All posts by utmONE

About utmONE

utmONE is a First-Year Academic Transition program brought you by the Office of the Dean that aims to help First-Year students: - Build new academic skills required at the university level - Learn in a engaging and familiar classroom environment - Access resources across campus with greater ease - Connect with the UTM community

From the Courthouse to the Congo

I knew university would teach me new things, but I never thought the topic would be myself.  I went into university with a solid plan of completing an undergraduate degree in business, and continuing onto law school, with an end goal of specializing in corporate law.  Now, halfway through my first year, I have this new desire to go study primates in the Congo.

Everyone is constantly searching the Internet during course selection time, googling “bird courses at UofT”.  Unfortunately, these don’t exist at UofT, but we never seem to give up hope.  This is exactly what I was doing during my course selection time, and I came across a biological anthropology course, which everyone said was “a total breeze”.  I’ll tell you now, that’s a major exaggeration, but when I read it then, I really wanted to believe it.  So, I ended up taking this course that was completely out of my field of study, hoping to use it to boost my average.
Now, with only a few weeks left of the course, it’s no longer “just a bird course” to me— I’ve actually really come to love it. So much so, that it has me reconsidering my entire career choice, or at least my choice of major.  I now find myself looking up field research opportunities during the summer, that take place in countries like the Congo or Costa Rica, that provide you with the opportunity to study primates such as howler monkeys and, my personal favourite, bonobos.
Yes, this is confusing as it does conflict with my original plans, but this just shows what university is all about— learning about yourself and your interests. Taking courses that are completely out of your league (especially during first year) may actually work to your advantage, and you may end up discovering hidden passions you never knew you had.  Thankfully, I was introduced to this field early on in my university career, and definitely plan to integrate it into my future.  Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, because you never know what you’ll find!

Eenie Meenie Miney Mo…

…. Is not how you go about picking your major.  Flipping a coin won’t cut it, either.  Unfortunately, there is no short-cut around this decision, and it’s going to take a ton of consideration.  The time to declare our majors is quickly approaching, and ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away.  Unfortunately, I can’t offer any advice, as I’m currently struggling through the same crisis, but I have had the opportunity to ask some upper years, and here’s what they had to say about this crucial time of your education:

“I remember when I was in high school, I freaked over every decision that ever had to be made, so you can imagine how stressed I was when I learned I’d have to decide what I’d be doing for the rest of my life by the end of first year.  Sure, you can easily change majors, but I was intent on completing university in 4 years.  So, I did tons of research about the best possible majors, asked people for advice, and endlessly searched university sites, desperate for help.  Then, I remember I came across this corny quote online that said, ‘The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life’.  And from there, the decision was easy.  That’s how I ended up majoring in history— my love for historical films and novels got the best of me!”— Second Year Student

“I’ve switched majors about a million times, but I think I can finally say that I love what I’m studying.  Don’t accept ‘acceptable’… make sure you’re in love with what you’re studying!  Asking other people for advice about what you should do really won’t help.  Trust what you love. And if it turns out you hate it, change it.  It’s not so bad.”— Third Year Student

“The biggest mistake I think students make when declaring their majors is failing to consider all their options.  There are over 60 possible majors out there, yet most of us only know about ten— philosophy, bio, psych, history, etc.  Do some research and explore all of your options.”— Fourth Year Student

“As crazy as it may sound, I know a ton of people who are majoring in stuff they are horrible at.  They seem to think that just ‘getting by’  in these courses is good enough, that the only thing that matters is getting the credit under your belt.  I don’t think they realize these courses are just a taste of what their future career will entail… it’s not going to get any easier when you’re actually working in the field.  So maybe that’s a hint you’re in the wrong field.  Try picking a major where you’re getting mostly A’s and B’s in the courses.” — Fourth Year Student

Hopefully the advice from the older and wiser will help you make your tough decision… Good luck!  And remember, don’t overthink it.

Passion > Ph.D

I’m sure we all remember the first day of school during our elementary days—maybe not in detail, but small parts.  We’d play ice-breaker games in an attempt to make the entire class become friends with one another.  We’d get our first assignment, which in elementary school was always an “all about me” poster, that took a total of 10 minutes to complete. One thing I remember distinctly is filling out those annoying questionnaires every year, the ones with questions like, “what do you look forward to this year?” and “how do you plan to do well this year?”.  One question that I always took for granted then, but really value now, is the, “what characteristics do you think make a good teacher?” question.

My answer to that question was always something trivial, like “nice” or “patient”, but now I think I can finally answer that question correctly.  After having the opportunity to meet many new professors in first year, I think the appropriate answer to that question would be “passionate”.  Sure, being nice and patient are ideal qualities to have in a teacher or professor, but passion for what they’re teaching sets apart the great from the good.  After all, as the old saying goes, “a good teacher knows the subject matter, while a great teacher is passionate about it”.

Professors who love what they’re teaching can make even the most boring topics interesting to students.  This also works in the reverse way, however, where even the most interesting topics can come across as uninteresting if professors fail to teach their lessons with passion.  Much of the university curriculum comes down to the lectures, and the way the professor delivers his or her material to their students can really make or break their course.

Probably the absolute worst prof that I’ve ever seen is this guy…

… And it’s obvious that his class is torture to his students, as indicated by their blank, bored faces as he goes on in his monotonous tone.

Conversely, one of the best professors that I’ve ever had was extremely outgoing during his lectures, always inviting lots of discussion, including real-world examples—really showing true passion for his subject.  All of a sudden, I felt really passionate about a topic that I really had no interest in until this prof shared his passion with us.

As great as it is, true passion is unfortunately quite rare, especially in a society with individuals whose sole purpose of working is to gain money.  So, the next time you’re fortunate enough to have a passionate prof, make sure you don’t take them for granted!

Dear High School Me

STOP. RELAX.  Enjoy the easy-going high school days— it’s the calm before the storm.  You’re stressing so much about the future, and on university acceptances that you’re forgetting to enjoy what’s right in front of you.  Don’t take those high school friends for granted.  Don’t take the participation marks, that are worth 30% of your grade, for granted.  Don’t take the free education, the lack of homework, or the classroom of no more than 25 kids for granted.  I’m warning you, you’ll miss all of that.

If you think getting into university is the hardest part, you’ll realize it’s definitely not— it’s staying in that’s the challenge. You’ll study for hours for tests and work late into nights on assignments, but one thing high school failed to teach you was that studying hard doesn’t guarantee you good grades.  What you’ll quickly come to learn upon entering university is the trick is to develop good study habits that work for you, so that you can spend less time studying “hard” and more time studying effectively.  But, once you develop a good study plan, you won’t mind the excessive workload, and you’ll actually come to love what you’re learning, because the work is so much more interesting than what you’re doing in high school, and you’ll come to appreciate that!

Also, you should know, DON’T BELIEVE ALL THOSE UNIVERSITY FACTS YOU READ ONLINE! First of all, you really should stop looking up every single concern regarding university, and about what you should expect, because Google can’t even begin to explain the real university experience– you’ll experience that for yourself soon enough, so stop scaring yourself with other peoples’ experiences. Just like everything else on the internet, be wary! Your marks DO NOT drop by 30% (as long as you maintain good study habits and don’t slack off).  You won’t make life-long friends within the first two days (good friendships shouldn’t be rushed)!  People HAVE NOT suddenly and drastically matured (first-year is just a bunch of overgrown high school kids- same immature minds)!  And most importantly, despite many claims that “first year doesn’t count”, it most definitely DOES count (so don’t even think about slacking off).

That said, it’s not all lies! Not everything you read is false. It’s true that for every hour of class, you’ll have to spend about 3 hours worth of studying.  Unfortunately, that’s no myth. It’s also true that it’s possible to avoid the “Freshman 15”— as long as you’re no stranger to the gym.  And, of course, what I found most surprising of all, is that professors really are approachable!  They aren’t that intimidating, and are actually willing to help you!  And the most important piece of advice: don’t be afraid of change!  I know you’ll be losing a ton of great friends from high school, as everyone goes their separate ways, but you’ll also meet many new friends in university (shout out to Nigel and Shihan!), who you’ll make endless memories with.  Yes, you’ll miss the familiar faces of the teachers you’ve known for years, but you’ll encounter professors who’ll actually make you excited to come to class and sit in their 2-hour lecture (shout out to Professor Derry, the most amazing religion professor!)
You’ll be surprised by how ready you actually are for university life; it’s not as scary as it seems.  Just remember to continue doing what you love and don’t let anyone else make decisions for you!

P.S. Whoever said Prom night is the best night of your life, never experienced Frosh week! Definitely go to that, because you’ll gave a blast.
Your future, much wiser (not really :p), university-attending self

Calling All Movie-Watchers!

After studying hard for long hours, we all need time to de-stress and just relax, and nothing says relax more than a good movie. With a new year comes new movies, and this year’s movie list seems especially intriguing. After spending hours viewing trailers for this year’s upcoming movies, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 films that you need to add to your movie checklist right away!

Pitch Perfect 2

Release Date: May 15, 2015


Because we just couldn’t get enough of the first “Pitch Perfect”! It’s one of those movies that you can watch 100 times and still laugh at every joke. In the second instalment, we’ll see our favourite a cappella group tackle their senior year and head to graduation, facing the one question that many of us can relate to: “what do we do with the rest of our lives?”. Considering the endless quotes and hashtags that that first movie left us with, I’m sure the second one won’t disappoint us.. I’m sure it’ll be ACA-AWESOME!


Inside Out

Release Date: June 19


This movie trailer speaks for itself, so I highly suggest you watch it at the link below:

As a 90s kid, I believe any Disney Pixar film is worth watching, but the idea of this movie alone is so unique that it could be Pixar’s most original film yet, in my opinion. The movie’s slogan is, “Meet the little voices inside your head”, who essentially narrate the movie. It’s told from the perspective of the emotions inside the mind of a young girl. So to anyone who looked at an awkward-looking teenager who seemed completely zoned-out, and thought “what’s going on in that crazy head of theirs?”, now is your chance to find out, in a humorous, Disney way.


Release Date: December 18, 2015


The dynamic duo is at it again! Amy Poehler and Tina Fey star as sisters who are trying to throw one last high-school-style house party before their parents sell their family home. With a cast like this one, the movie is sure to have you laughing endlessly throughout.

Those are just some of the many movies that I’m looking forward to seeing this year, but the list goes on (Jurassic World, Furious 7, The Wedding Ringer)! Hopefully you all take a break out of your busy lives to kick back and enjoy some good movies. (There’s no better time to see a movie than on Valentine’s Day, which is quickly approaching.. Perfect opportunity!)

The Torture of 8am Classes

You did it a few months ago in high school, yet somehow, the concept of 8am classes has become unthinkable. Whether you’re an economics student like myself, or just procrastinated with course selections, there’s a good chance that you got stuck with an 8am class or tutorial in your first year. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to manipulate your schedule, ending up with an early class at some point in your university career is inevitable.  From my experience, the best ways to tackle an early morning would be to:

Prepare for your day at night.

Prepare your bag and get your clothes ready the night ahead of your early morning. Do as much as possible the night before and leave as little as possible for the next morning. I’ve learned the hard way that trying to do everything 10 minutes before you leave for an early class will never end well, and you’ll find yourself forgetting half your textbooks and nothing to write with once you get to school.


Set alarms. Not one, but several.

Your phone should look something like this:


You’ll hate yourself in the morning when your alarm is going off every 5 minutes, but you gotta do what you gotta do to make your 8am class on time!

Eat breakfast.

Skipping breakfast may save you time in the morning, but you’ll regret it when you’re starving halfway into your class. And on top of being grumpy about having to wake up early, you’ll be even grumpier when you’re hungry.


Lastly, AVOID.

Having my fair share of 8am classes, I can confidently say that the best way to combat 8am classes is to avoid them. There’s no secret formula to tackling early mornings, and if you’re not a morning person, chances are you won’t miraculoursly become one at any point in the semester. So if possible, try scheduling later classes. If there’s no way out of an 8am lecture, then try some of these tips to help get you through your early mornings!

First Semester: The Mistakes We Shouldn’t Repeat

I’m sure that first semester was quite an experience for all of us, and by “experience”, I’m referring to Professor Randy Pausch’s definition of the word: “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted”. We all came into university with preconceived notions of what to expect, but statistically speaking, many first-year students are shocked during first semester, when they’re hit with the reality of university. That said however, although we all may have made our fair share of mistakes during first semester, it wasn’t a completely unfulfilling experience. Hopefully, we can all learn from our first semester of university, avoid repeating the terrible mistakes we made, and make our second semester even better.

One thing that I hope everyone has accepted is that, as soon as the semester starts, we need to dive face-first into work-mode. Most people were still in the summer or frosh mindset when school started in September, and the first few weeks of school were spent socializing and procrastinating on readings. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to ease our way into the workload if professors aren’t going to ease into the course (which they don’t). We can’t start off laidback and then eventually become immersed in university life when we feel ready. Again, after that amazing winter break, it’s a struggle to go back to studying, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from first semester, it’s that we have to push ourselves to get back into that mode to avoid falling behind so early in the semester!

The next thing we should be quickly learning, especially around this time when textbook sales are soaring, is that it’s important to keep notes from your past classes. After my exams, I threw out all of my old notes as a celebration of completing the course and never having to take it again, but I now learned that was a huge mistake. That old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” could not be more true when it comes to old course notes, where the price you’re selling a textbook for can go up by ten to twenty dollars with notes included! Also, it’s important to keep your textbook in prime condition, to get more money from future buyers.

Lastly, the golden rule: GO TO CLASS! Skipping class to get a few more hours of sleep may seem like a great idea at the time, but it’ll leave you full of regret when you’re drawing a blank on the final exam because you missed an important lecture. Also, remember you pay for all your classes, even the ones you skip, so you might as well go!

Referring back to Professor Pausch’s idea of experience, he says, “Experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer”. Hopefully, you all use your first semester experiences to create an even better second semester for yourself. Good luck!