An Introvert’s Guide to UTM: Finding Success and Meaning in an Intimidating Learning Environment



It’s not easy being green… or, as it turns out, being an introvert while attending university. The world just isn’t made for those that are not comfortable with socializing or extending themselves outwards to others. I definitely fit the description of an introverted individual: I keep to myself a lot of the time, I’m quiet in social settings and I rarely add to discussions unless it’s about something that I feel very strongly about. It can be intimidating putting yourself out there, especially in university… but by doing so, you will learn more about yourself and the world around you than you ever have in your life. I’ll discuss three things that I’ve learned to overcome my introversion while studying at UTM for the past three months and I hope you can identify with at least a few of my observations, suggestions and opinions. They may seem obvious to you, but that’s the intention.

The first thing I’ve learned is that university life can be lonesome when you don’t incorporate social interactions into your routine. It’s vital to set aside time during the week for homework and studying, but also to engage in some form of person-to-person contact that is meaningful to you. It can be a club, a team or a volunteer opportunity; some activity that you enjoy and that forces you to work with others in a productive, fun way. After spending several evenings alone in my room and experiencing just how unsatisfying it can be, I resolved to discover activities that get me involved on campus; despite having less time to myself, I haven’t regretted that decision. Remember: “free time” doesn’t always have to be “me time”.

Another suggestion: get involved at UTM in whatever way that you can. This campus is where you will invest or have invested an incredible amount of time and money to obtain a higher education; make that decision and commitment you have made count! Join your program’s student society or a student government. Make your unique opinions heard. If a leadership position is not for you, help out at an organized event during the year; develop connections that will benefit you throughout your years here. Everyone has valuable opinions and ideas that deserve to be heard. You have the chance to improve UTM now and for generations of students to come, so get out there and do something about it. Your legacy awaits…

Finally: it never hurts to try something new, to get outside your comfort zone. This is the most important step to enjoying university life as an introvert and probably the most difficult. Introverts have the tendency to deny themselves the opportunity to try out things that they may be interested in, but exist outside their level of comfort. The only way you’ll overcome your shyness is to take the risk – if that risk isn’t too great, that is (I once wanted to play rugby… I am so glad my parents said “NO!”). Have faith in yourself and know that others have faith in you. You will discover something about yourself, guaranteed. Whether it’s beneficial or not, you will be much wiser moving forward. There is risk in everything that you do in life. Take advantage of your curiosity, because who doesn’t want to have an exciting life full of brave, new experiences?

These are only three of the things I’ve learned to do to that have helped me navigate and arguably succeed at UTM as an introvert. Use these suggestions to develop your own list of recommendations. The generations of undergraduate students to come will thank you for it!

Why is introversion still seen as something we need to “overcome”? The descriptions in this article made me feel like I was reading about someone who is shy and has low self-esteem. People are still ignorant about what introversion really is! The terms “introvert” and “shy” are used interchangeably in the article, which shows that the person doesn’t really know what introversion means. Introversion does not mean we are too scared to be around other people or too scared to socialize. It does not mean we are aliens around other people. It does not mean we do not “have faith in ourselves.” It simply means we need alone time to recharge. It also means (depending on the person) that we don’t like to engage in meaningless conversation. Introverts hate small talk, and that’s why we avoid talking to strangers in the first place unless we have something meaningful to say. Why does being an introvert mean we can’t have an exciting life? Why does “exciting” have to always be attached to other people? Why am I considered “lacking faith in myself” if I prefer to spend my Saturday night reading a good book instead of being at a party?

Indeed, it is not easy being an introvert in an extroverted world, especially in university. We are misunderstood and seen as depressed, “anti-social” (which I think any university student should know is a wrong choice of words), shy, weird, lacking self-confidence….

If you want to address the struggle of an introvert in university, please discuss the system in which most classes have at least 10-15% for participation in class, in which introverts struggle to have their voices heard because they do not function the same way extroverts do.

Why is intelligence associated with a louder voice?

I am an introvert, and I found this article insulting.

Different people function in different ways. Some people prefer being around lots of other people, while others prefer a smaller group. Some people are comfortable sharing their thoughts out loud, others prefer to keep to themselves. Some people like speaking what’s on their minds; others prefer writing it. Some people would choose to present in a classroom of 200 students; other prefer writing an essay.

Just because we are introverts doesn’t mean we do not have a social life. It means we are selectively social. And if being alone is unsatisfying, maybe this person is a shy extrovert? or an extrovert who lacks self-esteem? And according to our corrupt society standards, they are seen as “introverts.”

Thank you for your criticism. I am sorry that my blog made you feel insulted: that was not the intention. I agree with what you are saying; however, I was just voicing my own views and opinions on an issue that, believe it or not, I am very familiar with. I am introverted, perhaps not as much as I thought before reading your blog: I love to write, read and partake in quiet activities. That is not something I am ashamed of, and no one who is introverted should be either. However, it is my belief that society demands for introverted people to have their voice heard and to try new things, or else lose out on fulfilling opportunities that they would otherwise rarely experience ; a sad reality, no doubt, but it is just the society that we live in.  I live in a household with a seriously introverted sister ; I observe  the tremendous struggles she is forced to go through everyday for being socially anxious. It is difficult to see others take advantage of her because of her disposition, but it is clear that she would surely become more confident in herself if she became more involved at her university and talked to others who share her unique, and highly insightful views. Thank you for sharing your critical opinions and insight. They will be remembered and taken to heart.




How To: Absolutely “Kill” a Presentation


So your prof assigned a presentation and you’re tired of Googling presentation tips. You’ve come to the right place, grasshopper.

November is my least favourite month—university students are loaded with tests, quizzes, midterms, assignments, essays, and, yes, presentations! As a third-year student in CCIT, English, and French, I’ve been through my fair share of presentations and have about three this month, too. Throughout my journey, I’ve picked up three all-encompassing tips on turning your daunting presentation into a breeze.

Read on, and the next time your prof says “presentation”, you’ll be volunteering to go first.

There are two components to any presentation: the verbal and the visual. My usual method is to create the verbal part first, then decide the visual part.

                       1.  Ooh, Kill ’Em: Verbally

The key to the verbal aspect of your presentation is simplicity. The verbal part of your presentation shows how well you know your topic in terms of how well you can explain it. If your topic is complicated, divide it into sections.

Tell your audience what section of the topic you’re about to talk about and, briefly, why it’s important. You don’t want to confuse your audience with complicated jargon (Google: “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand”). Define difficult words and break your topic down to its simplest terms.

Ensure eye contact with your audience (or random eye-level wall corners), a clear voice, and a smile now and again. Use cue cards with maximum three points on each card. Sometimes, I only write a sentence per card. Speak with passion—if you sound interested, your audience will be too.

                        2.  Ooh, Kill ’Em: Visually

The key to the visual aspect of your presentation is also simplicity. You’ve probably heard the phrase “death by PowerPoint”—I know I have. But PowerPoint is not a “deadly” visual as long as you keep your slides simple.

With any visual you choose (skits? Prezi? PowerPoint? Posters? Hand gestures?), take the main point of your presentation and make it explicit. Save the text for talking points; the visuals are your clarity tools. Keep a two-colour minimum on your visuals, and minimize text to stress only the main points of your topic to your audience. You can limit yourself to one point, or one word, or one picture per slide on a PowerPoint, for example.

And remember, a presentation is not just an assignment worth marks for a class.

I mean, that’s one way to think of it. But a presentation is literally anything that you present, or anything that you show other people.

You present yourself to the world every day through how you dress, how you speak, what you say, and even how you walk. Store branding presents a store to consumers. The Internet presents information to people with Internet access. Any situation where communication is happening is essentially a presentation.

I like to think of communication with a simple goal in mind: what do I want to get across? What’s the point?

The underlying component of your presentation once you figure out your goal is creativity.

                         3.  Ooh, Kill ’Em: Creatively

Even the key to the creative aspect of your presentation is simplicity: using a simple, straightforward design. How are you going to get your point across to a lecture hall full of your peers, to a potential employer in an interview, or to the date that you have tonight?

The best part about presentations is that you get to be creative: papers and tests have formats, but for the most part, presentations don’t. You can use the space in the room, your peers’ participation, your group members if you have any, posters, skits, props, anything! For the brief time that you present, you are in complete control—how will you use it?

Presentation is an art—get creative!

Humans of UTM

Second Year, Double Major in Politics and Geography      

“What do you see yourself doing after university?“

“My dream situation (if you’d call it) would be to go to Japan, work for 3 years there—because I’m curious about what’s going on in East Asia, which I absolutely know nothing about. Japan for me would be the gateway to East Asia. So starting next semester, I’m starting intense Japanese courses.”


Why Social Media Kinda Sucks Sometimes



I used to wish that I lived in the ’90s. Everything I cherished, adored, and stanned for were from the ’90s: Ghost World, My So-Called Life, Sex and the City, Before Sunrise, Degrassi, plaid. Everything. Of course, my romanticized vision of that decade was influenced by the multitude of ’90s television shows, movies, and pop culture I consumed throughout my teenage years. In the media I consumed, everything seemed so much better, easier, simpler. But, the main thing that attracted me to the ’90s, aside from the fact that all my pop culture faves existed in that decade, was that social media did not exist.

I was talking to my sister recently and she asked me if I would attend my high school reunion. I immediately replied “no” because…what for? It wouldn’t be like in the ’90s where you’d spot Ashley at the mall, then squeal and hug each other because you hadn’t seen her since graduation 20 years ago. I still see my peers. On Facebook. On Twitter. On Instagram. What would we talk about that we already didn’t know from social media? I mean, I know what post-secondary school they attend, what job they have, and even what they had for lunch the other day.

And it’s this sense of hyper-connection, this sense of being plugged in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, that I wanted to escape from in my teenage years when I longed to live in the 1990s. I wanted to travel back to a time where you could meet a stranger on a train and instead of having your eyes glued to a screen, you’d strike a conversation, bond over shared interests and then wander the streets of Vienna talking about life. But as I’ve grown and matured, I realize that this yearning was a result of a very romanticized and narrow picture of the 1990s. These movies and shows only showed a facet of life. And these glimpses are questionable because, as we all know, the media does not have the best track record when it comes to depicting reality. Also, most of these media that I consumed were from the perspective of white, middle-class people. My experiences would definitely be a lot different in the 1990s as a black woman.

But… I have to admit, I still long for simpler times. Not necessarily the ’90s, or any other decade for that matter—I just long for a time when social media isn’t such a dominant part of my life. I’m constantly on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube—you name it. And it’s not always just for fun. Sometimes I need social media to interact with classmates about a group project or to communicate with colleagues for work purposes. It’s not just social media (although the majority of the time I spend on the computer is dedicated to it), it’s the Internet as a whole. I live on the Internet. My life is the Internet. In some ways, I love these spaces. These spaces have broadened and continue to broaden my social awareness and consciousness. I love being part of a community of feminists and womanists on Tumblr. I love reading my Twitter timeline on Thursday nights when Scandal is on television. I love that I can keep up with things that matter to me through my page feed on Facebook. And I love that YouTube introduced me to a variety of quality web series that feature people who look like me.

But social media, for all its perks and benefits, can also be very isolating. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook can trick you into thinking that everyone is off in Hawaii living a fabulous life while you, the loser, sit in a darkly dimmed room watching them have the time of their lives on a 5” by 2” screen. In my daily life, I probably communicate with human beings 80% through social media and 20% through face-to-face interaction. This places me in a weird space where I feel as if I don’t have any authentic connections with people because our connections only exist in a “superficial” realm situated in the World Wide Web. And this creates, for me at least, a false sense of closeness, which can be very lonely and depressing.

I no longer wish to live in the ’90s but man, I sure love how Angela could just meet up with Rayanne and Rickie without having a million conversations about it beforehand on Facebook.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just a loser. But I can’t be the only one that feels this way… Right?

Humans of UTM

Third Year, Chemistry Major and Double Minor in English and Philosophy

“What’s your biggest pet peeve?“

“Oh my god, people who use the word ‘BAGAL’. Like instead of using the word ‘bagel’, they say ‘bagal’. I hit someone for doing that once.”

“How would you spell that?“

“I don’t know, like it’s spelt the same but it’s not pronounced the same. People just can’t use proper grammar. I knew a guy that used to say, ‘on accident’ instead of ‘by accident’, and I used to go home in tears. It was so bad, and it was just so painful to my ears … and my life.”


Humans of UTM

“What’s your advice to the younger generation students?”

“This is the question that I always got from my students: ‘what should I do?’ ‘How do I prepare?’ I think you don’t have to limit yourself to one specific small area … just keep your mind open to everything. When you are in university, try to study as much as possible. When you are young, you have the opportunity to make mistakes. It took me ten years to figure out what I wanted to do after I graduated from college.

When I was in college, I always thought that I would get a job and I would stay there forever. But it is not the case. When you got into a firm, you will figure out whether you like it or not. If you are thinking about continuing on with school or changing your major, that’s okay. It’s not the end of the world.

“I studied Finance; it was pretty hard when I was in college. It was guaranteed that I would get a job in a big firm after I graduated. However, when I was graduating, the Asian Financial Crisis happened, so nobody got hired. There were no financial jobs available in the market. All the banks were frozen. Only accounting firms were hiring people. But I knew nothing about accounting; I only took one course in college about accounting.

At that time, the accounting firm was starting up in China, so that was an opportunity for me. They did not care if you knew accounting or not; they only required you to have a CPA in China to be an auditor. They can train you so they wanted to hire people who can learn very quickly … so I joined them and I had no idea about accounting at all. Ten years down the road, I am here. I became a professor.”

What Does Mental Health Mean to You?



Mental illnesses come in all shapes and forms, from the anxiety monster troubling your brain before an exam to a complex chemical imbalance that goes by the name depression. It’s true that the stigma associated with mental disorders is slowly being eradicated, but so much of society still views mental disorders as something within our control or something logical and easy to solve. So much of society sweeps mental illnesses under the rug labeled “crazy” and so much of it has been buried with the phrase, “you’re just overreacting”. What people don’t realize is that the more you repress a disease without treating it, the stronger it will come back.

Being in the academic system for quite a while, anxiety has become second nature not only for myself but also for so many of you. Being told you’re a great student all your life, only to end up procrastinating due to being a perfectionist who is afraid of failing and getting average grades, really internally frustrates you to the point where you’re hardly making it. I know how hard it has been for me in the past year moving to Canada from a completely different education system. Not only was I in my last year of high school, but I was applying to universities too, which meant I had to adjust in this foreign system, make no mistakes, and continue my streak of grades good enough to get into the top universities here—the pressure was unforgivable. Having three panic attacks in the span of a few months took a toll on my mental health—I couldn’t get out of bed to study, I was depressed beyond understanding, every day ended in tears and the next day went by slower than the last… In the end however, you begin to latch onto the smallest of positive outcomes, no matter how insignificant it may seem to others.

In Canada, suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds, which is unfortunately a pretty big number. The reason for this ranges from suppressing internal struggles due to societal pressure to bullying, harassment, academic pressure, etc.

Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety are just a few of the diseases that plague so many of us today. The worst feeling comes with not knowing why you’re feeling hopeless or upset or hollow; it comes with time passing so slowly coupled with your movements being twice as lethargic and lagged. But all people want to know is why? If we all had the answer to that, we would be well on our way, as far from disorders as possible; however, it is not socially acceptable to lie in bed all day because you cannot find any strength in you to push yourself out of bed. It is not socially acceptable to hand in a paper late and not lose 5% because your fingers couldn’t understand your brain. You must mask your symptoms in order to function in the outside world.

The treatment for mental health needs to become better than what is feebly offered to us right now. Research into mental health problems should be just as rigorous as research for cancer—it should be given its due diligence. A balance needs to be constructed between being told you’re overthinking your own illness and having it glorified to the point that all everyone is interested in is being your saviour. It is not a problem to be solved overnight—I am still learning how to not let it control me. It requires patience and understanding from those who are willing to stay and help.