When I got back on campus at the end of Orientation, the first thing I did was visit Caffiends, Victoria College’s student-run fair-trade café, located on the first floor of Old Vic, the college’s castle-like building. As always, stepping into the cozy room felt like going home in a way that no other place on campus quite managed to rival.
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.
I’m a huge bibliophile so when Victoria College’s annual booksale rolled around there was no way that I could resist it. Vic’s booksale lasted from September 18-22 and took place in Old Vic, where it’s Alumni Hall, second floor, and Chapel were absolutely packed with books.
I started my search on the second floor where I spent about 45 minutes looking through general fiction and about 10 minutes debating if I really needed 8 books (the answer was yes I did). I also checked out the Chapel which held, among other things, some really nice art books that I had a hard time resisting. Inside Alumni Hall on the main floor were History, Classics, Philosophy, Biography, and Literature books (and more) where I scooped up an additional 4 books – including a volume of (some of) the works of my main man Victor Hugo. The booksale is a really great place because most of the books are under $6.00 which means you can just buy more than you would at a regular bookshop. I definitely left the booksale happy with my purchases (and very grateful for my friend’s help in carrying them all home -bring a friend, you might need their muscles).
If you missed the Victoria College booksale don’t worry! University College, Trinity College, and St. Michael’s College will all be having booksales between now and November 1st (which I probably won’t be able to resist either – oh well, who needs floor space?).
Check out some pics from the booksale below!
Did you check out the Vic booksale? What books did you add to your collection? Share them in the comments below, on Instagram with #LifeatUofT, or tweet me @Amie_UofT!
The other day I was thinking about the summer before my first year and how excited I was to start at U of T; at this point 2 years ago, (2 weeks into my summer vacation) I already had a detailed packing list, thought I had my entire degree planned out, and was just all around super keen. I knew where I would be living and had toured my college a couple of times however one thing that I didn’t know much about was where my actual classes would be. I had heard a lot of History classes were at Sid Smith (which I vaguely remembered from my U of T tour) but aside from that I was clueless.
Now halfway through my History Specialist I’ve taken quite a lot of History classes in a variety of buildings so I thought I would put together a post showing some of the locations of History Classes. If you aren’t planning on being a History major you may still find this useful as a lot of VIC, English, History and Philosophy of Science, and French classes take place in these buildings at Victoria College as well.
Isabel Bader Theatre (BT) only has one lecture hall but it’s probably the nicest lecture hall I’ve been in at U of T. If you take HIS109 it will probably be in here along with some of the larger second year classes.
Northrop Frye (NF) has a mixture of lecture halls and smaller classrooms plus a lot of professor’s offices.
Emmanuel College (EC) is also at Vic and is mainly used for tutorials. It’s super handy when you have a class at Bader or Northrop Frye and a tutorial right after at Emmanuel.
Sidney Smith Hall (SS) is where the History Department is located (up on the second floor) and also hosts quite a few classes and even more tutorials. I don’t think I’ve had a semester go by without a tutorial in here. Sid Smith also houses the Linguistics, Political Science, Psychology, Stats, and Geography departments and due to it’s location on St. George, it’s ample seating areas, and the Sid Smith Cafe it’s a pretty busy hub of student life.
Lash Miller Chemical Laboratories (LM) doesn’t seem like a spot in which you would find people learning about Russian History but because U of T is a mysterious place in which many things do not make sense many a history course takes place here right along side science classes. It’s right next to Sid Smith on St. George street so it’s pretty convenient if you have a block of classes in a row that are all in mysterious science buildings.
McLennan Physical Laboratories (MP) is another example of U of T not making sense. There is a tiny little place in this building where you can buy snacks and also chocolate soymilk which is a necessity on days when you have long blocks of class and no time to eat.
Lillian Massey Building is not a history building but I just love the history behind it. It used to be the department of household sciences for the women at U of T in the early 1900s but now houses the classics department (who couldn’t have picked a more appropriate building) and a Club Monaco. The inside is basically all marble and has really pretty stained glass windows.
Convocation Hall is also not a history building but if you’re entering your first year at U of T it is very likely that you will have a class in here. It’s big and imposing but if you sit near the front or on one of the sides you forget about the fact that there are 1200+ students sitting in there too. I’ve also heard many a tale of it having wifi now but I don’t know if I believe that.
So there you go! A little post that hopefully helps you see where you might be taking classes come September. Once you enrol in your courses on ROSI you’ll be able to see the location codes and plug them into this map so that you’re ready for September!
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
Knox College Library • hours vary • quiet space
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.
I would pretty confidently call myself a city person. Ever since deciding to come to the University of Toronto I’ve wholeheartedly embraced city living and I cannot see myself living outside of a city anytime in my immediate future. That being said, I do come from a town that has a population of less than 10,000 people and is literally surrounded by farms and sometimes I really miss the quiet countryside.
What I love about U of T is that although it is right downtown there are still so many spots on campus that you can go where you can’t see (or hear in some places) any cars, or see any condos. These are some of my favourite little urban getaways on campus that I like to hang out in when I just can’t bear to see another taxi or bus.
Is your favourite getaway on here? Let me know in the comments!
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.
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.
I’m getting the hang of this. I can totally do this.
Are you ready exam season?
Last Wednesday I enrolled in a free lecture series called ‘Ideas for the World’, hosted for students at Victoria College.
With the options of different sessions within the program, each focusing on different topics and hosted at different times, the program is an initiative to engage students in academic discussions and learning about issues in the real world, to bridge the gap between theoretical learning and practical application.
Each class has either a professor or a series of professors who come in and host discussion sessions with the students, and here’s the best part: no assignments, no grades. Class sizes are generally around 30 students and food is served, as well.
I signed up and dropped in on Conflict in Culture, a course that explores media representation in our modern world. We watched sections of a documentary called “The Century of the Self” and then hosted a free form discussion about thoughts on what we’d just watched.
What interested me most was the degree of engagement with which the students were responding, there was some energetic discussion about topics that had surfaced in the documentary, and by discussion I mean some real back and forth dialogue.
My general past experience with tutorials has mostly always involved a relatively silent group of students who participate reluctantly or sporadically. Questions raised might start with the material, but also inevitably moves to assignments, marks, and other housekeeping questions. Even a good T.A. can only do so much in circumstances like these.
The winning advantage of the Ideas for the World program for me is its complete disinterest in grading.
Students are released from the pressure to being graded on their performance and therefore their interest in the discussion at hand is motivated by other reasons. This results in less inhibition, more airing of opinions and ultimately, from my experience so far, more critical discussion.
U of T is a rigorous academic environment.
All semester the community crew has been sharing experiences and giving tips on how to make it through such a rigorous academic environment with your sanity intact.
But what if we talked more openly about how the grading system impacted our learning?
There are plenty of different responses to grades:
- Some people like the challenge, and feel their potential being unlocked as they ‘conquer’ tough assignments and achieve better grade results.
- Others feel crippled by the pressure of expectation, and the rigidity of the grading system, and are afraid they cannot meet the demands asked of them.
- There are also those who feel that grades are a box-in, reducing learning to a series of formulas that favour some, and exclude others.
- And some take the system to be inevitable and unchangeable, grades are what they are and there is nothing to be done about it.
Thinking consciously about how our grades affect our performance and expectations toward learning helps us orient ourselves better in our positions on the subject.
When we do this, we can actively and productively contribute the discussions around grading, and how they impact our experience.
What kind of response do you have?
Would you be motivated to work hard and learn without grades?
What kind of learning environment do you thrive in?
Academic panels and conferences can often be dry, which is why I mainly go for the free food. If I happen to learn something interesting, great; if not, I’ll have made my case against the “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” crowd. But at Victoria College’s Minding Our Minds conference on mental health in universities last Friday, I happened to get both a free lunch and learn a few things.
- Know what you can handle
As a naïve and arrogant second-year, I thought I could take on a six-course workload. And start a company. After a summer of working full-time and taking courses. And still be able to have all the fun I’d had as a care-free first year. Obviously you can see where this is headed…
I should have seen the second term burn-out coming because by then I was running on empty. At the pace I was going for first term, I had to take a reduced course load for winter term or face the pending implosion. I’m pretty sure all the bells and whistles were going off but I had just hit “dismiss” (it’s ill-advised).
Anyway, the point of the story is that it’s okay. Being honest about what you’re able to handle will make your life significantly easier in the long term. And that term with a reduced course load has had no significant bearing on my ability to graduate or otherwise do well in school. It probably helped, in fact.
- Find your person
This is advice that was given at the conference by Vic’s Dean of Students, Kelley Castle. Finding your person doesn’t mean finding a psychologist or professional help, she said. It can refer to finding a mentor, parent or good friend to rely on.
When those bells and whistles do go off and you keep hitting “dismiss”, you’ll be sure to want to have surrounded yourself with people who can tell you that you should probably shift your priorities.
- Get help early
Not just limited to mental illness but to issues of mental health and academic advising in general, it’s best to seek help early. Though there are services and staff who want to help and students who may need it, the two don’t often meet until the situation is dire. At that point, dropping courses can be the only option.
Dropping courses can be a difficult decision considering students often have to do so after they have paid tuition. More lenient policies, such as those of other universities, help take the financial burden off students by back-dating the course drop so that the student is not financially penalized for it.
Part of this delay in reaching out for help may stem from problems that begin before university does, said some conference presenters. Students in high school are often told to toughen up in preparation for university’s more rigorous workload, different teaching style and lack of one-on-one attention.
In fact, there are perhaps more supports at university, from academic advising to peer support to health services. In university, you don’t always have to ‘be tough’, as you may have been taught. But you do have to be willing to reach out.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that there are staff and faculty who are available to support you. And sometimes, they’ve had a very personal connection to issues of mental health. U of T’s own Chancellor, Michael Wilson, had begun the conference by talking about his son who had committed suicide and the impacts of mental illness on his family. Staff and faculty know that break ups, deaths and mental health crises happen and are likely more understanding than is often assumed. They are, after all, people too.
I had to return to Cambridge this weekend to help my dad bring in and stack firewood. It’s a yearly chore and it’s fine, because I love woodstove fires in the winter when I visit home. So I left on Thursday, which means I missed a few events at U of T that I would have otherwise gladly attended. (#eventsUofT what events are you planning to attend?)
The thing about events at U of T, and events in my life more broadly, is that they have the habit of falling on the same day. I cannot count the number of times that for weeks I have no real plans, and then all at once I am invited to four different events, all of which are happening on Saturday!
But I can’t really get upset. It’s just one of those little oddities of life! Instead, I have to make a choice. I have to decide what is most important.
One of the events that conspired against me this week was Field to Fork, a festival for locally farmed food prepared by campus Chefs and accompanied by live musicians!
From what I heard, they were serving a variety of entrees and desserts, and each plate was $3—for 10 bucks you were more than full! The food enthusiasts at Ueat are responsible for this awesome festival. I wish I had been there. I bet it was delicious, and nutritious!
The second event was the opening of Victoria College’s annual Book Sale, also on Thursday. Luckily, the book sale continues until Tuesday Sept. 24, but the first day is always the most fun and exciting!
I was fortunate enough to get a preview of the Book Sale this year, and the team of volunteers have done a great job organizing and arranging hundreds, if not thousands, of donated books. It’s really quite a feat when you think of it, and I tip my hat to them.
The event offers two floors of books in the Old Vic building, with a special room for older, rarer, collector’s books and antiques. Also, for the first time they are offering a selection of vinyl records!
On the first day, there was a $3 admission fee, except for TCard holders, who got in free. For the rest of the weekend the event is open to everyone! The books are priced separately, ranging from $1 to over $300 for the really old ones.
All the proceeds go to Victoria College Library and help pay for bursaries. I’ll be back this weekend sometime, so maybe I’ll see you there!
First, I have to stack firewood. I decided that helping my dad was the most important event on my map this week.
In second year, The Toronto Spec-Fic Colloquium was hosted at Hart House on the same Saturday as a friend’s Halloween party. I decided it was more important to go to the colloquium than to have “early drinks” with my friends, and now I work for a publishing house because of the connections that I made at the event.
There is a lot to do at U of T, and a lot you may miss. But don’t beat yourself up. Most things happen every year. Do what feels right, and do what feels important to you.
Stay diamond, U of T
Oh, here are some upcoming events!