, I mean have you tried those ribs?!). As the end of the summer draws closer, it means it’s time for…WORK-STUDY POSTINGS! Do you want to have a cool, fun job, where you can pretend to ‘adult’ (whatever that means), while still getting the most out of university? Then fear not my friends, for you have come to the right place!

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Nothing quite says ‘adult’ like taking selfies at your desk during work

A quick background on the work-study program: The work-study program is offered to help students develop their professional skills through various jobs on campus. The jobs run for the majority of the term (either summer or fall/winter). To be eligible, you need to be taking a minimum of a 40% course load. The best part is that you only have to work a maximum of 12 hours per week, so you have plenty of time to study, participate in student groups, or pursue other things you love!

In my first two years here, I didn’t think I would really benefit from a work-study position, since I already had a part time job. I finally decided to apply during my summer school term. and trust me, it was no easy task, but definitely worth it. The first day the positions opened on the Career Learning Network (CLN), there were over 500 postings. Thankfully, the CLN has some pretty nifty filters that you can use to find jobs that suit you. Cover letters and tailored resumes tend to feel like the bane of my existence, so I ended up using some of the online resources from the CLN and U of T’s career centre website. Tucked away in Koffler Student Services Centre is the Career Centre, where you can even get one-on-one help with a career educator!

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Actual early version of my cover letter.

After polishing up my resume and cover letter, and applying to about 12 different positions, I landed a few interviews. Finally, I got an amazing research assistant position at the the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evalution (AKA my dream job as an undergraduate in health studies).

This is why I love the work-study program so much, and I regret not applying to it earlier. You get the same experience without the time commitment of a full-time job. Although some people take to balancing school, work and life really well, for me, it’s not the easiest thing to accomplish. The work-study allows you to have more time. I used my time this summer for another job, summer courses and some relaxing!

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#TBT to that time I relaxed a little too much

So mark your calendars, U of T! Postings go up on Monday, July 28th. Don’t miss out! If you have and questions or concerns about how to apply or how it works, let me know in the comments, or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

A U of T Student’s Recipe for Success

I’d like to consider myself a borderline foodie, and as a result, I refuse to let the quality of my meals slip just because of a few trivial things like ‘exams’ or ‘homework.’ I have a few go-to methods and recipes to make sure that even when heading to Robarts at 8AM for a 12 hour study session during midterms, I’ll still be able to have a healthy and preferably home-cooked meal to eat. Apparently cake pops and Frappucinos are not part of a balanced meal.

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When it looks this good, anything can be a part of a balanced meal.

I’ve come to the realization that the problems with being healthy while busy (for me at least) can be narrowed down to a few issues:

  1. Money
  2. Flavor
  3. Time

Sometimes, it may just be easier to grab a cheesy poutine from the food truck, but I still try to make myself decent food despite these issues. After many failed attempts with expensive veggies, bland food and simply just sleeping in too late to cook anything, I’ve finally figured out a system that works for me. So here is one of my favourite recipes, along with some of my useful shortcuts to go along with it!

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Couscous Salad!

Let me take a minute to express my outright love for couscous. All you have to do is add boiling water, and it cooks in 5 minutes. Even if a 5-minute cooking time isn’t short enough, this is the perfect food to make in big batches on a Sunday night, for a daily grab-and-go during the week. It’s also super customizable. So if kale or celery isn’t your thing, you can add whatever vegetables you love (or whatever vegetables are cheapest to buy!). I have a flyer app on my phone called Reebee that gets me all the grocery store flyers, so I scan it to stock up on fruits, veggies, and anything else I might need thats on sale.

Recipe: Amounts can vary depending on how much you want to make but here are the general ingredients! Enjoy!

-1 cup of cooked couscous
-1/2 cup of chopped kale
-1/2 cup of scraped carrots
-1/2 cup of scraped zucchini
-1 tomatoe, diced into small pieces
-1 small onion diced into small pieces
-1 tsp chopped ginger
-salt and pepper to taste
-lemon juice
-2-3 tbsp of olive oil

Instructions: Sauté ginger, carrots and zucchini and kale in a large pan. When cooked to your desire, add salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, mix together the tomatoes and onions with a little lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Once everything has cooled down, mix together in a large bowl and store in the fridge! This will save cooking time in the morning so you can be more relaxed. Or, you can always sleep in longer and rush out the door, but either way, you have a meal ready to go!

To make it extra special (this is where the flavor comes in), invest in some flavourful ingredients such as sriracha sauce, balsamic vinegar, sesame oil or fresh coriander (or other herbs). Most of these don’t go bad very easily and last in the pantry or fridge for a long time. It’s comforting to know that the $4 I spent on sriracha was well worth it.

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Just kidding, I never regret the sriracha.

Sometimes, even despite our best efforts, life can get too hectic to even make time for cooking (see: Finals week). If you ever need to find somewhere to eat on campus, there’s a app for iPhone and Android with the UeaT Campus Food Map! You’ll have all of the campus restaurants and cafés at your fingertips!

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Makes it easier to find Harvest Noon <3

So tell me U of T, what are your go-to healthy recipes? Let me know down below in the comments or tweet me your suggestions at @Api_UofT on Twitter!

Library Lovin’

Last week I had my very first (and maybe last?) summer school exam and I found myself once again spending a lot of time in the library. I’ve never been one for studying much in Robarts (although the 12th floor views are a big pull for getting there earlier and snagging a table in the window section of the St. George corner) so over the last 2 years I’ve sought out smaller, more visually appealing libraries. If you read my last post you’ve already gotten to see some of my favourite (outdoor) study spaces so this one will be some of my favourite indoor spaces!

Hart House • 7:00 am – Midnight • noise level varies hh

Hart House Library is a great space because it's so central on campus. Unfortunately every other student at U of T also thinks it's a great space so all the good spots are pften taken. Never fear though, you can normally find a spot onthe benches and chairs on the landing, or at a table in the reading room.

Hart House Library is a great space because it’s so central on campus. Unfortunately every other student at U of T also thinks it’s a great space so all the good spots are often taken. Never fear though, you can normally find a spot on the benches and chairs on the landing, or at a table in the reading room.

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Chairs and benches on the landing

This is on the landing at the east end of Hart House and I've never actiually studied here because it's always occupied but one day I will.

This is on the landing at the east end of Hart House. I’ve never actiually studied here because it’s always occupied but one day, if I’m lucky, I will.

Knox College Library • hours vary • quiet space

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The perfectly inspiring place, especially when poring over history books. Look up and be transported to a bygone age of architecture. Make sure you check out the old card catalogues!

Emmanuel College Library (Victoria College) • hours vary • quiet space

This tiny library is so beautiful and only gets really full at the peak of exam season. To get here go to the third floor of Emmanuel College, in front of you will be the reading room (which I also love) and to your right is the library. There are divided desks throughout the main floor and some (but don’t quote me on this) up on the mezzanine.  DSCF2541DSCF2537DSCF2535

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The reading room opposite the stairs. People seem to sleep in here a lot.

Surviving Summer Outside the City

Like many other first year students, this summer I answered the beck and call of free rent, home cooked meals, and a steady job back in my home town.  Living just in the GTA, I didn’t think that moving back home would be too much of a change.  I figured that I’d be able to come back into the city at least a couple times a week, spend some time with friends, get some inspiration for blog posts, and hopefully go about the next 4 months in the city as if I had never left.

Home wasn't looking so bad at first

Home wasn’t looking so bad at first

Yet somewhere between 40 hour work weeks, seeing friends from home, and other essential activities like sleeping, eating, and watching every episode of Orange is the New Black, I haven’t managed to get into the city as much as I’d hoped.  And while at first I was still caught up in the bliss of being back at home, almost half of my summer is gone and I’m staring to getting city cravings. 

  • I miss being able to step out my front door and be in the heart of downtown.
  • I miss exploring new restaurants and shops, or enjoying old favourites.
  • I even find myself missing Robarts library… (well maybe not the library itself so much as the view).
The iconic view from the 12th Floor of Robarts - St. George Corner

The iconic view from the 12th Floor of Robarts – St. George Corner

So while I could go on for hours listing all the things I miss about the city, it doesn’t do anything to make lists and say things. We have to start doing things. So here goes… My Top 5 Tips for Surviving the Summer Outside the City!

1. Make it a Trip – Nothing gets you through the work week like having something to look forward to. So set a date, time, and location, and make your weekend plans official. So much of our time is spent talking about what we want to do, and not enough actually doing it. When you make plans and put them in your calendar, it’s like booking a mini vacation. We have something to work towards the rest of the week, and it ensures that we actually follow through with our plans.

2. Attend Free Events – Traveling into the city can be expensive enough. Between transit costs, meals, and even taking time off work, the last thing you need to do when you’re in the city is spend more money on doing activities. There are tonnes of free events that happen in the city every week, you just need to seek them out. Two of my favourites? The Trinity Bellwoods Blockparty and the FREE outdoor movie screenings in Queens Que.

3. Get a Presto Pass – So many of the times I’ve ditched friends or never followed through with plans was because I didn’t feel like spending money on transit. Getting a Presto Pass changed this for me. Although it’s still spending money, it doesn’t feel like it because you pre-load it and then just swipe on and off. It takes away the conscious feeling of having to go to the teller and pay. It’s also actually cheaper – so that’s always nice too!

My other commuting essentials include; an on-the-go phone charger, water, comfortable shoes to change into, something to read or listen to music on, earphones, and a coin purse for TTC change

My other commuting essentials include; an on-the-go phone charger, water, comfortable shoes to change into, something to read or listen to music on, earphones, and a coin purse for TTC change

 

4. Stay Educated – Whether you’re in Hamilton or Hong Kong, sometimes it’s just not possible to make it into the city. However that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stay informed. Track #UofT on twitter, follow some of the main Toronto blogs, and just keep yourself updated about what’s going on in the city. Not only will it keep you feeling like you never left, but as September 1st approaches, it’ll also get you even more excited about coming back.

 

5. Explore Your Own Area – Finally, don’t neglect your own neighbourhood. While I’ve still yet to find a place that serves fried cheesecake, like Hey Lucy on Bloor, I’ve definitely found some cool new places in my hometown. For all the days that you can’t come into the city, which will always be more than we’d all like, don’t forget to explore the cool places that could be just around your block.

The artery-clogging, deep-fried, best-thing-you'll-ever-eat, cheese cake from Hey Lucy on Bloor

The artery-clogging, deep-fried, best-thing-you’ll-ever-eat, cheese cake from Hey Lucy on Bloor

 

So that’s how I’m attempting to cope with my Toronto withdrawal. It’s hard, and sometimes I think I’m just going to pack my suitcase and move back, but I know that I made this decision for a reason – and it was a good reason at that.  Coming home this summer was the stepping stone that I needed, to prepare myself mentally, emotionally, and most importantly financially, for next year. On top of which, commuting in and out of the city has made me develop a stronger admiration for it and all the amazing opportunities that it offers.

 

So U of T, are you spending your summer in the city? If you’re not, how are you coping? And if you are, what are some things I should check out next time I’m in town?

 

My Toronto Staycation!

I really wanted to go on vacation this year. Like really, really wanted to go. Earlier this year I had my sights set on trying delicacies in Europe, touring ancient architecture in India, or having a breathtaking stay in Nepal.

But, alas, as summer rolled around, I knew it wouldn’t be possible this year, because of the summer grind. Vacations are hard enough to plan without jobs, school, student budgetary restraints (that’s a nice way of saying I’m a broke college student) and other summer commitments getting in the way. I’ve accepted that my cool vacation in a country I’ve never been to still awaits me (in the near future hopefully), but I didn’t want to spend my summer without ANY vacation time at all.

To solve my vacation blues, I decided to go on some mini-adventures to fulfill my vacation needs right here in the city- a staycation!

Things Api would like during a staycation:

  • Somewhere to relax!
  • Exotic food I’ve never tried before
  • Pretty, historical architecture
  • Nice Views

My first stop of the week was to relax out at the Waterfront. It’s a quick subway ride to union station and a short walk to the ferries and the boardwalk. I decided to bring a book and have a seat at one of the benches, and it was probably the most relaxed I’ve been in a while. I returned to reality feeling a little better about my upcoming finals.

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Perfect day to relax!

Vacation spot number two was yummier than I expected. Toronto has endless possibilities when it comes to food from other cultures, but I wanted to try something something I’ve never had before. I ended up trying Kimchi fries for the first time and it was SO good! Kimchi fries are hand-cut fries with pulled pork, Kimchi (pickled cabbages), fresh leeks and a little bit of mayonnaise:

Some kimchi+pulled Pork yumminess <3

As U of T students, it’s fairly common to encounter pretty architecture, but I felt compelled to add it to my vacation list just because I need to see what else is out there (It’s not you Knox College, its me.) Therefore, spot number three was the Distillery District! This was probably the furthest spot from U of T, but its not so far out of the downtown core that it’s a difficult to get to. Truth be told, I’ve been to the Distillery before, but I just can’t get enough of it. I will use any excuse to take selfies with the twinkling lights at night time.

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I have about 20 versions of this picture because I take one every time I go #Guilty

My final vacation spot was…*Drumroll please*… The CN Tower! For one awesome view of Toronto, the ticket is totally worth it. If you look really closely you might be able to point out places on campus like UC, Convocation Hall and Varsity Stadium!

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Beautiful city, beautiful sunset!

Overall, my week has been awesome. It was nice to take a break from the regularly scheduled school programming. As the summer goes on, I plan to keep up my mini-staycations and visit somewhere different each week. So check out my shenanigans on Twitter @Api_UofT!

Until next time, U of T!

Whoops, I Did It Again

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my first year at university. I’ve walked into the wrong lecture hall, walked into the wrong exam room, almost forgot to go to an exam all together. This one however, might take the cake. In the hustle and bustle of the last month of school, between studying for exams, moving out of residence, and squeezing in last moments with friends, I let a couple things slip my mind. One of those things, I’m embarrassed to admit, was choosing my subject POSt.

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I guess I was too busy taking nostalgic photos to worry about my Subject POSt.

When I first realized this, around May 18th (3 days after the deadline), I’ll admit I was a little bit panicked. Questions starting buzzing around in my mind about what was going to happen to my major, if I was going to be able to take the classes I wanted, and my imagination stretched so far as to worry if I might not even graduate! (my mom talked me down from that one pretty quickly)

I immediately pulled up Google and found some pages that helped answer a few of my questions, but overall still left me with an uneasy feeling about what the consequence of my actions (or lack of action) meant.

Luckily, I have this cool little gig where I write to a bunch of you, my fellow students, every week. So I decided to take this mistake, learn from it, and hopefully help others do the same. Here it goes; What to do if you forgot to enrol in a subject POSt…

*Please note that the specific information below is only relevant to Arts and Science students who have identified their subject POSts to be Type 1Type 2Please contact your registrars’ office to find out the right steps and information for you.

Step 1: Don’t panic! There is another time period to choose your subject POSt coming up shortly, July 3rd to August 29th to be exact.

Step 2: Go to this webpage and find out what kind of POSt request you want to make. Some requests, Type 1, have no enrolment requirements, so you can enrol in them at any time and be automatically accepted. This happened for my minors in History and Philosophy (yay!) so I was able to enrol in them on ROSI immediately.

Step 3: Once you have seen what request types your subject POSts are, enrol in the ones that you can using the Subject POSt codes and ROSI. For any subject POSts that you can’t enrol in yet, write the code down somewhere safe and sit tight until July 3rd.

Step 4: Call your college registrar or the program sponsor of the program to which you’re applying if you have any other questions or concerns.

Getting it all figured out

Getting it all figured out

Luckily for me, the University College Registrars office helped to calm me down from my premature panic attack, and answered a couple important questions that I was having.

 Q1: Is it possible for my program to fill up during the first subject POSt selection?

A: “It’s possible, but not likely.” Spots are kept open in the 2nd enrolment time slot for students who are taking summer credits in order to gain entry into their desired POSt. Unless there is a very large, very strong group of students in the first round and a very limited number of spots – you should be safe!

Q2: Since I will not be “accepted” into my program until the fall, will I not get first choice (as I would if I had applied in the spring and been accepted already) to courses in my department/program? 

A: Unfortunately the answer to this is yes. Since you have not officially been accepted into your program, you will not have first access to the required courses. This does not mean you won’t get into them, it just means you won’t be the first. If by any chance you don’t get into your subject POSt in September, there is still time between the date you find out if you’ve been accepted, and the final drop date for courses. You’ll have from July 12th to July 21st to re-work your schedule.

Q3: Since I forgot to choose my subject POSt, will I now not get into any of my classes, have to take 4th year calculus ultimately leading me to failing all my courses and flunking out of school therefore having to live on my parents couch until I’m 50 when I can move in to my own place with my 12 cats, living a life of regret and despair? 

via: http://crazycatladyclothing.tumblr.com

via: http://crazycatladyclothing.tumblr.com

The registrar couldn’t answer that one for me… 

Overall, while it’s unfortunate to forget to enrol in your subject POSt it’s not the end of the world. This is why there are registrars, program sponsors, and backup dates. These resources are put here for the students, and they’re only fulfilling their purpose when we utilize them. So mark July 3rd in your calendar, take a deep breath, and relax. For most of us, this subject POSt will probably change a couple times before we graduate anyway.

Now that my miniature crisis is over I can focus on more important things, like continuing to bring you new content here on the Life @ U of T blog every Monday and connecting with you all on Twitter.

So until next week, have you ever missed a deadline or forgotten an assignment? Let me know down below. 

Taking the next step

The picture-perfect version of graduation. The real thing comes with a big slice of uncertainty. Via parade.condenast.com

Graduation, minus the real-life reality of uncertainty and anxiety.
Via parade.condenast.com

Graduating is a pretty exciting concept. You’ve survived the onslaught of assignments and tests, and as a reward you never have to set foot in the Exam Centre again. This is the time to celebrate, graduating students! You did it!

Since I’m one of you, I know that the reality is not quite that simple. A huge cloud of uncertainty seems to settle in as the school year draws to a close. What comes next after U of T? Should you go to grad school? College? Search for a job? Find an internship? Should you move back home? The questions are endless. And even for those of us who have decided where to go next, there’s still anxiety about whether the choice was a good one and how to end up in a desired career.

Last week, I attended the Next Steps conference, which was designed to help answer these kinds of questions. It began with a keynote address from Gloria Roheim McRae, an alumna who tried out 21 different jobs before landing on her passion as an entrepreneur.

speechNear the beginning of her speech, she asked who was feeling overwhelmed by what was next. At least half of the hands in Con Hall went up. She shared her story and provided advice on how to stand out and make a living doing what you love. I can only speak for myself, but by the end I was feeling a lot less overwhelmed. A linear path to a dream job is not necessary, and in fact may even be less interesting. Your unique experiences are what set you apart from your peers, and may even be key in landing a job.

As the cliche goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Roheim McRae can attest to this; only one out of her 21 jobs was landed through a formal application process. But instead of handing out business cards and viewing other people only in terms of what they can do for you, she emphasized the importance of making authentic connections. Get to know people, be genuinely interested in what they have to say, and opportunities will come from there.

A conference was a perfect setting for that kind of conversation. It was easy to chat with people while eating cookies or waiting for events to start, and everyone there had a lot in common by virtue of being in the same life stage.

signI also attended some afternoon sessions on education after undergrad and staying positive and finding balance as you make the transition. Both were great opportunities to hear the stories of alumni and staff, reflect on where I’m going, and set goals for moving forward.

One thing I wish is that I’d attended this conference in my third year. It would have been useful to more thoroughly explore my options well before any actual choices had to be made. For any second years out there, keep an eye out for this event next year!

Hey there, U of T!

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Hey there, U of T! My name is Elena, and I’ll be one of the Life @ U of T bloggers this summer.

I have been viewing this school from an entirely new angle for the past few days. I’ve written my last exam, handed in my final essay, and will never attend a lecture in Sid Smith again. Over the past month, it was easy to forget the fact that I am graduating in the flurry of schoolwork, final club meetings, and planning for the future.

But as the door clicked behind me after my final undergraduate exam, I had a moment of elation mixed with a bit of trepidation. I’m extremely proud to have finished my degree and excited for where it will take me, but it will feel strange to no longer have a home base among these beautiful buildings on campus.

I’ve always been one for setting summer goals (shout out to 2012 when I saw 100 different bands play across the city!), so here is this year’s: to learn about and explore facets of U of T that I haven’t had a chance to experience in the past four years. I want to create some incredible memories about this place to carry forward with me, and I’ll be sharing them with all of you here each week.

This is local musician Man Made Hill, one of the 100 artists I saw, playing on Toronto Island. That's a sander on a drum.

This is local musician Man Made Hill, one of the 100 artists I saw, playing on Toronto Island. That’s a sander on a drum.

Let’s get to know each other, U of T! Here are some things about me:

- I double majored in Chemistry and Psychology, somehow without taking a single course on neurotransmitters or something that could combine the two. In my summers doing research with the Department of Chemistry I pipetted human urine, analyzed mass spectra of illegal drugs, and synthesized a sulphur-based compound (if you don’t know what sulphur smells like, you are a lucky person).

- I want to be a journalist. I’ve struggled with this decision for a while, being in a “practical” scientific program, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to try and take a shot at making a living doing what I love, rather than always wondering if it could have worked out. Besides, there’s a great need for people who know how to talk to and write about scientists! I’ll be attending Ryerson for a Master’s degree in journalism in September.

If you couldn’t guess from my 100-band summer, I’m quite in love with Toronto’s music scene. I write for a couple of blogs, have DJed on occasion (I can call myself a professional DJ if I’ve been paid for it before, right?), and was editor of U of T’s own music magazine, Demo. Exploring the city is one of the best things you can do as a U of T student – most of my exploring has taken the form of listening to synthesizers in off-beat venues.

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Tell me some things about yourself, U of T! What are your goals for the summer?

Progress

From last September until now, I’ve made progress.
I acknowledged my penchant for lying around, and I made solid goals to get myself moving. I also reached these goals and am currently in the process of reaching others. I completed two registered classes. I became a lover of both the plank and pirouette. I went to the gym and tried trampoline dodgeball. I took a few walks here and there in the good ol’city of Toronto. I was up for any challenge.

I took risks.
I became less self-conscious.
I’ve made progress.

From my first post to this very lost post, I made the leap from being inactive to active. And throughout my journey over the past eight months, I’ve learned that my body can do amazing things. I can jump, run, stretch, twirl, and lift. Becoming physically active helped me ease into the idea that it’s not about how I look, or what societal convention that I can fit into. It’s about what I can do and how I can move freely and be healthy.

There were some days when I admit I did nothing. But I also found a way to pick myself back up and get moving again. There were also days when I remembered that by being active, I will actually get more things done. I would go to a Pilates class, and then be able to focus on my studies. Productivity needs to come from some sort of activity in order to get the momentum going.

 

We made it. VIA FIREBONES.TUMBLR.COM

 

Now that this blog is ending for this semester, all I can say is that we are in the homestretch. It’s exam season, and we can conquer this! With essays/assignments and tests, it’s easy to just slip back to old habits. My books might be calling me to hole myself up in my room for days end, but I refuse to give up on my hard work. After all, being physically active isn’t a temporary goal, but a lifestyle.

Here’s what I’ll be doing for the remainder of exam season to keep my lifestyle goals in check:

1) For every half hour of studying, take a 5-10 minute break and stretch.
Keep that blood circulating!

2) Hit the gym twice a week, either before or after library visits.
Exercising is now officially the best friend of studying. It’s a win-win situation for conditioning both the mind and body.

3) Try a drop-in class one a week.
Since registered classes are finished, I plan to keep myself going by heading to the Athletic Centre and trying out a drop-in class that’s new to me each week. Adding spontaneity will help with my studying, as I will be able to break away from a monotonous routine of burying my head in the books during exam season.

4) Explore a bit of Toronto!
I need to refresh myself and get out of the campus bubble. I want to take advantage of the fact that the weather is now nice enough for average human being to not turn into an icicle. Therefore, I should start walking around the city again and go on adventure mode away from the campus.

5) Take a rest, and relax.
Treat yo’self. No explanation needed.

We all start off as beginners, but as time goes by, we change. As for me, I’m always looking for something new to try out—that’s the best habit I’ve developed this year.

 

A dance of celebration. VIA GIF-DATABASE.TUMBLR.COM



I’m getting the hang of this. I can totally do this.

Are you ready exam season?

-Amanda

On What (or Whom) Inspires You

It has been two months since the passing of Nelson Mandela and many are still mourning for the loss. I still remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when I read the headline that afternoon in December. Even though Mandela and his policies did not play an immediate role in my life, it still upset me greatly to know that the world had lost one of its greats.

Mandela’s death prompted me to think about the legacies people leave behind and the potential impact an individual has on the world. Although his passing was unfortunate, there were very few who referred to it as “untimely” – many believed that after all he had accomplished, he deserved to finally rest in peace. What would it be like to live a life so inspiring, and so monumental, that a young woman such as myself – a person so far removed from circumstances and consequences of human rights in South Africa – would feel as if your life resonated with them as well? To have a life so fulfilling, others look to you on your deathbed and say that your time here and all that you had accomplished was enough for one lifetime?

As a student at U of T, we are often told that our capabilities are boundless, even though we often feel otherwise after cycles of unreasonably difficult midterms. We are constantly and tirelessly challenged, frustratingly pushed to our limits in the pursuit of academia. One has to wonder (as I’m sure many of you have) what we are putting ourselves through all of this for. A common complaint (not so much a complaint now as just a general statement that is made) I hear from my fellow students is why they came here and rendered themselves victims to the toil and turmoil that is U of T coursework.

Our aspirations – whether it be to discover a cure, to become a mother, to become the first in the family to graduate – are all equally noble and important pursuits in their own right. But what differs from person to person is the motivation behind our goals. I believe that it’s because many of us here would like to believe that we, too, hold the capacity to live a life to inspire others by some means. Perhaps not to the magnitude that Mandela has inspired, but to make something of ourselves. I don’t know many underachievers here at U of T. That could just be because I choose to surround myself with other students who understand and encourage one another to go after their aspirations, or it could just be for the simple reason that a majority of the students who attend this school are determined to live up to the expectations and ambitions they have set for themselves.

But often I find myself in the predicament that I can’t quite pinpoint the exact reasons for why I continue to study. Somewhere along the way, we’ll lose sight of what we’re really here for. 2013 as a whole was a very harrowing and challenging time for me. I was physically, emotionally and mentally worn out. For the first time in my entire life, I began to have an inkling of a doubt my decision to pursue higher education. During the most tiring, soul-crushing moments, reasons like making my family proud, or living up to expectations, or wanting to give myself a challenge… they just don’t quite cut it. Very recently, I’ve come to the realization that my motivations for doing most of what I do stems from a very simple, very cliché explanation – I’m just striving to be the best version of myself, in anything that life throws at me. I am spurred (albeit, very frightened) by the idea of the unknown. I am inspired by the idea of possibility.

Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. At some point, did he question his motivations and actions that led to his confinement? I can’t speak entirely on his behalf, but I think it is fair to say that he, too, was very much inspired by the idea of promise – he understood what any one person was capable of doing for humanity, and set forth to do it himself.

My take on staying afloat at U of T? Find what keeps you from hitting the snooze button for the 7th time that Wednesday morning, what keeps you bouncing back after the next job interview you bomb, whatever it is that’s keeping you from going off the rails when its midterm season and you’re swamped back-to-back in deadlines and test dates. Remember to look at what you’ve accomplished so far, and how much more you can. Remind yourself of it. Hold on to whatever, or whomever, inspires you.

‘Til next time -
Kat