Author Archive | Jacqueline C.

The Travel Diaries and Reviews: Portugal

Image by mariusz kluzniak on Flickr

Image by mariusz kluzniak on Flickr

Summer is a great time for many things — working, volunteering, and travel. The first two are great, but what I personally love doing the most is travelling. I was given the opportunity to travel to Lisbon for a short while earlier this summer. If you haven’t gone to a foreign country before, the whole experience might seem a bit intimidating. There are difficulties communicating if you don’t speak the language, and a lot of the time you won’t know anybody else except those you’re going with. My advice is: take any possible chance you can get to go abroad. The experiences you will have and the people you will meet will heavily outweigh any concerns you might have. To encourage you, I will give a peek into my experiences on my most recent vacation.

Food

This is arguably one of the most important aspects of travel to take into account. Being adventurous and trying new foods in different locations is good, but do some research to see if the cuisine of your designation is to your taste. For example, you might have a hard time in Thailand if you can’t stand spicy food, or your options will be restricted if you go to Japan and have a burning hatred for seafood. These following observations are based on personal experience and do not necessarily encompass the whole of Portuguese cuisine: dishes with potatoes and fish are popular, as are pork and clams. What you will see on almost any street however, is a pastry shop selling Portuguese egg tarts. The most famous store (and allegedly the origin of the dessert) is Pastéis de Belém, located in the area of Belém. If you had to eat only one place’s take on the egg tart, definitely go to Pastéis de Belém.

Things to Do and Places to Go

Okay great, you decided that you like or at least want to try Portuguese cuisine. Next, it is essential to figure out if you would actually be into the tourist sites and places Portugal has to offer. Many of the most famous sites will be interesting to history and/or architecture buffs:

If these don’t pique your interest, then the country’s beaches and the casino in Estoril (about an hour away by train) might be more your jam. Baixa, an area of central Lisbon, offers many pedestrian streets with cafes and shops. There are also many other day trips you can take: Sintra (with its fairytale-like Pena Palace) or Cascais. From either city you can easily reach Cabo da Roca, known for its dramatic seascape overlooking a cliff. It is also the most westernmost point of the European continent. I went to most of these attractions, but the very unique Pena Palace remains a favourite.

Accommodation

Assuming your housing isn’t already taken care of, you’ll want to be on the lookout for affordable yet safe and comfortable options, if you can swing it. I did not stay in one, but hostels can often be one such option. Many sites are available for booking your stay, including Hostel World. If cash isn’t an issue, you can try more general hotel websites like Expedia.

Times to Go

All right, so you’ve decided on Portugal as your destination. Granted you aren’t restricted by available days off or an otherwise tight schedule, you need to plan on what time of the year to go. I went during the first few weeks of June. There were benefits and downsides to this — the Feast of St. Anthony occurs on the 12th to the 14th of June, and the parade, streamers, festivals and celebrations are truly sights to behold. However, it was also uncomfortably hot on some days with temperatures in the low 30s. Try to visit during the breezy and not-too-hot seasons of Spring and Autumn.

And that’s it! The cities I visited were extremely welcoming and I absolutely enjoyed my time there. But as they say, all things must regrettably come to an end. As with all my travels, I found myself wishing I could go back — if you go to Portugal, be prepared to say goodbye.

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5 Tips for Finding a Summer Job

Image by Flazingo Photos, Flickr

Image by Flazingo Photos, Flickr

It’s that time of year again — if you’ve ever looked for a summer job before, you know what we’re talking about. Some start searching as early as October of the year before, and others start after the school year ends. Preference aside, winter and early spring are actually optimal times to start the hunt. Here are some tips that will hopefully steer you in the right direction for your summer job search:

  • Decide what you want to do
    This may seem obvious, but you will be much happier if you work at a job you love doing. Not everyone is able to get a summer position in their chosen field, but focusing on a certain kind of job will help narrow your search. Do you want practical experience to supplement your studies? Is money your top priority? Are you interested more in an internship or a job?

    If you can help it, make sure the job you are looking for suits your personality. Do you get restless sitting at a desk all day? If so, you might consider a job outdoors. Want to hone your writing skills? Try looking up internships for magazines, newspapers, or publishing companies. If you shape your search around your interests, it is likely you will be happy at your summer job.
     

  • Look outside your comfort zone
    The previous point being said, you never know what hidden passion may lie in you for, say, teaching, if you don’t get to experience it firsthand. Obviously, if you know you hate something, don’t try working in that field. But if you’ve always had a passing interest in human biology or wanted to learn more about computers, take the opportunity to look for summer jobs in these fields that do not require much experience.
     
  • Take advantage of your school’s resources
    Now that you’ve decided what kind of job you want, be sure to use all that your school offers you. Inquire at your department’s office about upcoming job fairs. Look into your school’s online hubs for job postings. An example of this is the University of Toronto’s Career Learning Network, where updates are posted frequently regarding events like resume workshops. Jobs are posted for positions both within and outside the school. Many students overlook what their school can offer them, so be sure to take proper advantage of what part of your tuition pays for.
     
  • Search online centres and company websites for job postings
    Websites like TalentEgg can be very useful when looking for summer jobs. Employers post their guidelines and requirements for the positions they are looking to fill, and you are free to apply to any of them online. If you have a specific company in mind, they almost always have a “Careers” or “Internships” section in which you may find postings for summer positions. Nothing online? Pick up the phone and ask if they’re hiring – it can’t hurt.
     
  • Use your own personal connections
    Again, this may seem obvious, but try asking around for summer work. One of your professors may need some extra help. Your parents’ friend may need a tutor for their child. There might be something for you right under your nose. If you think you will get something out of the experience of assisting your professor or tutoring your family friend’s kid, then go for it. You may even discover you want to continue working in a lab or teaching math.
     

There are of course a large number of ways one can find work, but this should be a good starting point for you. Have any personal experiences you want to share? Start the conversation on Facebook.

Living in Residence vs. Living at Home: A Guide

Image by Toms Bauģis, Flickr

Image by Toms Bauģis, Flickr

The 2014-15 school year is already underway, so most of you may have already established your living situation, whether you’re staying near or in residence, or living at home. For those of you who are still in the process of deciding where to stay, or future post-secondary students looking for advice, this article is for you. There are positives and negatives to both living at home and away from it, and hopefully most of them will be detailed here:

1. Money
There is no question about it, living away from home is much more expensive than staying at home. If you’re tight on money or don’t want to spend too much, try not to move out. However, you may not have a say in the matter depending on your location and school of choice.

2. Location
If you’re living in Edmonton and you want to attend OCAD in Ontario, your ability to move closer to school is the main factor you want to consider. If you’re not extremely far from your future school, you won’t have to move. Nonetheless, consider how far and long you will have to commute to and from school. Waking up two and a half hours before class to commute as opposed to waking with 20 minutes to spare can put a damper on your health, motivation, and attitude toward school. If you’re concerned about this, you may want to consider moving.

3. Desire for Independence or New Experiences
By staying at home, there can be fewer opportunities to socialize and get out on your own. If you move near your school, it is much easier to meet new people and separation from your family provides a good learning experience. If you have roommates or live in residence, bonds can develop quickly with other first year students or those in the same situation as you. No matter what you choose to do, keep in mind that there are always chances to make new friends if you look for them: clubs, classes, and school events like Frosh Week are all hubs for getting to know potential friends.

4. Other Options
If you don’t fancy living at home or in residence, look into renting or buying an apartment near your school. Try splitting the cost with friends and living with them, or look into classified ads for anyone looking for a roommate. You might not have the opportunity to socialize as much as you would in residence, but if you prefer to live alone and desire independence, moving into an apartment may be the way to go.

As is the case with everything, circumstance is key. Factor in your options, your school location, your budget, and what you want when making your decision, and chances are you’ll be satisfied regardless of what you choose.

5 Things to Keep in Mind for Course Selection

Image by Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography, Flickr

Image by Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography, Flickr

Summer is almost half over and school is right around the corner, which means more studying, more exams, and more assignments. Before you get to all of that, you’ll have to choose your classes. Some of you have probably already gone through this process and are now registered in your selected classes. Whether you are already prepared or haven’t even thought about the next year of school, the following tips will hopefully guide you toward choosing courses that you are satisfied with and work best for you.

1. Check your start time for course enrollment.

First things first—make sure you have the correct time and date noted for the start of course selection. Some schools such as the University of Western Ontario have already begun the process of admitting students in classes through web registration. Other institutions such as the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto require students to check their start time during a certain period as well as actually enroll in classes during that start time. Faculties often differ on their dates and requirements for course registration, so make sure to double check with your faculty.

2. Check any requirements that need to be fulfilled.

Each faculty as well as any major, minor, or specialist program needs a number of different categories to be fulfilled or classes to be taken. In addition to this are the requirements for a degree laid out by the school at large. For example, the Faculty of Arts and Science at U of T requires students to fulfill a Breadth Requirement, meaning that students have to take classes in 5 different categories including “Society and Its Institutions” and “The Physical and Mathematical Universes.” Make sure to choose classes that fulfill both the requirements of your specific program as well as any more general requirements.

3. Create multiple schedules with back-up courses.

Many of you might have a list of classes in mind that you would love to take. However, many classes fill up quickly and have a limited number of seats available. As a result, a good idea would be to have back-up classes on hand in case your plans don’t pan out. Make sure you think you’ll like or at least don’t mind these classes—you don’t want to be stuck studying something you hate. In addition, create schedules for both your ideal classes and your back-up ones—they create a great visual, as selecting courses for different time slots can get confusing. This way you can also make sure that there are no scheduling conflicts, and it is easy to see how a typical week will go once school actually starts.

4. Keep your plans for after the summer in mind.

Some of you may have extracurriculars or a job during the school year, or plan on getting involved with activities outside of school. If this is the case, be sure to take on a reasonable course load that will hopefully make it easier to balance the different aspects of your life. If you have a job, are the head of a club, and want to have time for friends and family, don’t take on a maximum course load if you think it’ll be too much for you.

5. Check for information about potential classes or professors.

There are resources online through which you can learn more about courses you want to take. Websites such as CourseMate provide ratings from students on things such as course workload. Some schools also collect student evaluations of courses that are then compiled into information for future students. For example, the Anti-Calendar produced by the Arts and Science Students’ Union at U of T is a collection of evaluations on courses and instructors in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Another site for information on instructors is Rate My Professors.

The sheer number of classes available may seem overwhelming at first, but with good planning it can become much easier. Good luck, and hopefully you’ll get the courses and professors you want!

3 Ways to Save Money at School

Saving Money Image by Scott Waldron, Flickr

Image by Scott Waldron, Flickr

School can be expensive — and that’s not even counting tuition. I found myself blowing away a lot of money during my first year of university on things that I could have easily saved an extra few bucks on, which (believe me), adds up. I spent excessively partly due to the nature of post-secondary education and my own circumstances— which meant textbooks, commuting, and buying food. Despite needing to spend a lot more than when I was in high school, I decided to cut back after my first year of university ended. For those of you who are about to go to college or university, or are spending way too much in school, here are some tips for saving money:

  1. Make or Bring Your Own Food

  2. Sure, the five dollar price tag on that Tim Horton’s sandwich may not sound like much, but get it five days a week and you’re out 25 bucks. Monthly, this would cost $100 dollars, and $300+ for a school term. Instead of buying food on campus, try preparing your own food and bringing it from home. In a similar vein, avoid buying coffee. Try making it at home and bringing it in a travel mug.

  3. Make Some Changes to Your Commute

  4. Using public transportation can add up. For example, a one-way Toronto transit fare is $3 – pile on another $3 for a return trip and you’re at $6, totalling $30 for a full week of classes and $120 for a month’s worth. If you live reasonably close and the weather is nice, try walking or cycling to class instead. For those of you who have no choice but to take the bus or subway, consider investing in a Post-Secondary Student Metropass if you have regular classes — it costs $99 and requires photo identification to be taken. More details can be found on the TTC website. Monthly passes are also tax-deductible, so that might help you save a bit more too. If you drive to campus, compare your parking and gas costs with those of public transportation to see which one has larger savings for your wallet.

  5. Scour the Internet (and Other Places) for Discounts

  6. This one is fairly evident. According to stats quoted by the Globe and Mail, the average Canadian postsecondary student spends about $500 to $1,000 on textbooks and course materials each semester. That’s a hefty amount, which is why there are many other ways to acquire textbooks. Search for places to trade or buy used textbooks, such as Toronto University Student’s Book Exchange, or Rye Books. Other options are even more general classified ad sites such as Craigslist or Kijiji. Try keeping an eye and ear out for potential sales or trades on your campus as well.

    Do you have more money-saving tips? Tweet us @StudentsDotOrg!