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Balancing School & Career Goals: Alize.S

Ever have trouble keeping up with the demand that is U of T? Though a difficult feat, many students manage to balance higher education with other goals, supplementing textbook knowledge with crucial real-world experience.

These days, it’s uncommon for employers to value only the critical thinking skills that are obtained with the typical bachelor’s degree: undergrads are finding themselves almost unemployable directly after graduation, depending of course on their extra-curriculars and part-time work experience.

Even with a degree in a specialized field (commerce, the sciences) usually requires another educational investment such as a Master’s or certificate program. With years and years of education, it’s easy to see why students lose sight of other opportunities with tunnel vision for the diploma(s).

Something employers value is initiative, and the ability to develop unique and personal side projects outside of the classroom. Zachariah Fernandes–aka Alize.S–is one of those students managing to pair his career dreams with a degree at U of T, and has managed to land impressive gigs as a young and starry-eyed second year student. We caught up with him to talk about how he keeps everything in balance.


BLOGUT: What are you taking at U of T? Do you think your education is facilitating or keeping you from pursuing music projects? In other words, how do you find that balance?

ALIZE.S: I’m currently working towards a double major in English and Book & Media Studies. I don’t believe my education takes me away from doing music. There is a time and place for each, and it is possible to keep a balance between the two. I’ve gained a lot of time management skills that I didn’t possess before because I knew I had to prioritize. ​Sometimes I want to spend more time on my music, but the time I spend away from it makes me anticipate it more. When I get back in front of the mic, its the best feeling in the world and its always worth the wait.


BLOGUT: How did you record your EP? Do you rent studio time? Ultimately, how do you balance the school finances while funding your own projects outside of the classroom?
ALIZE.S: I currently work with my own mic at home. I would love to rent studio time eventually, but working on my own music at home gives me full control, as well as me being able to go at it for hours on end. Plus, the new equipment I’ve started buying is giving me the sound I’ve been wanting for a while. Right now everything just works great. 
BLOGUT: You recently landed an appearance on OmniTV2, how did you manage to find such a great opportunity?
ALIZE.S: My mom was watching the show and let me know that they were looking for talented artists to showcase their talents on the show. I got in touch with the host and later the producer of the show and they set up a special ‘freestyle’ segment for me to be on. It was an amazing experience and I was so grateful to have been given such an opportunity. Shows like VMIX really show the hidden talents in Toronto that can sometimes be overlooked. I really hope they’ll have me again, they were really great to me. 
BLOGUT: Do you collaborate with other U of T students on your music? Who are your biggest supporters?
ALIZE.S: Of course! Right now I’m working with a talented singer by the name of LYNN. We’re released two songs so far (Heartbreaker & Roller Coaster) and people are really enjoying what we’re bringing to the table. We will be working on new material soon, which we’re excited to give to the fans. Also, one of best friends, Delina, has been a supporter from way before university. She’s currently helping me with planning and promoting my music progress. We also do visuals and youtube videos together. My other best friend Tiffany does filming for my videos and performances, and I’m so lucky to have her. My biggest supporter is my mother because she’s believed in me since Day 1 and is one of the driving forces behind my desire for success. And of course I’m nothing without the great fans, who always tune in and show me love. 
BLOGUT: Why did you decide to pursue an education at U of T, and what does having a degree ultimately mean to you?

ALIZE.S: English, literature, and current media have always been topics I enjoy. I always planned to do English, but I stumbled upon Book & Media Studies and fell in love. I’ve been taking really interesting courses and have met some great profs as well as students. A degree would mean the world to me. A lot of people tried to count me out, but I’m still here pushing towards something few get to experience. I’m proof you can have a dream and an education at the same time. 


For more on Alize.S follow him on his social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

This is my fascinated face. Fascinating...

That Time I Was on TV

I like to think of my time at U of T (2.5 years and counting) as a series of experiences, good and bad.

Good: learning a lot, being introduced to awesome new things.
Bad: cramming for exams, bureaucratic nonsense.
Good: finding a great job through the Career Centre.
Bad: spending $60 on a textbook I never used.
Good: sitting in the studio audience of a Christian talk show on CBC and meeting guest Margaret Atwood.

The background to that story is absurdly simple: My phone pinged one afternoon with an e-mail from Context with Lorna Dueck, inviting me and my club (that’s blogUT with a U-T) to sit in the audience for a taping of their show. As the e-mail went on to explain, Context is a Christian talk show that welcomes guests and audience members of diverse faiths and perspectives. I guess ours was the student perspective? The e-mail mentioned free refreshments, gifts for studio audience members, and, oh yeah, that the guest would be CanLit giant (and subject of many an essay o’ mine) Margaret Atwood. I RSVPd in a heartbeat.

In the week-and-a-half before the taping, I couldn’t stop thinking of it. Would I get a chance to talk to Atwood? Would people see me on TV? Would I get to say something from the audience? Would Atwood sign a book? Do I own a book by her? I only had anthologies including her work, so I picked up a hard-cover copy of The Blind Assassin from a used book store, which happened to be a first edition. I read the whole thing in a weekend.

On the evening of, I met my friend outside of the CBC building on Front. We lined up with the other guests and were told that we’d get a chance for Atwood to sign our books. As I stood in line, I worried about what I’d say. Would I mention that I was studying writing at UofT? Would I bring up a certain story of hers that I’d loved? Here is the whole conversation, as it transpired:

TRAIN: (Giving her my copy of The Blind Assassin) “Um, it’s Louis. With an S.”

ATWOOD: “The French way.”

TRAIN: “Yeah. But I’m not French.”

And that was it. You should understand that I do tend to freeze up around cool people. As a result of working with blogUT alone I’ve had the chance to botch engagements with Tony Award-winner William Finn and Man of Steel director Zack Snyder. (If you were with us, you could meet cool people too, and probably with more success…)

After the signing, we got seated in the audience. It is smaller than it looks on TV. Someone from the show came out to get us excited. He did so by talking about his own experiences reading Atwood, about that essay he had to write about The Stone Angel. “She didn’t write that,” I whispered to my friend, just before a fellow in the third row shouted, “She didn’t write that!”

Then a woman from the show came out to teach us how to be an audience. She showed us the APPLAUSE sign above the stage, incorrectly referring to it as an “applause-o-meter,” as if we were telling it how to react, and not the other way round. She had us record some stock applause, in varying levels of intensity. The whole thing was strangely enjoyable, and in retrospect it’s a little scary how much fun I had clapping exactly as much as I was told. But it worked; they got the footage and we got in the mood to applaud like lunatics for whatever stepped on stage.

I sat in the very back row, so you see my face only once. It's basically the most important part.
This is my fascinated face. Fascinating…

Then the show began. Lorna entered, elegant and serious, and introduced the guest a few times. Atwood entered and was warmly welcomed by the host a few times. And then the interview began. I had watched a few snippets of the show in preparation, but I was surprised at how thoughtful the discussion was. Although the perspective was Christian, the topic, environmentalism, was handled with a degree of rationality and care such that it was meaningful to everyone in the audience. After the interview, and some technical difficulties, they filmed another Atwood environmentalism segment, and then another entire episode. From the time we arrived to the time we left, the whole thing took over four hours.

As we left, we were offered some parting gifts: small flashlights, coupons for a restaurant I’d never heard of, and copies of seemingly self-published Christian books. My friend and I turned down the books. Back out on Front, we stepped into a Starbucks. The barista asked where we were coming from.

“We were actually just in the studio audience of a Christian talk show,” I said. “But you probably get that all the time.”

Musical Review of The Wedding Singer at Hart House

The Wedding Singer is a musical adapatation of the 1998 movie of the same name. Because most of you have seen it, and are familiar with the plot (even if you’re not, it’s a predictable rom-com) I’ve decided to skip to the good stuff. This is a review of Hart House’s ongoing production of The Wedding Singer, set to the music of the main theme/opening number of the show. Enjoy!

I saw this play 3 hours ago
I’m still humming some of the songs
‘Decided to write a review
Of what went right and what went wrong.
Now indulge me a moment, if you please;
I have a lot to say about this show,
and the actors I thought were good
and bad.
Here it goes:

Isaac has that “X-Factor” –
an accessible actor.
But his pitch control could
use improvement.

Ashley Gibson wasn’t bad,
and her singing really had
a lovely quality
that makes us all love her.

Cortina was a great, strong crooner
even when her mic went berserk.
But she couldn’t bring the humour
to her lines – they needed some work.

Horsman was a delightful dancer,
and her songs really brought
us to the moment.
Cattel was a rapping grandma –
what can I comment?

The ensemble was quite strong,
even in the weaker songs,
and their dancing was all
This show is just lots of fun
(‘cept for those who’ve seen it once).
I would recommend
you see it sometime soon.

(L to R) Ashley Gibson as Julia and Isaac Bell as Robbie. Photo credit to Scott Gorman.


Note 1: Yes, it’s not perfect. Considering the constraints – a review deadline and an imposed rhyme scheme and working in people’s names and accurate descriptions of their performances – it’s really not that bad. Seriously, if you’re looking for someone to write the opening for the next Tonys…

Note 2: Apologies to Mr Bell, who is treated with undue familiarity for the purpose of meter.

Note 3: There is some precedent for the moment/comment rhyme, imperfect though it may be. See Shakespeare’s Sonnet XV. I take full responsibility for the mangled syntax.



The OC: A Review

So, I just finished watching The OC and, I must say, I was skeptical about the show near the beginning. I even got bored at certain points but, now that I’ve finished it, I realize how much I truly loved the show. For those who haven’t watched, it’s about a 14-year-old kid named Ryan, whose mother is an alcoholic and whose Dad and brother are in jail.

The show begins with public defence lawyer Sandy Cohen bailing Ryan out of jail (Ryan’s brother forced him to help steal a car) and, after seeing how hopeless Ryan’s situation is, he decides to bring him home. Sandy lives in Newport Beach, where everyone is extremely rich: they all have huge mansions and all the teenagers have their own cars. Soon, Ryan becomes part of the Cohen family and bonds with Sandy’s son, Seth, who is a social outcast until Ryan comes into his life. From there on, Ryan meets Marissa, who is a popular and attractive girl. Things get especially complicated as Marissa’s boyfriend starts getting into fights with Ryan. By the end of the show, you see how much everyone’s lives (including Ryan’s) have been impacted because of Ryan’s arrival to Newport.

This show does a believable job of presenting the class issues involved in having a “poor kid” move in with a “rich family”. Others have pointed out that it avoided the initial cliché by having Ryan and Seth become friends, but later episodes have shown that, in spite of their friendship and common interests (like comic books), there are still deeper issues of class and sexuality that show how different their worlds really are.

Finally, I was surprised to see that the writers were actually able to make me care about the problems of the rich characters! (The adults, anyway.) For too many nighttime soap operas, portraying the “problems of the rich” are just a way to get us “unwashed” types to sneer at the problems that money brings (“I wish I had those problems!”). In The OC, the writers actually explore questions of money, class, and love in the various adult couples in a way that brings Jane Austen to mind; we can relate to the struggles the characters are going through even if their day-to-day lives are completely foreign from our own.

If you haven’t watched this show or still feel skeptical, I suggest you watch the first 5-6 episodes. I’m sure you’ll be hooked.

Smell Ya Later U of T

I was never one for saying goodbye for some reason. To be honest I’m still in this state of awe when I realize that everything I’ve worked for over the past four years is now a reality: I’m actually graduating.

I remember starting off fourth year with a sense of “well this is the last time I’m going to be doing this” and giving it my all. Cheesy, I know, but it’s the truth. I was so determined to finish being at this school because I was just so damn sick of it. Now that it’s all over and now that I can officially say “I’m going to graduate” I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic. Has four years really come and gone this quickly? Have I really survived the soul sucking powers of U of T?

We all know that in hindsight everything looks so much better, but damn this is really over. It’s a bittersweet feeling to know that I’m finally ending this love/hate relationship with U of T.

Okay, okay, enough with the sentimental banter. I just wanted to write one last blog post to say a final “smell ya later” to U of T and blogUT and its wonderful readers and bloggers. I have grown in so many ways being here and am now (perhaps prematurely) being thrust into “the real world”. It’s time for me to shed this U of T skin and come into my own.

But I wouldn’t leave blogUT without a few good laughs. I stumbled upon this blog called College Problems and was DYING of laughter at how relatable and comical it was. So here are a few entries that have stuck out for me; and yes you can totally thank me when you have exams and you’re browsing through this website during study break #48754.

(all images courtesy of

The Crunchtime Breakdown

Image via

As school dwindles to a close, all students have one major thing in common: the crunchtime breakdown. Don’t act like you don’t know what that is. The crunchtime breakdown (according to my own personal dictionary) is known as your reaction to having all the essays, labs, tests, what have you all in the span of two weeks or so. This reaction happens in a few ways: anger, frustrated tears, accompanied by an overall sense of “How the #@*%-ing hell am I supposed to do this all in ___days?!!

Although I am definitely not an expert on how to relieve yourself of this inevitable stress, I can offer some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years here at our ever so loving school:

1. Go ahead, have your breakdown. Once you’re done freaking out about the never ending list of things to do, you can take three big deep breaths and just get through it. (This may occur more than once depending on how overwhelmed you feel.)

2. BREATHE. Make a list of things to do and tackle each item one at a time. Remember it’s better to do things one at a time so you can put all your focus and attention on that one task instead of attempting to multitask a million things at once.

3. Pace yourself. You know that at the end of the day it’s just going to work out, so relax and work at your own pace.

4. If you can squeeze in some time at the gym, DO IT. Even working out for an hour, can help you release your stress at the gym and feel relaxed.

5. Go to the library with your coffee or poison of choice, donned in comfortable clothes and just do what you have to do. We’re THIS close to having summer, so finish it on a high note.

My tips and tricks might not be your cup of tea, so I ask you this: how do you deal with the inevitable crunchtime breakdown?