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General posts

Study Spotlight: Noranda Earth Sciences Library

The view of the Noranda Earth Sciences Library from its second floor
The inside view of the Noranda Earth Sciences Library from its second floor

And.. we’re back with Study Spotlight! Last time I reviewed Knox College’s Caven Library ( check out the hyperlink!) For the second post, I’ll be reviewing the Noranda Earth Sciences Library located on 5 Bancroft Avenue.

Where is the Earth Sciences Library?

The Noranda Earth Sciences Library is a little gem situated on the second floor of the Earth Sciences Buildings. If you’re like me and know absolutely nothing about this area, it’s basically a collection of closely spaced buildings that all fall under the UofT code of ES (you may be familiar with ES 1050, the auditorium many first year courses are held in). Once you enter through the front doors, there’ll be a sign to direct you to the library through the next flight of stairs.

The Noranda Earth Sciences Library is also cornered between New College (that’s my college, holla!) and the McLennan Physical Laboratories.

Quietness: 8.1/10

For a library, it is quiet but it’s definitely not the most quiet library I’ve been to; there’s no harm in a library that isn’t completely silent though! I feel comfortable breathing, sneezing, coughing and occasionally whispering to my peers. A chill environment to be in.

Spot Availability: 8.6/10

Not a lot of students know about this little library so I can always count on there being a seat for me. There are both individual studying cubicles (on the second floor) as well as a number of group study tables (on the ground floor).

Resources (computer specific): 7/10

I’m not taking any courses in the Earth Sciences disciple so I haven’t (or will ever) use the books but there does seem to be a vast selection. There’s also a good amount of computers available for use which I have used previously. The computers are spaced enough so that each individual has their own space to take/annotate notes on a sheet of paper whilst using the computer.

Aesthetic: 8.3/10

The Noranda Earth Science Library definitely has that retro vibe to it with its dulled polychromatic colour scheme of purple and green. The floors are all carpeted and the furniture is made of a light-coloured wood. But there are two aspects of it that make the library visually appealing: the architecture and sunlight (see photo above).

The library is round with “two storeys”. So on the first floor, you have your computers and group study tables while on the second floor, you have your independent studying cubicles with a flight of stairs to bridge the two. The design creates a dynamic within this small library with the ground floor having a sound threshold higher than that of the second floor.

Because of the location and round design of the library, it is enveloped by a panel of windows allowing maximum sunlight to enter. Nothing’s better than a good dose of Vitamin D!

Overall: 8.2/10

The Noranda Earth Sciences Library is definitely one of my go-to libraries when I’m in the area. It may take a bit of time to initially find it, but it’s definitely worth it. A quiet secluded place to study.

For more information, visit

Bonus: the Earth Sciences building also has a green house open for student viewing!

Study Spotlight: Knox College’s Caven Library

classic photo of Knox College Walkway
A classic photo of the beautiful outdoor walkway at Knox College (59 St. George Street)

Introducing… Study Spotlight! Study Spotlight is a newly established series of blog posts focusing on different places to study. For the first post, I’ll be personally reviewing Knox College’s Caven Library.

What is Knox College?

Knox College runs from King’s College Circle to St. George Street, having entrances/exits to both. In a nut shell, it isn’t like the 7 other colleges offered at U of T. Although there are some graduate students affiliated with Knox, I can say there are no undergraduate students that are tied to it. Big difference already, right? Knox is also much smaller in size and resources: there’s a small kitchen for eating, and located upstairs is a small church and the library. To the left and right of the beautiful walkway photographed above, there are courtyards with benches and flowers.

Quietness: 9.2/10

It’s incredibly quiet. Each time I come back, I feel guilty for pulling the zippers on my backpack, pencil and tablet case. There’s little whispering and the noise from outside doesn’t find its way in. The library itself is pretty small so there aren’t any doors for people to constantly open and close. The entire college is actually pretty quiet thanks to the silence-enforcing admins.

Spot Availability: 8.7/10

The library isn’t very packed. I guess it has a a lot to do with the fact that not a lot of people know about this gem. Out of the many times I’ve visited, I can always find a spot. Seats are organized in trios with a couple of the larger study group tables situated near the front desk.

Resources: ??

I’ve never used any of the library’s resources except for their WiFi. There seems to be a lot of books, but all probably specific to the graduate programs they offer at Knox. There are also a couple of computers for use; probably about nine.

Aesthetic: 8.5/10

If the above photo wasn’t enough to make you like Knox, maybe this will help:


The Caven Library has most of its furniture made of wood and the floors are all carpeted. The ceiling is raised high, with a set of chandeliers hanging. The lights definitely illuminate a warm cast on the library with little sunlight penetrating through the windows.

Overall: 8.7./10

As a life science student, Knox is a really convenient place for me to hang around. It’s close to where all my classes are: the convocation hall, medical sciences building, sid smith, etc. I can have lunch either in the walkway (if I can find a seat and it’s warm enough) or in their small kitchen. And of course, I can do my favourite thing there too: study!!!

For more information, visit

Restoration of my faith in shawarma- Habeebee shawarma



For all my arab friends out there, and all my non-arab, but arab-food-loving friends: I have been trying to find a decent shawarma and falafel place since I’ve landed in Canada, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Many a times I’ve ordered a shawarma wrap, hoping to see the meat being shaved off the stack with a large knife or a small circular saw, dropped to a circular tray below, retrieved and placed into the familiar flat, arabic bread and finally decorated with a party of cucumber, onion, tomato, lettuce, eggplant, parsley, pickled turnips, pickled gherkins, pickles, rhubarb and cabbage.
What I do end up with, however, is a grilled chicken/meat sandwich where the chicken/meat is sliced up (decievingly) into shawarma-looking slices. As an arab, personally, I cannot emphasise enough on how much Toronto has ruined shawarma for me.

After months of trying fake shawarmas from random food places, getting disappointed (or worse; getting sick) I found a tiny fast-food restaurant that secretly hides behind the harbourfront theatre at 218 Queens Quay W- ‘Habeebee’s shawarma’, or, more commonly known as ‘Shawarma Guys’ is the ‘quick and good’ type, where the service is quick and the food is delicious. Located in the lower level of a retail space and kept out of sight by Pizza Pizza, Subway and Quiznos, the Shawarma Guys is a great alternative to your typical fast food.

Beef or chicken shawarmas will run you about $5, with falafel under $4. The meat is pretty good, and I would personally recommend avoiding the iceberg lettuce and cheap tomatoes. Instead, load them up with radishes, banana peppers, and Frank’s Red Hot for a tasty time.

There isn’t much room inside, but the food is worth it. I would reccommend getting yourself a shawarma or two, coupled with some of their mouth-watering poutines, and chilling with some friends at the Toronto Lake, playing Taboo or cards, watching people walk along with their dogs, or just enjoying the semi-good weather while it lasts.


Coffee Time is Anytime?


Do you remember when you were a little kid and coffee was the mysterious elixir that adults lived on? I don’t know about other people, but when I was young, my mom would disapprove whenever I had my eyes on something coffee-related (ice capps were permitted, though; those things are still fantastic). That’s why I didn’t have coffee on a regular basis until I started UofT, and to be honest I miss the good old naive days when I just had infinite amounts of energy from within. But does it really have to be like this? Will the university student ever stop being a caffeine addict?


First of all, coffee may not be such a bad thing after all. It has been proven that coffee contains antioxidants that help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, type 2 diabetes, and is even good for heart health. Of course, the main benefit is that caffeine is a stimulant that makes you feel more alert by binding to adenosine receptors in the brain. Recently it has been shown that coffee beats soda as the drink of choice for students.

However, coffee has about 5 times the amount of caffeine than soda, and adding milk and sugar (about 3.5 teaspoons for me, no joke) is bound to be detrimental for your health. Since it takes about 6 hours for caffeine to leave the system, drinking it later on in the day severely interferes with sleep. And If you don’t get enough sleep, you wake up tired and have to consume more caffeine.

Also, habitually drinking coffee results in a new standard for “alertness”, where depriving yourself of coffee produces more adenosine receptors that result in withdrawal symptoms such as headaches. And so the circle of despair continues.

Then how do we beat the coffee addiction?

  1. You don’t have to quit cold turkey. Having coffee twice a week, or when you’re out with a friend on a Thursday afternoon is perfectly fine. Taking the time to really enjoy coffee as a pleasure is much better than being dependent on it. IMG_2892
  2. Tea is a magical thing. It still has caffeine but releases it in manageable increments. Getting something really flavorful like “Banana Spice” or “Mango Madness” can really hit the spot.
  3. If you must have coffee everyday because you absolutely cannot deviate from your normal routine, try decaf. It may taste horrible, but you can’t get everything you want in life.

To be completely honest, the only reason why I lean more towards the anti-coffee side is because I think that we should stop relying on external resources to fix internal problems. In first year I was always the disheveled, jittery girl who showed up to every midterm saying, “I had 6 cups of coffee last night”.

If I had not procrastinated (which is another topic on its own) and studied during my hours of optimal energy, I wouldn’t have been in that mess! Even waking up earlier and not having to rush out the door gives you a sense of control and focus which can then be translated into energy, that has originated out of you.

So the lesson is what you thought: Have coffee in moderation. Embrace coffee because it’s a beautiful thing. Check out a cool coffee place down the street, experiment with different brews. But keep in mind that you don’t really need it, and cutting down a little bit can help you feel liberated!

Who knows, you might even get to enjoy whiter teeth and a few extra bucks!



A Belated Part Two of BlogUT’s New Years Resolution

It’s that time of year again– blogUT is looking towards next year, and searching for a Junior Editor or two to help the club grow, change, and continue to provide excellent content and run smoothly.

If you had dreams of being SUPER involved in extracurriculars but it’s now January and you’re looking for something to do (hey– it happens/happened to the best of us) please consider applying!

During your time as Junior Editor, you’ll be trained on everything blogUT. You’ll learn how to write and edit posts, communicate with other campus clubs, manage basic finances, and lead an amazing team of people. This is a great opportunity for those of you who’d like to get more involved in student life. And an added bonus? It’ll be a great addition to your resume.

We’re looking for someone who:

  • Is in first or second year
  • Can write/respond to emails quickly and professionally
  • Has an understanding of how a good blog should look in terms of format
  • Pays attention to detail
  • Has a basic knowledge of how to use WordPress or other web publishing platforms
  • Has excellent spelling and grammar
  • Can devote 2-3 hours per week to blogUT activities

Your responsibilities will include:

  • Editing blog posts and comments regularly
  • Updating our Twitter feed and Facebook profile
  • Responding to emails from various organizations about events that are going on
  • Finding out about events that would be of interest to blogUT readers
  • Contacting event organizers for press passes
  • Helping to make decisions about finances
  • Helping to organize meetings
  • Doing paperwork for the UTSU (ie. applying for funding)
  • Miscellaneous administrative tasks, such as creating new user accounts and helping contributors with problems using WordPress
  • Coming up with ideas on how to improve the blog (both functionally and aesthetically)

To apply, email us at with the subject ‘Junior Editor’ answering the following questions (in no more than 100 words each) by 11:59pm on FRIDAY FEBRUARY 7, 2014:

  • Who are you? What are you studying? Tell us about yourself.
  • Why are you interested in this position? Why do you think that you are qualified for this position?
  • What is something new, fresh, and innovative that you will bring to blogUT?
  • Give us some constructive criticism on how we are running– how you think we can improve

Be creative in your application! We pride ourself on our flexible, welcoming, and stress-free club.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you- please feel free to contact us with any questions!

Louis and Madeleine, co-editors blogUT

A Frosh’s Treasury of Helpful Articles

It looks like we’re getting meta up in this blizzy (that’s ghetto for “blog”) – we’ve got blog posts within a blog post. Below is a list of some of our favourite articles about the hows and whats of being a new student at UofT. Each article was created by a student with experience and knowledge, and each reflects the ways we’ve learnt to deal with the challenges of a new school and the new experiences that they bring. Enjoy!

Dear Fellow First-Years

This is a letter written by a student after only one month of classes. Although it is intended for others with the same level of experience, it is an excellent guide of what to expect in that crucial first month.

First Year’s Advice Through A Third Year’s Eyes

The author of this post uses over two years of experience to explain what she would have done differently in her first year, knowing what she knows now.

Some Really, Really Specific Tips for First-Years

The author of this post (me) tries to get as specific as possible when providing advice for new students. The goal is to avoid ambiguity, which leads to confusion, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of advice.

How To Have A Fantastic First Year 101

This post takes knowledge gained through years of experience and breaks it down into a usable, concise guide. Bonus: it’s full of helpful hyperlinks.

Breaking the ice…

A godsend for the socially awkward among us, this post provides tips and techniques on making new friends. Since you’ll probably meet at least 150 people over the next two weeks, this is more than a little helpful.

Some links you want to familiarize yourself with

Sentence-ending prepositions aside, this post is brilliant because it embeds what you need to know right into the page! Since so much of the world is digital these days, a guide like this is invaluable.

The No-Fear-First-Year Mini Guide to Starting at UofT

You can never have too many guides! This one provides some advice not covered in the others. And, if you’re like me, you cannever read too much about something that makes you nervous.

So, You’re Going to U of T?

This last post is less of a guide and more of a suggested mindset. I wrote it after my first year, when I knew enough to know that I did not know enough to write anything with more detail.

Why Are We Afraid To Be Wrong?

Kathryn Schulz: On Being Wrong

I recently watched a video of a TED Talk by Kathryn Schulz (it’s posted above). Most of what she said resonated with me because there are times in my life when I didn’t want to admit that I was wrong. A recent example of this is when I told my mom that I was going to a friend’s birthday dinner and where it was, and she told me I was taking the longer way to get there. I then decided to take an alternate route to get there and she said I was also going to take the train in the longer direction. I didn’t want to acknowledge that she was right after I looked at the map and navigated my way to the restaurant.

As mentioned in the video and illustrated with my anecdote, we live in a culture where failure isn’t tolerated.  Individuals who make mistakes are seen as failures or they are humiliated, embarrassed, or teased. That got me to thinking about my time at U of T thus far. Why on earth did I decide to go to university? Originally, believe it or not, the main reason why I wanted to attend university was to learn more about subjects I didn’t know about and to expand my mind. I do admit that it was also a way to delay adulthood when it came to working full-time. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced adulthood in different ways during the time I’ve spent here so far (e.g. paying bills, finding a summer job, sending and responding to correspondence in a formal manner). Yes, I wanted more information on how to prepare myself for the working world, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind.  I had these thoughts in my mind when I was a high school student desperate to leave the highly structured environment. Once I was admitted to U of T, all of this changed. I still remember my first month here. I was still in a state of disbelief and shock that I was admitted to a top university and was now in a completely different world. However, the honeymoon ended and reality came crashing down on me as my first midterm deadlines approached.

When participation during class became an important part of my final grades, which was after I completed my first year, I started to become more insecure. I am a very talkative person and yet I’m not one of those people who likes to impress someone by pretending to know everything about a subject; I just want to share my point of view. In some of my classes, I was told by professors that my opinion was the wrong answer or not what they were looking for (sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s not as I’m pursuing a double major in English and Sociology). I didn’t let my professors’ attitudes get me down but recently it has affected the amount of confidence I have in my responses. I still participate in class discussion (as participation is a large chunk of my final grade in all of my classes) but I noticed that I have been more reserved in recent years.

I also noticed fellow classmates who constantly spoke in a way to affirm their opinions and manipulate their arguments in such a way that the professor would give them favour (if they weren’t asking an open ended question). I’m not saying that the students in my classes weren’t intelligent; I just thought that sometimes their answers were inauthentic and every word that comes out of their mouth is a way to prevent them from feeling like they were wrong. Most people don’t speak up when it comes to close ended questions out of fear that they’d look stupid. I have begun to develop a line of thinking that I have to be right about everything and even if I have done my research at all, don’t speak.  This way of thinking has lead to me believe that I have to impress everyone all the time. I had to have all of the right extra-curricular activities (even though I am interested in them) and earning job credentials. I kept thinking about the future and the past but not the present. I became stressed all the time and it became a larger problem and I became unhappy and started losing interest in school altogether. I am getting help when it comes to planning for school but I still felt this way for most of last semester. As I am in my third year, I battle these thoughts as graduation approaches. Now I realize that I shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes and that I’m human. I am slowly learning how to stop putting more pressure on myself because let’s face it, the world’s harshest critic is yourself.

It’s only through making mistakes that we are able to learn. Life is a process, not a fixed path, and we need to be more open about this and creating a culture that allows us to show our flaws and not allow egotism to flourish. As Kathryn Schulz mentioned, if we continue to allow ourselves to ignore others when we are wrong, it can lead to larger problems in the future if our world and business leaders have this mindset. As Thomas A. Edison once said in an interview, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This doesn’t mean that you don’t try your hardest or to be a low achiever, just keep pick yourself off of the ground and keep going but don’t let other people’s comments eat you alive.

 “I err therefore I am human.” – St. Augustine


Now if only I can learn to continue to practice my advice on a daily basis…