How To Have A Fantastic First Year 101

Your first year at U of T has the potential to be the worst year of your life. You might start university and, after a month of classes, start spending all of your time feeling sorry for yourself because, if you had only gone to Carleton, you’d be getting grades that are 20% higher with half the effort.

That being said, your first year at U of T also has the potential to be the best year of your life.

I’ve complied a list of cool stories about my life things you should try to do during your first year to make it the best year ever.: Continue reading “How To Have A Fantastic First Year 101”

Oh the things we do when we study

From the blog

C’mon, we’ve got our study habits. Some of us bite our nails, while others rest their heads on their books because being in close proximity to them “helps you study” (guilty). I’ve asked people what their study habits are and… well, you’ll see.

Groovin’ and Movin’

Sorry! I know that was a cheesy heading. I blame it on peristalsis and rhythmic muscles of the gastrointestinal tract.

We all have our jams and playlists. I either listen to intrumentals (I recommend Chris Botti if you love jazz trumpet) or something that is easy to sing to (Richard Marx, anyone?). Some of you may also do drum solos on your laptop, desk or wall. Others may belt out solos like nobody’s business (guilty again). Whatever it is, remember to be considerate of your neighbors/roommate/comrade-at-arms. You may think you’re doing a wicked solo, but your roommate may not. Unfortunately, not all of us are the next Susan Boyle.

Point of no return

It’s 4am, and your mind is so scrambled you could eat it instead of eggs. You are what you eat, right? blogUT co-editor Lori says that when she gets to that point in studying, she forces herself to finish the last paragraph and really understand it before stopping.

So you’ve stopped studying, your nerves are running high and now you’re just staring at the ceiling, contemplating your impending doom. What should you do? Someone said that she would watch a movie before going to bed. I would recommend meditation to get you back in the zone.

Maybe you shouldn’t do that…

We are all civilized young people. We have a colourful vocabulary. It should come to no surprise that many of us cuss like a pirate with his leg chopped off. Admittedly, it’s a form of stress relief, but remember to not take that language to the street! I once watched a friend swear while she ranted about her final only to be scolded by a grandmother walking with her grandchild. Probably not the best thing that can happen.

A friend told me he enjoys watching TV and cramming during the commercials. I call that guilty pleasure. I mean, I know I do it by going online and cramming while a YouTube video loads, but we all know that that is definitely not a good way to study.

Another friend of mine chooses to take 5-hour “naps” and wake up at 3am to study before going to sleep again. Another pulls allnighters consistently throughout the week. What I do when I have to keep myself awake is look for the strongest tea and coffee I can find and brew them together. Caffeine galore, but please, don’t do it too often (or at all). The shakes lasts for days.

We do some pretty crazy things when we study. What are your weirdest, quirkiest study habits?

The Power Nap

(image via

Now that we’re diving head first into the dreaded months of March and April, we all know we’re about to lose the following: our minds, our social lives and more importantly, our sleep. But sleep is incredibly important to keep us functioning despite the gallons upon gallons of coffee we drink. So how do we recharge ourselves for the upcoming crunch time?

May I re-introduce you to: THE POWER NAP. Yes, I’m seriously promoting taking a nap. Don’t we all regret being stubborn children and not taking naps when we had the chance? I know I do! Naps are important for us to get that extra level of energy. But how can we take efficient naps without losing a vast amount of time for work and study? According to various sources, sources being the ever-so-awesome Google, a power nap should only be 20 minutes long. Within those 20 minutes, you are able to recharge yourself and get that extra wind for your upcoming task.

Feel free to take 20 minutes of your day to recharge yourself before you tackle those assignments and essays; it’s enough shut eye to ensure that you are awake enough to avoid making any silly mistakes in your study time. It’s also a great way to take a break to relax and temporarily free yourself from those stressful moments, which we know will eventually lead to breakdowns of anger and/or frustration.

Eat, Sleep, Study: Sage Advice from a First-Year Student

Where I come from, a little town called Ottawa, we have this novel concept called snow. It arrives with a few flurries in late November, followed by a massive downpour in early December which kindly provide your shivering street with a thick coat of snow. This snow, a common phenomenon throughout Canada, does not appear with such grandeur in Toronto. In fact, it is now December, and I have yet to have felt the need to break out my snow pants and go to class via my toboggan. Snow, in downtown Toronto, has thus far been little more than a mere spitting of snowflakes and a few piles of snow here and there.

In Ottawa, the first sign of snow sent a clear message that first semester was almost complete and exams were just around the corner. In Toronto, the indication that exams are coming is not seen in a change in the physical environment but rather in a noticeable shift in the collective mentality of the student body. Slowly but surely, as November crawled to an end, I noticed more and more students with a glazed look in their eyes. Everybody seemed to be walking a bit slower, wearing sweatpants a few more times a week, letting their hair be a little more dishevelled than usual. Even the hipsters seemed to put less care into their usually calculated looks, many opting to replace their styled coifs with slouchy chapeaus, and their skinny jeans with, well, slightly less skinny jeans.

Exams at University of Toronto are, indeed, not merely an event: they are a lifestyle change. Students who party frequently skip out on thirsty Thursdays at bars to study at libraries, and students who are mildly stressed year-round literally go insane before your eyes. I myself am mentally deteriorating in the midst of exam stress, but nonetheless, I hope this blog serves to provide some first-year students with a picture of exam time, and how to make it as least painful as it can possibly be. Continue reading “Eat, Sleep, Study: Sage Advice from a First-Year Student”

Going Abroad: Part II

So, you’ve read Going Abroad: Part I, you’ve thought about it and you’ve decided that you want to go abroad. So, how do you go about doing it?

First of all, do research. Think about what kind of courses you want to take abroad. Do the Woodsworth College Summer Abroad program suit your credit needs (you don’t need to be a Woodsworth College student to do their programs)? If so, please take a look at their application process on their website. The advantage of a Woodsworth program is that you travel with a group and there’s little paperwork to be done to get your transfer credits.

None of the courses at the Woodsworth program interest me. Does that mean I can’t go on an exchange?

No, you just have to do a little more research and paperwork but it’s all worth it.

How to proceed:

Step 1: Find a U of T exchange partner institution with programs and courses that interest you. You can do this through the ISXO website. If you’re unsure, try contacting your professors and see if they can suggest a few universities where you could study.

Step 2: Join the StudyAbroad portal group so you can get regular updates on deadlines, funding opportunities and other information.

Step 3: Get a nomination from the ISXO to study abroad. This is absolutely mandatory. You will NOT get credits from the institution if you are not nominated by the ISXO. To get a nomination, you will need 2 letters of reference (1 if you’re doing a summer exchange), a statement of interest, a resume and you will need to fill in a checklist and an online application on the ISXO website.

Just wondering, what do are they looking for in my statement of interest?

The statement of interest is just a way to find out what you want to study, why you want to study abroad and how that would complement your education. You should also show that you’re either a seasoned traveler and/or that you’re responsible and mature enough to go abroad alone. So any other experiences abroad should be mentioned here.

Step 4: Hand in your application to the ISXO. Please check the website to see which deadline applies to you.

Step 5: Wait for your application to process. You may or may not get called to do an interview.

If you’re accepted…

Step 6: You will have to register and participate in 2 mandatory meetings: a pre-departure meeting and a transfer credit info session. The ISXO will also inform you about the bit of paperwork you’re going to have to do to earn your credit during these sessions.

Enjoy studying abroad!

For more information, try going to the study abroad fair on Wednesday, November 10 from noon to 5PM at the Cumberland Room, 33 St. George St.

For people interested in going to East Asia, the East Asian Studies Student Union is holding an information session on studying in Asia on November 30th from 1PM to 4:30PM in the Cumberland Room in the Cumberland House at 33 St. George St. Drop in and out as you please. Light refreshments and snacks will be served.

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

When I was eight years old I loved everything about summer. That is, until those “back-to-school” commercials started popping up everywhere (why they air those commercials as soon as we have our first taste of summer, I’ll never know.) As soon as I saw those advertisements, I was reminded of the horrors of going back to school—but that was before my education included lectures about movies and playing beer pong.  So, for those of us lucky enough to go to UofT, seeing a “back-to-school” advertisement no longer needs to fill us with mortal dread. Instead, we can embrace this time;  September is reborn as a time for Toga parties, being reunited with old friends, and even making new ones.

While many readers will have already passed Freshman year, I’m sure there are those of you who are still a bit nervous about heading off into the direction of academia. For those lucky few, I have prepared the following crash-course on how to spend your first few weeks at UofT.

1. Don’t freak out.

You’ve signed up for your classes. You’ve paid your tuition (hopefully!). You know where you are going to live.  Beyond that,  don’t worry over anything just yet. Just because the anti-calendar says your class is going to suck, doesn’t mean it actually will.  Just because you don’t know anyone in your class, doesn’t mean you can’t make some new friends– or at least meet someone to share notes with.  Don’t listen to people when they tell you to just “turn back while you can!”. You obviously did well enough in High School to get into Uni, so there is no reason you can’t succeed once you get there.

2. Seriously, don’t freak out.

All of those things you are worried about—making friends, tests, term papers, parties, getting lost—they haven’t happened yet.

Continue reading “The No-Fear-First-Year Mini Guide to Starting at UofT”

Cut-Rate Culture

This was submitted by a reader, Anubha Momin:

Here comes September, and with it, tuition costs, book money, and empty wallets. As students, many can feel as though their money is stretched thin, that little is left for enjoyment and pleasure. An evening at the opera? Not possible… or is it? There are lots of ways to enjoy an evening of fine art, music, or dance in Toronto, but here are some of the city’s major institutions at some very minor price points.

Art Gallery of Ontario
A stunning building in and of itself, the new Frank Gehry-fied gallery houses more than 79,000 works and hosts a changing set of exhibitions.
Cost: FREE Wednesday nights from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Canadian Opera Company
The largest Canadian producer of opera in the country’s largest city, the COC offers world-class performances out of the Four Seasons Performing Art Centre. The 2009/10 season includes opera classics like Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Bizet’s Carmen.
Cost: COC’s Opera for a New Age provides a limited number of tickets for most shows at $20 each for anyone under the age of 30. Book early for the best availability.

Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
Alright, so this may not be a “major” institution, but you don’t have to travel beyond the campus walls to indulge your inner artiste. The Barnicke Gallery is constantly changing its exhibits, and staff are always available to walk you through their collections.
Cost: FREE for all, all the time. Take note of opening night festivities, where the free entrance includes beverages, fruit, and cheese. As an added bonus, the gallery is within Hart House, which boasts its own impressive collection of art work.

National Ballet of Canada
Headlined by Tchaikovsky’s perennial favourites, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, the National Ballet of Canada promises another stellar season of elegant, entertaining performances.
Cost: Anyone between the ages of 16 and 29 can register with DanceBreak in order to gain access to $20 tickets. DanceBreak tickets are purchasable online at midnight the day of performance.

Royal Ontario Museum
This fabulous attraction has been recently covered on blogUT, so I shall direct you to the post:
Cost: FREE for post-secondary students on Tuesdays, half price for everyone Fridays from 4:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

If you have any other suggestions for enjoying Toronto’s cultural landscape, feel free to post them in the comments!