Author Archive | Liana R.

My Summer Abroad: Oxford, England

Image by Liana Ramos

Image by Liana Ramos

This past summer I packed up my bags and participated in a Summer Abroad program with my university. I travelled to Oxford, England to take a Shakespeare course at Oxford University. Two of the best aspects about the program were that I completed a full year course in one month, and that as the course was taught by an instructor from my university, I didn’t have to worry about transfer credits!

Oxford is a small town with beautiful historical buildings. (The picture above is of the Radcliffe Camera, which is a part of the Bodleian Library.) It was such an incredible experience to be immersed in a new culture. I often found myself gazing around as I walked down the street because of the newness of it all.

Completing a full year course in one month was intensive – even though I was overseas, I wasn’t on vacation. There was a lot of work to do, just like in a regular course (readings, assignments, a mid-term, and an exam). But it was an enriching experience because I got to see the material I was studying brought to life. Studying abroad allowed me to experience integrated learning. I got to see plays at Shakespeare’s Globe (in London) and the Royal Shakespeare Company (in Stratford). I love reading Shakespeare, so being able to see his work in action was great for my learning because it allowed me to understand the material better.

The Summer Abroad program is, of course, mainly revolved around academics. However, there was time for fun and to explore. Classes were on Monday to Thursday mornings, so that left Monday to Thursday afternoons, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as free time (although there was a lot of studying to do during those hours!). Some people took trips to different countries within Europe because travelling is much cheaper there. I chose to spend a few days in London, exploring the typical tourist attractions such as Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.

I would recommend pursuing a summer abroad or any international study experience. However, there are some aspects that need to be realistically considered first. It took almost the entire school year to fill out applications, attend orientations, and prepare myself for going abroad (both financially and mentally). It’s a big investment, but many universities have scholarships and bursaries for students wishing to pursue international travel. Before my Summer Abroad trip, I had never travelled internationally before (much less alone!) and I hadn’t been on an airplane in eleven years! But I leapt into this opportunity because I knew it would be an amazing experience. I made some new friendships that will last a lifetime, and this has been my best summer (so far)! Let’s see if I can top it next year.

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Five Things I Learned in my First Year of University

Image by GotCredit, Flickr

Image by GotCredit, Flickr

  1. Readings will pile up – fast.
  2. Between attending lectures, tutorials, extra-curriculars, and writing essays, readings were sometimes pushed aside in my first year. However, I realized the importance of readings, not only for refreshing my memory, but also to help supplement the lecture material. It’s important to stay on top of readings – it really helps with studying. Plus, I paid for all my textbooks, so I decided I may as well get the most out of them.

  3. Many opportunities and resources will become available.
  4. University is full of different opportunities. The first few weeks, I was overwhelmed by the number of clubs and resources available. I took advantage of the writing centres on campus, which help to organize and edit essays and assignments. I also joined a mentorship program for first generation students as a Mentee. I participated in many learning and social events and met frequently with my Mentor. Through dedicated participating, I will be a Mentor-in-Training for next year, which I am extremely excited about!

  5. Balance is key.
  6. Between all the opportunities I took and the school work I had to do, balancing life was sometimes a struggle. Creating a schedule became my solution. I planned out when I had time to study before, between or after classes, and when I had free time for some fun. Sometimes one area of my life took over more than others (have I mentioned that time I had four essays due in the same week?). But as I said, balance is key.

  7. Budgeting will lessen financial worries.
  8. First year brought many expenses for me, from tuition to textbooks to transportation. I was lucky to win a few scholarships that helped to cut down on some of the costs, but budgeting throughout the year was helpful for the rest of my expenses. I took advantage of student discounts – there are thousands out there! I also planned out how much money I should be spending each month and which expenses were necessary. For example, although it’s awesome to eat out, bringing lunch to school is much cheaper.

  9. Being hard on yourself will get you nowhere.
  10. I thought that I could juggle absolutely everything this year. I was so excited to take advantage of every opportunity and to learn as much as I could in subjects I loved. When I started to get overwhelmed with everything I was doing, I wondered if there was something wrong; but it just came to realizing that I’m not superhuman. I learned to say no when I didn’t have time to help out with extra-curriculars. My first year of university has been the most thrilling experience for me. After reflecting on my year, I’m ready to take on second year!

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The Canadian Student’s Discount Guide

Image by nikkinoguer, Flickr

Image by nikkinoguer, Flickr

Discounts should be well known to students because they can be used at attractions, restaurants, and retail stores. Here is a student discount guide that will have you saving a few dollars at the end of the day.

Attractions

Royal Ontario Museum (ROM):
The ROM is one of the largest museums in North America and it is located in the heart of downtown Toronto, Canada. It contains many exhibits that are both educational and fun. For full-time university students, general admission is free on Tuesdays. Simply show them your student I.D. card and you’re on your way to digging up some dinosaur bones!

Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO):
The AGO is also located in downtown Toronto, Canada. It features a wide array of art collections from around the globe including Europe, Asia, and Africa. General admission to the AGO is free on Wednesday nights between 6:00 pm and 8:30 pm. No student I.D. card is required. Just show up and enjoy!

Restaurants

Subway:
Subway is a great option for a quick meal between classes or when you are on the go. They offer a variety of submarine sandwiches, salads, and snacks. Present your student I.D. card to receive 10% off your purchase.

Dairy Queen:
If you have a craving for ice cream, Dairy Queen is the place to go to satisfy your sweet tooth. With an exceptional amount of options, you can get anything from a simple ice cream cone to their signature Blizzard treat. Students get 10% off their purchases with their student I.D. card.

Retail Stores

Bulk Barn:
Bulk Barn is great for stocking up on your essential food products such as pasta, flour, and dried herbs. It is also a cheap option for snacks like nuts, candy, and dried fruit. The best thing about Bulk Barn is that students receive 10% off their purchases on Wednesdays with their student I.D. card.

Club Monaco:
Club Monaco should be a go to location for students. They offer fashionable and stylish clothing. Club Monaco offers a 20% discount on full price and sale merchandise. Simply present your student I.D. card and enjoy your savings.

As you can see, this is just a small sample of student discounts for attractions, restaurants, and retail stores. There are hundreds of discounts out there for students. However, many are not advertised. Remember this golden rule: Always ask. Who knows, you could stumble upon an awesome discount!

How to Beat the Winter Blues

Image by Jonathan Percy, Flickr

Image by Jonathan Percy, Flickr

Inevitably, students will encounter the winter blues. It’s cold, dark, and windy. Snow was fun until it started swirling everywhere and blocking your vision. Most people begin to spend their time indoors. Winter blues can affect students drastically from decreasing their motivation to changing their overall mood. Here are some tips for beating the winter blues.

Exercise

Lack of sunlight and staying indoors are two of the most common reasons for encountering the winter blues. To solve this problem, go for walks on the occasional bright, sunny day. The sunlight will improve your mood and walking around will make you feel refreshed. However, on the days where the weather is not so cooperative, try working out at home or the gym. Do anything from cardio, strengthening, or yoga to get you active and moving.

Fun

The school year can make students extremely busy, but it is important to remember to take time for yourself. Balance is the key to beating the winter blues. Take breaks between extensive school projects or tackle one subject at a time. Choose something fun to do afterwards. Here are some suggestions:

  • Curl up and watch your favourite movies.
  • Head out with some friends for lunch or dinner.
  • Read a book.
  • Reward yourself and head over to the mall for some retail therapy.

Food

Food is a complicated topic for college and university students. We all love it, but time and cost can be barriers. Eating junk food and fast food all the time can be detrimental to your health. It can also make you feel sluggish and unmotivated. Have a healthy snack or meal to boost your energy.

Here are some suggestions for snacks:

  • Yogurt
  • Fruit (apples, bananas, strawberries, etc.)
  • Trail mix (include raisins, sunflower seeds, almonds, or peanuts)

Here are some suggestions for meals:

  • Whole wheat pasta with vegetables
  • Quinoa salad
  • Baked sweet potato and grilled chicken

Sleep

The average person needs about eight to nine hours of sleep per night. As a student with deadlines, readings, and home responsibilities, regular sleep can sometimes be hard to come by. Create a weekly schedule for yourself to identify fixed times that you cannot change (e.g. class time) and what may need to be missed for the week (e.g. extracurricular activities). Find opportunities to study or do homework throughout the day so you’re not doing any school work into the late hours of the night. On the days where school work never seems to end, try to take a twenty minute power nap so you feel refreshed.

The winter blues may seem like a tough hurdle to come over but with some proper care, it can be defeated. Just remember that balance is key as a student. Too much of one thing is never good for your mental, physical, and emotional health. Use some of these tips to help you beat the winter blues!

Scholarship Myths

Image by Philip Taylor, Flickr

Image by Philip Taylor, Flickr

Scholarships are awards that can assist you in paying for your tuition fees and your textbooks. Scholarships can give you a sense of accomplishment for being handpicked for an award, and they also look excellent on a resume. However, many students don’t apply for scholarships because they don’t think they have the time, or because they don’t believe that they will win. Here is the truth about three popular scholarship myths:

Scholarships are only for students with high grades.
Although it is true that some scholarships require high grades or a high academic average for students to qualify, there are many scholarships that don’t have anything to do with grades. Many reward you for your creativity, volunteering commitments, or essay writing. The Stuck at Prom Scholarship requires you and your prom date to create your prom outfits entirely out of duct tape. A pair of students will win a $10,000 scholarship and $5,000 for their school. The Scotiabank National Scholarship requires you to answer the essay question, “In 150 words or less, tell us how you will fund your future.” 12 scholarships worth $2,500 each will be given away.

Scholarships are impossible to win.
In some cases, it may be true that hundreds of students apply for the same scholarships, and they are often competitive when a high profile award is offered. However, this shouldn’t discourage you from applying for them. There is a simple golden rule when it comes to scholarships: If you don’t apply for them, you can’t win them. Without any risk, there won’t be any reward. Take a chance! You never know what might happen.

Scholarships are only for graduating grade 12 students, university, and college students.
There are many scholarships up for grabs if you have just enrolled in high school. The Easy Money Scholarship only requires you to be at least 13 years old, enrolled in a Canadian high school, university, or college, and be a member of the StudentAwards website. As there are many scholarships that can be applied for early on in high school, it will give you a lot of time to search, plan, and apply.

These scholarship myths often discourage students from applying for scholarships. Don’t let yourself be one of those students – there are thousands of scholarships to apply for and many of them are neglected. Happy scholarship hunting!

How to Get the Most Out of Campus Days

Image by Sholeh, Flickr

Image by Sholeh, Flickr

Campus day season is upon us. This is a time for students (and their parents) to go to potential colleges and universities before making a decision on where to apply. To get the most out of a campus day, here are a few tips to prepare beforehand.

Prepare a list of questions before you go.

Often, many students, faculty members, and professors will be on hand during a campus day to answer any questions you may have. It’s helpful to think of potential questions you may have about academics, social life, finances, or residence.

Here are some sample questions to get you started:

  1. What are the admission requirements for my program (arts, sciences, business, engineering, etc.)?
  2. What kind of financial aid (scholarships, bursaries, grants, etc.) is available for incoming students?
  3. What kind of courses do first year students in my program typically take?

Have a set plan on what you wish to accomplish during the day.

Universities and colleges will most often post the campus day schedule as well as maps on their website. If you’re driving, using public transit, or even flying in for a campus day, make sure to plan your route accordingly, so you don’t miss any sessions that you wish to attend. There is usually no set agenda for campus days. Choose the information sessions that apply to your interests, questions, and concerns. Faculty members and professors usually run these sessions, so don’t be afraid to ask them any questions you may have. They are there to help!

Take a campus and/or residence tour.

Besides information sessions, campus and residence tours will be running throughout the day. Often, campus tours are facilitated by students. They’ll be able to give you a proper understanding of the ins and outs of the university or college as well as important points of interest. Additionally, if you have any questions, students will be happy to help you as they’re experiencing campus life themselves.

If you’re thinking about living in residence, going on a residence tour can be extremely helpful. Most likely, you will be taken into the residence rooms where students are already living. You’ll be able to see how big the living space is and the different types of residences.

Here are some common questions about residences:

  1. Are there single rooms or shared rooms?
  2. Is there a common kitchen or a meal plan?
  3. What kind of security is available in the residence building?

Imagine yourself on campus.

You may feel like it’s impossible to decide which college or university you wish to attend. But as you attend all the information sessions and tours, imagine yourself on the campus next year. Do you enjoy the atmosphere of the university or college? If you’re going to live in residence, would you like the options available? Do you like the way your program and the courses are offered at this university or college? Ask yourself these questions.

In the end, you will eventually figure out where you wish to attend university or college. In the meantime, attend campus days because they will be extremely helpful in your decision making process!

Here are some links to university and college campus days and tours across Canada: