Dear America: What Happened?

“This is not normal,” declared John Oliver in a half-hour long piece on the recent presidential election. And it’s true. The US election did not feel normal at all. It felt like the processes were wrong, like the usual hoopla surrounding any election was soured somehow. Allow me to get political here for a bit, because to me, this did not feel normal.

Some UTM professors, however, would disagree.

On November 14th, just a few days after President-Elect Trump became an actual thing, students assembled in DV 2080 for an emergency roundtable to discuss two important questions. (1) How exactly did Donald Trump, whose candidacy was pretty much a joke for quite some time, get elected for US’s highest office, and (2) What exactly does that mean for the rest of the world?

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See, even though his election feels abnormal, according to Prof. Randy Besco, it was perfectly normal. Everything ran as planned – and that is what feels strange. In fact, Besco mused, it’s the fact that nothing did change that makes this feel so weird. It’s the fact that nothing stopped a man who ran on decidedly racist and xenophobic rhetoric that isn’t quite right here. Did that stop Americans from voting for him? Nope.

The fact is, there are a number of reasons why someone like Trump could be voted in. A general dislike for both candidates. Some rampant lying within both campaigns – so much so that it began to feel normal. Single issue voting. An increase in turnout for some groups with a decrease for others. Even a swing towards right-wing politicians with nativist and isolationist ideas that we’ve seen throughout the year in other countries (remember Brexit?) could have had some influence on the mindsets of people going into this. The reasons go on and on. It’s going to take myself and many others I’m sure a long time to process them all.

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(Brexit)

It was the symbolic importance of the election that really struck hard, Prof. Erin Tolley went on to say. What better way to represent a sharp divide in political ideology then a nail-bitingly close election between two candidates who, as I see it, are fundamentally different? Heated debate almost broke out between two roundtable attendees – this is how strongly these two sides feel.

So what happens now that Trump is bound for the White House, according to these professors? The answer is, who knows? Trump will either follow through on his promises, or he won’t, there’s really no way to tell. Personally, I’m hoping he doesn’t – it will be one of the first times, in fact, I actively hope for broken political promises. And while I fairly must say there are some policies of his that objectively might not be too bad, overall, there are a lot of promises he made that I can’t and won’t agree with. Everyone, of course, is free to their own opinion on the matter.

As each professor spoke, they were asked to report a silver lining among all the mess. Many did try, but to me, each reason felt somewhat hallow. In fact, Prof. Spyridon Kotsovilis simply stated that now, things would get interesting. Truthfully, it’s going to be painful, this election, just as Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech. It’s hard to find a silver lining because, for a lot of people, there isn’t one.

At this point? I’m honestly struggling to find a bright side to this. I woke up on Wednesday, November 9th, with this feeling of dread in me. And I don’t presume to think this was the same for everyone, of course, because for some people, Trump was a good candidate. For me? Not so much. This feeling after an election in another country? This is what isn’t normal, I think.7622cfb86320e9d922e4c1f4a22d07d4

(The left-wingers right now)

I won’t presume to know how we’re supposed to go forward with this whole thing, both emotionally and in terms of community. I know that lots of people are scared, angry, or just stunned that this happened. What matters now is keeping on top of things – being aware of what’s happening and offering support to our American neighbors. And, above all, not accepting this. Normal doesn’t mean good. Significant changes need to happen – changes that Canada cannot partake in legally, but can definitely support.

What November 14th’s roundtable gave me was a little extra knowledge. Some more facts to help process what was going on, or better yet, understand just how this almost unthinkable thing happened. I am grateful to the professors who showed up and gave their time and views to help myself and a room packed full of others. It gave me some insight on that quote – “This is not normal” – what it didn’t do is convince me that normalcy is fine to accept.

I’m not saying we all have to go to out into the streets and begin protesting – it’s not a plan that works for everyone. But as the students of this generation, the people who will inherit politics soon enough, I believe it is our job to know about these issues, to have opinions on them and debate them. I believe it is our job to be educated in our world, and to use that to make it better somehow.

Why? So when we ask America what happened? We can have answers. We can have some grasp on what does cause political trends and what are the consequences of supporting or denying certain people or policies. Perhaps we cannot vote in their elections, but we can vote in our own, and in what might just be a new era of politics, we can influence Canadian politics to lead in liberal democracy.

And of course, on the much more personal scale, we can accept those who might be suppressed by the system, provide solidarity to people who are protesting for their own rights. We can make the world a safer place for those of any number of personal identities. Right now? At the very least we can support those who are rightfully scared about America’s next president.

More than anything, we can keep in mind that the fact that this was normal for politics needs changing. In Canada as well as in America. We, the students of UTM, could be some part of that change.

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(A dog dressed as Donald Trump because why not?)

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7 Proofreading Hacks For Essay Success!

Proofreading – it’s the final stage of any written assignment, and it also might be the very worst.

Normally, I like writing, I really do. Where essays can be dreadful things, I think there’s something something really elegant about being able to bring together information and make an argument. Of course, I’m a huge nerd – writing is my passion. Even then, proofreading continues to be an utterly dreadful process. And frankly, it makes me nervous too: handing something in is always followed by hours of contemplation on whether or not I caught every little mistake.

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(Proofreading the day before the paper’s due)

So, I thought, it’s time to get together some little tricks that, if done carefully, will almost always let you catch every little thing. Here are my 7 proofreading hacks that will make finishing papers a lot easier!

  1. Read It Aloud Slowly – you’ll catch all kinds of little things with this. Whether it be spelling errors, weird sentences, or misplaced punctuation, taking the time to read what you’ve written is valuable. It’s important too to read it as you’ve written it, as to get a feel of your sentence flow – if you need to stop and breathe somewhere, add a comma, for example.
  2. For Troublesome Spots, Repeat #1. That’s right – if there’s a place in your paper that just isn’t working out, read it and re-read it, making little adjustments. Eventually, you’ll find the perfect combination of words to get your point across. Trust me, I know it takes time, but this has saved plenty of my past paragraphs.
  3. Print A Copy And Mark Yourself. There’s something about reading off paper that makes proofreading a lot more effective. In fact, it’s been shown that reading a hard copy of something allows people to engage more with what they’re reading. So, take a paper copy, a pen, and maybe a highlighter, and go at it. Mark down what needs to be fixed, then go back onto your computer and fix it up.
  4. Have a Friend Check Your Work. Though your friends cannot actually edit and change anything, as it’s a form of plagiarism, having them read through and suggest edits is perfectly fine. Fresh eyes on your work will totally provide a new perspective. Not to mention, your friend will be able to tell you which parts you might need to rework to have the clearest paper possible.
  5. Let It Sit For A Couple Days. Sometimes, doing a proofreading process all at once gets a little mind numbing, and little mistakes can be missed. So, make sure you give yourself the time to have more time. Let the paper sit for a few days after a first proofread, then a day or two before it’s due, go at it again. Distance might not only let you think about changes that could be made, but gives your mind time to forget. This should give your eyes a fresh view when you go back to proofreading.
  6. Use the Academic Skills Center. They’re not going to proofread your entire paper, but if there are a few places where you want help with word choice or sentence structure, the RGASC is plenty helpful! Some classes might even have drop-in hours for certain assignments – if you need that help, go for it!
  7. Time – Use It Well. In the end, giving yourself the right amount of time to carefully proofread can make a huge difference. It will give you the chance to go over things multiple times, to give yourself the right amount of time for contemplation.

No amount of technique is going to make proofreading fun – if you like it, you’re a lucky duck, if you don’t, it’s not likely to change. But, there are ways to make certain you do it effectively. For me, this takes away all kinds of anxiety about making small mistakes – after all, they are the worst kind. I hope that these hacks can be the same for you. So, for your next assignment, make sure you fix all those little typos. Nothing’s nicer than getting back a paper without marks reduced for spelling, after all! If you have any other suggestions to add to this list, please let me know!

3 Ways to Increase Your Free Time, or at Least Make It Feel That Way…

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Sometime last December, during a family Christmas party, someone told me that I’d have a whole lot more free time in university. If they said that exact same thing to me right now… well, I might not even have time to laugh. I’d be too busy studying.

Even if that is a tad dramatic, I do mean it. Most days, I give myself about 3 hours (maximum) of free time, and the rest is devoted to doing school stuff. Even that is just a little too long for comfort. Other days, well, homework starts when I wake up and ends when I go back to sleep. Sure, breaks would be a nice thing to give to myself, but who’s got time to take a substantial break? I sure don’t. Needless to say, I’ve forgotten how to have any chill at all. The only choice with this is learning to handle a relatively huge workload.

So, it seems that there are only two places to go from here. Keeping working 24/7 until finally there’s a break where I can do nothing for once. Or, actually make an active, manageable plan to create free time, without throwing off my homework schedule. Adding a 25th hour to the day seems like a viable option as well…

That being said, take that whole getting involved business with an itsy-bitsy grain of salt: I can’t physically handle doing everything I want to. Now, I’m the kind of person who burns the candle at both ends – I’ll push myself until I literally, physically cannot keep going. Adding to that already overwhelming amount of stuff? Maybe not a great idea. So, first lesson of managing no time at all: get involved, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Me, I take a theater class and do music lessons, two things I enjoy that are regular and weekly. I couldn’t take those time slots to do homework if I wanted to. Not to mention, it allows me to get involved with my community. Getting involved on campus is just the same: for me, this blogging gig in itself is a way for me to make myself do some leisure writing while sharing my not-so-wise wisdom with all of you. 

Weekends are times to take breaks from school! I’d like to say I make time for myself on the weekends, because I am really trying to do this. On Fridays, for instance, I look at all the readings I have, look at myself in the mirror and then softly whisper I got this- and then try to finish them all. Spoilers: most of the time- I don’t got this… I don’t finish before the weekend. Which means, weekend homework. Somehow, this is starting to seem unavoidable… So, I’d suggest you flip around the idea of a weekend. If weekend homework is unavoidable, then use those weekends and use them vigorously. Do enough homework on the weekend and voila – you get some free time during the week. Lesson number two? if you want to chill a little more during the weekdays, chill a little less on the weekends!

Another one of my hobbies is procrastinating to the tune of YouTube – Buzzfeed is like that one friend who always has something new to share. If I have internet access and headphones, you can bet I’m watching a video featuring Americans eating British Desserts instead of working on that huge upcoming essay for any given subject. And truth be told? It’s not enjoyable when there’s still more to do.

That’s right. It’s a lot harder to enjoy mindless entertainment when you’ve got five billion readings to do for the next couple days. So, save those buzzfeed blurbs for a time when you don’t have anything due soon. Instead, finish what you need to do on any given day, then reward yourself with some tea, popcorn, and whatever entertainment suits your fancy. Designate time for it even – but don’t let it take time away from your homework completion. Lesson number three: watching YouTube is much more satisfying when you’re done everything you needed to do for the day.

If any of this is #Relateable for you, then let me know how you create your free time! I mean, I’m sorry we’re mutually in a no-chill zone 100% of the time, but it’s not a hopeless situation. There are little times and places where you can cut down on small things in order to get some time to relax! And though I don’t remember how to do that exactly, it really does sound like a nice thing to do. Take a little me-time. Watch a movie. Take a nap. Let yourself not think about upcoming tests at least a couple hours every day.  It doesn’t take a giant ice wall (references anyone?) to keep assignments and readings from mentally overwhelming you! And while we figure that out, happy homework!

The H.M.S Anxiety

Imagine you’re floating in a boat by yourself on the open ocean… you’re not in any danger or anything… you’re just, alone. In a boat. Feeling a little lonely. A few hundred feet away, there’a another boat. It is the Party Boat: people are talking, somewhat enjoying themselves and they’re aware of your boat on some level… but no one is exactly throwing you a line to tow you in.

Being in a tutorial when you have social anxiety (like this person) is like being on that boat. Let’s call it the H.M.S anxiety for the sake of argument.

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The H.M.S Anxiety doesn’t want to float near the other boat. Even if you want to get there yourself (I mean, tutorial participation is important for the grades) that boat is not budging. And from this place of shyness, let me tell you, getting engaged in a discussion is hard. For me, one of two things happens:

Option one-I ask a question that I don’t actually need answered… and it serves no purpose (for me). It might help others, but it still feels awkward, generally discouraging me from making further attempts to talk.

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Option two-I say something, and it has the same effect as, say, shouting “RED” in an awkward silence. Yes, the silence is broken… but at what cost?

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Okay. Obviously sitting there silently isn’t really an option either. I want to pass the class, and usually, I have something like this to contend with:

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It’s not much, granted, but with great anxiety comes a great fear of failure. Which means, the ten percent counts enough for me to not just kind of forget about it. I can’t just show up. I need to do things to match my unreasonably high standards for myself.

So how does one get the H.M.S Anxiety to sail over to the tutorial boat? How does one get engaged in tutorial when doing so is Very Scary? I have to say, it’s a lot easier said than done. The Anxiety Factor can make saying a few words terrifying – what if you’re wrong, or your contribution is just kind of pushed aside? It’s no one’s fault if it happens, but it feels real bad sometimes.

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(Me in tutorials sometime. Actual picture.)

In the spirit of this blog, I don’t actually know the answers to anything – but has that ever stopped me from giving unqualified advice? I think not! So from the Captain of the H.M.S Anxiety themself, here’s how you participate in your tutorial when you’re in that boat.

Listen attentively, and sit near the front. It’s not speaking, I know, but it’s a start. Being engaged doesn’t necessarily mean making a point, so try and be attentive. Maybe, it will give you the inspiration to say something, and voila! Participation!

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Remember that what you say… doesn’t really have long-term consequences. I’ve been telling myself this for years: in the moment, sometimes saying something feels very awkward. A week later? You’ll have forgotten completely. Same goes for everyone else, we’re human. We’re allowed to make mistakes when we speak, and no one is going to hold it against you.

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And finally, if it’s one of those days when socialization just isn’t happening, then don’t sweat it! Take a day to just sit and listen. It’s okay if, for one or two classes, you take a backseat and let your mental health matter more than school stuff.

Keep in mind that there are literally only benefits to participating in tutorials. Sometimes? It’s going to be really hard. Sometimes, not so much. The point is, if I can do it, you can too! So best of luck, and remember that everything will be okay – even from aboard the H.M.S Anxiety, there’s a way to participate in the scheduled activities on the Tutorial Boat.

P.S. If you’re ever having a panic attack at school, or just feeling really anxious, and you need something to help calm down, here is a link to a list of calming sites and their descriptions. Feel free to use them whenever you need. If you ever want someone to talk to, hit me up in the comments!

Which UTM Building Are You Most Like?

Which UTM Building are You Most Like?

If this isn’t something you totally haven’t wondered before, well, I wouldn’t blame you. I’ll admit – I spend a lot of time thinking about weird things on my commute and this is one of those. If each building does have it’s own style, then what would they be like as people? And – more importantly – which would you be?

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Davis Building

This student totally had a sibling that went to UTM before them, because they know everything about the school – and they’re pretty chill about it too. If you want to know what’s going on, they’re the person to talk to. But that doesn’t mean they’re not pretty laid back, and all about spending time with friends and trying new activities. Low key, they’re a bit of a foodie, but hey, with all their know-how, it’s hard to give them any hate.

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They’re the most technically articulate student you know, and it’s probably a good thing – if your computer crashes the night before an assignment is due, they’re the one you go to. They’re a bit of a nerd – they love movies – and they like to hang out with the same group of five or six people. But, no matter who you are, they’ll always be willing to chat for a few minutes before class starts.

Library

You want to know a student who has got their stuff together? This is the one-they’ve got all the notes, all the readings done, and have finished every upcoming assignment for class with weeks to spare. They came into University expecting to keep up their pretty remarkable high school grade average, and you don’t have to doubt if they’ll manage it – even if they never do seem to sleep during exam period. And if you ever have an academic question? Chances are they have the answer.

Kaneff Center

If there was ever a new to UTM student who know what they were going to do with their life, it’s them – they have their ten year plan to become a billionaire all figured out, and you can bet they’re going to succeed with it. They always seem to dress in business casual, and they like to be the leader in any group project – though they’ll make sure everyone in the group has a chance to shine in their own way.

Deerfield Hall

This student is bound for Broadway (or Hollywood) – they’ve been acting since they were a kid, and they cannot imagine doing anything else with their life. They have devoted themselves to the arts. Which means, at times, they can spend a little too much time thinking (and talking) about acting things. But, give them a call, and they’ll always be there for you, with something creative and funny!

Instructional Building

This student isn’t sure what they’re going to do with their life yet, which, as it happens, is totally okay. They’re trying different things out before making a definite decision, and they kind of hate it when you ask them what they want their career to be. They’re also super time efficient, and have somehow figured out the perfect balance between homework and Netflix – and you’re kind of hoping they’ll tell you their secret.

Anything I missed? Feel free to comment a description of a building I skipped, or to disagree with one that I did describe. And next time you’ve got time on your hands – well, don’t be afraid to have some fun thinking about things around campus. Not all school thoughts have to be school-.

 

How One Letter Changed My Entire Day

You know those stories that are really not funny at the time, and somehow hilarious a few weeks later? I’d say this is one of those cases. My day spent speed-walking (because running is gross) around campus was cold, wet, and probably a lot more stressful than it should have been.

Here’s what happened; until very recently, I never carried an umbrella with me. It hadn’t yet rained over the course of the school year, and so I didn’t think it was necessary to lug around the (minimal) extra weight. After all, on this Friday, (like every other) my schedule was pretty heavy, and a few pounds more was unfathomable.

When I left home that day, it wasn’t raining very heavily, and in spite of the actual forecast, I decided the rain would cease, and I’d be fine. So I drove to school, I went to my first class, no problem. It ended at 10:00 and I had one hour to complete the task ahead of me…

You see, the evening before, I’d received an email from my TA stating that our class had been moved from the Instructional Center to another location-I read it as DV 3055 – somewhere in the Davis Building. Where was that somewhere? I had to find out. An hour to find the new classroom seemed like more than enough time.

I went to the Davis Building (it was drizzling outside now) and headed upstairs, expecting to find this room pretty quickly. Did I? Nope. What I thought would be a short trek actually took about twenty minutes of wandering through awkwardly silent halls – you know, the kind that make you feel bad about making noise. But, I had to find my classroom, so there was no turning back.

I finally found DV 3055. A small room, with a few couches and a coffee table in it, thankfully empty when I poked my head in. Sounds like the sort of place where a tutorial of 25 people can be successfully run? Again,nope. It didn’t take a stretch of imagination to realize my error – after all, it wasn’t like this was the first time I’d misread a room number on my schedule.

About ten minutes later, I was sitting in the TFC, feeling more than a little foolish. My tutorial was not in DV 3055, oh no. My tutorial was in DH 3055! Deerfield Hall, just across campus. As far as I was concerned, it was about a billion miles away. And I had about twenty minutes to get there, which in hindsight should not have stressed me out. However, at that point, all I wanted to do was sit down and just… not. Walking across campus? What a struggle.

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(What going to a class across campus feels like)

Nonetheless, I’d made a mistake and I had a class to get to. So, I got up, I put my bag on, and I headed toward Deerfield into the rain. At first, it wasn’t so bad. It was a short walk to CCT, where I could get inside for a bit. On a side note, in CCT I was handed a pamphlet for a fossil walk, part of Science Literacy Week, which would happen at noon that day, and that would have made for a good end to that day’s not-so-good narrative.

In my mind, I was trekking through Mordor to Mount Doom. Only, you know, it was cold and the stakes were much…. much lower.  When I got there, the real doom didn’t come from onslaughts of fictional creatures and attacks from Nazgul (references, anyone?), but from the stairs in Deerfield Hall that awaited me. Not for any particular reason, just… stairs.

 

 

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In the end, I reached my tutorial on time, then I rushed out afterward to go to where that fossil walk was going to meet – the entrance of the library. Did I make it? No. Much to my disappointment, I missed that fossil walk which was, for me, a tragedy. It seemed really neat – to be honest, had I made it, you’d be reading about the fossil walk, instead of the events that preceded it.

Overall? I look back at that day and take two things away:

First, that if you’re going to a new place on campus, make sure you’re going to the right place. Exploring is fun, and I want to do more of it. When I had somewhere to be? It was an awful lot more stressful than enjoyable.

Second, there are going to be days that do not go how you wanted them to, and it’s going to be a little disheartening. Whether you go to the wrong classroom, get soaked in the rain, or miss a cool opportunity, it’s not a great feeling. Three weeks later, however, when that time has passed, it might just be a fun story to share with friends! So, whatever UTM brings you, take it with optimism. Things happen – just go with it.