Posts Tagged school

Updates and Thoughts

Although I should be working on finishing my Geography lab that’s due tomorrow so that I can go see the Hunger Games this evening, all I can think of it how I just want to write something non-academic, just even for a few minutes!

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to meet the students that will be going to Guatemala with me, as well as the professor leading the trip and students that went last year. That definitely renewed my excitement, I’ve found myself googling everything and everything to do with planning and travelling, and even a little bit restless.

With only two weeks left of classes, and two weeks of exams, I keep finding myself shocked everyday when I see my countdown to the end of the year getting shorter and shorter. Last week we had some absolutely fantastic weather, with a temperature of up at 28˚C, and it made the summer just seem so close and attainable. I’ve been applying for jobs and writing cover letters like crazy, but am mostly looking forward, first and foremost, to my trip to Chicago to visit a friend at the end of April. I haven’t ever planned a trip on my own before, and this is just the greatest. I’m looking forward to living a real-life version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off every day, because that is completely realistic.

I think I’m just at the point where I have a lot of exiting things to look forward to in the near and far future, as well as some pretty outstanding people to spend some time with. And I’m ready to buckle down and get the rest of my assignments and exams out of the way so I can reach them!

Here’s to the last few weeks.

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Excitement!

Okay, can we pause for a moment and take in how EXCITING this day has been for me?!

I applied almost two months ago to go on a semester abroad through my University in Guatemala (think: living with a host family, learning Spanish, traveling there with with a group of ~20 students from my University, etc. etc.).

Today I found out that I was accepted! I am just ecstatic, and so unbelievably excited for next January, when I’ll be going!

I know that in a matter of time (days? weeks? months?) I will start freaking out…Living with a host family? Living in a developing country? Being taught some courses by Guatemalan professors? And the organizing will cause headaches (visas, immunizations, flight plans). Additionally, this will only further complicate/provide further challenges for my already long-distance relationship (assuming I’m still in one next year!). Domestic long-distance will become international long-distance…oh, the joys of being young!

Nonetheless, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and I am so grateful for it! I will keep updating as things progress!


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Musings

My mind has been so over-run with information and thoughts and plans this week, I don’t even know where to start.

Something to know about me is that I’ve never had a problem of not knowing what I want to do in the future, in terms of anything, really – travel, school, career. But now, it’s not that I don’t know what I want to do, it’s that there are so many options that I just want to do everything! I feel like I’ve become addicted to volunteering lately, and have had to hold myself back from taking up more and more commitments.

This is an attempt to organize/update the things that have been running through my mind as of late. Maybe it will be fun to look back at this in a few months time when I’ve decided to change things or have been lucky enough to discover more opportunities!

Lent

Has been going well so far. Avoiding Facebook has been absolutely wonderful for my school work, and just time management in general. Even on the days that I can go on Facebook (every other day), I’m not tempted to anymore! It’s just a quick go on, check notifications and messages, maybe write some wall posts and etc., scope a handful of photos, and then I’m done. I’m so over reading every. single. status update of every person I ever knew. There’s just under a month left to go, and maybe things won’t even change so much once Easter is over.

Summer

I wish I had something absolutely spectacular planned for the summer, like a shiny new job or adventurous trip. At this point, it looks like I’m going to be trying to get rehired back at Starbucks for the summer. Hopefully (fingers crossed!) I can get two weeks off to spend volunteering at the summer camp I’ve been going to every year for ten years. Some additional camping trips would be wonderful as well, but I think taking two weeks off work in a row might make it difficult for me to request a lot more time off. I also got a volunteer position as a leader on a website provided by my school that is like a pre-orientation for incoming new students. Basically, spending 3 hours a week answering any questions, chatting online with students, etc. I’m pretty excited!

School

I’m still totally in love with my school. And my program. Now I just need to decide if I really want to go to grad school, or law school, or whatever. Which leads me to…

The Future

Which isn’t as daunting to me as the whole phrase “the future” sounds. I don’t know, maybe people never like it because it’s the unknown? Anyways. My current plans are as follows: finish undergrad, get an internship/job placement within an organization for no more than one year (all the money from this trip will go towards paying off any student debt and going towards…), TRAVELING everywhere! For as long as I possibly can! After that, I will decide on going to grad school, or working somewhere else. The thing is, most big organizations require students to be pursuing a Masters in order to grant internships. So, I will basically have plenty of time, traveling experience and (hopefully) related work experience by the time I have to decide all of that.

All of the above things, as well as the incredible opportunities I have in my life, make me so GRATEFUL to just be alive and well and living out my dreams.

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2010 In Review

I hate to say this because I feel like it may be unfair to other years of my life that are simply too far away in my memory to stand out, but 2010 may have been the best year of my life. What really stands out the most for me was that I was happy for more of this year than any of the past ones. Even through the experienced heartbreaks, mistakes, regrets and challenges, I’ve managed to create something new for myself. There were two very important precursors for this change. The first was a hugely motivating quote:

Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live with unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and incredible beauty.” — Jon Krakauer

There were some components of my life that were creating unhappy conditions in my life, and after reading this quotation, I began to set the conditions of my happiness. Which brings me to the second cause of the change; a personal mantra that I developed in order to combat my number one mistake in life

Stop relying on someone else to make you happy. You are in charge of that now.

People have the capacity to let you down, and I would always depend on boyfriends/friends/etc to create happiness in my life, but once I started taking matters into my own hands, I changed the things in my life that made me unhappy, took risks, and began to see the beauty of a life free of monotonous security.

So in honour of the year, here are a few (slightly vague) highlights of the past 12 months. I picked not necessarily the things that were the most significant, but that make me smile when I look back at them.

What I Did / Swam in the ocean on the first day of 2010 (brrrr!). Turned 19 and became legal everywhere in Canada. Was in Vancouver, with no school for two weeks, during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Danced in the streets of Vancouver with over a thousand other citizens of the world in celebration of life, love, and music during the Decentralized Dance Party. Watched countless free concerts all over the Vancouver area thanks to the Olympics. Worked at a bakery at SFU campus. Finished my first year of university at SFU. Played with my wonderful soccer team during the spring soccer league and came in 3rd overall. Got accepted to the University of Guelph. Walked across the Lions Gate Bridge for the first time. Worked at Starbucks and made amazing friends there. Went to the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival. Went to the Cat Empire concert, got invited backstage by the lead singer and drank wine with the band. Volunteered at a kids’ wilderness summer camp, marking my ninth year there. Attended soccer bootcamp all summer. Spent 4 days at Quallicum Beach with our second family. Watched many improv comedy shows. Saw Niagara Falls. Danced at a Down with Webster concert. Moved to Guelph, met incredible people, explored Ontario and made it back home in time for Christmas (there are really too many amazing things about my semester at Guelph to begin to address). A real American-style Homecoming experience.  Went to Toronto for the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Sat on the top of the highest building at SFU on top of Burnaby Mountain. Not to mention all the little things, like ice cream dates, trips to the beach, window shopping and adventures with friends that make life that much better.

Where I Went / This year hasn’t been very exciting in terms of traveling, but I’d say that moving to the other side of the country makes up for it. Vancouver. Portland. Various locations throughout BC. Guelph. Mississauga. Toronto. Niagara Falls. Seattle.

Some Favourite Songs / Older Than You – Eskimo Joe. Hands All Over (album) – Maroon 5. Love Letter to Japan – The Bird and the Bee. Falling – the Cat Empire. Be My Thrill (album) – the Weepies. The King and All Of His Men – Wolf Gang. Elle N’a Rien Compris – Christophe Mae. Rich Girl – Hall and Oates. All Over Now – Eric Hutchinson. Contra (album) – Vampire Weekend. Of Men and Angels (album) – the Rocket Summer. How Come You Don’t Call Me – Alicia Keys. Nothing Like You – Frightened Rabbit. Free Fallin’ – John Mayer. Failure – Laura Marling. Being Bad Feels Really Good – Does It Offend You Yeah. Write About Love – Belle & Sebastian. F*ck You – Cee Lo Green. On The Road – Angus and Julia Stone. Meet Me In The Basement – Broken Social Scene. Barbara Streisand – Duck Sauce. Dog Days Are Over – Florence + The Machine. O’ Children – Nick Cave. Live in London (album) – Regina Spektor. The King and All of His Men – Wolf Gang.

What I’m Looking Forward To / Making the most of my new years resolutions. Finishing second year of university and starting third. What I know will be an amazing summer. New Orleans Jazz Festival. (Hopefully) my trip to New York. Volunteering at summer camp. The last Harry Potter movie. Meeting more amazing people and having great experiences and learning incredible things with friends old and new.

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Relaxing

This week has been great so far. I handed in my final essay for the semester, finished midterms, and managed to catch up on some sleep. Thursday night I headed to Toronto with some friends to catch the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was absolutely fantastic, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Although this weekend has been a been slow, I’ve just been enjoying the company of my friends and boyfriend and have spent (almost too much) time appreciating relaxation.

These last few days I’ve been getting more and more excited for heading home for Christmas break. Not because I’m homesick, but because I love Vancouver always, and can’t wait to bask in the Christmas atmosphere and enjoy friends and family, free food and Christmas carols, snow and driving in cars with friends late at night.

But for now, it has to all be about studying, eating well and trying to keep everything organized before finals start.

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University

Maybe this is just to distract myself from the hours of studying that I should technically be doing…but whatever the reason, I thought I would make a list to collect my thoughts on the previous 8 months of my life, my first year of university.

What I’ve Learned This Year

1. What I’m really interested in

I’ve been pretty lucky my whole life, because I’ve always had an idea of what I want to do; what I’m truly interested in. A lot of my friends still don’t know. They know the general faculty that offers classes which they seem to be drawn towards, but they don’t exactly know what to do with that, or where their real passion is.

For me, I know I’m interested in almost anything under the heading of Arts and Social Sciences. Humanities and classics make me salivate, and sociology, psychology, human geography…well you’ve basically got me sold if your school has a stellar program that lets me take a variety of these things. But when I came into SFU, I thought I had my life planned out: major in International Studies, taking French classes on the side to gain a second language, graduate in four years and then grab myself a job with the United Nations for the rest of my life. Simple enough, right?

Well then why was it that my favourite, most amazing, life-changing class last semester wasn’t my international studies introduction lecture, but the small Friday morning geography lecture, “World Problems in Geographic Perspective”? I began to realize that being that kid who reads atlases for fun might mean I should lean more towards geography. Sure enough, my human geography class this semester covers a range of topics, all of which I am genuinely and passionately interested in.

And the United Nations? Yeah, that might be a possibility in the future, but I could have just as much fun in life as a researcher, going to field locations and collecting census or demographical data. There’s so many jobs out there that aren’t standard that might just be perfect for me, and I won’t know about them now. The best I can do at my age is take classes and programs that keep me interested, and look for employment during my school years that involves these interests, whether it’s with an NGO or a stage hand at a music festival. Which brings me to my second point,

2. Don’t plan too far into the future

Don’t get me wrong, planning is a great thing to do, and I myself am an addicted planner, constantly looking into course descriptions for my third year studies, or looking up the schedule and maps of bus routes before I wait at the bus stop. But things change, one of those things especially being your mind. I would never thought of doing a minor in Human Geography, but here I am with it as my favourite class. Not to mention my plans on transferring schools next year. I always thought I would be completely content staying in BC at SFU for four years of studying.

But as I came to learn more things about myself, I found out that maybe it’s not the best for me to stay at SFU. There’s really a lot of reasons for me wanting to switch schools, but the main one is that I need to take a program that is better designed for me than the one I’m currently in. While paying thousands more to study in a different province isn’t worth it just for the better party scene or the feeling of prestige saying that you go to a more internationally-known school, but when you find a program that looks like it was tailor-made for you, you really should consider it.

But back to what I was saying. Keeping an open mind is not only going to guarantee making new friends, discovering new hobbies that you love and widening your cultural tastes, but you’re going to be a whole lot happier with your life if you don’t restrict yourself.

3. Other people want to make friends too

This was probably one of my biggest problems this year. Starting university was pretty hard, but not really because of the classes. As an introvert, I found it hard for me to put myself out there and start conversations, or introduce myself to people. But in retrospect, those are the things I really wish I had done. I had it in my head that people would think I was weird if I just started talking to them, or sat with them at dinner during the first week of school.

Think of it reversed: I would have loved it if someone had just started talking to me in the elevator or in line at the dining hall. Having the illusion in your head that everyone is perfectly content with their group of friends and not willing to expand is stupid. One of my best friends lives on the floor below me, and I never met her until we had a french class together this semester. I had gone on for 4 months without even knowing she existed, but we totally could have been friends right when school started. What was the difference? I actually started a conversation with her.

Putting yourself out there is hard, and it’s not always rewarding, but that really is something I wish I did more of, and hopefully I can put that lesson into focus next year.

4. Jobs are good

This sounds pretty to the point, but let me explain. First semester of school, I really didn’t want to get a job at all; I didn’t want to have to deal with the stress of balancing school, studying, assignments, exercise, dinner with friends, readings, showering, and  partying with something else that was going to take up a ton of time! Who needs more stress these days anyways. But because of my parents constantly nagging me, I went along with their advice and applied for a job, and got it.

What I discovered? I am SO glad I have worked this semester. There have been so many good outcomes. I’ve met a lot of cool people who go to my school, so work is actually fun, and I have more people to hang out with on the weekends. By having an extra commitment in my life, I’ve had less time for slacking off and more pressure to actually get work done. Knowing that I only have two hours between finishing class and starting work in one day is going to make my study my butt off way more in those two hours than when I have two hours in the evening and Glee is on TV. Another thing? The benefit of money. Yes, yes money doesn’t guarantee happiness. But I was so stressed out semester one about losing all my money that I could hardly afford to go to a movie with my brother on the weekend. Having a steady source of income is one less thing to worry about, and gives you more money to afford those nights out at clubs, or buying drinks, or treating yourself to a shopping trip every once in a while.

Most importantly though, if I didn’t have a job this year during school, there is no way my plans for school next year would be possible. It’s going to cost me a lot to pay for textbooks, residence, food, flights, and everything else that comes with being a student (*ahem* partying, drinking, buying that cute dress, etc.), which I never took into account before because I had never known I would be transferring schools. And even though I haven’t met my financial goal yet, and I still have to work on not splurging all my money when I go to the mall to buy one thing and come back with $100 less in my bank account, but if I never had a job, next year wouldn’t be possible for me.

5. You have to force yourself to study sometimes

There are times (like right now, merely 4 days before my first final exam) when you are to the point of exhaustion and are in the state of mind where you honestly couldn’t care less anymore about studying, or editing your paper, or getting to class on time. Everyone gets burnt out. I had a quiz worth 20% of my grade this morning, and a midterm in 3 hours. Of course I’m not studying for the midterm right now, I need a break right?

But it’s in those moments when you get your test back with a whopping 68% accompanied by a sinking feeling in your stomach that you think to yourself, Okay, I’m going to get myself back on track and study 3 hours everyday!

What I’ve learned is how to actually make that happen. The key is variation. Studying in the library is great, because there’s no distractions; it’s silent, you’re friends aren’t around, and you feel like an idiot if you go on facebook while surrounded by a hundred other students working hard on their assignments. I’ve written quite a few of my papers in the library, and managed to stay focused and get a lot of work done. Sure, it’s boring as anything, but if you need to get the work done, it’s ideal.

Studying in my room has worked best for tests, quizzes and exams. I like to be able to spread out all my books on my bed, have some music or a movie going on my laptop, and spend a few hours going through notes and textbooks.

For finals, though, it’s kind of a different story. I need a lot more variation. These next two weeks I’m going to be all over the place. It gets really boring staying in the same place for too long. But I’ve definitely learned that sometimes you really need to seclude yourself fully in order to get yourself going. And promising yourself a reward after, like some pizza on the way back to your res, doesn’t hurt.

6. Including your parents in your life is a good thing

Sure, they’re annoying most of the time, they stress you out, pressure you and you’ve finally managed to break free of them by moving out. But what I’ve learned my parents has actually been actually pretty valuable. Firstly, I’m so thankful for them spending the thousands of dollars that they do for me to go to school, without them, I definitely wouldn’t be in school right now. Secondly, their advice is (almost) always beneficial. My parents nagging my to get a job has really (literally) paid off, and when I’ve got mysterious flu-like symptoms, they usually know what’s up. But something that’s really become clear to me is the knowledge that they have. Before I start writing a paper, I always call my mom to talk to her about what I think about the assignment, and she always has some opinions too. Getting some ideas from her always gets me looking from different perspectives, which is something key to writing a good essay. More than that, sometimes they have great resources; one of my essays was based entirely on a book my mom happened to have, that I never would have had access to if I didn’t ask her for ideas.

7. The World is trying to rip students off. But there are ways to thwart the world.

Okay, so maybe this sounds a bit conspiracy-theory of me, but let’s break it down.

Exhibit A: the university bookstore. During my first semester, I went with my mom to the campus bookstore with my list of required material, and came out with a $300 receipt, and I hadn’t even bought all my books! (On a side note, I know lots of people who have spent upwards of $400 per semester on books). I had even managed to buy some second hand books at the store, but it still added up really quickly.

Semester two, though, was different. I didn’t buy a single book from the campus bookstore and saved over $200. I made a profile on locazu.com, and posted my used textbooks for sale (about $20 cheaper than when I had bought them), and searched for others who had books that I needed for sale. I got all of my textbooks this way, meeting people on campus and exchanging books. Another trick I learned: don’t buy the textbooks until after the first week of classes if you can. There have been so many times when my professors or TAs have noted that even though the book has been listed as “required”, you might only be reading a chapter out of it. How to deal with this: I never bought books that were “writing guides”, I searched for books online at google books, and, more commonly, I took books out of the library. You can always take the books out again before finals if you need to review them, but most of the time I’ve never had to deal with this.

Exhibit B: government cuts on student funding. Oh, the government, how do I love thee? This one was easy to deal with; even though my school offered me minimal scholarship money, and I’m not enough of a genius to be considered for their academic scholarships anymore, I was able to get some free (yes, free) money that I don’t have to pay back. Referring back to number 6 on my list, it was my mom’s genius that made this happen. In BC when you apply for a student loan, you are automatically considered for a student grant (aka, money they give to you, to spend on whatever you want, that you don’t have to repay). So I got my student loan funding each semester, which I put into my mom’s bank account to not touch (I don’t plan on using it unless I somehow find myself needing to), and got a nice $400 per semester as a grant. I used this to pay for textbooks (so basically, free textbooks!)

Exhibit C: the meal plan. Chartwells has lost all of my respect. Charging 15 cents for a cup of hot water? Or how about 80 cents to put a slice of cheese on your sandwich? Yep, it’s all overpriced, and even though it was my parents paying for it this year, it made me realize how much money I could potentially waste on food next year.

Exhibit D: this one isn’t really money related, but not everything in life is (I think…). Knowing that you are one of 250 students in one class, and one of possibly 80 students that your TA has to deal with, doesn’t really promote establishing relationships with the people in charge of teaching your classes. Although this year I never really talked to many of my professors one-on-one, I managed to get to know my TA’s pretty well, and I found that this really helped with my grade, as they’re the ones marking my work. I’m not saying that they’re biased and easier on me, but when I spent time after tutorial one day talking with one of my TAs about my essay, trying to get some ideas and topics going through my head, I found that the comments that he made on my essay when it was returned were referring to both my essay and the conversation we had after tutorial. He knew that I had really wanted to understand the topic, and he was able to see my ideas develop and understand them better. Note to self: go to office hours sometime in my life…

Learning from this, I managed to stretch my meal card balance out by eating all my breakfasts in my room (after discovering that my spending $10 on breakfast every day for just an english muffin with egg and a smoothie was quickly depleting my funds). Working at a bakery, I often come home with free extra food, and when I go home on the weekends I always bring back a bag of fruit. Muffin + fruit for breakfast isn’t that bad, it lasts me to lunch, is healthy and tastes great too. I bring leftovers from home to snack on to keep me from those stupid impulse buys on slices of pizza or a side of fries.

Also, I’ve come to learn that sometimes the stuff that costs the most money doesn’t taste the greatest. My dining hall always has some kind of stir fry every day (that’s what you get for living in Vancouver) priced at $8. The thing is, it doesn’t even taste that good. What does taste good? The custom-made sandwiches, the chicken wraps, the soups, the pizzas…basically all the things that are the cheapest. So those are what I swear by now.

These are only a few things that I’ve noticed sucking money out of my (and mostly my parents’) wallet. Plans for next year: don’t go on the meal plan, apply for a student loan every semester and avoid the campus bookstore at all cost.

8. There’s a lot out there that you can miss

There are always so many things going on around campus that are free, cheap, or just all around great experiences. Screenings of documentaries, $1 barbecues in convo mall, plays or dance performances…the list goes on and on. What I really wish is that I had taken more time to go check out all of the things offered for students. I went to a documentary showing and loved it, got some free pancakes for breakfast one morning and met a friend, and learned about some volunteer experiences from the clubs days at the start of the year. All of the things I tried out turned out to be a lot of fun, and I’m really going to take it upon myself to do more of that next year. Signing up for newsletter emails that give you a heads up about cool cultural or academic events can’t hurt at all.

9. It’s good to get off campus

You’re friends are all concentrated into one area, you have a meal card that gets you (seemingly) free food anywhere on campus, there’s a campus pub where everyone always goes and…well…you’re stuck inside a bubble basically. Some of the most fun I’ve had this year was getting off campus with friends! Shopping trips to either the malls or the thrift stores, heading downtown to go clubbing on Thursday nights or even going out to a movie have been some great times, because they weren’t the same old routine watching TV in the common room, or heading to cheap wings night at the university pub. Exploring the area has been pretty eye-opening.

10. What you put in is what you get out

I think this last one is probably the most important. When you think about it, it applies to pretty much everything. If you study well and do your assignments, you will get good grades. If you put yourself out there, introduce yourself to people and have a friendly attitude, you’ll make friends. If you manage your time and get yourself to the gym three times a week, you’ll be healthier, have more energy and look great. If you get enough sleep, you won’t be tired. If you open your mind up to new opportunities, you will grow more culturally, academically and expand yourself as a person. If you put in the effort to take some extra time to do little things like posting your used textbooks for sale or browsing the library catalogue for books you need for class, you will save money. If you take the initiative to go apply for jobs, you will (in most cases) get hired. If you go into university, or even your day, with a positive attitude, a willingness to try things, and a clear idea of your goals (eg. going to the gym for one hour, studying for 2 hours, etc), you are way more likely to appreciate the things that come your way and get much more out of life.

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