Four Books for Your Next 4 Months of School

There is no question that finding a good book is both time consuming and difficult. Finding a good book to read despite being exhausted from all your classes and homework? It’s even harder. But, if you love books, and want something to read that’s more exciting than the idea of sleep and Netflix, then these four titles are worth your time.

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1. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Okay, this isn’t so much a full novel as it is a collection of poems, but hear me out. I’m not a huge fan of poetry usually, but this book caught me within the first five pages. This collection of poems by a young author puts into words those feelings that we deal with in relationships of all kinds. It’s as beautiful as it can be absolutely heartbreaking.

Broken into four sections, the many poems are all fairly short, not wordy or difficult to understand, and hit a personal level. I think I cried within the first fifty pages. Though many of the topics are difficult – not only do they cover relationships, but also loneliness, abuse, and building yourself back up after being hurt – there’s this openness to the book that can open you up a bit too.

So if you’re looking for something to dig into your heart with very real emotion? Give this book a read. Like me, you might end up having it finished within hours of purchasing it in the first place.

Trigger warning: abuse, rape.

2. Wenjack by Joseph Boyden

Another smaller, shorter book, Wenjack is a little novella that hits some very real emotions. Historically based, it tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, a residential school runaway in the 1960’s, whose death prompted the first inquiry into the practices of residential schools in Canada. While the overarching residential schools are a big part of this book, the story is personal, told from the point of view of Chanie, as well as the animal spirits who witness his sad journey.

To be fully honest, I bought this book not fully knowing what it was about, and not expecting it to really get to me like it did. Because this is history, because it’s the real story of a young boy, it has a historical weight and importance to it. Though short, the emotion and meaning is present and strong. There’s no questioning the significance of this story. It’s a must-read.

Trigger warning: sexual abuse.

3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

You know those books that you start reading, and you have to pace yourself because you just don’t want them to end? This is one of those. Set in both now-Ghana and the US, this novel starts with two sisters, separated at birth, who have two very different experiences with British colonization and its effects overall. One marries a British slaver. One is sold into slavery, and through the transatlantic slave trade, ends up on the other side of the ocean.

That’s a pretty interesting and important topic to start with – but something else sets this book apart. Every chapter introduces the next generations, traced down from the two initial sisters, as they deal with the changes and challenges of growing up in their respective parts of the world, in the face of the rise and fall of slavery and the British empire.

And it’s excellently executed – of the many characters featured, each one I would read a full whole novel about, they all jumped off the page. Honestly, the historical care taken to these situations, the way that cause and effect from generation to generation is laid out in a larger societal context, it’s as thought-provoking as it is engaging. I read this over the winter break, and I already want to revisit it. In short? Go read this book!

4. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

For all of you who prefer something mostly nonfiction, this last book is for you. To tell the truth, this book has also been my favorite of late, mostly because it threw a lot of what I thought I knew about my own rationality totally off-track. The Undoing Project is an account of the work of two psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, whose friendship produced some major works about the psychology of rationality and decision making.

This book does two really great things while speaking about some complicated, but well explained, theory. First, it frames the information in a way that is understandable. I, myself, being a very un-sciencey person, thought I might have trouble understanding some of it. That was not the case. Second, it shows relatable examples, things we recognize – the first chapter explains the use of statistically choosing draft picks for the NBA, something that was a result of Kahneman and Tversky’s work.

And don’t get the wrong idea, either, this isn’t just a fun textbook. It tells the life stories of these two psychologists, and includes their work. It’s just a taste of their work, within the story of their friendship. And, if you want more, the author Michael Lewis provides notes and sources at the end, and in the novel, includes the names of the papers written by Kahneman and Tversky.

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So, these are my picks for books that are worth your while. Check them out, and tell me what you think in the comments if you like them! Happy reading!

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Canadian Politics: Less Racist Is Not a High Enough Standard (Part 2/2)

Are we in Canada as multicultural as we claim to be? Erin Tolley explained that the answer is a big NO! And while my previous piece picked apart the first reasons for racialized press in Canadian politics, we left things incomplete. Let’s take those ideas and go one step further – into the very words we use.

The idea of “ethnic politics” (discussed in Part 1) ties in perfectly with the other main reason for why politics in Canada is racialized: language. Let’s start with the example Tolley used:

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Notice how the members of parliament abstaining in a vote about Israel are pointed out to be Muslim? As though they had abstained from the vote because of religious or ethnic reasons? If you read the rest of this story, it shows that, in fact, over 40 MPs abstained from this vote, but none of them are being considered as newsworthy as the 8 Muslim MPs. This article almost assumes that their reason for abstaining was religious – where the others who abstained did so for “logistical reasons.” Problematic? You bet.

The linguistic framing of race just continues to enforce a racialized political media in Canada. And sure, it’s not like there are racial slurs being used, but regardless, Tolley thinks of this as a new form of racism: “modern racism.”

When you frame it with those words, it seems pretty bad, and it is. The problem is, even though this keeps happening, not a lot has been done to address it. While privately it might be acknowledged, newsrooms continue to print these kinds of stories.  And if it is publicly acknowledged, then offenders may claim to be colorblind – which, as Tolley explained, isn’t much better.

Because there has to be a balance to this. Reporting on people based on their race is not good journalism, but erasing ethnic background can erase the distinct cultural identities and history within racial minority groups. Both aren’t good, and yet a balance doesn’t seem to have been found.

In coming to this dilemma, we have to ask ourselves: do we really have the right to call Canadian politics multicultural? And if not, how do we change that?

I mean, there could be small fixes. Tolley suggested that the media could use a “Reverse Test” in which they ask themselves: “would I include this information (the mention of race) in a story about a white person?” If the answer is no, then take it out of the story! Or, we could acknowledge the fact that Canadians are not as superior when it comes to racialized media, as some might think we are.

And, in terms of action, we could simply refuse to support stories that perpetuate racialized language. Don’t click on clickbait that has a questionable headline. Don’t say we’ve got a multicultural cabinet now with Justin Trudeau in charge – there may be more racial minorities than in the past, but that number is still small, and still fails to represent the whole of Canada’s diverse population. “Less racist” than other countries should not be an acceptable standard for Canadian politics, and the media shouldn’t be helping this trend continue.

Most of all, I think it’s time to hold media truly accountable for giving us stories that highlight race. We can boycott headlines all we like, but unless we start asking why certain people are framed in certain ways, then we’re never going to get anywhere. Thankfully, UTM’s own Tolley has provided us a starting point – creating awareness of the issue. Now, let’s take that knowledge and make a real change! Because we know for sure that institutions aren’t going to go on and change themselves.

(I have included a note below that touches upon methodology and restrictions, as outlined by Tolley.)

It should be noted that indigenous peoples were not included to this, because they have a different relationship with Canadian government, and a different history of colonial oppression.

This study focused on print media, and compared the news coverage of white candidates to non-white candidates. All subjects and samples are Canadian, as to prevent comparing it all to another country with different media and political atmosphere. Tolley’s research was done by examining headline and articles as well as conducting structured interviews and conversations with MPs and staffers on Parliament Hill.

All the research shared above belongs to Professor Erin Tolley. Her book is available in hardcover and softcover on amazon.ca if you care to read it.

Canadian Politics: Less Racist Is Not a High Enough Standard (Part 1/2)

“The media are the gatekeepers to our reality… they choose what to include, what to exclude,” said Professor Erin Tolley on Monday, November 28 in a special lecture hosted by UTM’s own PSLA. Twenty attended the lecture intended to briefly go over Tolley’s academic book Framed, which shares the results of her study exploring race, media, and politics in Canada. And, as it turns out, Canadian politics are not quite as multicultural as Canada itself – though not in the explicit way that we might think.

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After speaking to her methods and restrictions (elaborated on below), Tolley laid one thing out clear: even though Canadians often act superior to other countries, our politics are still very much racialized in the media. Not because the media has some horrible racist mandate, it doesn’t, but for smaller reasons.

One of those reasons is the “newsworthiness” of not-white people. Because whiteness has long been a general standard in Canadian politics due to historical reasons, non-white candidates have become exceptionally newsworthy. Not for their work of qualifications, but for the fact that they’re not white. Think Barack Obama, a famous American example of this. It wasn’t his academic background or work in government that made his election momentous, though those things should be the only focus. It was the fact that he’s a racial minority, and that was a new thing in America.

Same goes for Canada, only on a much smaller scale. In Canada, because we elect individuals for seats instead of choosing one leader for all, it’s harder to notice. But, as Tolley’s research showed, mentions of qualifications and work for candidates who are racial minorities are few and far between – instead, the media makes their appearance the most newsworthy thing about them.

Which doesn’t make life any easier for them, of course, as shown by another of Tolley’s findings. Racial minority candidates, numbers show, are often expected to “prove themselves” more so than their white counterparts, especially if they don’t already have a seat in the House of Commons.

That cannot be easy when all the news wants to focus on is race – even though many of these candidates do say that their top interests are important issues, like the economy. Failing to be able to get that message across because of selective news coverage makes it harder to communicate viability. Instead, wins might be attributed to race and not actually policy.

There’s a particular term for this too: “ethnic politics.” Defined more strictly, this is the phenomena media claims when a racial minority wins because of high voter turnout and organization. This is as opposed to what they call it when white candidates have high voter turn out and organization – “politics.”

Seem unfair? That’s just the beginning.

The Winter Break and Ways to Spend The Final Days of 2016!

The papers are mostly handed in, the exam studying has begun, and classes have stopped – for the first time since September, we’re all able to kind of chill. And yes, exams are coming up, and they’re stressful too. But, in the coming days of winter break, there will be a whole week of nothing. No classes to get ready for, no readings to do. The university is even closed. So… What exactly are we supposed to do until things start back up again?

Think about it. For the past three months, there’s always been homework to complete or a paper due within the next week. There has always been something to work on – even when I was “relaxing,” I was usually putting off an assignment of some sort. I’m not sure I totally remember how to function when I don’t have school to take up my time. But, having heard all sorts of different plans from different people, I’m sure me – and all of you – will figure something  out.

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Now, hearing from some of the people I’ve met in this first term, my winter break is pretty lackluster – I’m getting my wisdom teeth out, so there won’t be much to do anyways for me. Some of them? They’re going around the world to visit their families for a bit before school starts again. Some are even just going see friends, out of a lack of desire to fly so long for such a short stay. And that sounds so cool!

Others are taking the time to go and see friends from high school, or to see friends who live in different towns in the area. Me, I even had a friend coming home from University of Victoria. It’ll be like one of those reunions in some post-high school movie. Only, you know, more festive and less bitter and dramatic.

Others – and I would include myself in this group – are taking a more quiet approach. Catching up on the Netflix queue, watching movies for fun, reading books that have been piling up. I’ve personally got all the seasons of House of Cards to catch on, and have three new books to read. And of course, there’s the new Harry Potter movie to watch – can’t forget about that, right?

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And these are only three of the ways in which you could spend your winter break. There are any number of ways to chill when that little break from all the university stress comes around. Of course, if you’re anything like me, there’ll be a lot of thinking going on over the break too. Because, the truth is, just half a year ago, many of us were finishing high school.

Needless to say, a whole lot has changed since high school. Most of it for the better, too, actually. I mean, I used to not study… at all… for tests in high school. I cannot even fathom doing that here. Or, well, I can, but I would not be prepared to handle the anxiety of getting a bad grade, no way.  Can anyone else relate, or was that just my own really bad habit?

Another thing is the independence that comes with University. Whether you live on residence, at home, or somewhere else, there’s this feeling of adult-ness. Like I can actually kind of handle the grown up world of taxes and whatever else grown ups handle. Or at least, I can sort of fake it until I make it. Either way, I’d live with my parents hanging over my shoulder any more and that’s fun in its own way.

Regardless, there’s a lot to take in with the end of this semester. Whether you see it as a time to reflect on changes, or a time to relax and visit family and friends, it’s going to be good. So, I wish you all a great winter break, and I look forward to all the shenanigans waiting in 2017!

 

 

Exam Time Do’s and Don’ts

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

For you to truly enjoy the upcoming holiday break, make sure to take a look at my personalized do’s and don’ts list. Hopefully it will help you get through that final fall term exam hurdle. We can do it!

DO spend at least a little time each day studying the subjects for which you have exams!  Even if you spend just fifteen minutes looking over a particularly complicated concept, give every course time. Your brain can only take in so much information per day, so trying to cram everything into the last minutes probably won’t go so well. Instead, if you do a little over a longer period of time, you’re sure to remember more information. Which will certainly help – especially if your exam has lots of multiple choice questions.

DO take frequent (but reasonably long) breaks! Believe it or not, even when under exam stress, you still need to eat, drink water, and have down time. Even if you just take ten minutes out of a long day of studying to eat a decent meal and scroll through facebook, it’s worth something! Trust me, a little break will give you a chance to de-stress a little, and to stay (somewhat) healthy as well!

DO sleep (or try to sleep) for seven to eight hours before your exam! I know that’s not always easy. Me, I usually become a vampire the night before a big exam – night falls and am I ever awake. But, that doesn’t mean I give up on resting! So, if you can manage it, go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep before the exam. And if you’re like me, too stressed to sleep, at least lay down and rest for a bit. Having some sort of rest might allow your mind to work a little more smoothly – too many hours without sleep does not do anything good to the brain.

DO complete the suggested review provided by your professors or TAs. This probably won’t apply to every course, but if it applies to one of yours, make the best of it! And even if the review is looking through old exams for the course, do use what is provided by people who know what might be on the exam. Better yet, if your course has an exam jam or some sort of exam study session, take advantage of it!

DO ask questions when you need to – whether you ask your friends in the course, or you email your professors or your TA. Be sure to clear up anything you’re uncertain about, or at least try to do so. After all, having clear information on everything your exam is about will surely help you answer your exam questions! And, if you are the kind of person who really likes to ask a lot of questions, make use of office hours and study with a classmate!

DON’T pull a bunch of consecutive all-nighters. NO! Do not do it – even if the library is open all through the night, you don’t necessarily make use of those extended hours. One night without sleep isn’t great, but doing it a few times in a row? It’s not a good plan, friend! Instead, leave yourself plenty of time during the day to study, so you can get your sleep in at night.

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(The dangers of stress)

DON’T binge watch a television series or a bunch of movies online. Maybe a few episodes here and there isn’t too bad, and a movie on a Saturday night won’t do any harm. But watching an entire series instead of studying is a no-go. Take it from someone who’s done it – I watched the entirety of The Office during my grade 12 exams last year and it didn’t do much good for my studying. I crammed and ended up a lot more stressed than I should have been. So, words of wisdom, Netflix is not your friend during exam time.

DON’T change your normal healthy habits dramatically. Part of staying mentally and physically well is being somewhat consistent, especially with your better habits. Exam time is not a time to mess with those sorts of things. Changing things around might give you additional stress, cause short-term health troubles, or might just distract from study time. So, be sure to keep things fairly consistent. Change is something to save for the new year, believe it or not.

DON’T come late for your exams. In fact, come early for your exams, give yourself time to get there (especially if you commute – account for traffic or late public transit). And remember too that exams start on the hour, not ten minutes after – which means if your exam is at 9:00, then it will start at 9:00, not 9:10 like a class might. Every minute late is a minute lost for exam writing, so be sure to get there in a timely fashion.

DON’T be too stressed out about it! Easier said than done, right? But, if it somehow is possible, try not to be too worried about your exams, because I am sure you will do awesomely! Don’t let the ‘Big Exam Scariness’ get to you, because at the end of the day, an exam is just a long-form quiz. It counts for a lot, sure, but if you keep calm and remember not to get intimidated, maybe some of the stress will go away. Either way, do your best, and best of luck!

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The Must-See Musical For Your Winter Break

Let’s get one thing straight – there are not a lot of Canadian musicals out there. And even those made in Canada by Canadians usually don’t feature it all that much. This is only the first thing that sets the new musical Come From Away apart from most other shows. Created and work shopped at Sheridan college, and currently playing in Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theater, this is probably the best show I’ve ever seen – which is really saying something.

Come From Away tells the story of the town of Gander, Newfoundland, whose population doubled when 38 planes were diverted to its airport following the attacks on September 11, 2001. With limited supplies and an unwavering sense of hospitality, the town’s residents house almost 7000 passengers from around the world. They feed them, clothe them, invite them into their homes, all free of charge. Through the eyes of a number of narrators played by a cast of 10 actors, we see something begin on the day the world stopped – and (spoilers!), it’s not all good.

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(The cast of Come From Away, mid-performance)

Though broken by many moments that were so funny I nearly fell out of my seat, a heart-wrenching tale comes to light. A woman desperately tries to contact her son, a firefighter in New York City. A pilot reassures her husband everything is fine, even though she’s definitely not. An Egyptian man is put through search after security search. In those moments when I wasn’t laughing, I was on the verge of tears… talk about an emotional story.

Moreover, this musical is based on a bunch of true stories.

10 years later, those who met in Gander returned for an anniversary reunion. The stories collected during that reunion make up what you see on stage. Stories like that of Beverly Bass, the first woman to make captain of an American Airlines plane, who flew the 36th plane to land in Gander that day. The character based on Beverly at one point sings a song called “Me and the Sky,” which took her description of her life almost verbatim and put it to music.

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(Beverly Bass. Read her version of what happened in Gander here.)

Then there are stories like that of Nick and Diane, who met as they were stuck on their plane at the Gander airport for 28 hours straight. After it was all over, they eventually got married, in spite of the circumstances under which they met. It’s the sort of love story that gets all the emotions without hitting any of those typical Love-Story-in-a-Musical cliches. Why? Because it’s real.

I don’t think I could stress enough how amazing it is to bring real stories like this to the stage. Not only is is a great way to learn some history, but it’s a first hand way to see how this played out – almost straight from the people themselves. If there was ever a medium made for different perspectives, it’s musical theater. Just as well, we see how these peoples’ stories fit together (or didn’t fit together so well at times)… and that’s just so cool.

But the stories aren’t just there alone; the music they’re put to is played by a live, onstage band. Traditional instruments such as the bodhran, the fiddle, and even the ugly stick (just google it, because it’s kind of awesome) take to the stage. And those songs will be stuck in your head for days to come – me, I’m still humming the show’s opening number, “Welcome to the Rock.” It’s all just so well composed and well performed on stage, it makes it easy to get lost in the 100 minute long musical.

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(The band is specially featured during a musical number)

If you’re not already convinced that this is the greatest musical (ever), here’s something that really struck me about it. Come From Away brings alive a story that, frankly, I had never heard before. And it’s terrible, the circumstances under which these narratives were created. Yet at the same time, is beyond uplifting.

It shows this prevailing of the human spirit that I had almost forgotten about.

I mean, needless to say, we stand pretty divided right now. Polarized by the election, there’s just this feeling of separation. Like humanity is kind of coming apart. I won’t say Come From Away totally dispels that, because it doesn’t. Yet, at the same time, there’s an uplifting quality that made me feel as though there is still some hope for unity in the world.

In the end, I felt like things might be okay. Even though there is a tough world out there right now, there’s still some human decency. There’s still a compassion amongst people that can pull us all together. I needed to hear a message like that. At this point, I’m not even sure I have the words in me to describe what this show did to my spirit. Whatever it was, it was absolutely necessary.

What else is so cool about it? It was made at Sheridan – whose theater program has a partnership with UTM! It was university students who first put on this show, who were the first to bring these stories to life. All this was done by way of an awesome initiative called the Canadian Music Theater Project – meant to foreground Canadian theater written by Canadian authors. People just like you and me participated in putting a story in need of telling onto the stage. That just makes me smile.

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(Come From Away’s original Sheridan cast)

So, if you can find tickets (they are going fast), and need something to do over your winter break, head down to Toronto and catch Come From Away. It runs until early January, before it heads to Broadway in February. I promise, this is totally worth the trip – don’t miss out!

(For information on the show and tickets, check out Come From Away’s official website.)

Can The Procrastination Problem Be Solved?

When you have homework but don’t want to do it, you usually will:

  • A) Clean or do other chores
  • B) Watch a movie or watch TV
  • C) Practice a time consuming hobby
  • D) I don’t usually try and avoid homework.

If you answered A), B), or C), then congratulations! You, my friend, have procrastinated at some point. If you answered D), then good for you, that is some great self-control.

Because when it come to procrastinating – I’ve done it all. Cleaned my messy room. Practiced for outside of school activities. Watched the entirety of my YouTube subscriptions. I’ve even started watching a new show on Netflix (it’s House of Cards and it’s fantastic). None of these activities has succeeded in doing anything more than to cut down on my homework time. Not a single distraction in the world could eliminate the fact that, when all is said and done, homework needs to get done.

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When you’re a hard-core procrastinator with a fear of failure – much like myself – that list there has to be finished. And that includes the last item. The problem is, who really wants to hunker down and get stuff done when, really, it’s hard and movies are fun. I mean, I find school pretty rewarding, I like learning. But that won’t stop me from choosing almost anything over essays on any given weeknight.

See, the thing is, when you’re procrastinating, there’s a whole new mindset: Most of the time, deadlines are coming up and projects… NEED TO BE DONE SOON!!!! When you’re putting things off, what should be given a good number of hours for completion, will miraculously be finished in the wee hours of the day it’s due on.

Doesn’t usually feel that great…

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(When your essay’s due tomorrow and you’re only halfway done)

So how do we beat procrastination? I mean, it’s not something I see being solved by study tips. You can say don’t procrastinate all you want, I’m inclined to bitterly mutter “try and stop me” under my breath as I click on a new hour-long YouTube video. In fact, having tried some of those study tips (write in an empty room, listen to white noises, etc) I still found myself procrastinating anyways – there’s always something else to do.

Instead of trying to focus on one thing for a long time, which sounds un-fun, let’s try something new. Something to erase that panicky essay writing but also to avoid just sitting at a desk and working for waaaay too long. In the words of Hannah Montana, we have to get the best of both worlds. A  little distraction, but also, a little work – preferably work that isn’t done at 3 AM the day the paper’s due.

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Let’s look back at that opening question. If you answered A), then maybe your way to get to work is to alternate – do one task, then put that down and do a little homework. Once you’re done a homework session, go on to the next chore you have. If you answered B) then maybe you watch a half hour of whatever you’re watching, then pause to do a piece of homework. Once you’re done, repeat that cycle. If you answered C), then maybe set a goal to reach with your hobby, and once you’ve reached it, but that down and do homework. Again, repeat the cycle.

(If you answered D), then you’ve already got your system down, and I wish I had your ability to just go and do work. You just keep on doing you!)

The bottom line is, it’s not going to be easy to get out of the habit. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I only sometimes can win over procrastination. Things get done, of course, but I always wish I had more time for them. Which, of course is sadly ironic: it was me who gave myself so little time in the first place, after all. But, I think after a lot of time and practice, I’ll be able to figure it out. And so will all of you, for that matter! We’re all capable of figuring out just how to overcome to want to not do homework in a timely fashion.

Let’s just hope that’s figured out sooner rather than later, right?

Quiz Yourself! What’s Your Ideal UTM Study Space?

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That’s right – the first term of classes has come to an end, and that means, exam studying is beginning. Which means it’s time to get those notes together, hunker down, and get studying! There’s a lot that goes into a good study session – a good deal of hours, many cups of coffee/tea, probably a couple tears (I speak from experience) – and if there’s one thing to make it all come together, it’s choosing the right place.

Whether you love absolute silence or can’t stand studying alone, either way there’s a place for you. So answer these 7 questions, keep track of how many times you answer each letter, and find out the best place on campus for you to study for your exams!

What do you think about studying with friends?

  • A) It’s great!
  • B) It’s pretty good.
  • C) It’s okay at times.
  • D) I’m not a fan of it.

What is an ideal energy level for a study space – do you like having a lot of people moving and talking around you?

  • A) High, busy energy that can keep my mind going. I like movement and sound, it keeps my mind going.
  • B) Medium-high energy with some busyness. I like to have a little going on around me.
  • C) Medium-low energy that isn’t too noticeable. I’d rather not be alone, but I find people moving around distracting.
  • D) Low energy that is minimal and unnoticeable. The less movement there is, the better.

What do you think of complete silence when you’re studying?

  • A) I cannot stand it – it’s actually more distracting then people all talking around me.
  • B) I don’t really like it, there has to be some white noise in the background in order for me to focus.
  • C) I don’t mind it, but then a little talking isn’t too bad either.
  • D) I absolutely love it. No noise during study time really lets me stay in my study-zone mentally.

Studying by simply reading over notes is:

  • A) Really not my way of studying.
  • B) A basis for studying, but not a method that fully works for me. I like to start by looking over notes, then have discussions about the topic.
  • C) A pretty good way of studying, so long as it can occasionally be broken up by some conversation and questions.
  • D) An ideal way to study for me!

Studying by quizzing yourself and others, or using flashcards to study is:

  • A) My favorite way to study!
  • B) A pretty good way to study.
  • C) An okay way to study, though I’d rather have it mixed in with other methods.
  • D) Not my way of studying at all.

Would you considered using a Peer Facilitated Study Group (offered by the RGASC) to  help you study?

  • A) Totally, it sounds like a great format for me!
  • B) It’s highly likely that I would, sure!
  • C) Maybe I’d try it out a couple times and see how it goes…
  • D) Probably not, but I would maybe try it once to see what it’s like.

What are you most likely to be distracted by?

  • A) Off-topic conversation.
  • B) Social media or YouTube.
  • C) Other people talking, especially to me.
  • D) Pretty much any noise or movement.

Results:

If you mostly answered A): Choose somewhere busy, with a lot of stimulating movement and conversation. You like to study with friends and talk about the material – having constant silence is kind of uncomfortable. Lots of noise and movement can inspire your mind, and allows you to talk if you want to. And, if you need to, putting in headphones and focusing in is possible too, without much chance of being distracted by the others around you. Just remember to stay focused on your topic! Suggested locations: the Gathering Place or the Temporary Food Court in the Davis Building, or any of the common conversational spaces around campus, like IB or CCT.

If you mostly answered B): Choose somewhere with a moderate amount of noise, but not enough that you’ll find yourself annoyed or distracted. Maybe you like studying quietly with a few friends, so you can focus and ask the occasional question, but then maybe you also like studying alone with some white noise in the background. Either way, busy energy is too much be having nothing just feels a bit weird. Be sure to keep your mind from wandering, though – social media isn’t exactly a good way to cement your course knowledge! Suggested locations: the Kaneff Center, the ground floor of the library, or (if you have a few friends to study with) a study room in the library or in IB.

If you mostly answered C): Choose somewhere that is almost or completely silent, but that isn’t totally isolated. Whether you like to put in your headphones, work with a friend, or just get down to it, you like to be without background noise and you don’t like a lot of movement. But, you’d rather not be completely by yourself. Focusing on what you’re doing without having the chance to let others distract you works best in your study time. Remember to stick to it and not to get too stressed – you got this! Suggested locations: the upper floors of the library or of IB, or in Deerfield Hall.

If you answered mostly D): Choose somewhere that is absolutely silent and where there is no one around making noise or moving a lot. You like to have absolutely uninterrupted focus on what you’re looking at, and even the slightest thing can throw you off a bit. Instead, it just has to be you and your notes, where all your mind has to think about is what you’re doing. You keep your head in the game – just remember to take a break every now and then. Suggested places: a personalized study space where you reside, the Silent Study Zones on the first, third, and fourth floors of the library, maybe Deerfield Hall (ideally earlier or later in the day).

Which study location is your personal favourite and why?

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?)

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!