Tag Archives: uoft

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!

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!

Why it’s Different This Year…

This year, instead of just looking forward to winter break for the food and family time, I’m also looking forward to the stress-free feeling that this winter break will bring.

Unlike high school, where exams are scheduled in January, university exams are held in December, right before the holidays, leaving you absolutely stress-free and able to enjoy your break to the fullest.  In high school, when exams are in January, half of your winter break is dedicated to studying (or at least should be, because that seems to make sense).

But when do high school kids ever make sensible decisions?  So the winter break often goes by with lots of sleep and lots of fun, but very little studying, which leaves you feeling extremely guilty.


But this year, now that exams are finished right before the break, we can set our textbooks aside for two whole weeks without feeling guilty!  So take advantage of this winter break and enjoy it to the fullest, whether that’s spending time with friends and family, or doing absolutely nothing and just relaxing.  I know that when these exams are over, I’m going into hibernation 🙂

The Profs Don’t Bite!

Image from: randomletterstotheworld.wordpress.com
Image from: randomletterstotheworld.wordpress.com

They really don’t, I promise!  Watching them pacing back and forth across the room, spitting out information that you’re struggling to comprehend, may make them seem intimidating.  So intimidating that the thought of approaching them one-on-one is completely unimaginable and so far out of your comfort zone.

But then, the day comes when you don’t understand that important concept taught in class, when it seems everyone else does.

Instead of spending hours searching the answer up on the Internet, or desperately trying to get tutored by your classmates, why not just go ask your professor for clarification?

I recently faced this struggle, and after I forced myself to attend my professor’s office hours, I realized it was the best thing I could’ve done.

I think we all forget that professors are normal people, too.  They once sat in a cramped desk in a class of 500 kids, just like us.  They get it… They understand better than anyone else!  And because they understand, they’re not going to make your experience to their office any more intimidating than it needs to be.

Entering a professor’s office may feel like walking into a dragon’s den, but I guarantee that if you take the opportunity and go to your professor when you need help, you will not regret it.  I came out with a much better understanding of something I once had so much difficulty with. I went to a professor for help, and I lived to tell the tale, so trust me when I say that the profs DON’T bite!