Friday, July 27, 2012

Common Myths & University 101 (2012 EDITION)

Hello incoming first year students and Class of 2016!

As most of you have probably (and happily I presume) just bid farewell to your high school lives, some of you might already be feeling slightly panicky about this thing called 'University'. Or maybe not. But either way, I'm sure you will be thinking about it at some point and I would like to make this blog post out to all of you!

Back in 2011, Stephanie in ACS (Arts and Contemporary Studies) made a post titled UNIVERSITY 101 for last year's to-be first years (congratulations if you made it through your first year, by the way). Now, I'm not here to make claims against her advice. In fact, I think all of them are very relevant (go read it if you haven't already!!), but I would like to make my own rendition and share my point of view as an almost-5th year student.

So here we go!

Check out the location of your classes before the week starts!
Even though it only technically takes 10 minutes to walk from one end of the campus to another, there's surprisingly a lot of nooks and crannies on this campus - and so many different ways to get to your classes. The Ryerson campus map is great at giving you the location of each building, but don't rely on it! Do a test run to your classes during or before Orientation. You'd be surprised how hidden some of these classrooms are, and you'll be glad you weren't 30 minutes late to your first class before you couldn't figure out which part of Kerr Hall you need to be. Take a look at the O-Team's blog post on decoding your schedules/classrooms!

Here are a couple detailed maps of each building on the Ryerson campus from Campus Facilities & Sustainability for those of you who like reading maps.

You are NOT a number, approach your professor!!
I remember when I was in high school, my teachers always told me - and I quote: "you'll just be another student number in a room of 2000 other kids". What a joke. At Ryerson, at least (I can't speak for other Universities). I'm sure my high school teachers probably got some good kicks out of our fearful faces. But anyway...

You are not "just another student number". You can if this is what makes you comfortable, but because the classes often end up with very small class sizes (especially in upper years), the professors often make somewhat of an effort to know your names. And if your program is small enough, with just a bit of effort, you can easily get to know some of your profs. :)

And really, don't be shy! Go to their office hour! Certain professors do claim they die of boredom in their offices just waiting for students to show up, so think of it as entertaining them by asking for help or well... I don't know, talking about the weather. They will appreciate the company!

Do. Your. Readings.
Now I don't know about you, but during high school, I was able to evade reading 90% of the material given to me in my classes. Not that I've never got in trouble for it, but I mean... as long as you did well in the things that matter, who cares right?

DO NOT come into University with this mindset. Just... don't. As short as your attention span may be, start getting into the habit of reading if you haven't already. The assignments and tests that matter are often based off not only lecture material, but textbook material. Professors expect you to understand the concept in lectures, and then grasp the details through text material. So don't skimp out of those readings and regret it later.

Attend your classes!
In my first year, I made a fatal mistake of skipping my 1 hour-tutorial classes at 8AM in the morning (and mind you, I didn't even have another class that day!) which was 10% of my final grade. While 10% doesn't seem like a lot, sometimes it can make or break you come exam time - and you realized you actually do need that 10%. Especially when that 10% requires nothing of you but just showing up for class.

Some professors also tend to like to reveal important midterm material when you decide to royally skip that one lecture because you didn't feel like attending. It's life, it happens. So bottom line is, don't skip. That, or you can befriend your whole class and pray they tell you the correct information... though it's probably much easier to get the information first hand.

Whether it's written notes, or typed notes - figure out a way that works best for you. Some people review their notes after lecture to add/edit points to their existing lecture notes, while others re-write their typed notes to help them remember the material. Come exam time or an open-book midterm, you'll be glad to have these notes organized in a way that best suits you.

For those that need to be accommodated for disabilities or accessibility, visit the Access Centre and take a look at the note-taking program. It allows you to obtain notes from a student volunteer in the same class within 24-72 hours after the lecture.

If you do happen to miss a class, fear not! Most professors post their lecture powerpoint slides (often not the complete presentation) on Blackboard ( before or after a lecture so you will still know what was covered in class. :)

For those who are laptop-huggers like myself, be prepared to have to take notes by hand. Some professors may decide to not allows students to use laptops in class, possibly because students in the past have abused the privilege by surfing the web. Just saying.

Manage your time wisely.
The sad reality of exams which I don't encourage...
Professors will always release a copy of their course outline sometimes even before the semester starts. It will detail when approximately your assignments are due, when mid-terms will be, what topics will be covered every week and your required readings. Given the fact that they are all available, take the time to organize yourself.

I personally write down all the assignment and mid-term dates on my agenda for all my classes. That way, I know if I (unfortunately) have two mid-terms on the same day, I can plan ahead and not find out the night before that my Sociology mid-term is actually on the same day as my Psychology mid-term.

Don't feel like your current program is the ONLY option you have.
I know, it's not always easy. I have parents too who would rather me be in the maths and sciences, complete education within the set time frame so it doesn't seem like I failed a bunch of things (which subsequently accounts for an extra year, blah blah blah...). Most importantly, it seems like everyone in the real world assumes that you should have an extremely clear mindset of what you want to be when you grow up - during your high school years.

Don't ever succumb to that pressure! It's never too late to change your decision. For my entire high school career, I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer. I went to workshops, day camps - all to improve my skills and making sure I was suitable upon entry into a graphics program in University/College. Of course, to be sitting here writing this post means I am nowhere NEAR a design program - in fact, my decision to enter where I am now (Criminal Justice) was made after conditional acceptances were already going out in February. I can go on forever about my story, but instead of boring you to death, I will end by saying I completely enjoy what I currently study. The best part is, I am able to pursue graphics as a personal hobby (and a part-time job at that!).

Let yourself explore your interests, even in University. Don't close yourself off within your own programs because that's what you initially chose for yourself. You might in fact find your passions elsewhere, or find you may find a certain topic of interest outside of your studies that relates to your program. Even if you think you actually hate something, let yourself explore it before putting down a final verdict. Maybe you really do hate it, but there may be someone or something worthwhile through that experience.

If you ever do find yourself wanting to switch programs within the Faculty of Arts, speak to your program administrators and see what options are available. Don't let yourself spend 4 years in something you cannot decently enjoy.

May the odds be ever in your--- no, I'm just kidding (sorry that was a poor reference, I'll stop).

On that note though, if you ever feel overwhelmed at any time during the year, please visit us at POD344 in the Student Experience Centre. We can always direct you to the right resources and tools to help you, some of which are exclusive to only the Faculty of Arts. If you need advice about your program or your future career plans, come to us as well! We can help you. :)

Thanks for reading this super long boring post, see you next time!

Want to be a guest blogger or be featured on The Art of Life? Email Jenny at for more details!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Five Best Kept Secrets in the Faculty

It may be a "secret", but completely unintentional. I am here to change that.

As an upper year student, I often get into conversations with my fellow classmates in the faculty where someone will go "OMG, why didn't I know about this before?!". It's unfortunate, but I'm willing to bet someone out there went through all four years of their University life here completely clueless of all the awesome things they could have used/known.

We really don't mean to hide it. I know I always try to tell people when it comes up, but just doesn't always come up......

Now I'm sure this University (and Faculty) hides more secrets that even I still don't know about, so I will try my best to shed some light on this issue.

(5) The Student Loan Special
Nothing starts a top 5 list better than FOOD! I know, this isn't Faculty of Arts-specific, but it's become an important part of my Ryerson life (and I've been guilty on many occasions for getting a chain of people addicted to this "habit" of mine) that I feel everyone should know about this.

Enter the Oakham Cafe, our small campus eatery tucked between the the Ryerson Student Centre and the Oakham House. Walk in any time between 8AM-11AM and ask for the Student Loan Special. For the price of $3.99, you can get a choice of bacon or sausage, any choice of toast and egg with a serving of hash. The serving is extremely generous for the price you pay, and I ensure you it'll be a secret you'll be proud to brag about. ;)

Oh, and it comes with tea or coffee. Seriously.

(4) Faculty of Arts Lounge
Ever came in for that one godforsaken morning class only to have to wait until 6PM to have your second & last class of the day? Wanted a place to sleep, tried bumming on a comfy couch at TRSM only feeling uncomfortable stares or eventually disturbed by random laughter down the hall?

WELL. Did you know the Faculty of Arts has a student lounge of our own? It is located at POD349 (the Podium building on the third floor, it's on the side of Jorgensen Hall) for all Arts students.

I can't promise the lounge will always be quiet, but I can promise you comfy couches sans awkward stares - especially with our plans of renovation moving forward!

(3) Arts Computer Lab and Free Printing
The Faculty of Arts Lab is located at POD356, and it's accessible to all Faculty of Arts students. If this is your first time using the computers in the lab, do note that you will not be able to log in with your usual Ryerson ID. Follow the instructions on your login screen and the giant posters in the room to create a separate password for the Arts account, and then you're ready to go!

Sometimes logging in can be quite a wait, but it's not any better down with the computers in the library... Plus, I do find the computers in the Arts Lab run a bit faster. (or maybe I'm just biased)

As for the second part of this goodness... YES - FREE. PRINTING. I mean it. Every Faculty of Arts student gets a quota of 50 pages per month of free printing in our lab. I honestly hope you haven't been wasting those dimes in the library all these years, people.

Jenny's brotip for printing: Make sure to double check the printer to see if it's working or if there's paper. Once you send a page to the printer, it will deduct from your monthly page quotas. For those who know about the free printing and wondering why the Arts lab failed to print your pages, I hope I solved the mystery for you.

(for more information about the Arts lounge & lab, refer to our older post by our past Student Life Team!)

(2) Free Lockers
So there's all these lockers all around the Podium Building & Kerr Hall... but are they free to use?

Yes, everyone - they are also, free. But hold it! Before you get too excited and run off to put that lock on a lovely locker, there are a few restrictions. Please look for an email from your Program Assistants at the beginning of September before you claim a locker. The email will indicate specific locations of the lockers reserved for Arts students and when you can begin to claim a locker.

Please do follow the instructions you get from your programs. I don't want to be responsible for ANY locks being cut & contents dumped during the year... it'll break my heart. :( And another brotip, guys: don't leave valuables in those lockers.

(1) The Student Experience Centre (US!)
The Student Experience Team!! That's us! We're located in POD344 and I sure hope you know about us by now. Our team offers services such as exchange opportunities, career counselling, personal counselling, volunteering opportunities and much more, exclusively for Faculty of Arts students! We are also responsible for the planning of the Arts academic orientation for incoming first year students, so it's always busy around here!

During the year, if you have an amazing idea for an experiential learning project, check out our Student Project Grant for Arts students. You may potentially be eligible for a bit funding so do go and check it out!

And that's all of it folks! Hope you learned something useful for next year, and do me a big favour by spreading the word!! ;)

Want to be a guest blogger or be featured on The Art of Life? Email Jenny at for  more details!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Be an Intern with Human Rights Watch this Fall 2012

HRW offers an unpaid internship program for recent University and College graduates two times a year: winter/spring (Jan. - Apr.) and fall (Sept.- Dec.). Internship opportunities are available for individuals interested in learning about our work and making a contribution to our organization in our Toronto office. 
The Toronto office is primarily development based and does limited advocacy - there are no research based positions or program divisions. Interns are asked to work a minimum of 18 hours per week, 3 days a week for 4 months.
You may be familiar with Human Rights Watch from some of the outreach work and film screenings that have taken place on campus, or from the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. It's one of the world's leading independent organizations committed to defending and protecting human rights - you can read more at their official website.

For more information about this internship opportunity, check out the page here. They're accepting applications from now up to August 8th - you can send your cover letter and resume to Alison Thornton at

If you aren't a graduate and would still like to be involved with advocacy work for Human Rights Watch, consider joining the HRW Student Outreach Committee at Ryerson. All you need to do to learn more is send an email to Stephan Tang at!