Dear First-Year…

Please Get Involved!

When I graduated from high school, I was peppy, involved, and confident. I had been active in Student Council, Theatre Night, the Sears Drama Festival, Zonta, and numerous other clubs. My extracurriculars were my life.

But when I came to UTM for my first year, I got stuck in a sad bubble without them.

I felt like a robot at work, in school, and in life. It took a lot of motivation for me to find a new outlook and some extracurriculars for my second year. I didn’t even realize that my involvement was what had kept me happy in high school.

First-years, don’t let this happen to you!

Read more

Television: Relaxation in an Electronic Box



Game of Thrones, The Vampire Diaries, Awkward, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Dexter, Suits, Orange is the New Black—oh my, there are an abundance of TV shows detracting from your attention to schoolwork.

With exams around the corner and your favourite shows either ending or beginning (Game of Thrones, April 12!), TV is a huge distraction. Some say it turns your brain to mush; some say TV is a tool for procrastination.

Well, I say that TV is a great way to relax.

Although keeping up with our favourite TV shows (Game of Thrones, I love you) is difficult during the year amidst assignments, midterms, tests, and readings, I feel relieved when I get a moment away from my textbooks to watch a show. No reading, no writing, no stressing. Another world, characters you feel like you know, and a plot-line that keeps you wanting more—TV is the perfect escape from our book-bound lives.

I think that every student needs at least one TV show they love to watch to keep up with throughout the school year (ahem, Game of Thrones in the summer semester this year). If you don’t have a show to watch, ask your friends or Google for a suggestion. You could use the escape.

Once you’ve found your magical TV show (or five, or Game of Thrones), start watching! I guarantee you will feel less stressed about your life afterwards. Fair warning: although TV is great for relaxation, an overdose or a binge-watch could be catastrophic for your looming deadlines.

When it comes to shows, the watcher absolutely must be cautious about how much time they allot to watching episodes. Time management is essential here. Like any other relaxation method (the gym, meditation, food…), too much TV might put you in a time crunch for finishing that essay or studying for that midterm.

Try using TV as a reward. For every two hours you study or write, you get to watch an episode. Or for every 50 minutes you study, you get to watch 10 minutes of an episode. Finishing an assignment and a series simultaneously has never been so easy. Personally, I follow two shows maximum at a time so I can put school first.

So grab a blanket, a healthy snack, and some tea. De-stress and watch something!

Where should I study?!—Your Inexhaustible List of Study Spaces at UTM


Have you ever wished for a giant list of study spaces that you can close your eyes, point at, and choose from?

Have you ever wondered where to study in the library, or where you can pop open a book anywhere on campus and cram in some study time?
Have you run out of ideas for where to study, or need more options for study space?

If you answered yes to any of the above, I present to you a list of study spaces I’ve discovered during my time at UTM!

Keep in mind contextual factors before choosing a study spot, such as if you are studying alone or with friends, if you need to work on a group project, how much noise you can tolerate, what time of day it is, how long you’re going to be there (ie. Do you need a place where you’ll be setting up camp for a few hours?), how soon you need to get your studying done, and if you need an outlet for your phone or laptop charger, to name a few.

1. The library aka. HMALC (does anyone call it that?)—conventional spots
a. Silent study on any floor
b. The fireplace by silent study on the third floor
c. The long table with stools on the third floor
d. The living room-esque area of couches on the fourth floor
e. The couches by the long window in the basement
f. The couches with round tables in between them on the third floor
h. The computer labs on the first floor

2. The library aka. HMALC—unconventional spots
a. In between bookshelves
b. On the carpet… anywhere

3. The Meeting Place

4. TFC

5. The rotunda in Kaneff (IMI?) by the Registrar’s Office

6. Sitting in front of lockers in Davis

7. Any empty classroom you can find
– Check the schedules posted beside classroom/lecture hall doors to see if          there’s a class inside. If not, and the door is unlocked, go forth and study!
8. The green couches in IB

9. The chairs in cozy corners of IB, upstairs
a. In front of the vending machines on second floor
b. By the long row of windows on the second floor
c. At the ends of hallways on the second or third floors

10. The random area with white tables on the third floor of IB

11. In your friend’s lecture
– Ask your friend if the prof will notice or care, or if it’s a large or a small                lecture, first.

12. Deerfield’s silent study cubicles on any floor

13. The Mac lab on the second floor of IB—also has study rooms

14. On the RAWC staircase, the larger stairs to the right of the railing

15. The tables inside of Starbucks—grab a coffee and hit the books

16. The wooden benches outside of lecture halls in IB

17. The tables by the Circuit Break Café/by CC 1080 in CCT

18. The computer lab in the same area in CCT, by CC 1080 and parking staircases
In order to make this list “inexhaustible”, we need each other’s help. Comment below and add your favourite spaces to study, or anywhere that I’ve missed!
Study on, friends.

Elections Are Coming: Your Guide to UTM’s Elections Season


Have you seen the elections posters in the Meeting Place?

Yes, you know, the ones all over the stone pillars while you drink your coffee. The colourful long sheets of paper with the smiling faces and the “Vote for me for this position!” signs.

Have you ever stopped and read one of the posters?

They are all the same—someone is marketing themselves for some position that the majority of the student body doesn’t know exists.

Components of a candidate’s poster? You’ll find a picture of the candidate with their arms crossed, or awkwardly dangling at their sides, smiling at you. There’ll be two headings that stick out: their name near their face and the name of their sought position at the top or bottom of the page. And let’s not forget about the bubble containing what that candidate will “lobby for” or “fight for” or “advocate” in their given position.

I think that it’s more important to know what these people are running for than who is running.

Let’s walk through what kinds of elections happen at UTM, wherein students sit on councils and “lobby for” things. We all go to UTM; we might as well know and participate in running our campus.

From what I gathered from their meeting agendas obtained through a quick Google search, the following councils and committees have meetings to decide if some change or other should happen on our campus. There seems to be presentations, some discussion, and voting.

Elections you’ll be asked to vote for:

Councils and Committees

Governing Council: elections are now over, I think. The highest decision-makers at UTM/U of T. Oversees all of the other councils.

Campus Council: elections are happening, I think. Council overseeing UTM’s affairs on behalf of the Governing Council.

Academic Affairs Committee: elections are happening, I think. Makes decisions on anything concerning academic policies and teaching and research at the university, like how programs are run and what programs are offered.

Campus Affairs Committee: elections are happening, I think. Deals with campus life and campus resources.

So basically, the students running for these groups follow the given agenda and represent our voice in major campus decisions through formal discussion and voting.

And let’s not forget about the big union voting you’ll be bombarded with in the next month:

Students’ Union (UTMSU): elections are coming—check your email for updates because UTMSU always opts for email communication. The students’ union represents us—where our money goes, what services we get, and hosting or organizing a lot of campus events. From what I’ve gathered, there is the position of the president and then a bunch of VPs—external, internal, part-time, campus life, academics, and equity.

As for when you vote for UTMSU, don’t be discouraged by the pressure the candidates put on you in the hallways. Just keep in mind that these people represent you somehow, and choose accordingly. And don’t be afraid to ask why they are running or what they plan to implement, or what happens at their meetings, or even what any of it has to do with you.

As a side note, clubs also have executive teams where you can vote for who will run a specific club. Most of these clubs are structured in the same president plus VPs format.

There are also board of directors elections for larger clubs, including the UTMSU. The board of directors is the group above any given club and makes decisions about the club’s funding and format.

So this coming elections season, do your research and ask candidates what they are running for. I hope that some of my observations will help you in your votes.
Do not be a passive student on our campus! ☺

First World Sob Story: I Need a New Phone, Do You?



My iPhone 4 is crashing. And I’ve been complaining about it for months.

I haven’t even had this phone for very long—about two years. I bought it from my boss at my last job, and I’m sad to say that I think it is flashing its last screens.

The apps are lagging. Sometimes, when friends send me videos on Snapchat the app completely freezes and I have to delete and re-add it from the App Store.

The texts aren’t sending. And I don’t have a data plan, so I can’t use iMessage or WhatsApp unless I’m on campus or at home. Last Thursday, my texts froze for 24 hours. I couldn’t send or receive any messages. What if I was commuting, or out of town, or getting attacked by wolves??

Perhaps Apple is out to get me with a phone that doesn’t support all of their software updates (iOS 8 why you do this) so that I’m forced to upgrade. Or perhaps I’ve just dropped my phone too many times.

Regardless, I recently found myself needing (wanting) a new phone.

Problem! I’m a broke university student who, despite majoring in CCIT, knows close to nothing about these technology-text-call-device-thingies. And if you’re reading this, you’re one of two types of people:

1. You know about phones or;

2. You don’t.

And for the #2s who are looking for #1s, rejoice! Although I am also a #2, I have a liiiiittle bit of knowledge I’ve gathered in my phone-hunt that I’d like to share with you. And for you #1s: please share advice.

The first thing I’ve gathered is to have your own parameters set for what you want, especially a budget and a size. For example, I want a good camera and high- speeds. My budget is low and I want the phone to fit in my wallet.

Then call your phone company. Actually, call all of the phone companies! Tell Bell what Rogers said, and Rogers what Bell said, ask loads of questions about prices and what you want from a phone, and if you have any upgrades available.

Ask yourself the big question: iPhone or Android?

Tell as many people as you can that you’re looking for a new phone: friends, coworkers, family, the guy across the street—you never know who’s selling or who has suggestions. People sell phones in great condition on Kijiji, but be cautious of scams.

If you can’t go into a store where they sell phones, watch videos of phone comparisons. This can give you an idea of the size of a phone, the feel of the phone in your hand, and how the phone is doing in the market. Someone told me this week that it’s all about “the specs,” or the features on the phone. Videos tell you the specs in detail!

Check out this awesome YouTube channel called PhoneDog, where I’ve been watching some comparison videos.

A couple of the new phones that I’ve found in the constantly updating market are the Nexus 5 and 6, the iPhone 6, the Samsung Galaxy S5, the OnePlus One, the LG G3, the Sony Xperia Z3, and the HTC Desire. Google away, friends!

And most importantly (unlike me, still on the hunt!), make a sound decision before your phone actually crashes. You have been warned. Good luck, phone warriors.

To Speak or Not to Speak: Your Capacity to Act in the Face of Authority



I believe that power relations exist everywhere. Our lives as university students are riddled with them. Profs, parents, bosses, friends—our relationships with these people question our beliefs and what power we hold every day.

Personally, I can be short -tempered. Little things that people say, although I smile on the outside, can completely set me off on the inside.

Perhaps your beliefs are being questioned, or perhaps an authority figure in your life said something offensive, but if you’ve ever had an instance where your mind is screaming, “That’s unfair!” or, “That’s wrong!” or, “What did she just say?!”, you’ve probably experienced being set off too.

But when your prof or your mom or your boss or any figure holding authority in your life offends you, what should you do? If you speak up, what if the prof holds a grudge, or your mom doesn’t speak to you, or your boss fires you? All thoughts that rush through my head. And all manageable.

But it depends on the situation.

When a prof made me feel ridiculous in front of my entire class last semester for asking a simple question, I responded by writing a blog post, and even pasted the link to the post into my comments during course evaluations.

When one of my managers told me that I broke a speaker that I actually didn’t touch, I made a sarcastic comment.

On the contrary, when my mom tells me to clean the house… Well, I clean the house.

In my experience, we can speak out against situations that anger or offend us. I usually ask myself two general questions before voicing my opinion:

1) Is it worth it?

2) What’s the worst that could happen, realistically?

If you can’t handle the worst, you probably aren’t ready to handle the situation. I suggest taking a deep breath, and re-evaluating the situation. To comply or not to comply, to speak or not to speak—a moment’s thought can change how you respond to being offended, and how you respond reflects a little bit of you. What kind of person are you? What kind of person do you want to be?

We are all being shaped as people in our university experience. Our compliance is tested through how we interact with authority in our lives.

More often than not, I choose to stand up for my beliefs.

What situation will elicit a voice from you?

Pet Best Friends: The One Cuddly Thing Every University Student Needs



Mycat and I are best friends.

he can be kind of snobby. Sure, he can’t talk to me. And sure, he needs me to
clean up after him from time to time.

when I commute home after a day on campus, the one I can count on to greet me
when I walk through the door is my cat, Pippin. Yes, like the Hobbit from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

my opinion, every university student needs a pet. A fish, a dog, a cat, or a
bird; pets can keep you sane. Pippin, for example, cuddles with me. He knows
when I’m feeling down or sick and sits on me to make me feel better.

always got my back. Whether I’m studying, jamming, or sleeping, I can count on
Pippin to keep me company. He even has a sense of humour—sometimes, he sits on
my laptop and helps me procrastinate with his cuteness. Silly cat, you’re right—I
don’t have to do any work today!

pet will hear you out. When your human friends don’t have the time or patience
to listen to your rants, it’s comforting to know that your pet is there for
you. A pet will listen to your problems and offer cuddles and adorable stares
as a solution.

pets are proven to be stress busting. And between all of the tests, assignments,
midterms, and part-time jobs, I know we value stress busters. Remember how,
during exams, the library brings in puppies for us to pet? This decreases our
stress levels and gives us a break from studying. Imagine having a pet at your
convenience to bust your stress with their plush fur under your fingers.

great; trust me.

thing I especially value about having a cat is that he keeps my parents company
when I’m not home. Their only son, Pippin, ensures that my parents are
entertained throughout the day when I can’t be around.

what do you look for in a friend?

me needy, but I like good listeners, a good sense of humour, and the ability to
give me constant company and attention.

a pet, the soft fur (or feathers or scales) is just a bonus!

one constraint about having a pet is having the time to take care of them.
Friendship is a reciprocal act; pets need love and attention, too. And
grooming, and trips to the vet, and lots of your time and effort. If you don’t
have time to take care of a pet, this friendship route may not be for you.

Hopefully, I’ve given you some food for thought in terms of having a pet. Have more pros or cons to having a pet that I haven’t mentioned? Comment below!

How to: Survive a Long Day on Campus

On Thursdays, I start class at 9 a.m. and finish at 8 p.m. I’m at UTM until 11, followed by a three-hour break, and then I commute to Sheridan for two back-to-back three-hour lectures.

Thursdays stress me out.

Long-day students, unite! Whether you have an 11-hour day like me, a 12-hour day, or (scary!) even longer, there are methods of survival for this potentially stressful day (or days D:).

I’ve picked up a few useful tips I wanted to share with anyone reading this from my experience with the 9–7, 9–8, 10–9 types of days.

Have an awesome bag for your stuff

First and foremost, your bag has to be efficient. Obtain a sizeable bag that you are comfortable carrying around all day—not too large or too heavy. Test your bag on your body! My bag is a bottomless pit that slings over my arm or my shoulder.

Ask yourself: Will the bag fit my books, my laptop, and my food?

You’re going to need a water bottle.

There are water bottle refilling stations all around campus. Ensure that your water bottle is always full and you are always hydrating yourself. I have a UTSU water bottle and down at least three bottles of water a day to help me focus and stay energized.

Ask yourself: Will the bottle fit in my bag and remain easily accessible?

Let’s not forget about food.

Hunger can totally make or break your day. Pack food in your bag! Even a bunch of little snacks tossed in your bag will keep you focused. An apple, a granola bar, and some pasta is usually what I keep, and some money just in case I want tea or coffee.

Ask yourself: Will I be full all day?

Your wallet is bae.

Excuse my slang. Your wallet is the key to your day. A few important things to keep in your wallet are your T-Card, your U-Pass, your Presto card, your debit card, and some change. You can’t predict how your long day will unfold, and having transportation options and money on hand really helps you feel independent and able to take on your day. I forgot my wallet on my bed yesterday—that was not a fun 10-hour day.

Ask yourself: Is my wallet in my bag at all times?

Have something to do during any breaks.

Readings, assignments, gym, food. Usually what will keep you going through a break—be sure to pack according to what you plan to use your break for.

In my opinion, long days are all about planning efficiently. Even if you have to make a list of what you need to survive your long day, take five minutes and write reminders for yourself the night before!

For me, the most important part of getting through a long day is in the mind. Don’t think about how long your day is—breathe, and just do it.

Long days are survivable—share your survival tips with me below :). Please… Help…

2015 is Just a Number


I had 2014 all planned out for my personal happiness, motivation, and memories:

Last New Year’s Day, I made three resolutions.

1. Find a class at the RAWC; go weekly.

2. Get my G license.

3. If you make a choice, follow through.

Last New Year’s Day, I developed a bunch of pictures of me and my friends and stuck those by my bedroom door. I typed out short motivational quotes and stuck them by my door, too.

“Movies and books—feels lie HERE.”

“Looking good leads to feeling good.”

“Do your thing.”

Last New Year’s Day, I made a moment box out of a shoebox, where I intended to write down memorable moments on scraps of paper and read them at the end of the year.

I begin 2015 with none of the same sentimentality. Everything I planned to do to track 2014 went down the drain somewhere in May. I stopped going to the gym, I never got my G license, and I didn’t keep track of following through with choices I made. I tore the motivational quotes and the pictures of my friends down and stuffed them in a drawer. Moments in the moment box came to a halt (although the first half of the year was a fun read—moment box is definitely worth a try!). None of these habits made me as happy or as motivated as I thought they would.

Although it was nice of me to set my year up for happiness, I was doing it wrong. I realized if I was going to set a goal or change my habits, why wait for a new year? Why did I wait until January 1st, 2014 to set all of those tasks in motion?

Regardless, the resolutions, the quotes, and the moment box didn’t increase my happiness. In fact, I generally felt sad for months last year.

I don’t want to count my life in calendar years any more. If I think about making a change and I think that change will be good for me, I resolve to try it out today. If that change doesn’t work, I’ll revise and make another change. I won’t wait for 2016 to go to the gym or to get my license. Today is just another day, and this year is just another year.

If you’re going to make a change or a resolution, why wait? 2015 is just a number. Try new things regularly. Make small changes to your habits and see how they affect your happiness and motivation.

Resolve to be a better you today!

Have any new resolutions today? Let me know; comment below!

Social interaction, Our Long Lost Friend



By myself, as usual.

I spot an available Mac in the Mac lab in IB.

I slide into a chair and fire up the computer, tea in hand, iPhone tangled in wires, earphones rested in ears.

I click on Microsoft Word.

I see the girl to my right lean towards me and whisper:

“Can you watch my bag?”

What do I say?

  1. NAH.
  2. *tight head nod, still staring at screen*
  3. *look over and smile* Of course!

Ten points if you guessed the second one.

Ah, the day-to-day struggle of a UTM student. Watching other people’s things, participating in class, taking public transit, being a group member—a series of social interactions. I don’t know about you, but as the years have passed and I’ve developed into an average third-year UTMer, I have become less and less inclined to interact with people even though my day is full of potential interactions.

Imagine yourself as a first-year student. You just got out of high school, super-involved, super-excited. You hop off the bus; you thank the bus driver. You walk into lecture; you smile at the prof and your peers. You take a seat; you try and make conversation with the people next to you. Someone asks you to watch their bag; you smile and say okay and wonder if your new best friend just asked you to watch their things. The possibilities! The people! Life!

Naiveté. Yes, I am blaming university for my decreasing social skills and general life excitement.

Personally, as the years have passed, I prefer to stick my earphones in my ears, keep my head down and text through the hallways, and grunt as opposed to talk. Often, I find that I don’t want to say things anymore, don’t want to meet people anymore. Is something wrong with me, or do the years of solo studying, music-listening, texting, reduced social events, and oversized classes have an isolating impact on the average UTMer?

I’m going to guess the latter. Haven’t you seen the posts on Spotted? You know, the ones about being sad and not having made any friends at UTM.

Let’s think back to my impromptu list of social interactions that we all have in an average day, and some more: passing your bus driver, sitting beside people in lecture, being a group member, buying food, coffee, or a book from a cashier. These interactions are what we make of them, and, personally, I haven’t made much.

I’m not going to advise you to join a club. I’m not even going to advise you to do a 180 and magically keep your head up in the hallways and smile at everyone.

I think that it’s more important to make the few social interactions that you are presented with worthwhile. Think of them as practicing your social skills in the little time you get to be social on campus, for the real world.

You know, the place with jobs and lives we all work for in our time here.

Can we make a pact to work on our social skills together? University should not be the land of retreating into our shells—these are supposed to be some of the best years of our lives.

So, the next time we get off the bus, let’s thank the bus driver. Let’s say “hi” to our cashiers, let’s put our hand up once in lecture, let’s smile at two people a day, let’s create quality small talk, let’s make eye contact with people we talk to, even the people who ask us to watch their things.

Together, we can get our social skills back, UTMers! This is not the end of our personalities.